There’s a new kid in town when it comes to fast and casual culinary choices offered along Pearl Street. Cruisers Gourmet Subs held its grand opening June 8, 2019; replacing the former Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurant that closed in December 2018.
Team owner Kathy Sandler, who runs the shop with her two brothers, Kerry and Kris, said the idea for a sub shop started from homespun beginnings: “Our family has had a humble history with food. Our father worked as a teacher, while our mother raised five children. We needed to make our meals go a long way and, therefore, delicious sandwiches have always been a big part of our diet — and everybody loves a good sandwich.”
Cruisers Gourmet Subs first opened in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, as a venture by the Sandler family in 2011. After nine years of tremendous growth at that location, they decided to open a second location in La Jolla.
Sandler admits she never really saw this coming. She earned her bachelor of science degree from Arizona State, and then a master’s degree in social work. She supported herself through college by waiting tables at a restaurant, which was the extent of her restaurant experience. She pursued a career as a social worker (specializing in end-of-life care), until her brothers tapped her on the shoulder.
“Kris and Kerry wanted to open a second Cruisers restaurant in San Diego,” she said. “It was an easy decision since I live here and Kris and Kerry wanted to get back to the ocean. We wanted a place that would allow our family to spend more time together, doing things we love.”
They call their subs “gourmet” because they use all-natural ingredients, including antibiotic-free meat, pole- and line-caught tuna, housemade aoli sauces, salad dressings and hummus.
The restaurant offers 11 kinds of subs, five types of “toasties,” two salads (Kale Caesar and Vegan Crunch), a kids menu and adult drinks, including two IPA draft beers (Stone and Saint Archer), and JuneShine hard kombucha; in addition to offering Happy Hour specials.
So far, Sandler says the favorite menu item has been the Cuban Sub, stuffed with marinated pulled pork, maplewood smoke ham, Genoa salami, hot capicola, banana pepper, pickle, melted provolone and spicy mustard.
Other subs include carnitas (marinated pulled pork), roast beef, ham and cheese, meatball, tuna, and Cali turkey. Sandler said her favorite is the chicken-salad sub because it reminds her of her grandmother, who always made Waldorf salad. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available.
A unique feature of the restaurant is located on the outside wall facing the alley. It’s a mural painted by local artist Natalie Bessel called “La Sirena.”
The artist describes the mural this way: “There is a female energy through all forms, powerful energy. It is in the ocean that we swim in, the land that we tend to, the fruits that nourish us; it is all things created and creating. In my mural, the Siren and the Sea exist as one. She sways in and out, moving to the only one that speaks to her, the moon. Does this make her dangerous? Of course, but perhaps we blame it on the moon.”
Sandler says over time, the mural will be switched out to showcase other artists. Along with community involvement, Sandler said Cruisers prides itself on hospitality: “When you walk through our doors, you are truly a guest in our home. We aim to ensure each guest leaves happier than when they walked in.”
• Cruisers Gourmet Subs is at 639 Pearl St., La Jolla. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. (858) 230-6414. cruisersgourmetsubs.com
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