One of Tijuana's most celebrated chefs, Javier Plascencia, will open a new restaurant on Kettner Boulevard in Little Italy. Named for the 1940s Bracero program, which brought in many Mexican agricultural workers to the U.S., the bi-level eatery will allow San Diego diners to savor the famed chef's modern Mexican fare, without crossing the border. The lower level will be a casual, no-reservations eatery, while the upper floor will offer a more formal dining experience. Plascencia also has Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro in Bonita, in addition to a slew of eateries in Tijuana (Mision 19) and Guadalupe Valley (Finca Altozano). Bracero: Cocina de Raiz will open in spring 2015. Bracero: Cocina de Raiz, 1490 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101, no phone.
The team behind Union Kitchen & Tap, located in both Encinitas and the Gaslamp, rolled out a new gastropub in Pacific Beach called Backyard Kitchen & Tap. The modern-styled, beer-centric eatery has cabanas, fire pits and living walls of greenery. Backyard Kitchen & Tap, 832 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach, CA 92109, 858-859-2593.
Jon Mangini of URBN Restaurants (BASIC Bar/Pizza in East Village, URBN Coal Fired Pizza in North Park, Vista and URBN Brewing Co. in El Cajon) has expanded his collective with a fourth URBN Coal Fired Pizza location in North County. The latest addition to Mangini’s restaurants is in Encinitas and has the same industrial feel of his other popular venues. The menu features thin crust, coal-fired pies reminiscent of the famous pizzerias found in New Haven, Connecticut. A choice of craft beers from the collective’s El Cajon brewery operation, URBN Brewing Co., is be available, alongside an extensive list of international ales. URBN Coal Fired Pizza Encinitas, 764 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, 760-943-8620.
The East Village is home to Water Grill, which offers a wide range of seasonal seafood, whole fish, meats and a raw bar. The new restaurant also boasts two spaces for private dining, including a larger room upstairs for 50 guests overlooking J Street with vaulted wood ceilings. San Diego native Fabrice Poigin oversees the San Diego eatery. Water Grill, 615 J St., San Diego, CA 92101, 619-717-6992.
Located next to La Jolla Playhouse in the former space of Jai by Wolfgang Puck, James' Place appeals to theater patrons as well as UC San Diego students and local office workers. The restaurant is a concept from sushi chef James Holder, who was born and raised in Japan. The eclectic menu ranges from tacos and burgers to sushi and Japanese noodles such as tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. James' Place, La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037, 858-638-7778.
Arturo Kassel and Ryan Johnston of Whisknladle Hospitality opened CATANIA Coastal Italian. Inspired by a road trip through Italy, Catania is the newest concept for this restarateur duo, who are also behind Whisknladle and Prepkitchen Del Mar. Designed by Bluemotif Architecture, the space occupies 3,750 square feet on the top floor of La Plaza, which once housed Jack's La Jolla. Catania, La Plaza, 7863 Girard Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037, 858-551-5105.
The team from George's at the Cove is launching Galaxy Taco in the former La Jolla Shores Market space in early June 2015. Executive chef/partner Trey Foshee has announced that his sous chef at George's California Modern, Christine Rivera, will serve as chef de cuisine of the new project. The 4,500-square-foot, indoor/outdoor eatery is expected to attract an equal mix of locals and visitors looking for that quintessential San Diego experience of beers, beaches and tacos. The short menu will feature Baja-inspired foods with local seasonal ingredients, ranging from cold seafood dishes and salads to seasonal hot appetizers, family-style entrées and eight varieties of tacos. (Galaxy Taco will grind its own corn for these soft-style tacos.) Look for a full bar with an excellent selection of tequila and mezcal. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Galaxy Taco, 2259 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037, no phone.
Executive chef Steven Riemer, the culinary talent from The Lodge at Torrey Pines and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, is overseeing the new 8,200-square-foot, indoor/outdoor restaurant Oceana Coastal Kitchen located at the iconic Catamaran Resort Hotel. Guests can enjoy Riemer’s California comfort cuisine, along with sweeping, unobstructed views of Mission Bay. Oceana Coastal Kitchen, 3999 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109, 858-539-8635.
Fans of fried Oreos and the sinful Krispy Kreme triple cheeseburger, found at the San Diego Fair, no longer have to wait until June to eat these deep-fried indulgences. The menu at Chicken Charlie's FryBQ continues to evolve --- look for fried Doritos, bacon-wrapped pickles, waffle dogs, cookie dough and more. Chicken Charlie's FryBQ, 5407 Balboa Ave. Ste 460, Clairemont, CA 92111, 858-279-1111.
Named for the famous surf break off Fletcher Cove, Pillbox Tavern & Grill serves up coastal American cuisine in a "retro modern" setting. Whether you're interested in a weekend brunch or late-night supper, the family-friendly menu has a wide appeal with its coconut shrimp, panko-crusted pork tenderloin sandwich, chicken wings, Angus burgers, mahi mahi tacos and more. Pillbox Tavern & Grill, 117 W. Plaza Street, Solana Beach, CA 92075, 858-436-7016.
The former La Jolla Strip Club has been transformed into Draft Republic, a gastropub with more than three dozen local beers at your fingertips. The lively eatery has billiards, ping pong, shuffleboard and flatscreens, along with tasty fare from chef Mike Camplin. Try the maple bourbon bacon sticks with apple chips, the rosated butternut squash flatbread or the juicy burger. Draft Republic, 4282 Esplanade Ct., University City, CA 92122, 858-450-1400.
Café Gratitude, which serves up gourmet 100 percent, plant-based cuisine, is arriving in San Diego. The popular vegan restaurant has outposts in Downtown L.A., Venice Beach, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and more, and will now descend upon Little Italy in early 2015. Café Gratitude focuses on organic, healthy eats and environmentally friendly products. The menu features dishes like chia seed pudding, gluten-free buckwheat-flax pancakes and Portobello mushroom tostados with cashew queso fresca and avocado.
David Spatafore, the local hospitality maestro behind Coronado’s Blue Bridge Hospitality (MooTime Creamery, Village Pizzeria, Lil’ Piggy’s Bar-B-Q, Coronado Coffee Company, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge) has announced the plans for Liberty Public Market, a public arena for local artisans, handcrafted food and specialty items, all under one roof. The 22,000-square-foot space will house more than 30 purveyors, allowing brick-and-mortar opportunities for small businesses. Acting as a one-stop specialty shop, as well as a daily farmers' market, Liberty Public Market is similar to Napa’s progressive Oxbow Public Market. The market will be set in sprawling Liberty Station, adjacent to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. It is expected to open in summer 2015. Liberty Public Market, Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Rd., San Diego, CA 92106, no phone.
Hillcrest's Local Habit Transforms into New Orleans-style Eatery
Hillcrest’s farm-driven eatery Local Habit has undergone a major renovation and reopened as a Cali-Creole concept with a new interior and New Orleans-inspired cocktails designed by local mixologist Adam Lockridge. Lousinana-born, consulting chef Nick Brune, Jennifer Lopez's former private chef, is overseeing the new Creole menu with all items under under $15. The owners envision this as a locals' hangout with New Orleans jazz, funk and brass, as well as good eats. The new Local Habit is open for Sunday brunch, Friday and Saturday lunch, happy hour, dinner and late-night service. Local Habit, 3827 5th Ave., Hillcrest, CA 92103, 619-795-4770.
Special "Expo Prixe Fixe" Menu and Milan Trip Giveaway at Monello
Monello will be hosting a celebration of Milanese cuisine and culture at its Little Italy restaurant March 1-June 30, 2015, that honors the Expo Milano 2015. Monello’s owners, Valentina Di Pietro and Guido Nistri, are passionate about sharing their love for the Milanese lifestyle, as well as the mission and messages of Expo Milano --- “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Monello will offer a new “Expo Prixe Fixe” menu, priced at $50, excluding tax and gratuity, featuring authentic Italian dishes such as cabbage wraps stuffed with veal meatballs, or cheese flan with sautéed porcini mushrooms. Anyone who orders this menu will be entered to win a trip for two to Milan, featuring an itinerary curated by the couple. The winners will be drawn July 6 at an aperitivo event at the restaurant. Monello, 750 W. Fir St., San Diego, CA 92101, 619-501-0030.
New Sunset Happy Hour Menu at Humphreys Restaurant
Guests can enjoy a lovely sunset over the bay at Humphreys Restaurant and a three-course meal for $25, Sunday through Thursday evenings from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Start with either root vegetable salad with sherry truffle vinaigrette or wild mushroom soup, and then select from a roster of entrees including red snapper, chicken pot pie, five-cheese ziti, cioppino or English-cut prime rib. Dessert options are chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting or Uncle John’s bread pudding. Wines by the glass are available for $5. Reservations can be made by calling 619-224-3577. Humphreys Restaurant, 2241 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego, CA 92106, 619-224-3577.
Bertrand at Mister A's Celebrates 50 Years in June 2015
During 2015, Bertrand at Mister A's will honor its 50-year legacy with special menus, a retro cocktail hour and a gala dinner benefiting the Old Globe Theater. The anniversary menu selections will take diners on a journey back to a different era, with dishes and cocktails of the day such as lobster diablo, beef Wellington, Caesar salad for two and baked Alaska. Throughout the month of June, the restaurant will offer a $65 prix-fixe menu with wine pairings, as well as other specials. On June 1, the original opening date, Mister A’s will host a black-tie fundraiser benefiting the Old Globe in nearby Balboa Park, which is celebrating its centennial this year. Bertrand at Mister A's, 2550 Fifth Ave., 12th Floor, San Diego, CA 92103, 619-239-1377.
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