Trust Restaurant Group plants the seed for another hit with GTC Design.

San Diego Eater | By Candice Woo
Photos: Haley Hill
January 14, 2019

One of the year’s most anticipated openings makes its debut this Wednesday in Mission Hills. Fort Oak is the third of a growing culinary collection from co-founders Brad Wise and Steve Schwob, who were vets of the local food scene but still relatively unknown when they opened their first independent restaurant, Trust. Three years later, they’ve received numerous awards, represented San Diego at the James Beard House, and earned pretty much across the board admiration from both their industry peers and the city’s dining public. Joining Wise and Schwob in this venture is a team of longtime collaborators that includes general manager Sophia Hussain, bar manager Jessica Stewart, floor manager Jimmy Montenegro, and executive pastry chef Jeremy Harville; newly added is chef de cuisine Mark Schmitt, most recently of Cucina Urbana and Urban Kitchen Group.

Located at the base of the The Fort, a new mixed-use building in Mission Hills, the restaurant was created with GTC Design and is another partnership with architect/developer Jonathan Segal, whose Mr Robinson building on Park Boulevard houses Trust. Encompassing a 3,404-square-foot corner space at one of the neighborhood’s busiest intersection, Fort Oak offers four distinct dining options.

Wise will preside over a custom wood grill in an open kitchen ringed by 16 reservation-only seats. There’s a full range of raw bar items, and housemade cheese and charcuterie that the chef is particularly proud of. Like Trust, there are plenty of shared plates including lamb mortadella with sunny side quail eggs, opah pastrami toast, and chicken fried quail, but Fort Oak also has a good number of composed entrees that have been a little more finessed, including Gonestraw chicken with porcini gnocchi and coal-roasted trumpet mushrooms and a Duroc pork chop with black garlic sauce.

Though humbled by Trust’s success, Wise and Schwob say it has given them the confidence to push Fort Oak in a more polished direction; the elegant 62-seat dining room will be the place for the most elevated experience, while just off the dining area through a retractable glass wall, a 46-seat patio should be the preferred hangout for the restaurant’s weekend brunch.
In the center of the space, in what was once a Ford car dealership in the 40s, is Fort Oak’s bar, which builds on the group’s good food paired with good drinks philosophy exemplified by Hundred Proof. Open at 3 p.m., it will serve its own menu of bar bites including salt cod fritters, wood-grilled oysters, and a dry-aged beef burger plus a cocktail list from Stewart that ranges from martini variations like the Chevelle, made with house olive brine and cheese-filled olives, to drinks categorized as low proof, spirit-forward and refreshing; for after-dinner sipping, the bar will hand-shave ice to chill a selection of amaro.

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