First came North Park’s Urban Solace, then Solace & The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas. Yesterday, chef Matt Gordon and his team picked up the keys for the former Paradise Grille in Del Mar. They’ll strip it of its 1980s-ness and open their third spot, tentatively named Sea & Smoke. Able to seat up to 300—4,600 square-foot inside, plus 2,500 square-feet of fresh-air space—it nearly doubles the size of S&M Lounge. And with Tracy Borkum opening CE2 (Cucina Enoteca 2) at the former Chevy’s location and a few standout tenants (Venissimo cheese shop, Pannikin coffee and Dallmann Confections), Gordon’s addition to makes Flower Hill—until recently suffering from a pall-bearish Miami Vice aura—one of the most promising mall revamps since Del Mar Highlands.
“Paradise Grill literally left after a shift one night—there are still drinks with straws in them for the cooks and garbanzo beans in the pantry,” says Gordon. “It’s got a real Tommy Bahama bad date vibe to it, so we’ll be doing a pretty extensive remodel.”
Gordon’s partnering with design duo Bells & Whistles (Starlite Lounge, Imig’s at Lafayette Hotel, The Loft at UCSD, etc.). No confirmed details yet, but a few early plans for the split-level space include turning the backyard area into a “lush, secret garden kind of deal.” If the powers at be allow it, he’d also like to blow out the back wall and connect the two bars (currently, there’s an indoor and outdoor bar, separated only by that not-see-through-able wall). “We have a good relationship with Whole Foods, and our demographics are pretty similar,” says Gordon of why he chose Flower Hill. “If they’re willing to take a chance in that location, we can too.”
The name reflects both the geography (fog off the wetlands, the Del Mar smokestack) and the fact that Paradise Grille had a killer hearth oven. They plan to do a lot of oven-roasted meats, seafood and veggies to take full advantage of what the toys they’re inheriting.
“We started this thing with four people running the show,” he says. “Now we’ve got 12 people doing great things who want to do more, take on more responsibility. We want to have something to give them. So, yeah, while providing for my family is important, there’s more to it than just me. We want to keep going forward until we can’t stand up right.” Gordon also says the “Solace” brand isn’t done; it’s just not part of this
Gordon said he’d gotten close to signing a deal at a location he’s been tinkering with for a long time—Point Loma’s Liberty Station, which is down the street from his house—but opted for Flower Hill instead. He’s predicting a late-May, early June open for Sea & Smoke.