Welcome back to the Happy Half Hour! This week, we checked in with Chef Phillip Esteban, a National City native who has worked at David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City and most recently as the research and development chef for Consortium Holdings. We’d initially planned to have Phillip on the show back in March to talk about his upcoming culinary projects in National City, which we featured in the April issue’s Neighborhood Guide. With the show up and running again, we talked to him about the status of his upcoming Filipino restaurant, Well Fed, and his culinary bookstore, Wordsmith, which is going in the new Market on 8th development in downtown National City. He shares what we can expect when the store opens this fall and how the restaurant is taking shape for a 2021 opening. He is also going to be on an episode of the Food Network’s Chopped on Tuesday, July 7—we’ll have to tune in!
We had a great conversation with Phillip about the revitalization efforts in National City, his experiences as a Filipino American in San Diego, and how Filipino cuisine is still underrepresented locally and throughout the US. He shares how he put his efforts into his catering business, Craft Meals, and expanded it to provide Filipino silog (rice bowls) for at-home delivery once the March lockdown went into effect. The rice bowls have been a hit (if you like pork, you have to try the lechon), and Phillip also teamed up with World Central Kitchen to help donate meals to health care workers. Since March, he and his team have donated 40,000 meals. You can view the menu and order through Rice Bowls for All.
We brought the Hot Plates segment back, where we discuss the latest local restaurant news. First, we talk about bars having to close again. Then we take a look at restaurants that have opened or expanded during the pandemic: Puesto is opening its new brewery and restaurant in Mission Valley; Michelin-starred chef Akira Back opened Lumi, a large rooftop restaurant in the Gaslamp; and La Puerta, a popular Mexican restaurant downtown, is working on its second location in Mission Hills. We also talk about Encinitas closing a section of its main street downtown to allow for more outdoor dining.
We end our show with our revised Takeout for Two segment. David recommends the boozy popsicles and the cioppino at Small Bar, Troy loves the empanadas at Empanada Kitchen, and my pick is the brisket at Coop’s West Texas BBQ. Phillip had three picks, all of which are small businesses that just opened and are offering delivery: Coffee from Provecho; Tijuana-style burritos from Longplay Studio; and Mexican seafood from Mariscos Tone Camarón.
Thank you so much for listening and for staying with us. We want to hear from you. Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? A topic that should be explored? Need a recommendation for takeout? Do you have a question for Troy? Let us know. You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re shy, you can email us at [email protected].
Editor’s Note: We taped this episode on Tuesday, June 30, before Governor Newsom ordered the suspension of in-room dining in 19 counties in California.