Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Arts & Culture

San Diego Restaurant Scene In Flux

San Diego Restaurant Scene In Flux
We'll talk about breaking news in the local restaurant scene and get some recommendations for your weekend.

We'll talk about breaking news in the local restaurant scene and get some recommendations for your weekend.


Maya Kroth is the editor of Where San Diego and Performances magazines.


Troy Johnson is the senior editor of culinary, art and culture for RIVIERA Magazine.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Treats for the eye, and for the stomach are on tap this weekend preview movies, art, you can see and buy, and lots and lots of food from cocktails to truffles. I'd like to introduce my guests, Maya croft is the editor of where San Diego, good morning.

MAYA CROFT: Good morning Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Troy Johnson and the the editor of culinary art and culture for Riviera magazine.


TROY JOHSNON: Good to see you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's start with some movies because he's still trying to find his food on his --

TROY JOHSNON: Let me get my notes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Labyrinth at pop on Thursdays. The museum of photographic art. Remind us about this film.

MAYA CROFT: Oh, man. If you are between the ages of 45 and 25, and you've not seen labyrinth. Cancel your plans buzz I know what you're doing tonight. This is one of those classic fantasy films of the '80s, starring David bowie, and it was written and directed by a -- she wishes her baby brother would be taken away by the goblins, and so David bowie makes this happens, and holds him hostage at this other end of the labyrinth. Is.


MAYA CROFT: In both the theater and in the atrium. So it sevens both the hard core film nerds and the people who just want to come for a cocktail and just see and be seen. Then they also screen it on the atrium wall, so you can stay nice and close to the bar. And they're having bartenders from Alchemy and south park who are gonna be doing some mixology.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of muppets, the San Diego guild of puppetry is getting involved.

MAYA CROFT: they're a group of artists that are just passionate about puppets. And mostly with schools doing workshops on the history of puppet earring, then they all participate in events like pop Thursdays where they might do puppet parades or mask makings activities or things like that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If you're there to see labyrinth, and you're milling around, are the galleries open.

MAYA CROFT: The galleries are open. And they just hung a show last weekend called new realities which is just sort of tripe and mind bending as labyrinth is. It's a couple of photographers who work in photo montage.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So labyrinth screens to not at the museum of photographic arts. can you tell us which restaurants are closing?

TROY JOHSNON: Well, this is part of my job, it's so funny because it's kind of schadenfreude too, but people are most fascinated, with this part of my work. Kimosabe, it closed and it used to be the center of food and dining in the 90s. In that space, though, they're gonna put free birds, it's this chicken kind of like which I poet lay, with free range chickens and burritos and healthier food, and things like that. Then the big easy over at hill crest also closed, that was done by a top chef, Franky the bull, and if exhibit thinks about going to that cute little location, word to the warning, don't, it is a cursed location, seven restaurants have closed in there. And chef wok over there in hill crest is closing, . So San Diego's gonna get a quick vegetarian vegan option as well. Really a to know is happening in hill crest. Arrivederci. They just bought the place that used to be called La Vache. And they're gonna open it as a place called au revoir. And then jade feeder, which was a massive club and restaurant on fourth and C, which failed miserably, they're gonna reopen that in the next couple of weeks, it was bought by the same guy that did on Broadway, and the cress in LA, and he's gonna turn it into a . But they're really busy in there.

MAYA CROFT: Now I heard you were gonna be able to order your waitress on line by looking at photos. Any truth to that?

TROY JOHSNON: I have not seen the waitress camp yet. Scandalous. That's awful!

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A couple more restaurants opening in North County?

TROY JOHSNON: Phil a barbecue just open today up last night. They opened their second location in San Marcos. It's just off the 78 freeway. It's just been crazy, the man has a fleet. He has a fleet of, like, 27 vans and trucks, it's been the most popular barbecue joint. Brett's barbecue gets another vote in there too. But they've never opened two spots in the same city. They just opened their own sauce line in Costco. I think they're about to --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Starting to go national. Anything else, you want to update us on?

TROY JOHSNON: The belly up tavern is having its best year in ten years, a sure sign that the recession is easing a little bit. They just bought Charley by the sea, which is a huge restaurant that's gone vac act for the last 4 or 5 years they're gonna turn it into Pacific coast grill. And also, San Diego's gonna get another high end bowling alley. The bowling alley where the big labow ski was filmed, the owner is looking at a spot dun town, and they're turning it into a chain of high end bowling alleys. It's called lucky strike.

MAYA CROFT: Can we get the actual dude from the big lebow ski to open? Wasn't he from San Diego?

RIH1: That's gonna happen along with David bowie and some muppets.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wow, that was a lot of information Troy, thank you for that. The San Diego Italian film festival starts this weekend, Maya. Can you tell us more in.

MAYA CROFT: It's a two-week festival celebrating the cinema of Italy, and why not? This is a country that gave us la dolce vita, Sofia Loren, and showing basically a film a night for two weeks and punctuating it with some events and round table discussions. It's mostly at the museum of photographic arts in Balboa park, but they are having a couple screenings at the landmark la jolla.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know we have the Italian film people in last year, and they like to mix things up, and mix movies with different kinds of events, food events, music events issue what are they doing their year?

MAYA CROFT: For the next two weeks, they are gonna be doing the -- crazy feel, and it's a concert and a film, so they're gonna have a classical music ensemble, then a tango group will be dancing along with them, then they're gonna be screening a film called enRico four.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, are there any films that you're especially excited to see.

MAYA CROFT: There's a film about the designer, valen tinno, that peeked my interest, then they also had a selection of short films which is also good for people like me who are a lot bit ADD.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's get it on here! The San Diego film festival starts tomorrow and runs through November film. Troy, healthy and vegetarian restaurants, as you even mentioned before, becoming more and more popular, are you noticing it elsewhere as well?

TROY JOHSNON: Absolutely, this is the nation's biggest trend right now in terms of restaurants, for years and years and years if you wanted to get a quick or a gourmet sit down dinner, you'd go and get this multigreen thing that tasted like a floorboard in your car. Because there wasn't enough -- we are the fattest nation in the -- we are just -- our diabetes rate is something hydrogen, two thirds of us are over weight or gonna get diabetes. 17 percent of our medical cost goes toward diabetes and being over weight. A hundred and $60 billion a year. That's what's driving this new trend in restaurants, especially with Michelle bam taking on a garden lawn, and taking on the school lunch program. LA is doing certain bans in certain parts of their city. It's driving a massive trend toward vegan, gluten free, anti-inflammatory restaurants where people can go.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's a restaurant called true foods kitchen that's been doing well in Orange County. Is it coming here?

TROY JOHSNON: He's are all prognostications based on insider knowledge. It's T most of the people I know that know the chefs say this is the next place they're looking, is San Diego. True foods has done amazingly well. It's a former San Diego chef he was the owner of region. And he's partner with doctor Andrew wheel. And based the menu on his anti-inflammatory diet, lots of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, you walk out, and your waist doesn't explode in seven different directions within a day and a half. Can and they're doing like 700 covers, a day during lunch. This place is exploding. Peep love it, be and it's headed to San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's another one that you're excited about. Season 52.

TROY JOHSNON: This is a Florida based CHAIN that also does olive garden and red Robin. I'm excited about this one, believe it or not, this is the only chain they do that is not not very good. Every item on it contains 470 calories or less, you won't find anything out of season, they to, like, minideserts, they're looking for a San Diego location as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And native foods, you say may be coming here.

TROY JOHSNON: They're actually going into chef's wok place. They'll be heading there if the next, say, 4 to 6 months.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, we get a taste of that. We move now momentarily from food back to arts and visual arts. Maya, there's an art exhibit opening at subtext, this Saturday night. Tell us more about it.

MAYA CROFT: Subtext is a hip little gallery, in little Italy. They're known for having some really interesting shows issue a lot of low brow art, prints, up and coming artists, so this is just a one night only show that's opening on Saturday night.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Otis B is the artist being presented there. Of tell us about him.

MAYA CROFT: Better known in San Diego just by the letter O. How to describe O in he's a musician, photographer, artist, legend, he's been around San Diego forever. He was in a couple bands in the 90s, enough, and then reef Oliver more recently. He's the kind of guy who's backstage at every show, whether it's a 200-person show at street -- .

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now his work is very expressionist. It's got its inspiration from Jackson pollack, but he uses it in very different ways, he takes his images and he puts them on various different kinds of fabric and items and so forth. Tell us more.

MAYA CROFT: He told me that he found at a thrift store a box full of, like, 500 transparency slides and a bunch of house paint that he picked up in an alley somewhere. So he devised this method then he presses that image onto various found quote unquote San canvases, a lot of times, it's used grocery bags, sometimes it's wood that he's found, so it's a lot of found objects coming together in this new Meg on the.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And there's going to be music at this event.

MAYA CROFT: There will. That's the best part about the subtext shows, they have live bands, little white teeth is gonna be playing. And he chose this local band because their sound represented the state of mind he was in when he was painting of he said, it sounds like a white family on vacation in Mexico who got lost and they're a little scared.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Paintings by Otis B will be at subtext this. Tell us.

TROY JOHSNON: The grant grill and Maya is actually quoted on their website as soon as you open it up. The U.S. grant itself is a hundred years. The restaurant has gone through multiple changes but this is the old gran dame of downtown. There's still a plaque on the door that says no women before 4:00 PM. There used to be phones on every single booth at the restaurant so you could call over to member and say, hey, how's the salmon? It looks dry. Or I've got a room upstairs, can we adjourn?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not before three.

TROY JOHSNON: Not before three. It wouldn't happen. But it's just an old gran dame. And for this -- bartender, did a fantastic project, the hundred die aged Manhattan.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what is a barrel aged cocktail? Tell us about that.

TROY JOHSNON: This is a new trend that hit the United States. It creates a more well rounded cocktail. If you take a man hat inn, which is whiskey or bourbon and vermouth and bitters then you put it all in the barrel and let it anal for a hundred days or however many days, it becomes an integrated cocktail. . If you integrate it and you let it barrel age, it's like a . It's a more integrated, it's a smoother cocktail of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Smoother cocktail. Is it true that one of their cocktails is gonna be featured on the food network.

TROY JOHSNON: Yes, I am going on the food network, I've started doing a little bit of work with them,ing and on November 17th, I am featured on the Thanksgiving special, it's a pumpkin infused house made saffron simple syrup, this tastes like Indians and pilgrims in a glass.

MAYA CROFT: Troy, you are the king of the weird metaphor.

TROY JOHSNON: It's complete -- it's fall. In a glass.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You want to just fall in a lot bit about the .

TROY JOHSNON: Which shall be over shadowed a little bit because they have been doing so much with cocktail it is. He's doing some really exciting things in there. And it's funny because it's a little bit quartered off from the bar, so not membership people realize it, but if you go in there, and do a three course tasting with him, he caters to your needs, it's fantastic. Of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Maya, the pop up store specimen will be having another sale this weekend. First off, what is a pop up store.

MAYA CROFT: It is a store that pops up in various locations. It doesn't have a permanent home.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. And so specimen has some impressive credentials, it's started by mark quint from quint contemporary art.

MAYA CROFT: This is, I think Quint's vision of a museum store. And it's filled with quirky or notable objects that he's come across in his travels across the art world that he says deserve a second look and a good home.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What kinds of stuff will be up for sale?

MAYA CROFT: This, the theme of this pop up shop is deals on wheels, so the merchandise of all has something to do with transportation or mobility. So there's gonna be skate board decks that have been painted by some big name artists, then vicinity annual kids' vehicles, scooters, tricycles, race cars that kind of thing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where will this pop up shop be this time.

MAYA CROFT: They're gonna be-- it's at a studio in bay park off Napier street. The former studio of the late Italio Scanga. And some of his works and belongings have popped up in specimen stores before.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So if you possibly have works by Scanga, and as you said, Damian herst. Is this stuff expensive?

MAYA CROFT: It can be, but it's from 15 to $5,000 really.


MAYA CROFT: Yeah, not necessarily by those artists, but there is some stuff all over the spectrum.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. So specimen's deals on wheels, to sale, takes place this Saturday and Sunday. And we made it to truffles! I didn't know that we were gonna be able to. But we did. This is white truffle season Troy what is a white truffle.

TROY JOHSNON: A white truffle. It's so funny because it's kind of an antiquated higher echelon mark of dining and people said that the white truffle was gonna be dead because everybody didn't want to pay that much for this food. But it's a mushroom. You find it in Italy, especially in the Piedmont area, alba region of Italy, it's a mushroom that tastes so musky and of the real, you know, soil that it was grown in, the oak tree that it grew by. And it's so prized and they're in such short supply that they go for $2,000 a pound. Tasting menu at John George in no, will cost you over a thousand dollars. Of it only happens for a month and a half. But it's so prized because people -- every chef in America and the world will tell you nothing tastes lick it, some people say it tastes like previously worn under garments, it's really really musky and intense.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it possible because this is such a fashionable kind of a food to like that some people pretend that they really really prize the white truffle just like a really aged and perhaps slightly off bottle of wine? Is there some bit of fraud going on here?

TROY JOHSNON: Well, there can be for sure. It's all individual taste. I personally love it. I don't like truffle oil, which is kind of like a really concentrated aroma of a truffle. But truffles them are so -- it is an intoxicating taste. But it be a little bit of fraud. But $350 a meal, absolutely. It's funny I just went to the Rancho Beranardo Inn, there's a new chef, Ryan Grant, he's crazy, and really innovative, and it was $350 for this meal that I had. And people were like, really? And I was -- some people would. And some people just choose to use that discretionary income on one of the most fantastic meals they'll have, and one that's only available for like a month out of the year.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is it served?

TROY JOHSNON: It's so funny because these things are so prized, they're like gem stones, the chef Ryan grant actually brought it out in this little box, it looked like it was held for some beloved relative's ashes or something like that. And he brings it out, and it's in this little royal satin, and he starts shaving it over the dish, and each shaving that comes off is worth, like, $20 of it's just a show. But it tastes so dang good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If somebody has a little extra cash and they want to find a nice white truffle, where should they go? U. I would say go to el vascoccio. He's absolutely crazy. He might actually spill some liquid nitrogen on you in the middle of your tasting of the guy is dangerous, if he doesn't burn down that entire he's gonna resonate it in terms of culinary goodness.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to tell people, if they would like, if they're looking for a lavish meal this weekend, white truffles are in season. I want to thank Maya cross and Troy Johnson, thank you so much for coming in. Giving us all of this great information. Thank you.

MAYA CROFT: Thanks Maureen.

TROY JOHSNON: Thank you so much, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know, I misspoke. The Italian film festival concert is Sunday at seven, not Saturday.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: production manager, curt conan, Hillary Andrews and Jocelyn maggard, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh hope you enjoy the rest of the week. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.