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FIRST LOOK: Duke’s La Jolla

One of San Diego's most iconic restaurant spots finally gets new life

By Troy Johnson | Photography by Paul Body

Top of the Cove was an icon, pure and simple. Perched atop the oceanic cliffs overlooking La Jolla Cove, it reigned over the dining scene for decades. And then it shuttered. Its long closure was a reminder of just how bad things had gotten in the American economy.

And now it has new life. Duke’s La Jolla is officially open. Most know Duke’s from the Hawaii locations, which are also sprawling, come-as-you-are waterfront restaurants. It’s named after Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Hawaiian surfer and owned by T S Restaurants, based in both Hawaii and California,

The 13,000 square-foot, two-floor space has two dining spaces—the main dining room with seating for 230, and the second floor with room for 150. Both, smartly, have plenty of outdoor dining. It was designed by La Jolla’s Marengo Morton Architects, Bill Parsons (chairman of T S Restaurants) and Hatch Design Group. Surfboards (donated or on loan from pro surf legends, shapers, collectors, friends, etc.) riddle the place. Photos of Duke and his wife put soul into the place. A piece of art depicts La Jolla beach life. There’s a shot of Black’s Beach (the famously nude beach, and world-class surf spot in La Jolla) by photographer John Maher.

For food, executive chef Anthony Sinsay is heading up the approachable menu. Expect Tahitian octopus cooked on a wood grill with smoked papaya, cucumber and coconut milk. Or charred snap peas with burnt pineapple vinaigrette and brie. A lilikoi ceviche has coriander stem, tomato, avocado and Fresno chile. You’ll also have roasted firecracker fish and 24-hour Korean kalbi short ribs with house-made kimchi.

At the bar, it’s craft beers from San Diego and California—but only on draft, an effort to cut down on the restaurant’s carbon footprint. There will also be wines on tap and fresh cocktails like the Duke’s Mai Tai with fresh passion-orange-guava juices and two types of rum. Or the Lavendar Colada with lavendar, coconut, pineapple and rum.

Boat drinks and beach food for everyone. Enough with the words. Please enjoy the first photos of Duke’s La Jolla. Duke’s is located at 1216 Prospect St., 858.454.5888.

FIRST LOOK: Duke’s La Jolla

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