March 31 2014 06:16 PM

A year's worth of new San Diego restaurants

Juniper & Ivy included an overhaul of the former Helix Wholesale Co. building in Little Italy.
Photo by CeCe Canton

    smorgasbord of restaurants have opened in the year since our last food issue—more than we could possibly list here—so, we went down the list of newbies, and picked one for each month. 

    Queenstown Public House: Designer Michael Soriano's (Vin de Syrah, The Pearl Hotel) vision for this New Zealand-inspired restaurant included an Astroturf field of sheep hanging from the ceiling. CityBeat's Mina Riazi found the menu in need of a little focusing, but she dug the fish 'n' chips, while Michael A. Gardiner took note of the rack of lamb (Kiwi staple) and duck-confit bahn mi that Queenstown dubbed the "Thai Stick." (1557 Columbia St. in Little Italy)

    Solterra Winery and Kitchen: You may have spotted this place from Highway 101 or while riding the Amtrak. It's awfully pretty, with its wood-and-glass-paneled exterior. And, indeed, they make Solterra wine here. The menu is Mediterranean-inspired and includes a number of wine-friendly tapas classics like patatas bravas, tortilla Espanola and flamenquines de pollo. (934 N. Coast Hwy. 101 in Leucadia)

    Fish Public: Fish Public was a top-to-bottom makeover of the nearly two-decades-old Kensington Grill. Like sister restaurant Cucina Urbana, the interior is clever and design-minded. There's a dearth of fish-focused restaurants in San Diego (surprisingly), and here, you can get it fried, in a taco ($2 on Tuesdays), whole-roasted, ceviche'd and more. For non-pescavores, there are land-animal options, too. (4055 Adams Ave. in Kensington)

    Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen: Last year, Wade and Kristi Hageman, owners of Encinitas' wildly popular Blue Ribbon Pizzeria, opened their second restaurant, Craftsman, also in Encinitas. This year, they made it a trifecta with this Uptown spot. The menu includes their famous butterscotch pudding, and the Wednesday-through-Saturday late-night happy hour (9:30 p.m. to midnight) is one of the best around. (530 University Ave. in Hillcrest)

    Sea & Smoke: Speaking of third restaurants, Matt Gordon added classy Sea & Smoke to sister spots Urban Solace and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge. CityBeat's Jenny Montgomery described S&S as "the most grownup of Gordon's restaurants." The growing herd of gluten-free eaters will appreciate the extensive GF options. (2690 Via de la Valle in Del Mar)

    Venga Venga: Located in the Otay Ranch Town Center, Venga Venga is a recent project of James Beard-nominated super-chef Richard Sandoval. It's part of Sandoval's empire of nearly three-dozen restaurants (!), so it's not like you'll find him in the kitchen here. Still, as San Diego Magazine'sTroy Johnson wrote, "Sandoval reportedly takes real good care of his people, makes his chefs partners, encourages them to do their best work." The menu's upscale Mexican food, and there's a really nice tequila list. Also, if you're a fan of guacamole, they just rolled out a new menu of guacs that highlight Mexico's regional cuisines. (2015 Birch Road, Suite 710, in Chula Vista)

    Waypoint Public: North Park Way and 30th Street would have been a sad spot if Waypoint hadn't moved in, making ideal use of the corner location with its big, street-facing windows. Top Chef contestant Amanda Baumgarten left Herringbone to run the kitchen here and nails it, from the $4 side of curried cauliflower to the duck-confit cassoulet. (3794 30th St. in North Park)

    Brabant Bar & Café: This South Park tavern, which moved into the former Vagabond location, serves Wittekerke—the easy-drinking Belgian white beer—on tap. Enough said. Food-wise, the menu's full of Belgian-style pub food that's served on charmingly mismatched china. The Bratwurst & Stoemp (a potato-and-veggie mash) is addictive and goes especially well with Wittekerke. (2310 30th St. in South Park)

    French Concession: So, this spot actually opened in November, but since there were a few to choose from that month, we're bumping it ahead. Recently, CityBeat's Michael A. Gardiner checked out the remodeled former Celadon location and was wowed by chef Andrew Kwong's dim-sum-style dishes, declaring the black-bean spareribs "far and away the best I've ever tasted." (3671 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest)

    Betty's Pie Whole Saloon: Betty's, run by Elizabethan Desserts' Elizabeth Harris, soft-opened at the end of 2013, so we're scootching her on over into 2014. Warning: You'll need to diet all day just to look at Betty's Facebook page. It's beautiful. It's pie porn. There are savory pies, brownie pies, Shoefly pie and cute little individual-sized pies. And they make their own ice cream, too. (155 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas)

    Green Dragon Tavern: It was between North Park's Juke and Green Dragon for this spot. But, in the interest of geographical diversity and weirdness, GD won out. OK, it's not weird, just different. The "enhanced replica" of Boston's Green Dragon Tavern includes a 1,000-square-foot museum that features Colonial and Revolutionary War memorabilia. As expected, Sam Adams makes some appearances on the menu. (6115 Paseo del Norte in Carlsbad)

    Juniper & Ivy:Perhaps the most anticipated restaurant opening of the last several months, this one's helmed by Richard Blais, the charmingly acerbic winner of Season 8 of Top Chef All-Stars. Though Blais was one of those molecular-gastronomy guys on the show, the menu here manages to combine familiar and inspired. The icing on the cake (or, in this case, a Luxardo cherry in your drink) is Jen Queen's cocktail menu. (2228 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy)

    Email or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.


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