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Hot Block: Adams Avenue

New bars to hit Normal Heights



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Sycamore Cocktail Den's Eric Johnson and Nick Zanzoni

Photo by Bob Lajes

Sycamore Cocktail Den's Eric Johnson (left) and Nick Zanoni


SD or Bust

A second wave of L.A. restos makes its way south

Los Angeles’ restaurateurs have dipped into San Diego for years, but lately it’s as if there’s a new gold rush. Katsuya and whiskey bar Seven Grand arrived earlier this year, downtown and in North Park, respectively. Mozza (Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich) has been eyeing SD’s waterfront for more than a year. And as Umami spreads its burgers all over SoCal, we’ll likely be scarfing Manly Burgers on our turf soon.

Meanwhile, Border Grill is serious about bringing us the rich flavors of its modern Mexican menu, ASAP. Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger—of Too Hot Tamales and Bravo’s Top Chef Masters—plan to land in the Gaslamp or Del Mar. “It’s close to Los Angeles, so we can really keep our hands on it and be involved,” explains Feniger. The proximity to Tijuana doesn’t hurt. “Every time we take a trip to Mexico, we get re-inspired and bring back ideas,” she reveals. “For 30 years, it’s been our inspiration.”
// Dayna Crozier

83% like this trend according to an online poll on October 3, 2012

Sandwiched in between tony Kensington and upscale University Heights, Normal Heights was long considered the sad, ignored middle child of the Adams Avenue corridor, especially among restaurateurs. But for better or worse, the word is out about the ’hood and the increasing set of younger urban dwellers who call it home. Blind Lady Ale House gets credit for kicking off the new wave in 2008, with 26 craft beers on tap, but the latest addition is upping the hip quotient quite a bit. Sycamore Cocktail Den is set to open in the old Lou Jones’s bar in early 2013, with a vintage vibe. Owner Nick Zanoni says it’s an homage to the collective American “Dad” of the 1970s, so expect wood paneling (not the reclaimed kind), macrame, and classic cocktails. Bells and Whistles (Starlite, Smoking Goat) will spearhead the design, Eric Johnson (Noble Experiment) will man the mixology, and Russel Hampton (Bootlegger) will manage the joint.

Also coming soon to Normal Heights:

Heights Tavern: A tavern-style neighborhood watering hole with friendly service, wings, burgers, and beer.

Soda & Swine: Nostalgic eatery specializing in meatballs and apple pie, all made by a Michelin-starred chef.

Polite Provisions: An old-fashioned drugstore-style soda fountain, but with cocktails and wine on tap. There’s no craft beer, but that’s because it’s a sister spot to Soda & Swine, whose owners (same folks behind Neighborhood and Craft & Commerce) conceded the ‘hood has enough good beer.

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