IN GOOD TASTE:
It was time to freshen up a little. So JRDN Restaurant, located within Tower23 Hotel right on the boardwalk at Felspar Street in Pacific Beach, started changing things up this year. The restaurant's been open since 2005 and has always been known for its 70-foot "wave wall" that reflects the ever-changing ocean tones emanating from just outside its windows.
But now, the restaurant has reinvented itself as more than just another pretty face on the PB restaurant scene. It's shed some of that upper-crust reputation and focused on being a crowd-pleaser. It's what Executive Chef Dave Warner calls "re-concepting."
When JRDN first opened, it had a kind of Pacific Rim feel to it. Warner was at the restaurant from the beginning and then left to pursue other culinary adventures. He's been back as executive chef for about a year and has infused some of the original Asian influences — the sushi bar has returned and some of those ingredients have bled through the new menu.
Warner explains: "By no means are we trying to be an Asian restaurant, but it just so happens we have teriyaki sauce, so we do a poke bowl; we have nori, so we put that in our mustard for our pretzel bites, for example."
Warner says the clientele in the neighborhood has changed, so JRDN's menu and décor followed suit. "With this rebirth, we wanted to appeal to all guests, and not alienate the people who want to come and just have a sushi roll and a glass of wine. We want the people off the beach, too, who want pretzel bites and ahi nachos. But we also want our traditional diners, so they can still get their big steaks, full bottles of wine and the topnotch service that JRDN always had."
So JRDN stripped the stuffiness out. They got rid of the white tablecloths. They expanded seating in the lounge area and elevated it so guests can watch the sunset over the bar. Next year, owners are looking to add firepit features on the patio.
The new strategy is to be more things to more people. And Warner points out that given its location, it's a strategic move. "At the end of the day, it's a business. And a business needs to make money," he says, "so if we can put ourselves out there to a wider range of clientele, that's what we're going to do. We're not trying to alienate anybody or become a niche market. We're in PB, at the boardwalk. There are hundreds of different people (of race and origin) walking by with different palates. I don't want anyone to skip through the menu and be like, 'not for me.' "
Reading through the menu, which is several pages long, is like taking a journey through a culinary landscape that starts simple and rises high. Simple appetizers begin at $9 a plate. Fine diners can still come in for their big steaks (14-ounce prime rib-eye is $58). The menu also offers a variety of shared plates that serve 2-3 people.
Sushi is a best-seller here. Look for the JRDN 2.0 Roll, which is named in honor of the "second birth" of the restaurant. Warner describes it as "a fun mix of spicy ahi and yellowtail with some seared tuna on top with a little ponzu."
La Jolla diner Jaime Spencer gushed: "The sushi is brilliant here. It's hard to find good sushi. The vibe is great, the ocean's amazing, the view is spectacular, the service is impeccable."
The menu change has brought a 20-percent growth in foot traffic to the restaurant, Warner reports, but the average check has dropped a little. As the holidays unfurl, he's looking to add some "super-star dishes," in an effort to constantly evolve what's offered. JRDN's will be open for traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.
— JRDN Restaurant, serving breaakfast, lunch and dinner, is at 723 Felspar St. on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach/San Diego. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (858) 270-2323. t23hotel.com/jrdn/