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THE BIG IDEA: Urge Craft Alley

The north county empire-builders strike with 24,000 square-foot resto/brewery/bowl

By Troy Johnson

WE WILL RULE THIS GOURMET DESERT: As a native from inland North County, I’ve long moaned about the lack of decent Franco-American-bistro-esque choices. I really should’ve shut my trap since I didn’t open one of my own. But thankfully my inaction has been counterbalanced by the group behind The Barrel Room. They followed that Rancho Bernardo wine bar with Urge Gastropub right next door, then Brothers’ Provisions a mile down the road, and now they’re striking again. “When we first opened the Barrel Room in 2007,” says co-owner and sommelier Grant Tondro, “every real estate agent in town told us, ‘You can’t open in Rancho Bernardo! There’s nothing there!’ And we thought, ‘Ding, ding, ding.’” Their new space in Vista will be called Urge: Craft Alley isn’t ambitious at all—just a 24,000 square-foot city of sweet, sweet vice (formerly home to Bally’s Total Fitness). The plan includes: a 10,000 square-foot restaurant with over 400 seats, a 2,000 square-foot bottle shop (wine and beer to go), a 5,000 square-foot brewery and eight to 10 bowling lanes. “It’s basically my Disneyland,” says Tondro.  “We’ll have 200-300 whiskeys, with the intention of getting it up to 400 or 500. We’ll start with 51 taps of craft beer with the option of expanding to 100 taps if there’s demand for it. Leigh Lacap and Christian Siglin from Sycamore Den will be designing the cocktail menu.”  Why bowling? “It’s a game you can play with one hand, it doesn’t take a lot of skill, and it’s kind of cool,” says Tondro. Are there a ton of investors behind it? “No, it’s just me and my two business partners,” he says.  “I took out the biggest loan of my life. I still drive a Kia. If this doesn’t work out I’m moving back with mom and dad.” Are you going to open 30 more restaurants within six square miles within the next year? “We’ve taken a look at sites in Coachella and L.A., but we’re going to make sure we do this right first.” Urge: Craft Alley will be located at 1928 Hacienda Dr. and open February or March of next year.

I REEK OF SAN MARZANOS: Working on SD Mag’s pizza-issue in November. The roof of my mouth is ripped and raw like breadknife sushi. I sweat oregano. At one reportedly decent place in north county, the most notable thing was a man who’d been drunk since 1997 offering advice on caring for German Shepherds. At another I found a decent pizza with a horsefly problem. As the pie-man explained: “They come to Del Mar when the horses arrive for racing season. The track closed yesterday. That means no more manure. The flies are homeless. So they’ll bother us for about a week.” Thanks for the frank explanation. Without spoiling the surprise, I had one pie today that reminded me a very, very good chef is doing pizza in Norht County. Blue Ribbon Pizzeria’s classic—fennel sausage, moz, crimini mushrooms—is one hell of a pie, leopard-spotted for your splendor. For those center-city sectarians who never venture north of La Jolla, chef-owner Wade Hageman just opened up Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen in Hillcrest.

SORIANO MILKS IT: Great local designer Michael Soriano (The Pearl, Vin de Syrah, Queenstown Public) has signed on to design the first retail location for The Cravory, San Diego’s custom-cookie stalwarts. The 1,000 square-foot space will have milk on tap and is aiming for an October open. 3960 W. Point Loma Blvd. (Midway Towne Center).

THE BIG IDEA: Urge Craft Alley

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