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Team Behind Common Theory To Open New Korean BBQ

The Chula Vista location will boast 4,500 square feet of space with gas grills at each table and seating for nearly 150 guests
Common Theory's new Otay Lakes bar and restaurant location. The group is planning on opening Sura BBQ in Chula Vista, San Diego
Courtesy of Common Theory

Joon Lee and Cris Liang run ahead of their time. When they opened Common Theory Public House in 2014, gastropubs weren’t huge yet and even seemed slightly out of place in the Convoy District. When they launched Realm of the 52 Remedies in 2018, speakeasies hadn’t yet hit their saturation point (and the ones that had leaned toward a bootlegging pastiche, in contrast to Realm’s futuristic theme). Lee and Liang opened Common Theory in the Mix at Millenia development in Otay Ranch earlier this year, and that complex isn’t even finished being built yet. 

But Lee says that, in business, he looks for places with potential. “I think demand for Korean barbecue is everywhere,” not just around Kearny Mesa, he adds. “Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside—if one Korean barbecue [restaurant] opens up, it gets busy. I feel like there still is a big demand for good Korean barbecue down here.”

Common Theory founders Joon Lee and Cris Liang, who are opening Sura Korean BBQ, with Chula Vista mayor John McCann

Common Theory founders Joon Lee (L) and Cris Liang (R) with Chula Vista mayor John McCann

Down here is 1960 Optima Street in Chula Vista, where partners Liang, Lee, and Andy Ahn will launch Sura Korean BBQ at the end of June. Perched next to the new Common Theory, the 4,500-square-foot space will have 30 tables, each with a gas grill, and seating for around 140 or 150 guests, Lee estimates. 

Lee was born and raised in South Korea before coming to Chula Vista, where he attended high school and met Liang. He has considered opening a Korean BBQ restaurant for over a decade.

I love meat,” he says. “I was trying to do that ten years ago, but [our] situations didn’t let us. It was always on our back burner. Now, we’re realizing our first goal that we had 12 years ago.”

Common Theory's kitchen serving asian fusion cuisine at their new restaurant in Chula Vista, San Diego
Courtesy of Common Theory

Sura will be an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant with three pricing tiers: classic, premium, and Sura. Prime options will include ribeye and soy-marinated beef short rib. Guests can order from servers—the typical Korean BBQ experience—or visit the fresh meat bar to pick out their items and cart them to the table to grill. 

“We’re going to have some of the most traditional Korean foods, like japchae, fried chicken, spicy rice cakes, and sweet-and-sour pork,” Lee says. The restaurant will also cater to the local Mexican and Filipino communities with familiar bites like “pancit, or chicken adobo, and carne asada,” he continues. “We’re going to have tortillas, pico de gallo, and salsas ready. People can grill their carne asada at their tables and make tacos for themselves.” 

New location of Chula Vista Korean Barbecue restaurant Sura opening in San Diego this year
Courtesy of Spire Assets

They’ll have self-serve ice cream, craft beer, wine, and soju spirits, too. “You can’t go to Korean BBQ without Korean soju,” Lee jokes.

Lee admits that, after two months of operation, business at Common Theory’s Chula Vista location is a touch slow at the moment. But he’s optimistic about the future of both restaurants. “This area is still expanding,” he says. “SDSU campus is being built right now, across the street from Sura. So, I see a lot of potential in this area. It’s going to be great.”

Animae's Mother's Day four-course prix-fixe celebrating AAPI month featuring wontons and soup
Photo Credit: Kimberly Motos

San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events

Animae Celebrates Mother’s Day and AAPI Month

I think I speak for moms everywhere when I say the best Mother’s Days are those spent without bras. However, I might make an exception for Animae’s four-course, prix-fixe Mother’s Day dinner on Sunday, May 12, from 5 to 9 p.m. The menu includes tuna kinilaw with coconut, calamansi, cucumber, and cilantro oil; PEI mussel sinigang with tamarind broth, green beans, and bok choy; pork belly liempo with atchara, annatto oil, braised radish, and peas; and turon tart with banana ice cream and jackfruit gel. Tickets are $110 for adults and $42 for children, and reservations are recommended (as are bras).

As a nod to her Filipino heritage, Animae executive chef Tara Monsod also created a special menu running from Monday, May 20, through Friday, May 31, featuring two Filipino dishes: a Cebuano lechon with pickled mustard seed, jus, peach salsa, and herbs and a grilled whole fish with fish sauce caramel. A portion of the proceeds will go to AAPI Women Lead. Reservations for the series can be made here. (The standard menu selections will all be available during this time, as well.) 

Scoop San Diego Ice Cream Festival event in North Park on June 23, 2024
Courtesy of Scoop San Diego Ice Cream Festival

Beth’s Bites

Wood-fired dishes, craft beer, and one hell of a view—Playing With Fire will have all that and more on Monday, May 13 at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. They call it “the ultimate patio party.” 

North Park’s sixth annual Scoop San Diego ice cream festival returns on Sunday, June 23. Twenty-five local ice cream, gelato, and paleta shops will sling sweets to benefit the Berry Good Food Foundation. Tickets start at $45 for four hours of ice cream heaven. 

Events, events, and more events! Monday, May 13, through Sunday, May 19, celebrate the second annual San Diego Wine Week, featuring wines grown and produced in and around the city. On Friday, May 17, Salt & Whiskey hosts a happy hour tasting party from 5 to 7 p.m., offering ten or more wines and some finger food on trays. ’Tis the season for sloshing.

Have breaking news, exciting scoops, or great stories about new San Diego restaurants or the city’s food scene? Send your pitches to [email protected].

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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