Browsed by
Tag: restaurants

ride that wave

ride that wave

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Little Italy

San Diego’s coffee culture continues to grow, and San Diego Magazine has a good writeup on the Third Wave trend that’s (finally) becoming increasingly popular here:

The most recent phase, known in the industry as the Third Wave, is coffee craftsmanship of the highest level. Drilling down past sourcing and labeling beans by country, they’re sourced from specific farms. The dark roasts made popular by Starbucks are now manifesting into lighter, brighter roasts, more acidic and almost sour (though this isn’t a defining characteristic of the movement, just a result of it). New serving techniques also mark the arrival of the Third Wave: A pour-over is a slow-drip single cup of coffee made to order, where beans are ground and placed in a filter-lined ceramic funnel and hot water delicately drenches the grind. Siphoned coffee is brewed in an hourglass-looking device that uses heat and vacuum pressure to reverse-cycle (from bottom to top) hot water through coffee grounds. Cold brewing is an eight-to-12-hour process in which room-temperature water percolates through coarsely ground coffee.

Along with pioneering third wave locals like North Park’s Coffee and Tea Collective (and innovative roasters like Caffe Calabria), Bird Rock Coffee Roasters keeps the ball rolling with their new location across the street from Juniper and Ivy in Little Italy.  They’re currently doing a soft opening with hours from just 7 AM to noon, but on a recent morning they had a steady stream of customers braving the jet path noise from above.

Roast Magazine’s Daily Coffee News has more information on BRCR, including the equipment they’re using to create all those delicious offerings.  Just try not to order an iced soy latte like I did on this warm morning. While it was still great, I had forgotten that at Third Wave spots the coffee flavor is meant to be experienced on its own (despite past pour-overs from Coffee and Tea Collective and researching Third Wave cafes while in London).  That’s OK, there should be many more opportunities for me to sample as intended, along with enjoying my beans purchase.  And speaking of beans, don’t forget the excellent ones from Modern Times roaster Amy Krone, a big part of what makes their Black House coffee stout so amazing, and likely their new Monsters’ Park imperial stout.

Downtown, nearly-open Bean Bar (across from the new library; pictured below) and Copa Vida (at the northeast corner of Park at the Park – not far from where Petco will get a giant new scoreboard and left-field hangout area) will also continue the third wave in San Diego.



Elsewhere downtown, upscale Italian joint Double Standard opens next month in the former Corner Counter Burger spot at 6th and G, and will serve up Neapolitan pizza and…

…signatures like Cavatelli with Ricotta Dumplings, made with sausage, fresh sliced truffles and a grana padano sauce. The restaurant will also offer small plates composed of carefully selected and combined ingredients, like clams and mussels with Nduja, a spreadable Calabrian sausage made in house. Diners looking for larger dishes will also find wild, fresh-caught fish, dry-aged ribeyes and a Crackling House Porchetta Sandwich. Another standout on the menu is Double Standard’s pizzas. Tender specialty dough is baked in wood-fired ovens to create a crisp, crunchy base piled with organic San Marzano tomatoes and meats cured in house.

Back in Little Italy, “Latin-inspired” seafood spot Sirena has opened, as has Kettner Exchange at Grape:





The historic Star Building at Beech and Kettner has been demolished for the mundane 10-story, $24 million dollar parking garage shown in the rendering below; it will provide daytime parking for County Administration Building workers (their lot was removed for Waterfront Park) and nighttime parking for Little Italy restaurant patrons.  At least it will include ground-floor retail, but this was a big architectural loss for San Diego and another disincentive for County employees to use public transit.


In Hillcrest, South American gastropub Buffalo Public House opened in the former East Village Asian Diner spot on University recently… Just west on University, Bearitos Republic has opened in the former Sloppy’s Burritos… but the biggest recent news in Hillcrest has to be the closure of Harvey Milk’s Diner and the subsequent outrage over legitimate criticism of the restaurant.

Harvey Milk’s got off to a bad start by painting the Egyptian-era, iconic bright fruit frieze above the restaurant a steel gray, then proceeded to put up trashy Bud Light banners and happy hour signs.  Food quality and service problems were widespread on their Yelp reviews.  There was a strong Log Party Republican presence in a gay community divided by the polarizing Carl DeMaio.  But it was one of the owners telling the head of Bike San Diego (while she dined there) that bicyclists should be hit by cars to “teach them a lesson”, that really soured me on the place.

Given the above, it was difficult to read this piece by Jerry Troyer in DeMaio’s partner’s publication, which cried out:

Can’t we treat people, and especially the people in our own community, with a little compassion and understanding? One has to admit that it takes a lot of courage and dedication just to make the decision to start a new business. Why can’t we honor them for that?

We are looking for the straight community to treat us (the LGBT community) with dignity and respect. Oh that we would treat each other that same way.

Frank Lechner hoping for bicyclists to get hit by cars is exactly the lack of dignity and respect that Troyer is railing against. And regarding compassion for others, why did Harvey Milk’s apparent financial backer, Phil Pace of Phil’s BBQ, donate ten thousand dollars to take away a desperately-needed pay raise from tens of thousands of San Diegans earning minimum wage?

OK, enough of that – over in North Park, Safehouse has opened on University, and on Park, S&M Sausage and Meat is open… There’s a big bottle share this Sunday (same day as CicloSDias!) in North Park… The monthly Boulevard Market on El Cajon had its inaugural event last month in the parking lot of the building where Heart and Trotter will be opening; it features some of San Diego’s top/upcoming chefs… Further east on El Cajon, right behind a Rapid 215 bus station, the new YMCA looks pretty close to opening (next month):


While I’m excited for the bike parking in the parking garage, I’m disappointed in the sheer scale of said garage. This is an urban neighborhood on a major transit line – do we need to be encouraging thousands of drivers per day to this location? And in a city that’s desperate for more housing, why do we continue to prioritize housing cars instead?


transforming hillcrest

transforming hillcrest

Lots of restaurant changes going on around town – Heights Tavern in Normal Heights has been bought out and will be closing this week, according to Hutton Marshall at Uptown News… Plumeria’s new spot is coming along on Adams… A friend says Eddie’s on 30th in North Park is closing and will make way for a Queenstown Public House operation.  I never did get Eddie’s concept – the menu was so wide-ranging that there had to be some serious Sysco going on… Across the street, Veg-N-Out is also closing… Marie’s on University is being replaced by a new Lucha LibreDark Horse Coffee is opening a location in the You Are Here project in Golden Hill… Acme Kitchen downtown has also closed; we enjoyed our dinner there a while back but there’s no way I could eat there regularly without elastic waistbands… Comun is open downtown with an upscale Mexican concept; chef Chad White has worked at Roseville, Gabardine and Counterpoint.

Meanwhile, LGBT Weekly asks why there’s been so much restaurant turnover in Hillcrest – but considering the above, restaurant changes aren’t unique to this neighborhood.  We get New York magazine (gotta use those airline points) and there’s plenty of turnover all over that city too.  Maybe it’s not about the parking as the article implies, but rather strong competition for a finite dining-out dollar.

– Upcoming: come to Modern Times Wednesday at 6 and support the minimum wage increase, since our current mayor and former mayor heading the SD Chamber of Commerce will be doing their best to keep thousands of San Diegans working in poverty… Monty Python and The Holy Grail finishes up the Normal Heights summer movie season at Ward Canyon Park (Adams and I-15) this Saturday at 8… There are a couple of clean-up events coming up: Operation Clean Sweep this Saturday morning cleans up the bay, while Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday 9/21.

– A new residential project is planned for the vacant lot just east of Albertsons on University:

View Larger Map

As SD Streets notes, this is the same architect who designed the Columbia Lofts going up in Little Italy (Columbia St, between Fir and Grape), and there’s an interesting-looking possible rendering of the University project. With North Park Nursery moving in a few doors east, this humdrum stretch of University is looking up.

– I attended Jim Frost’s Transforming Hillcrest presentation last week at the Hillcrest Town Council and was impressed by the thought put into the plan, which would provide protected bike lanes while retaining all current parking on University:


Something’s gotta give, and in this case it’s two travel lanes, which could create traffic flow issues for the frequent bus service on that street.  I had assumed SANDAG performed a traffic study indicating no travel lanes could be lost, but apparently that’s not the case.  We’ll see if they consider this plan, which has broad community support.


– We were headed to the beach Saturday (this has been the best beach summer I can remember since moving here in late 1997, btw) and got caught in the backup from the 7-car sandwich just east of I-5 on I-8.  Here’s a map showing this is the worst stretch of I-8 in the city:


I looked at other freeways individually since you can only plot 1000 collisions at a time, and this appears to be the worst freeway stretch within city limits, largely due to the morning backup onto the I-5N off-ramp.  While Caltrans is widening this off-ramp, why not reduce speeds and/or add caution signage in the area?  It’s been a problem since at least 2000 when I began driving this route (although now I usually exit at Taylor and take the bus to work on my UCSD days – or ride my bike to the Hillcrest/UCSD shuttle).
– Looks like the I-5 widening is going to happen; meanwhile, San Diego ranks poorly on transit.
the urbies

the urbies

Awards season is here, so here’s some of the best things happening in San Diego in this inaugural edition of The Urbies:

Best new Uptown establishment: Named Cocktail Bar of the Year by Imbibe Magazine, Polite Provisions is the coolest thing to happen to Adams Ave since Blind Lady Ale House. While the award usually goes to a flashy New York or LA bar, this year’s winner is straight out of Normal Heights northern North Park in the former humble Kadan location. The cocktails served here are as awesome as the bar’s gleaming interior, and when you need something to soak up all the liquor in those delicious drinks, grab some meatballs next door at sister operation Soda and Swine. Get there early though, because every time we’ve visited it’s quickly become standing-room only. The addition of these two establishments to 30th and Adams is a huge step forward in the ongoing resurgence of the Adams Ave corridor.

Most anticipated mixed-use project: The North Parker at 30th and Upas has a modernist design unlike anything else in the area, and will feature an eclectic group of establishments: taco shop Tacos Perla (from The Pearl Hotel owners), Influx Cafe, Underbelly, and a Modern Times Beer tasting room. Sitting catty-corner to the recently-remodeled Jack in the Box, the North Parker represents the exact opposite approach to land use: mixing ground-floor commercial with residential above, instead of a single-story structure with a drive-thru and high-profile parking spaces. Hopefully the former approach will continue with projects like the nearby You Got Mail.

Our favorite restaurants: Instead of posting about new spots (our French Concession visit will have to wait until next time), here’s a rundown of places we always seem to end up: Koon Thai in Kearny Mesa is near one of my offices and it’s busier every time we have lunch there; with excellent specials on some of the best Thai in San Diego, I can see why… Pho Mignon in the same plaza is also a favorite for their healthy Vietnamese food… The vegetarian and vegan offerings at Plumeria in University Heights are always reliable and relatively guilt-free… More vegan options at spicy Dao Fu in Normal Heights – the food may melt your face off, but the flavors are fantastic… Waypoint Public is a fine replacement for the departed Linkery, and the craft beer selection from the Bottlecraft folks is stellar… Still love Carnitas Snack Shack and the makeover they gave to their patio, but that ever-present line means we’re not the only ones who do… Prepkitchen is a welcome break from the “should we get Italian, or Italian?” question in Little Italy… Caffe Calabria‘s parklet looks great and makes their front patio even better… and Cantina Mayahuel‘s mole, Tuesday taco special and wide-ranging tequila selection always hit the spot. More: Tender Greens downtown, Loving Hut on El Cajon, Blue Ribbon and Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest, BFD Sandwiches on Park, and Ponce’s (those margaritas) and Burger Lounge here in Kensington.  I’m sure we’re missing a few… Blind Lady Ale House, of course.

Craft beers move closer: San Diego’s craft beer scene continues to amaze, and many of the breweries are opening mini-brewing facilities and/or tasting rooms right in our urban neighborhoods. This is a great thing – who should be driving after downing a few of the often-high alcohol offerings from our esteemed brewers? From Ballast Point‘s successful new Little Italy location to Hess‘s full brewing operation in North Park, many of these are bikeable locations where you’re not dodging vehicles doing 70 mph (like on our recent ride from my brother’s house in Poway to Ballast Point in Scripps Ranch). And you’re much more likely to catch a bus or a cab here than among the brewing warehouses on Miramar Road. Other breweries that have opened or are coming to our neighborhoods include Mission, Green Flash, Modern Times, Thorn Street Brewing, Belching Beaver, Hillcrest Brewing, Acoustic Ales and Stone. Craft beer: one more reason to ditch the car when possible.

Biggest relief: The Jacobs plan for Balboa Park aimed to bring more cars into the heart of the park, and would have trashed Palm Canyon and the tranquility of the Alcazar Garden. After the plan was stopped (thank you SOHO), parking was removed from Plaza de Panama at a fraction of the project’s $43 million dollar cost. Many residents in nearby Bankers Hill, including Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association and Uptown Planners Community Planning Group head Leo Wilson, strongly supported the disruptive Jacobs plan, concerned that an alternate plan to close Cabrillo Bridge to cars would bring more cars parking in their neighborhood.


This year, Cabrillo Bridge is closed until April and yet the parking quagmire hasn’t materialized. We’ll have to wait to see if museum attendance is affected by the closure but keep this example in mind next time you hear a project can’t be done because of parking impacts.

Best civic achievement: The downtown library was a long time coming, and it finally happened in 2013. It’s a huge improvement over the former downtown location, with distinguishing architecture, bay views, and gathering areas like the auditorium and reading room:


Even better, the library is the first in a series of major civic projects in San Diego, including the Old Police Headquarters repurposing, the North Embarcadero project, the County Administration Building park, and Horton Plaza Park.  We’re witnessing major changes to a city that has often resisted them.

Best transit plans: SANDAG approves $200 million in Early Action Plan funds for 42 bikeway projects.  While we still need to overcome opposition to safe bike lanes (for example, in Uptown from its community planning group) the money is a big positive step in an area where San Diego has been trailing other cities.  If you support bike lanes, or their potential to make streets safer for pedestrians too, come to next month’s Uptown Corridor (2/6) or Mid-City Corridor (2/19 5:30-8pm, Franklin Elementary, 4481 Copeland Avenue) meetings.  Second place goes to the Mid-Coast trolley expansion, which will begin construction next year and bring trolley service to UCSD.  And third place to the new Express bus planned to run from Adams Ave to downtown – no more hour-long rides on the #11.

While the city is facing serious challenges – like its infrastructure backlog – it’s definitely a fun time to be living in San Diego.  And I didn’t even mention the warm weather.


free at last

free at last

Spring Break may be here for UCSD students, but for some other folks it means an end to the UCSD extension course that’s been eating up any spare blogging time. So here’s a recap of some restaurant news and visits over the past month:

Great Maple in the former Brian’s spot in Hillcrest is a big improvement over the Sysco-inspired fare previously served there. Since it’s owned by Hash House’s Johnny Rivera, we were a bit wary of gigantic portions adorned with sprigs, but instead we were served solid fare and cocktails, in a 70’s-meets-modern dining room. The fish part of my fish and chips was light and crispy, and miles ahead of the same dish we sampled a while back at Shakespeare Pub; Jay’s pasta with meatballs and sausage were also quite good. And it was a relief to see the patio area smoke-free, finally. Prices run a bit high for what you get.

Delicious cocktails and meatballs were also on the menu at Polite Provisions/Soda and Swine in Normal Heights. We ordered at S&S under the open ceiling first (looks like there’s a cover rigged up for when it rains) then managed to snag the last table in the PP bar next door on a very busy Monday night. The space inside PP is unlike anything else in San Diego and just like everything else in Brooklyn (kidding!). Seriously, it’s a place I’d love to spend hours in, sampling each one of the cocktails on tap from the gleaming handles behind the bar. My Brave Companion cocktail (Bourbon, Fresh Lemon Juice, Crème de Cocao & Vanilla Gomme; “Deep vanilla & fresh citrus that lead to subtle notes of chocolate”) vanished so quickly that it required serious restraint not to order another. No matter – downshifting to draft beer offered a mix of interesting U.S. craft and foreign brewers.

El Take it Easy had another pop-up restaurant event, with Chef Ismene Venegas from Ensenada serving a four-course menu. It featured the freshest, tastiest yellowtail I’ve ever had, accompanied by a crisp Granny Smith apple salad. Ceviche and pork carnitas were other highlights. If that’s up your alley, you can sample this “New Baja” cuisine Sundays through Wednesdays for four weeks starting 4/7 as part of ETIE’s “Get Out if You Can“.

Sustainable seafood week brought a long-overdue return visit to participating restaurant Alchemy, where our group ended up grazing through a variety of small plates that were mostly not part of the event. Now what’s that, a Societe Brewing tap-takeover? Yes please. One off note: a chocolate tort dessert that was drier and more cracked than the Bonneville Mud Flats. Still, it was good to see the place packed even with all the new restaurants going in around town – like Buona Forchetta across the street, which looked inviting at dusk with their gently-lit patio. It was doing a brisk business too.

Haven Pizzeria is open in Kensington; Eater also has some photos of the “quirky” interior of American Voodoo coming to University Heights. Eater also says Salt and Cleaver‘s sausage and craft beers will be served up in the former Cote Sud on 5th in Hillcrest next month.

Downtown, the Old Police Headquarters got a writeup in the Papa Doug Press a few weeks back, and while there’s a focus on chains (Cheesecake Factory bad, Pizzeria Mozza good) the courtyard inside the property sure has potential. Apart from touristy Old Town, I can’t think of a communal restaurant setting like that anywhere else in the city. Opening in October.

bh b&r

bh b&r

off the sajj, a “lebanese bakery and grill” , is going into the old (un)lucky buck’s spot on university in hillcrest (thanks sdtips)… a bit late on this one, but burger lounge continues their conquest of san diego; newest stop: 5th and market… the opening of hodad’s 2 downtown has been delayed again…  analog bar is open in the old mr. tiki lounge spot on 5th downtown… crab hut has just opened their second location, branching out from kearny mesa to broadway downtown… and sessions public provides another reason to hit point loma beyond pearl hotel and roseville.  all in all not bad considering the economy’s still not exactly booming.

– finally got to bankers hill bar and restaurant a couple weeks back and the owners have done an amazing job with the space.  the interior is unrecognizable from its modus days, with high ceilings, plenty of lumber, and big windows fronting the street.  a substantial, rustic bar anchors the candle-lit lounge area, where the easygoing bartender (he put up with dad’s bad jokes) offered up an interesting selection of craft beers.  the dinner menu follows the less-than-$20 approach that’s in vogue, and all of our plates – the bh burger, fish and chips, and pulled pork tacos – were winners, as were our truffle fries and green tomato appetizers.  coupled with solid service, bankers hill is doing plenty of things that should make this a neighborhood favorite.

donate to the downtown public library– it’s been an eventful past month or so for civic projects in the city of san diego with the downtown library groundbreaking, the death bell chiming for an innovative new city hall to replace the current sorry one, a $78 million pedestrian bridge to tijuana airport (?!) and the selection of 5 architect finalists for the upcoming convention center expansion. but the biggest news of all was a possible revival of the north embarcadero visionary plan, this time with a 150-foot-wide “setback park” running from broadway to hawthorne on the east side of harbor drive. the stalled hotel project at lane field could be modified to accommodate the project.

– the UT’s interview with CCDC chairman fred mass is worth a read, especially his vision for broadway downtown.

– after an email went out seeking input from kensington residents on the price charities project planned for the old pearson ford site in city heights, it was disappointing to see the results – a whole foods market and “no affordable housing”? while the developer and architect did specifically ask what kensingtonians wanted at the site, isn’t it a bit unrealistic to think a lower-income community needs $8 tubs of sliced fruit and gourmet belgian beer – instead of afforable housing at a site being developed by a charitable organization?

north park music thing is this friday and saturday at the lafayette hotel with shows all over north and south park. austin, eat your heart out.

– bike sharing in long beach, 1500 public car-charging stations in san diego, and LA as the nation’s public transportation leader? a pretty good transportation trifecta to end a long post.