By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The much-anticipated tasting room and restaurant by 619 Spirits Distillery opened July 2 in North Park. The venue allows owner Nick Apostolopoulos to pour and sell by the bottle five versions of his 619 Vodka: plain, plus those infused with coffee, rose petals, cucumbers and scorpion peppers. He will also carry spirits from other San Diego distilleries for making onsite cocktails.
Heading the kitchen is chef Bryan Rhodes, formerly of Solterra Winery & Kitchen in Encinitas. His introductory menu features salads, sandwiches, poutine, beef tartare and charcuterie. 3015 Lincoln Ave., 619-940-6456, 619vodka.com.
Maestoso in the Hub Hillcrest Market has introduced Sunday brunch (10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to the tune of bottomless mimosas, pancakes with berry ragu, and pizza with pecorino cheese and eggs. The restaurant’s roving food cart, which has captured dinner guests since the establishment opened several months ago, will also wheel through the dining room and patio during brunch. It will contain items such as sun-dried tomato deviled eggs, French toast sticks and assorted pastries. 1040 University Ave., 619-642-0777, maestoso.com.
Showcasing her heritage and extensive travels throughout Mexico, chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins brings a host of regional Mexican dishes to the table at the new El Jardin in Liberty Station. The acclaimed chef, who worked at the former Bracero in Little Italy, teamed up with the locally based Rise & Shine Restaurant Group (Breakfast Republic) for the project.
Replete with a garden that yields ingredients for the bar and kitchen, the restaurant offers a variety of full and small plates such as slow-cooked pork shoulder, Sonoran scallops aguachile, enchiladas suizas, and more. 2885 Perry Road, 619-795-2322, eljardinrestaurantbar.com.
What used to be Jalapeno Mexican Grill in North Park recently became Sonora Express under new ownership. The name, however, is about to change to Burrology in the next few weeks, according to co-partner and chef Danny Balle.
“We’re looking to re-brand and focus more on our fusion burritos,” he said, referring to top sellers like the surf and turf with bacon and cream cheese, and the “three meat” filled with carnitas, al pastor and carne asada. From the taco list, the “Rockefeller” with shrimp, steak, bacon and a cheese crust has also become a hit.
The small walk-up eatery is open until 2 a.m. on weekend nights and has become a popular haunt for neighborhood bar crawlers. It runs a location in Serra Mesa as well. 3130 University Ave., 619-542-9448.
A handful of outgoing tenants at the Hillcrest Farmers Market recently made room for several new food vendors that could be joined by more than a dozen others if the city approves the market’s request to expand.
Among the latest arrivals is Awafee, which specializes in gluten-free cakes, cookies and macarons. There is also House of Bao for Chinese dumplings; Pure Burger, which offers the vegan Impossible Burger; Yallitizers for authentic Greek yogurt; and Honey Rolls, which makes ice cream to order on a sub-zero cooking surface.
Market manager Mark Larson said a permit to add approximately 14 spaces to the blueprint is currently pending. The market accommodates 150 vendors and is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Normal Street, between University Avenue and Lincoln Street, 619-237-1632, hillcrestfarmersmarket.com.
The new Poke It eatery in Hillcrest, which specializes in customized poke creations and Baja-Asian burritos and tacos, will hold its official grand opening throughout the day on July 7 in the presence of firefighters from nearby Station No. 5. The event doubles as a fundraiser for the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation.
Menu items include “ricetadas,” which use rice tostadas as vessels for a variety of seafood, veggies and sauces. Rice is also utilized to form the buns for chicken, salmon and tuna burgers. The beverage list features agua frescas, beer and sake. 690 University Ave., 619-773-6486, pokeitsd.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.