Inside Look at Nautilus Tavern: La Jolla’s New Neighborhood Bar & Grill

Tucked away on La Jolla Blvd., just past the La Jolla Community Center, Nautilus Tavern is unassuming yet welcoming. A spacious patio and large floor-to-ceiling doors that open up to reveal a cozy dining room create a comfortable vibe that stands out in its own way among the sea of ever-changing La Jolla restaurants.

While many eateries in the Village trend toward upscale/ fine dining, Nautilus Tavern picks up where places like ultra-casual La Jolla Brewing Company (RIP) left off: the cozy bar and grill next door. Combine that friendly atmosphere with some seriously flavorful comfort food, and you’ve got yourself La Jolla’s newest dining gem. We got the chance to visit the Tavern and sample some of their dishes while chatting with Executive Chef Shelly Velez to get the inside scoop on what makes this place tick.

Location, location, location!

The Tavern fits in well with La Jolla’s seaside vibes; just a block from the beach and up the road from Windansea Beach, its nautical theme is infused with a touch of modernity and exudes a ‘costal chic’ vibe.

The 2,500 square-foot space, though large, doesn’t feel overwhelming. The back patio is a great area for families with kids, and the front patio offers the best of both worlds.

[Veggie Sandwich]

Upscale Comfort Food – With a Twist

Executive Chef Shelly Velez is the woman behind the menu at Nautilus Tavern in La Jolla. Having known the owners since they opened up Pillbox Tavern in Solana Beach, she has expertly curated both restaurants’ menus and added her own flair to each – and that flair comes in the form of all things flavorful. From Southern-inspired comfort food to spicy, smoky maple-infused barbecue, Shelly has been crafting her art and love of cuisine for nearly 20 years.

Shelly was born in Panama, where she cultivated a deep love for flavorful, traditional dishes; she learned to cook gravy from scratch and developed a passion for making sauces. Today, she has her own line of barbecue sauces that you can purchase by the bottle at Pillbox Tavern: California Style, Habañero BBQ, and Maple Bourbon Bacon, a local favorite that can be spotted on the menu at Nautilus Tavern in the form of Maple Bacon Bourbon Wings.

Shelly makes all of the dressings and other sauces from scratch each day; oftentimes, she’ll team up with the head Mixologist, who makes his own syrups to add to the cocktails. Once, she turned a berry syrup that he didn’t use as a dressing for the Power Spinach Salad – a pretty excellent way to collaborate, we must say!

[Cubano Sandwich]

Shelly crafted the Tavern’s menu to combine traditional comfort food with a bit of a Southern twist; hints of her Panamanian heritage are sprinkled throughout the menu, as well, from the Grilled Mexican Caesar Salad to the side of Sweet Plantains.

Handcrafted Cocktails

No good restaurant is complete without a cocktail and beer menu! The Tavern’s hand-picked collection of cocktails emphasize fresh ingredients and house-made syrups. From the “It’s Noon Somewhere” (which is a combo of vodka, ruby red grapefruit juice, lime juice, and elderflower liqueur infused with house-made habañero syrup and a touch of rhubarb bitters vodka) to their take on a classic Margarita (casa noble reposado tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and tepa agave), you can’t go wrong with any of their selections. The Tavern has 30 beers on tap at any given time, and the selection includes several local breweries sprinkled with a few more exotic options (Boochcraft, anyone?).

[Mexican Caesar Salad]

House-Made Appetizers & Shareables

The Tavern offers up a wide range of dishes, from shareable appetizers to large plates and several options for hot wings; there’s even a “Grown-up Grilled Cheese” in the mix!

Our favorite appetizers included a well-rounded Hummus Plate that boasts three different flavors of hummus and a generous assortment of pita bread; and spicy chicken lettuce cups, which are just spicy enough to bring out all of the flavors in the meat and poke sauce.

Next up was the Grilled Mexican Caesar Salad, which is seriously not your typical Caesar salad: it packs a one-two punch with grilled-to-perfection Romaine wedges and a light, slightly spicy Avocado Caesar dressing (made from scratch in-house, of course). The wedges are topped with a generous portion of pepitas, shaved parmesan, diced tomatoes, blackened chicken breast, and fried shallots to create a yummy Ceasar with a Mexican twist.

[Hot Wings]

Traditional Plates Packed with Flavor

The hot wings were some of our favorite items on the menu. Bursting with flavor, there are seven different types and styles of wings you can choose from. We sampled the Maple Bacon Bourbon, smothered in that delicious Shelly-style BBQ sauce; the Marea Ancho Chile, which are rubbed with a dry ancho Chile powder infused with local coffee (not overly spicy); and the more traditional Buffalo Wings, which are packed with a punch of spice and flavored with the famous Frank’s Hot Sauce.

If you’re into grilled cheese, you’ll definitely want to sample the Grown Up Grilled Cheese. Serrano cream cheese, Gouda, Havarti, cheddar, swiss, sliced bacon, and tomato are packed between two thick slices of Parmesan-crusted Amish bread for a serious (and epic) twist on the good ol’ classic. If you want a little something extra, Shelly recommends adding chicken to round it out. The Muenster Veggie sandwich was a close runner-up (the black bean veggie patty was to die for), complete with a big portobello mushroom and basil hummus spread to finish it off. 

[Nautilus Plate]

For a more traditional dinner, go with the Nautilus Plate. Chunks of house-smoked Kahlua pork are served with sweet plantains, macaroni salad, and coco (coconut) rice. The pork is the sweet, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth kind of good – after being marinated in sea salt for a full day, the pork gets slow-roasted for a solid four hours before it served to guests.

A New Spot for the Locals

What we liked most about the Tavern is its homey, neighborhood feel; the kind of place you can meet up with friends or family after work for a happy hour or watch the game, have a pint and dig into a no-frills comfort food that’s cooked exactly the way it should be.

Nautilus Tavern La Jolla is located at 6830 La Jolla Blvd. in La Jolla. They’re open for brunch, lunch, and dinner; Monday-Friday from 11am-12am, and Saturday/Sunday from 10am-12am.

Why Snooze La Jolla Is Your New Favorite Boozy Brunch Spot

An alcoholic Orange Julius (complete with vodka-infused whipped cream). Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes. If your mouth is already watering, just wait until you see the rest of the menu at Snooze La Jolla.

Tucked away in the Shops at La Jolla Village Center on Villa La Jolla Dr., Snooze, An A.M. Eatery is a casual, funky breakfast and brunch restaurant. While it is a chain (other locations in San Diego include Del Mar and Hillcrest) it’s absolutely not your local Denny’s or IHOP.

Snooze usually gets attention for its imaginative and indulgent food, but what makes a visit really worth your time is the seemingly endless list of craft breakfast cocktails. If you want a new kind of happy hour in La Jolla, look no further – here’s why you should enjoy your next brunch with booze at Snooze!

snooze la jolla

The fun, young atmosphere

Brunch is a full-on outing; you want an environment that gives you a great experience in addition to great food. A modern update on the 1950s-style diner, the atmosphere at Snooze La Jolla is both friendly and laid back. Every Snooze is required to have a full bar, so there’s no judgement for enjoying some good old-fashioned day drinking – that’s what a lot of people are there for!

With its proximity to UCSD and reasonably priced high-quality food, Snooze is perfect for students and young professionals; most other brunch spots require a trek to Downtown La Jolla or UTC Mall.

The cocktails

At Snooze, you can forget about basic. While you can still get your favorite traditional drink, the menu is full of innovative libations, from savory to sweet. Besides the year-round menu, they also have a rotating list of new concoctions for every season.

Here are a few that we love:

The Palomimosa. Feeling classy? This drink combines the sweet sparkle of a mimosa with the tangy goodness of a grapefruit Paloma. It’s refreshing, light, and perfect for sipping on during a Sunday with pals.

The Bangkok Bloody Mary. Attention, fans of the savory. It’s difficult to pick only one out of the 5 knockout bloody recipes on Snooze’s menu, but this is consistently the most popular. The fish sauce, sriracha, and basil give this drink an Asian-fusion flavor and will satisfy your salt craving. If you’re looking for something with more kick, you’ll want to go with the Spicy Bloody Mary.

The Orange Snoozius. An adult version of the infamous DQ classic, the Orange Snoozius will take you back a few years. With vodka-infused whipped cream to top off its sweet and citrus-y blend, this is for the big kid in you. It’s even topped with a giant maraschino cherry.

The Dirty Drunken Chai. Hey, we get it, mornings are for coffee! But that doesn’t mean you can’t shake things up. The Dirty Drunken Chai is a spiced blend of everything delicious, with an added shot of espresso and some rum for a little something extra.

The epic shareable plates

Even if you’re only coming for the drinks, every brunch cocktail needs some quality munchies. There’s no need to drink on an empty stomach when you can enjoy the huge variety of breakfast, brunch, and lunch options on Snooze’s menu!

If you’re looking at the menu and already getting FOMO about all the dishes you won’t get to try because you have to pick just one, don’t fret. Snooze lets you combine some of their most popular choices as half orders. So if you’re having a difficult time giving up your traditional Eggs Benedict for the chili verde style, you don’t have to.

Can’t decide which of the nine different types of pancakes and french toast you want? Go for the “pancake flight” that lets you try three different styles. We recommend the Nana’s Hot Cocoa or Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes.

This family-style approach to the menu also makes it ideal for groups. Everyone can try several dishes and there’ll still be plenty of food to go around.

A Few Tips for When You Go

  • While the other locations in San Diego are packed from the moment they open, it’s much easier at this Snooze eatery to grab a table. We were seated as soon as we walked in on a Thursday, and within minutes on a Saturday.
  • Take advantage of the patio outside if it’s sunny. There are heaters to keep you warm while you soak in the homey outdoor vibe.
  • Waiting on the rest of your group? Challenge your friends to a round of giant Jenga or corn hole to pass the time.
  • Fun fact: if you’re really set on having a certain dish, but are dying to try one of the pancakes, you can sub in one of them instead of having toast or hash browns as a side.

Snooze La Jolla is located at 8861 Villa La Jolla Dr #509, La Jolla 92037, and is open from 6:30am-2:30pm daily.

The Inside Scoop on Himitsu, La Jolla’s Newest Sushi Spot

Himitsu, one of the highly anticipated new La Jolla restaurant has officially opened its doors. The name, which means ‘secret’ in Japanese, is well suited to its tucked-away corner on Torrey Pines Road. Executive Chef Mitsu Aihara has curated a unique menu of traditional sushi and nigiri along with Japanese-style tapas, multiple sakes, an excellent wine list, and essential Japanese beers.

Aihara has been a fixture behind the bar of well known Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach for the past 16 years until he received the blessing of his mentor to forge ahead with his own venture – Himitsu. The new spot (which was initially called Mitsu), is the latest project under the direction of Julian Hakim and Aram Baloyan, the duo behind the popular La Jolla Mexican restaurant, The Taco Stand.

Himitsu well on its way to becoming La Jolla’s premiere new authentic dining spot. We got the chance to try it out for ourselves – and it did not disappoint! Here’s the rundown on the new eatery.

Aihara’s take on Japanese cuisine is similar to the experience at Sushi Ota but includes other fresh seafood dishes and small plates (including omakase) that will rotate weekly or even nightly, depending on fish availability and the Chef’s preference.

The Dining Experience

Our dinner for the evening consisted of an appetizer, sushi rolls, and scallops. We started off with the Spicy Edamame, which is flavored with a hint of garlic salt, chili pepper threads, and shichimi pepper. It was spicy, but not too spicy – and delicious.

Next up were the Seared Scallops (pictured above). Five Maine Scallops were served with a creamy, smooth corn puree,  mixed with a brown butter-soy cream with Mentaiko. This was definitely one of my favorite dishes of the evening; the sauce was melt-in-your-mouth incredible and complimented the mild flavor of the Scallops quite well.

We also indulged in the Himitsu Roll (pictured above), with spicy salmon and crab, scallop, jalapeno, cilantro aioli, and a hint of lemon zest. These were surprisingly fresh and light-tasting; I could see this being a go-to dish during the summer. All of the seafood was incredibly fresh, as well. The Soft Shell Crab Roll (pictured above) was filled to the brim with deep-fried soft shell crab, lettuce, asparagus, and drizzled with salsa – which gave it a different taste, and overall had a somewhat smoky feel. What stood out to us was how different each roll tasted. You could really tell which was which, and at a sushi restaurant, this really points to the skill of its chefs.

The Space

The space itself is composed of a large outdoor patio and an indoor intimate sushi bar. The outdoor patio is inviting, warm, and well-lit, which makes it perfect for a date night or dinner out with friends. Its location is central to downtown La Jolla, but the patio is set back and removed enough that you don’t take notice.

 

A few things that really stood out to us at Himitsu were the comfortable (casual but still with an air of fine dining) atmosphere, the unique textures and flavors of each roll, and the customized presentation of every dish. This is definitely a one-of-a-kind sushi restaurant, and a new La Jolla restaurant that should definitely go on your must-try list for sushi in San Diego.

The restaurant opened only recently (early October), so their menu is always changing. We may see a Happy Hour menu and lunch service in the near future.

Himitsu is open Monday-Friday from 5pm-10pm, and Saturdays from 5pm-10:30pm. They are located at 1030 Torrey Pines Road, Suite G, right in La Jolla and just a half hour north of downtown San Diego. Visit himitsusd.com for reservations or give them a call at (858) 263-4463.

[Images courtesy of Himitsu La Jolla]

 

 

Cooper’s Market & Café: La Jolla Shores’ Newest Addition

Cooper’s Market and Café sits prominently on the corner of Avenida de la Playa and La Jolla Shores Drive, complete with a cozy outdoor patio and an inviting, open indoor space. Having opened just a few months ago in the La Jolla Shoresneighborhood, owner Lisa Kennedy is ready to take on the market and dining industry – one exquisitely-baked croissant at a time.

We got the chance to sit down with Lisa and chat about her aspirations for the cafe, why she loves what she does, and her four-legged inspiration: a stout French Bulldog named Cooper.

 

A Neighborhood Market

The idea of a neighborhood-friendly hangout “where everyone knows your name” was instantly an attractive one to Lisa. Having spent quite a bit of time in La Jolla over the years, she realized it was lacking in one area: a place where locals could go for an easy and quick lunch, or just to simply pick up some high quality pre-made food and get back to their busy day; a neighborhood market that provides fresh, locally sourced produce but also a relaxing and quiet place to just literally hang out. She realized this is an especially great perk for all the nearby kayakers (Everyday California is right next door) and makes for an easy stop after a long day on the water. And thus, the concept for Cooper’s was born.

Food Straight From the Source

Whatever is made in the back kitchen and prepared for in-house diners is also available for pickup — there is no separate to-go menu. Everything is sourced “from the people who should be making it:” the croissants are shipped in from France; the bagels come directly from New York, broiled, and weigh in at a perfect four ounces – not six; the cheese hails from Wisconsin; and the ice cream and dairy are by Blue Bunny, straight out of Iowa. The chicken salad recipe is her mother’s, which she happily passed down to the cafe, and all of the juices they sell are fresh, cold-pressed, and organic (Sol-ti Juice). The café also offers a large selection of local roasts by James Coffee Company – Lisa’s brother founded James back in 2013, and shares her views on sourcing authentically; they work only with passionate farmers, and know exactly where all of their coffee beans come from.

In this way, Lisa notes, “everything in the kitchen has a story.” She sources from companies that are not only experts at what they do, but are also all family-owned and have been around long enough to cultivate an authentic passion for the craft. In Lisa’s eyes, passion equals consistency; and to compromise either would be a compromise in quality.

Everyday Elevated Cuisine

Lisa moved to Southern California from the Midwest when she was twelve, and in between has called a variety of places home. New Zealand, for her, stuck out in particular; she recalls living near a small bakery and sandwich shop, where a family could pick up their bread for the day and continue on. Tiny markets, all with their own specialty – produce, bread, dairy – lined every street corner, and when she moved here, Lisa craved that same small-town feel.

It’s that same atmosphere she wishes to cultivate at Cooper’s: “everyday elevated cuisine” for families, tourists, and locals alike. And for Lisa, it’s that connection with each customer that gets her excited about going in to work every day. She’s working on (and already seems to) know the name of every single person that walks through her doors, and is making it a future goal to host local mixers, get togethers, and most importantly, dog meetups, which she has already (aptly) dubbed “Cooper’s Hour.”

A Vibrant Community

Lisa hopes to make Cooper’s a regular locals hangout at the Shores, which has always been a unique community that sets itself apart from La Jolla proper. That easygoing ‘surf’ vibe is one of the things that attracted Lisa to the area in the first place. She’s been walking her dog down to the Shores every day for the past two years; and that’s when she really began to get to know the community and the people who live there.

Over the next several months, Lisa plans on continuing to add to the market and café. She hopes to expand the kitchen and outdoor dining/lounge area, and eventually build a bike station complete with tire pumps and coffee to-go for all the local bicyclists. The cafe is still in transition, and little things are being added every single day; even her regular customers love seeing the changes, and Lisa is excited to continue building what she hopes will become the neighborhood hub of La Jolla Shores.

Stop by Cooper’s Market & Café at 8080 La Jolla Shores Dr. – and keep an eye out for their adorable mascot, Cooper himself! They are open 6:30am-8:30pm Monday through Friday, and 7am-8:30pm Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to check their Facebook for continued updates!

La Plaza Shopping Center Welcomes 3 New Tenants

La Plaza, La Jolla’s new premier shopping center, is already a fantastic place to shop and dine. But wait…looks like the experience is about to get better. La Plaza La Jolla is introducing 3 new tenants:

  • Azzurra Capri
  • Kenneth Barlis
  • Le Petit Bistrot

What is it that each of these has to offer?

For Shoes that Really Sparkle: Azzurra Capri

This Mediterranean-inspired sandal brand and boutique, Azzurra Capri, has its flagship store in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. Not that I mind venturing into SD’s marvelous Italian neighborhood (#espresso #pastries), but it’s going to be wonderful to have this unique boutique right here in La Jolla; it’ll be the perfect bridge between the North County client base and the current San Diego store.

Azzurra Capri will be proud to host its namesake signature Italian handmade leather sandals. Created by owner and designer, Diana Carolina, she started designing these sandals when inspired by a trip to the Emalfi Coast of Italy. Now, everything that goes into the shoe, even when custom made in the store, is straight form Italy. These beautiful sandals are sold around the world and are trademarked by dazzling Swarovski crystals – certified, of course.

Wedding Bells Anyone? Kenneth Barlis

Tying the knot soon? Or know someone who is? If so, look no further than Kenneth Barlis, San Diego’s ultimate luxury formal and bridal wear designer, for wedding dress and accessory needs.

Barlis’ work has been shown internationally and been featured in top fashion magazines like Vogue Italia. Look forward to garments and pieces featuring his signature intricate layering, detail and use of natural materials.

Get a feel for his fashion and style from the Kenneth Barlis Instagram.

For Truly Authentic Parisian Cuisine: Le Petit Bistrot

My favorite thing about Paris, without a doubt, is the endless supply of plazas and sidewalks lined with outdoor cafes. I’m excited to say that, thanks to this new La Plaza bistrot, I’ll no longer have to jump on an airplane to experience this French phenomenon.

Guest chef star, Gérard Chauvet, and his sous-chef (and son-in-law), Pierre-Olivier Dedieu, are bringing France to us right here in La Jolla through their cooking. The visionary behind it all, Eric Le Glass, promises that Le Petit Bistrot will be a traditional French Bistro with strong roots in Parisian cuisine. It’ll be the very first one in California, featuring items from already established restaurant menus and brand new dishes.

The breakfast menu will include classic French items like fresh croissants and decadent crepes. For lunch and dinner, we can look forward to dishes like French Onion Soup, Escargots a la Bourguignonne and Duck Confit et Pommes Salardaises.

I’m particularly excited about the design and ambience. Diners will actually be able to view the dishes being prepared via an open kitchen. In my humble opinion, dining is all the more fun when we can see the process behind the meal.

 

La Plaza: Learn More & Get Connected

Learn more about this luxury destination shopping center at our page: La Plaza: The Most Anticipated Venue of the Year.

To get updates on openings and see some afternoon inspiring pictures, make sure to get connected with La Plaza on their FacebookTwitter (@LaPlazaLaJolla) and Instagram(@LaPlazaLaJolla).