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FIRST LOOK: Herb & Wood

Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer strike again in Little Italy


Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer are back. After building the fabric empire (Searsucker, Herringbone), the chef and GM are opening their next creation in Little Italy. And it’s massive. They’ve taken over the former Mixture art warehouse to insert the 12,000 square-foot multi-concept, Herb & Wood.  

After using Thomas Schoos for Searsucker and Herringbone, they went rogue for design this time. Puffer took lead. “We wanted to stay away from reclaimed wood, white marble, black steel, Edison light bulbs, and other materials that have been overused,” he says. “I didn’t want to over-design the hell out of it. Dining for me has always been an escape. In life there’s chaos. I feel like I’ve gotten away from the world. Get the hell away from the grind. It does have a little gay Paris meets NYC with Willy Wonka posh to it.”

The space is divided into four separate areas. First, a little lounge area that Puffer suggests looks a bit “like a chic loft space.” Second, what they’re referring to as the "lavender lounge,” with an indoor-outdoor porch feel. Third, the main dining room. Fourth, the patio with a double-sided fireplace.

All told, the space fits 230 diners. And it shares a wall with arguably the city’s hottest restaurant, Juniper & Ivy.

Yeah, so. Little Italy. That’s kind of a place to eat now.

For the menu, Malarkey and chef de cuisine Shane McIntyre (ex-Searsucker, Green Acre) are focusing on proteins and vegetables from their wood oven. So a heavily roasted menu. Like stuffed branzino with Meyer lemon, parsley, chives, and chervil, wrapped in prosciutto and roasted, and topped with a chili tapenade made with Castelvetrano olives, Calabrian chiles, garlic, and shallots.

Local tuna and uni crudo in cucumber citrus broth. Wood-fired king trumpet mushrooms with lemon verbena and house-churned butter. Pastas like triangoli with smoked rabbit sausage and burrata.

They’ll do their own dry-aged meat program. They’ll make their own pizza dough and baked goods on site each day, under the supervision of pastry chef Adrian Mendoza (Spago, Herringbone). Desserts will include a blueberry soufflé with whipped buttermilk and blueberry compote, a 24-hour crepe torte with berries, ricotta and honeyed pistachios, etc.

Bartender Willem Van Leuven (ex-Puesto, Prohibition) is well-versed in agave spirits, but his menu is mostly focused on fresh herbs. This vodka potion sounds interesting: “Grapes & Vodka” with muddled grapes, Green Mark vodka, peach liqueur, sugar, orange, and lemon.

You get the picture. Now take a look at the first known photos in the universe of Herb & Wood. 

It’s slated to open this month.

2210 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, www.herbandwood.com

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