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By The Guys

Matt Gordon—chef-owner of the growing restaurant group that includes Urban Solace, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge and the upcoming Sea and Smoke at Flower Hill Promenade—has made two good hires. First he pulled in Ryan Studebaker, formerly chef at Gingham, to work at S&M. And now he’s picked up pastry chef Jeff Bonilla (ex-Kitchen 1540). Bonilla was arguably the top free agent on the local market, to get all baseball about things. Have to think Studebaker ends up at Sea and Smoke, but no word yet.

Big happies to Rachel King, pastry chef for Enlightened Hospitality Group (Searsucker, Herringbone, etc.). She’s one of 50 national nominees for Food and Wine Magazine’s “People’s Best New Pastry Chef.” Voting runs through April 8. We don’t endorse stuffing the ballot box, but if you wanted to do that and be a decent and good San Diegan, you should it do it here. The winner, revealed April 9, gets a feature in the June issue.

Speaking of Enlightened Hospitality Group… Chopped host Ted Allen will front the James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards in New York on May 3. Themed “Lights! Camera! Taste! Spotlight on Food & Film,” the awards pay tribute to food’s role in American cinema. Fitting, then, that San Diego’s most camera-ready chef Brian Malarkey will helm the kitchen for the night, fresh off clobbering Anthony Bourdain (yes, it was a cage match) on ABC’s new show, The Taste. He’ll be bringing two of his chef de cuisines—Amanda Baumgarten (Herringbone) and Anthony Sinsay (Burlap). We just had a meal at Herringbone. When we weren’t gawking like fanboys at Joe Montana (he eats with his family like normal people!), we were admiring the raw hamachi with stripes of lardo and chiles. Pretty great stuff.

And the final Malarkey-related news before we become sick of it ourselves (too late, but news is news)…Only two San Diego restaurants made the cut for Open Table’s 2013 Top 100 List. You guessed it: Searsucker and Herringbone. Those two are the big blimps floating over the city’s restaurant scene right now. Haters (and more than a few area restaurateurs) are lining up to skeet shoot nearby.

Sixty percent of the time, it makes you happy every time. So, the new Del Mar Chocolate Bar is promoting happiness. Located on the second level of the Del Mar Plaza, they’ve got handmade goodies (including baked goods), teas, wines (plus champagnes and ports) and an espresso bar. Owner Laura Reyes says they outgrew the shop’s former location, a storefront at 1416 Camino Del Mar. Their sister store, the Carlsbad Chocolate Bar, continues to do well.

La Jolla-based chain Burger Lounge‘s tenth location is set to open at the end of April at the hugely revamped Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar (along with Cucina Enoteca and Sea and Smoke). The 1,200-square-foot spot will seat 55 inside, have a large patio and continue its alpha maleness among the massive, massive neo-burger pack.

If you’re wandering Fourth Ave into the wee hours, your soul relaxed and noodle-limp… we’ve found your spot. Noodle Etc (3925 4th) recently opened and serves ramen and Asian tapas (plus beer, cocktails, wine and sake) until 3AM.

Months ago we sniffed out Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar’s first SD location in Mission Valley. Chef Gabriel Caliendo is crafting the menu, with the likes of BBQ bacon cheeseburgers to spicy Moroccan chicken and couscous. They’ll do weekend brunch (blueberry cakes with maple bacon butter, chilaquiles, etc.). Along with the standard issue bar (craft beer, fancy cocktails), they’ll do a housemade Sangria sampler. The spot is huge—nearly 8,000 square-feet with a 1,296 square-footage of dog-friendly patio.

Solace and the Moonlight Lounge

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