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Paradise, Or Something Like It

Meet a few of the folks behind the Michelin Guide–recognized Paradisaea, one of 2023’s buzziest restaurants
Oyster dish on ice from La Jolla, San Diego restaurant Paradisaea
Photo Credit: James Tran

According to some of San Diego’s finest food minds (umm, us), one of the hottest restaurants of 2023 is easily Bird Rock’s Paradisaea. The Michelin Guide thinks so, too—it recently gave the restaurant, which opened in late 2022, a special recognition for being pretty damn good (and also new).

A year or so is a good length of time for a restaurant to find its groove. Ideally, the service kinks will have been worked out, the menu will have found its footing. Paradisaea’s first year also saw the departure of the restaurant’s founding chef and culinary director, Mark Welker. Jeff Armstrong stepped in to take his place. Jeff will kick off 2024 with a new menu.

We brought Jeff and his boss, Paradisaea’s co-owner Zoe Kleinbub, into the studio to talk shop. Zoe is a native of Westchester County, NY. She moved to San Diego—where her husband Eric Kleinbub (also a co-owner) grew up—a handful of years ago. The Kleinbubs met moving around in San Francisco’s food circles, and, once they arrived to our sunny shores, it became crystal-clear that they had to open a restaurant here. 

Photo Credit: Douglas Friedman

When an iconic Bird Rock piano store hit the market four years ago, the Kleinbubs instantly moved on it. What followed—the construction and opening process—was an intense labor of love. They tiled the interiors in Josh Herman ceramics and built an expansive open kitchen at the heart of the restaurant’s dining room and operations. 

In this episode, we also talk about Zoe and Jeff’s long history working together and how his entry into one of Zoe’s kitchens has become a fortuitous union for everyone involved. We each take a few cracks at the restaurant’s spelling, which is difficult to nail on the first try, even for a bunch of writers. We also bungle its pronunciation a few times, but by the end, we’re flying (we promise), unnatural vowel combos hugging in tow.

We also talk about the news: Jasmin and Richard Blais released Plant Forward, a cookbook not totally meatless or dairy-less, but instead centered around de-prioritizing meat on the plate; North Park’s hopeful pop-up success story, Long Story Short, is unfortunately no more after just a month of service; and The Busalacchis are back in Little Italy with Zizzo, an Italian cocktail bar serving pan-Mediterranean food. We also played “Which restaurant in North Park will open first?” which is always a fun and mind-bending exercise.

Thanks for tuning into HHH this year. We will see you in 2024!

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By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's managing editor. Prior to that, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics.

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