THE SPOT: Top of the 14th floor of the new Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center Hotel. It has a long name and a nice roof. The Nolen will have its own entrance.
THE CONCEPT: Named for John Nolen, one of San Diego’s earliest city planners. Cocktails will be throwbacks to his time (Old Fashioneds, Boulevardier, Vieux Carre), plus modern riffs like "Dirty Girl," an near-Old Fashioned with rye, bourbon, coffee liqueur, spice chai syrup and orange bitters. Cocktails will be split into seven categories, including "Barrel-Aged," "Hoptails" (beer cocktails) and "Draft Cocktails." They’ll use local distilleries like Ballast Point and Malahat Spirits Company. They’ll barrel-age cocktails in oak for a minimum of two months.
THE REAL CONCEPT: Realize you’re in San Diego and have a rooftop. Realize the weather in San Diego is pretty nice. Realize putting a bar on that rooftop in that famous weather is a pretty good idea.
THE PLAYERS: J Street Hospitality and Azul Hospitality. Their most recent collaboration: SpringHill Suites Hotel and Union & Vine restaurant in Paso Robles. Azul also opened Le Meridien hotel in Indianapolis, while J Street Hospitality has developed San Diego hotels Residence Inn Gaslamp and Hotel Z, and is currently developing Moxy Hotel, Canopy Hotels and Hampton Inn & Suites.
THE FOOD: Upscaled comfort dishes like chili glazed meatballs, jerk chicken quesadilla, a kale Caesar, herbal shrimp flatbread and crispy tots.
THE DESIGN: San Diego’s Matthew Ellis and his Bluemotif Architecture handled it. They build pretty places, as evidenced by their work on Cowboy Star, Kettner Exchange and Juniper & Ivy. The 2,500 square-foot space is open-air. It has two fireplaces, and six-foot glass walls that let people soak in the view. There are "oculi" (fancy word for a circular fixture), lanterns, eight seats at the bar with plush leather and brass barstools. Graffiti-style art pays homage to the key architectural icons in San Diego.
Enough words. Please enjoy the first photos of The Nolen. Then go enjoy a drink. The Nolen opens Thursday night.