Ready to know more about San Diego?

Subscribe

Happy Half Hour: San Diego’s First NFT Bar

We take Botanica owner Amar Harrag out for a few dishes and drinks at Cutwater Spirits’ Tasting Room to give us the story behind his newest art-restaurant
Courtesy of Botanica

About a week ago, I sat down for splashes of mezcal with Amar Harrag, who’s now successfully launched a few different drinks-and-dinner concepts on both sides of the border. His first, Tahona, created an unparalleled mezcal tasting bar to Old Town. He then opened Wormwood, the French-Baja cuisine and absinthe bar in North Park, which preserves the soul spot that was Jayne’s Gastropub. Finally, Tahona Baja in Ensenada—transforming two dry-docked, ark-looking wooden boats into mezcal tasting rooms on the grounds of a Mexican winery.

Over mezcal he explained the inspiration for next week’s unveiling—Botanica, the gin- and genever-based concept going into the small restaurant space attached to beloved North Park art and cultural center, Art Produce.

It’s an NFT restaurant.

A what? Exactly.

Before you write it off as a gimmick, listen to Harrag’s inspiration and ideas for the place on this week’s podcast. It’s fascinating, and shows a lot of thought and heart. He’s creating a modern art bar based on blockchain technology because he wanted the concept to shine a brighter light on what Art Produce does. Done right it should showcase artists, local and international, and help add to AP’s cultural hangout with good food and artful cocktails (they have a gin cart, preparing spirits tableside).

Harrag joins us at Cutwater Spirits’ tasting room—the incredible, ship-shaped home where SD’s canned cocktail success story first started. At the bar, the warm creative spirit here has always been Laura Price, who creates craft cocktails. She shows off five or six of her Halloween favorites (including a trio based on Hocus Pocus, one topped with a burstable bubble/crystal ball of smoke, and one in a hollowed-out pumpkin). We also try a few dishes from chef, including two you should try if happiness matters in the slightest: the grilled carrots with lemon-lavender whipped goat cheese, pepitas, orange and parsley oil, carrot tops; and his excellent barrel-aged rum salmon (salmon with a glaze of barrel-aged rum and cardamom).

In “Hot Plates,” we talk about Solana Beach’s food and drink boom with the arrival of a new tasting room from Local Roots Kombucha. In Downtown, a talented chef longtime San Diego foodies will remember—Jason Neroni (ex-Blanca)—is back to oversee the three different food concepts at the new Kimpton Alma (a new name and a new $25M overhaul for the former Hotel Palomar). And Polo Steakhouse has opened in the former West Steakhouse location, from the owners of Paon and with chef Judd Canepari.

In “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Amar raves about the Japanese yakitori (grill) at Yokohama Yakitori Koubou in Convoy; David is thrilled with the lunch deli next to our new offices called Carnivore Sandwich (rare to find lunch places open near office buildings these days since everyone works from home); and I revisited Cusp La Jolla (still one of my favorite view restaurants in all of San Diego) and a simple-delicious chicken dinner from chef Ingrid Funes.

We’re rolling now. Thanks for bearing with us.

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

Botanica

Courtesy of Botanica

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

Share this post

LATEST EPISODES

Podcast

Javier Plascencia Talks Michelin Stars & Caesar Salad's ...

Javier Plascencia Talks Michelin Stars & Caesar Salad's 100th

Listen now

Podcast

All the Best Eats at the San Diego County Fair

Listen now

Podcast

Cardellino Owner Brad Wise on Truffles, Caviar & Butcher...

Cardellino Owner Brad Wise on Truffles, Caviar & Butchering

Listen now

Podcast

San Diego's King of Produce

Listen now

Podcast

Is this San Diego's Most Picturesque Rooftop Restaurant?

Listen now

Podcast

Trying Petco Park's Best Food with Don and Mud

Listen now

Podcast

SD’s Secret Sommelier Weapon is at North Park’s Black Ra...

SD’s Secret Sommelier Weapon is at North Park’s Black Radish

Listen now

Podcast

Radio Host Chris Cantore & Chef Tyler Mars Launch New Po...

Radio Host Chris Cantore & Chef Tyler Mars Launch New Pop-Up

Listen now

Podcast

Fast Food Secrets With Jordan Howlett

Listen now

Podcast

Feeding San Diego Rescues 1.2M Pounds of Food a Month 

Listen now

Podcast

Making Wishes Come True With Chef William Eick

Listen now

Podcast

The Beach Boys’ Mike Love Puts Us in a Kokomo State of Min...

The Beach Boys’ Mike Love Puts Us in a Kokomo State of Mind

Listen now

Podcast

Lighting Up the Gaslamp 

Listen now

Podcast

The Story Behind San Diego's Hottest Backyard Restaurant

Listen now

Podcast

Is This the Best Falafel in San Diego?

Listen now

Podcast

San Diego’s Legendary Tony Tee Drops By the Pod

Listen now

Podcast

Feeling Lucky with Jason Mraz

Listen now

Podcast

The Spirits Company Giving Back, One Drink At a Time

Listen now

Podcast

Let Us Eat Cake

Listen now

Podcast

Getting Real With Celebrity Chef Lauren Lawless

Listen now

Podcast

New Episode: 40 Years of La Jolla's George's at the Cove

Listen now

Podcast

The Fishmonger Tommy Gomes Returns With Dry-Aged Fish

Listen now

Podcast

Paradise, Or Something Like It

Listen now

Podcast

The Big South Bay Brewery That Could

Listen now

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA