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FIRST LOOK: Mister A's

San Diego’s famed dining room in the sky unveils its new look this week under new owner Ryan Thorsen

Mister A's

We announced last year that Mister A’s had been sold—not to a multinational corporate restaurant group, not to the deepest pockets looking for a penthouse supper club for their private doings. But to longtime operations manager, Ryan Thorsen, the 34 year-old, loyal confidant of former owner Bertrand Hug, the guy who’d worked his way up, the steward who cared and earned it.

Today we reveal the redesign with a short film by Jeremy Sazon.

The remaking of the San Diego icon was a collaboration between Thorsen and designer Mauricio Courturier, whose art-school fever dreams are on display at more than a few rooms across San Diego (Wolfie’s Carousel Bar, Bang Bang, Camino Rivera, Noble Experiment, etc.).

Pearls will not be clutched. It’s not a drastically altered Instagram wall with some tables and lobster mac in it. You don’t take James Bond’s Aston Martin, paint it matte black and add fuzzy dice. To radically alter this restaurant—where for 57 years has been home to marriage proposals, big anniversaries, and IPO toasts—would be to blasphemously tinker with a city’s shared memory. It is still named in honor of founding owner John Alessio.

Instead, you tweak and gussy the stories in those antique bones. Thorsen and Courturier call their idea “high-end brasserie.” The furniture is softer, cooler-looking. Views have been maximized and they’ve built far more comfy nooks to take it in. They paid special attention to that famous deck, where you can wave at 747 pilots just hundreds of feet to the south, as they land at Lindbergh at sunset (pilots have called Mister A’s to let them know when a bulb was out on their giant marquee).

You still enter that elevator and push the famous button—capital “A”—for the penthouse. When the doors open, you’ll now land on a checkerboard of black and white tiles. They played up the F Scott-ian decadence of the original restaurant with a glittering ceiling-farm of crystal chandeliers—13 chandeliers in all, seven of which were relocated from the Alessio family home in Mt. Helix.

You can go right into the 180-seat main dining room, or left for the brand-new 18-seat bar and 72-seat indoor-outdoor lounge. That space, which in recent years had become a bit of a sideshow, has been raised to eye level. And the once-iconic Blue Room has been fully restored to its cooling original state—a gilded private dining room with larger-than-life drapery that feels like you’re eating coq au vin in a weighted blanket; blue carpeting is like a textural riff on the Kind of Blue album cover, and there’s an antique guéridon (a fancy old table). The rotunda—its aquarium windows facing Balboa Park and Downtown—has added ceiling frescoes from LA-based interiors painter, Charlotte Jackson (she hand-mixed the paint with earth pigments and essential oils).

There is ornate wood millwork throughout, the kind you’d expect to find on your boat friend’s prized floater. There is marble to give it that rock of Gibralter permanence—the feeling that, though the wine will surely disappear with the night, the place never will.

As for the food and the drinks, it’s still being overseen by the French stalwart, Stephane Voitzwinkler. The one change will be that dishes will lean more toward plant cookery, and there will be fare more share plates since that’s how we’ve always wanted to eat. Jerry Capozzelli is still maître d’, as he has been for 38 years. And marriage is still proposed at multiple tables on a nightly basis.

Mister A’s reopens to the public on Oct. 11.


Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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