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Main Dish for June

The notes, news, must-taste events and chef conversations of San Diego Magazine's food stalker, Troy Johnson


Hot Plates

Organic Pea Agnolotti @ Delicias.

Paul McCabe is back. The ex-Kitchen 1540 chef left to become a partner at Delicias a few months back, joining former Mister A’s maître d' Alex Campbell for an overhaul of the RSF institution. His new menu is out and… oh sweet (insert religious icon of choice). One of the best in SD out the gates. McCabe’s famous beet salad (with caramelized yogurt) followed him. But this new agnolotti—with creamy-sweet mascarpone, early carrots and a brown butter sauce that tastes of pure hedonism—is mind-blowing. It’s essentially dessert, for dinner. 6106 Paseo Delicias, 858-756-8000, deliciasrestaurant.com

Cornbread @ Brooklyn Girl

Michael and Victoria McGeath have finally opened their ode to Victoria’s native city. It’s a pretty killer joint, with 22-foot ceilings, subway tile and chandeliers suspended in birdcages. Food, too. And while the flamboyantly carnivorous, wood-fired pizza is mighty good, it’s the cast-iron pan of baked-to-order cornbread that steals the show. Served piping hot with local honeycomb and white cheddar, this sinful little bit o’ southern is worth every butter calorie. 4033 Goldfinch Ave., 619-296-4600, brooklyngirleatery.com

Mixto Clasico Ceviche @ Café Secret

The ceviche at this tiny Peruvian café in Del Mar has no right to be as fresh and beautifully plated as it is (at lunch, even). A plate includes a mound of seabass or halibut with calamari, shrimp, octopus mussels and scallop tossed with cilantro, lime juice, onions, yams, canchita and ajies (Paruvian peppers). On the side? Scallops on the half-shell, plus cancha (toasted Peruvian corn kernels). 1140 Camino Del Mar, 858-792-0821, cafesecret.com

Coming Soon                          

Gaslamp Rendezvous (551 Sixth Street) was short-lived. It’ll be replaced by Meze, a sit-down Mediterranean joint… Sora, the new Japanese Italian concept from Alessandro Minutella (Osetra, Chocolat) and former Nobu sushi chef Noriyoshi Teruya, is slated to open this summer (read the story here)

True Food Kitchen is finally opening at Fashion Valley Mall on June 25. TFK, a collaboration between food and wellness Dr. Andrew Weil (as seen on Oprah) and former SD chef Michael Stebner (910, Region), is probably the best food you can get without six pounds of butter and a shaker full of salt. Bonus? Local favorite Nathan Coulon (ex-Quarter Kitchen) returns as exec chef of the SD location. Mall food renaissance is upon us

Long considered the only gourmet spot in Pacific Beach (that’s a lie, but not too much), Lamont Street Bar & Grill closed last year. Now with new owners, the space reopens this summer as The Patio, with an “international menu” from chef John Medall, last seen at Red Circle Café and Galileo 101

In Bay Park, Baci Ristorante is expanding next door with Luce, an Italian gastropub/enoteca

Up in North County

North County inland has a new champion in Grant Tondro. While it may not be North Park-hip, his Urge Gastropub and Barrel Room are heads and tails above the tired strip-mall gruel NoCo eaters are used to. Now he’s opening a third spot—with growlers (large, stylish beer containers to-go), in the same Rancho Bernardo mall where El Torito’s just closed

Wade Hageman (owner of Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza, ex-Blanca chef) will open his Craftsman New American Tavern soon in the former space of Savory (267 N. El Camino Real). This should be good. Expect the chef—a former four-star guy who ended up making the best dang pie in Encinitas—to strike hot with his local-seasonal comfort food concept

Top omakase joint Kaito Sushi, is opening a café/tea spot called Sugar in Leucadia (466 N. Pacific Coast Hwy). If Master Kaito is half as good with hot drinks as he is with cold fish, Sugar should be worth a visit

La Jolla Hotel’s restaurant, formerly known as Clay’s, has been redesigned by G+ Design (Gulla Jonstittir, who cut her teeth as a principal designer for Dodd Mitchell). Now managed by Kimpton Hotel Group (Hotel Solamar, Hotel Palomar), the 11th-floor resto supposedly maximized the already pretty-amazing views and hired chef Donald Lockhart (from Hollywood’s Delphine) and will reopen this summer as Cusp

San Diego Mexican empress Diane Powers (Casa de Pico, Casa Guadalajara, Casa de Bandini) will open a new to-be-determined restaurant in Del Mar Highlands come spring 2013 (replacing Red Robin). Expect more of her signatures—Mexican folk art, color-popping umbrellas, and amply sized Mexican libations.

Rumor Has It

Chocolat—the flatbread, bruschetta and dessert spot in Hillcrest—is looking for a location in Coronado, as well as Vegas

More rumors: Fig & Olive is on the prowl for San Diego locations, adding to our mall but growing crop of specialty olive oil shops (We Olive, Temecula Olive Oil Co.). Apparently they believe oil is as every bit nuanced as wine (agreed)


Red Tracton’s, Del Mar’s legendary racing season hangout known for keeping it old-old-school, is getting an facelift. No word yet for the plans. But old track hands can expect a change

El Bizcocho was one of the trailblazers in high-end cuisine in San Diego. It’s a classic Spanish-style property; it also felt near-death in the dining room. So how do you modernize without sucking out the soul? We’ll find out. They’re closing down in June for a multimillion-dollar overhaul. chef Nicolaus Bour will finally have a room worthy of his skills

Brigantine is a fish-taco legend in San Diego. Now their Del Mar location is (finally!) maximizing its location. We could go into more details, but suffice to say: they’re blowing out the walls and making every seat in the joint a “view” seat

Just Launched

The Marina Kitchen at the San Diego Marriot and Marquis has opened. They’ve got an advanced sommelier in Joshua Orr, who’s instituted an on-tap wine system (all California)

The Westin Gaslamp Quarter has finished a $25 million overhaul, crowning it with their new dining attraction, Pinzimini. The mod Italian restaurant will do Tuscan-style fare with grilled sammies, thin-crust pie and special “bread service,” with top-notch olive oil infused with sea salt and herbs. Mixologist Tricia Alley comes from a couple of the top cocktail joints in L.A (Providence and Black Market Liquor Bar)

All along, SD’s hottest breakfast joint, Snooze, was supposed to be opening with in conjunction with their Denver-based pals, D Bar Desserts. Delays, delays. Now, the performance-kitchen dinner-and-after place from Keegan Gerhard (one-time George’s cook and eventual Food Network host) has finally opened his spot in Hillcrest. Calling cards?  The pizza-salad sandwich (a goat-mozz hybrid of pizza and sando) and three-layer chocolate cake with a shake. (Gerhart, one of America’s best pastry chefs, groans that it’s his most renown dessert.) Meanwhile, Snooze is doing so damn well that they’re looking for other locations around San Diego

Arguably the most ambitious Cohn Group (Indigo Grill, C-Level, etc.) venture to date, Vintana has opened in the Escondido Lexus Dealership. A resto in a car dealership? Yep. With 10,000 square-foot open-air terrace and 17-foot windows at the restaurant, chef Deborah Scott’s menu (langoustine corn fritters, blackberry bison spare ribs) will be bolstered by a vodka lounge (100-plus selections, a la the Cohns’ latest success in Oceanside, 333 Pacific). Those views alone should be worth a cape cod or two

Brian Malarkey’s Herringbone—a stunner with massive indoor trees, faux whale skeletons and other Thomas Schoos design oddities—is finally open. Ocean bazaar, overseen by ex-Top Cheffer, Amanda Baumgarten

The Cocktail Kings

Neighborhood, the beer-cocktails-burger joint in Downtown, will become San Diego’s first spot to have “cocktails on tap.” The ‘tails in question will come from Anthony Schmidt, who helms next-level cocktail laboratory Noble Experiment. The 18-tap, liquor-ready system was designed by West Coast Beverage

The owners of Noble Experiment’s other joint, Craft & Commerce, was just named one of the top 10 finalists for the annual Spirited Awards. A big, big deal in the international cocktail world. Our favorite? The IPA Cocktail with IPA (beer), grapefruit-infused aperol, orgeat and lemon.

Top Food Events

Summer Solstice @ Powerhouse Park – June 21

Jakes to the right, beachside cliffs to the left, reef break on the horizon and grass underfoot. Powerhouse Park is one of SD’s best stretches of grass, and Summer Solstice is the party to realize its wily charms. Over 20 Del Mar restaurants, 15 California wineries and breweries, with live music. Event has sold out in advance every year, so do it now.


Sausagefest @ LoungeSix – June 20

JSix chef Christian Graves is a cured meat-ist. I’ve seen him disassemble an entire Berkshire for an assortment of charcuterie. It was art. That art gets its own battle with Sausagefest. Twelve of the city’s top sausage-enthusing chefs (JSix, Nine-Ten, Whisknladle, Café Chloe, Farmhouse, Linkery, Carnitas Snack Shack and more) will vie for the best meat. Los Abbey will use the party to unveil its new classic straw-gold German lager, “The Road to Helles.”


Stella Artois Brunch Series @ JRDN – June 10

Every hipster’s favorite beer, Stella Artois, is joining forces with SD Mag and some of the city’s top to liven up the weekend a little earlier. This is the kickoff of a day-soiree series. Tower23 and JRDN is a great place to start, with a patio overlooking the beach-cruising, pilates bodying, parrot-shouldering carnival of life that is Pacific Beach. Done safely from the patio, of course.


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