This winter, warm up with traditional Japanese ramen, unconventional grilled cheese done 10 ways, decadent red velvet pancakes, peanut butter, jelly and bacon burgers, and sizzling filet mignon sushi rolls. Boring eaters beware; our menu of new San Diego restaurants is pulling out all the tricks just in time for a new season filled with daring feasts. But don’t put on your fat pants just yet; these hot spots are guaranteeing a slew of celebrity chef sightings, which means the paparazzi isn’t too far behind.
As we await the grand opening marathon of Brian Malarkey’s three new restaurants, we prepare our minds and mouths with a diverse spread of debut eateries. New must-try restaurants include UnderBelly Ramen House in Little Italy, Twisted Vine Bistro & Wine Bar in Torrey Highlands, Sublime Ale House in San Marcos, Saltbox at the Palomar Hotel, Snooze in Hillcrest, Slater’s 50/50 in Point Loma and Sabuku Sushi in Normal Heights.
Discover the best new San Diego restaurants to try this winter.
Malarkey Expansion: Gingham, Gabardine, Herringbone
The rumors are true. San Diego’s favorite celebri-chef Brian Malarkey is opening three new restaurants within the next few months, along with his restaurant development partner James Brennan. Still drawing inspiration from varied fabrics, Malarkey and Brennan will first present Gingham in La Mesa this December, a culinary collaboration comprised of BBQ, fried chicken and braised meats with Chef Ryan Studebaker, formerly of PrepKitchen in Del Mar and La Jolla. Also slated to open doors mid-December is Gabardine in Point Loma, which will feature Malarkey’s inventive eats with a twist by Chef Paul Niles, formerly of Tribeca Grill in New York. Last but not least is Herringbone, the emerging brand’s signature La Jolla restaurant that will be designed by Thomas Schoos and will feature a playful seafood-inspired menu developed by Malarkey and fellow Top Chef contestant Amanda Baumgarten (Season 7) formerly of Water Grill in Los Angeles, which is planned to open in early 2012.
UnderBelly Ramen House: It’s time to lose the fork and finally perfect your chopstick skills in honor of San Diego’s new Japanese ramen house, UnderBelly, now open in Little Italy. UnderBelly is the latest social engineering project from Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton of Consortium Holdings, who are also behind Craft & Commerce, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment and El Dorado. The vision is to be a tribute to traditional Japanese ramen houses, from the focused culinary approach to the exotic urban décor. UnderBelly serves four basic foundations of ramen, and a vegan alternative, paired with assorted toppings, pork buns, gyoza, and appetizers. Simple, respectful and inspired, the menu reflects Japanese food culture as interpreted by Consortium Holdings’ founder Arsalun Tafazoli who studied the regional customs while attending the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Get more details here.
Twisted Vine Bistro & Wine Bar: New and now open in Torrey Highlands, Twisted Vine Bistro & Wine Bar is the swankiest neighborhood joint to ever hit the Santaluz area of San Diego. Twisted Vine is open for daily lunch, dinner and drinks, as well as weekend brunch. Executive Chef Mia Sailing crafted an internationally inspired menu that features locally sourced, fresh, natural ingredients. The flavor-packed dinner menu boasts everything from Molten Brie Crisp, Seared Yellowtail Tostados and Barbeque Chicken Flatbread, to a Half Pound Natural Beef Burger, Slow Roasted Natural Pork and Orange Tarragon Chicken. Must-try brunch favorites include Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Baked Pancakes, Baja Benedict, Spicy Chicken Potato Hash and the decadent Warm Caramel-Pecan Rolls. And it’s always the right time for happy hour spirits at Twisted Vine; the menu boasts a great selection of boutique wines in limited production from all over the world. (pictured)
Sublime Ale House: Located along California Restaurant Row in San Marcos in a central spot referred to as the North County Beer Triangle, Sublime Ale House is poised to become an instant hot spot in the local craft beer-loving social circle. Owner James Limjoco envisioned Sublime to be a gathering spot for advanced beer connoisseurs and novices alike, and brought the idea to life with an urban-rustic interior design, 48 taps of local and global brews, and a menu of comfort food with 20 pizzas, 15 mac ‘n’ cheeses and grilled cheese done 10 ways, prepared by Executive Chef Chad Tanner. Oh, and if you can’t make up your mind, there is also a mac ‘n’ cheese pizza. In other words, Sublime is taking the beloved pizza and beer combo to a whole new level. And now for the brew; you will find a rotating list of easy-drinking Pale Ales, San Diego India Pale Ales as well as heavier Porters and Stouts for the serious drinkers. Get more details here.
Saltbox: Turning a new page on Fifth Avenue, Saltbox has transformed the former Suite & Tender space within the new Palomar Hotel. Saltbox is a New American gastro-lounge under the culinary direction of Executive Chef Simon Dolinky that opened doors in late September. What really brings this old venue new life is Dolinky’s gastro-lounge menu, featuring versatile shared plates that can be custom ordered larger or smaller, to fit the size of your party. The ingredients-driven “social plates” are flavorful, simple, playful and fresh, and are priced under $25. Menu highlights include Beef Cheek Tacos, Lobster Corn Dogs, Chopped Lobster Cobb Salad, Bacon Cappuccino, Spicy Seafood Cioppino, Slow Cooked Brandt Beef Short Ribs and a selection of stone oven flatbreads. The bar menu is gaining big buzz, too, thanks to Mixologist Erin Williams. We recommend sipping on the Mental Ward, if you dare. This craft cocktail is made with Wild Turkey Rye, pomegranate molasses, lime juice and sugar.
Snooze, an A.M. Eatery: There are never enough boutique breakfast spots in town, and we welcome Snooze with open arms and big appetites this fall. Snooze, an A.M. Eatery is located on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest, and operates with a simple, honorable mission: to re-energize the way locals experience the most important meal of the day. Unique breakfast items include the Breakfast Pot Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes, Red-Eye Velvet Pancakes, Chilaquiles Benedict, and Snooze’s hearty Breakfast Burrito and Breakfast Tacos. And whether you’re craving a hot cup of coffee or a strong morning spirit, Snooze has you covered with a big selection of espresso drinks, mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, craft beers, and signature cocktails, such as the Hound Dog made with citrus vodka, grapefruit juice and raspberry liqueur. Snooze officially opens for breakfast business on Friday, November 18th.
Slater’s 50/50: Just what San Diego needs, another burger joint. Right? Nope, not this time. Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design brings something entirely new to the local dining scene. Slater’s is known for the signature 50/50 patty – 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. Yum. Beyond the basics, Slater’s is a make-your-own style eatery, boasting five choices of meat and veggie patties, 12 cheeses, 30 toppings, 20 sauces and fresh bread. If you prefer to trust the experts, there is a menu of signature burgers to choose from, including The Ballpark with Sterling Silver ground beef, signature chili, creamy cheese sauce, raw onions and 1000 island dressing; Caprese Burger with Sterling Silver ground beef, mozzarella, tomato, olive tapenade and balsamic dressing; and Peanut Butter and Jellousy, a Slater’s favorite with Sterling Silver ground beef, thick cut bacon, creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Wash down your custom burger with a craft beer selected from more than 100 taps on-site. Slater’s 50/50 is now open at Liberty Station in Point Loma. Get more details here.
Sabuku Sushi: Mixing up traditional rolls with unexpected flavor combinations is Sabuku Sushi in Normal Heights, definitely not your normal sushi restaurant. Who can seriously concentrate on a Rainbow Roll when distracted by bacon, scallops and sizzling filet mignon? Sabuku’s menu of signature creations includes the Bacon & Scallop Roll with bacon, pan seared scallops, red onion, sweet mandarin sauce, spicy ginger aioli, kuro goma and scallions; Kabob Roll with seared filet mignon, chicken teriyaki, grilled red onion, zucchini, sweet mandarin sauce, spicy ginger aioli, kuro goma, scallions and sriracha; and the Surf ‘n’ Turf Roll with shrimp tempura, spicy crab and avocado, topped with seared filet mignon, sweet mandarin sauce, kuro goma and red onion. And for the boring eaters, Sabuku offers all the traditional rolls, too. Get more details here.
Insider Tip: Gojira Noodle House is opening in the former Cheese Shop space on Fourth Avenue, early 2012.
Still Hungry? More new San Diego restaurants that opened this summer / fall include Burlap, SIP Wine Bar, Davanti Enoteca, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge, Crush Italian Kitchen, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge, Crossroads at House of Blues, Bootlegger, McFadden’s, and more at the revamped Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Get more details here.
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Photo Credit: Jennifer Dery for Twisted Vine Bistro & Wine Bar