THE CONCEPT: SO CAL’S ODE TO THE OYSTER — Surprisingly absent in California’s southern-most city, is a rich oyster culture–one that is deeply engrained in coastal communities such as the Puget Sound of Washington State, or the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia and Maryland. Executive Chef Jason McLeod’s goal at Ironside Fish & Oyster is to reintroduce this culture with an approachable raw-bar concept in San Diego–a known seaport city, born from the local fishing industry that once existed as the tuna capital of the US.
THE CHEF — Born and raised along the seafood-abundant coastlines of British Colombia, a mere 90 minutes south of Fanny Bay, Jason McLeod was spoiled at a young age with plenty of local catch, but his favorite, undoubtedly, was the oyster. With over 25 years of culinary experience under his toque, Jason has traveled the world to train with several of the most prestigious chefs in the industry, including culinary icons Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White. While Ironside will be Chef McLeod’s first venture as an owner, it will certainly not be his first foray into developing a concept focused largely on seafood. In 2009 as the opening executive chef of RIA in Chicago’s 5-Star Elysian Hotel, McLeod led a luxurious seafood-driven restaurant from being relatively unknown, to receiving two Michelin stars during its first year of operation–an honor that only two other restaurants in Chicago (Charlie Trotter’s and Avenues) were awarded that year.
KITCHEN + CUISINE — CH Projects spared absolutely no expense to transform the 4,500 square foot, 1920s-era warehouse. At the epicenter of Ironside’s $1.8 million build out, an impressive raw bar is one of three open-air culinary hubs, offering guests a daily changing menu of bivalves, oyster flights, crudos, crab claws, seafood platters, house made mignonettes and more. The in-house bakery and European-style open kitchen each features their own unique chef’s table, and a five-foot live lobster tank houses crustaceans from the coasts of Baja, Maine and beyond. Alongside the raw bar and bakery, McLeod’s culinary program features an extensive menu of seafood-heavy specialties feature Beer Braised Mussels with Andouille sausage, Fried Oyster Po Boy, Shrimp Bahn Mi, a Lobster Roll – in addition to more traditional classics like “Daily Catch” served a la plancha, Seafood Chowder, Fish & Chips and more. Ironside also offers a happy hour and late night dining options.
IN-HO– USE ARTISANAL BREAD PROGRAM — Ironside’s impressive in-house bakery is led by Pastry Chef Donna Antaloczy. Antaloczy has gathered invaluable “Old World” knowledge about the art of baking at acclaimed kitchens throughout the country including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, Christophe Eme’s former Ortolan Restaurant, Gordon Ramsay’s The London NYC, and David Kinch’s Manresa – where she trained under famed head baker Avery Ruzicka and pastry chef Stephanie Prida who’ve propelled the “Manresa Bread Project” to celebrity status. Antaloczy’s bread program weaves its distinctive, high-quality ingredients into all aspects of Ironside’s menu, offering up items ranging from fresh hearth loaves, porridge breads, brioche and lobster rolls.
FORTIFIED ON ALL FRONTS — CH Projects is respected for turning out some of the best and most ambitious bar programs in the county (“Cocktail Bar of the Year,” Imbibe Magazine’s Imbibe 75; “The Best Bars in America,” Esquire Magazine; Top 50 Bars in the Country,” Food & Wine; “Beer Bar of the Year,” Nightclub & Bar Awards). Ironside’s cocktail menu, helmed by Bar Manager Leigh Lecap, pays tribute to a resurgence of sherrys, ports and Madeiras, with more than 90 different fortified wines proudly gracing Ironside’s 14-foot overarching, steel bar trellis. A viscous beverage traditionally enjoyed as a digestif, Lecap translates the natural affinity between fortified wines and spirits into a selection of “Fortified” cobbler cocktails. This re-imagined take on the beloved and uniquely American sherry cobbler is a resurgent “lost art” among bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts and general imbibers.
COCKTAILS ON THE HALF SHELL — Alongside a handful of “Fortified” creations, Ironside’s bar menu showcases over 50 unique cocktails divided into categories such as “Uplifting”, “Stimulating”, “Hold Fast”, “Seaworthy” and “Cocktails On The Halfshell” – a single raw oyster served alongside a lively concoction of restorative qualities. The menu is designed to give imbibers a variety of options to compliment each aspect of their meal from start to finish. Pouring from the bar’s 26 taps are 16 beers, eight wines, one draft cocktail and ice-cold coffee on draft in partnership with Coffee & Tea Collective.
DESIGN — Underscoring the collaborative spirit that Ironside aims to restore, CH Projects once again commissioned brick-and-mortar guru Paul Basile of Basile Studio (Craft & Commerce, UnderBelly, Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine) to convey the collective’s essential spirit and philosophy. Tucked into every corner of the restaurant, diners are encouraged to discover conversation-starting design accents such as a marquee “SHIT HAPPENS” lighting installation near the bathrooms, or a massive wall adorned with hundreds of faux piranha skulls. From custom, plasma cut barstools and copper tabletops, to the 14-foot-tall overarching steel bar trellis and a unique blend of mix metals throughout the space, Ironside’s deliberately intricate and intellectually stimulating décor includes experimental design elements that Basile himself customized and fabricated in his San Diego warehouse. Five massive floor-to-ceiling steel flip doors at the front of the building can be lifted to create an open concept restaurant that faces the bustling avenue, and a 15-foot marble countertop near the open-aire kitchen transforms into a 14 seat communal table with outwardly swinging bar seats that discreetly hover below the countertop. For Paul Basile, it’s all in the details – and with Ironside’s design, functionality is kept top of mind, translating into dollars and cents.
Dinner reservations are encouraged and can be made online via Open Table, through Ironside’s website or by calling the restaurant directly at 619.269.3033 during business hours
Executive Chef/ Partner: Jason McLeod (Awarded Two Michelin Stars at RIA at the Elysian, Chicago; The Grand Del Mar, San Diego)
Chef de Cuisine: Jose “JoJo” Ruiz (Searsucker, Herringbone, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Tower 23)
Pastry Chef: Donna Antaloczy (Manresa, Los Gastos; Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Yountville; Gordon Ramsay at the London NYC, New York; Eleven Madison Park, New York)
CH PROJECTS: Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, Neighborhood, El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, UnderBelly, Polite Provisions, Soda & Swine
Monday through Friday | 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday + Sunday | 10 a.m. to 3p.m.
Daily | 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Cocktail Bar + Raw Bar
All Day to Midnight, Sunday through Thursday
All Day to 2 a.m., Friday + Saturday
Oyster Happy Hour | Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m., $1 oy s ters
For more information please visit www.ironsidefishandoyster.com.
ABOUT CH PROJECTS:
California’s southern-most city, San Diego, has for decades been known as a casual, sleepy coastal getaway with a culinary scene to match–fish tacos and Mexican lager epitomized an attitude not unlike that of an adolescent sibling to that of its mature, celebrity chef-embellished neighbor-to-the-north. Enter CH Projects, the visionary restaurateurs-come-social engineering duo that is pioneering the city’s now burgeoning cultural progression with seven ambitious concepts (Craft & Commerce, Neighborhood, UnderBelly, Noble Experiment, El Dorado, Polite Provisions, and Soda & Swine). Co-founders Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton have cultivated an intrinsic core philosophy–that a space should inspire, its design aesthetic and culinary /cocktail paradigm allowing for the seemingly lost art of conversation to thrive in an environment that fosters charisma, thoughtful dialogue, and the resurgence of real human interaction. In stark contrast to the overwhelming neon lights and volatile drone that emanates from plasma screens-as-art in less calculated restaurant and bar settings, CH’s projects eschew trendy, stagnant décor and menus in favor of an eclectic, contemporary quality borne out of the collaborative efforts of like-minded individuals with a hunger (and thirst) for innovation. www.CH-Projects.com.