The team behind Fort Oak and Trust open their biggest project yet.
San Diego Magazine| By Troy Johnson
Photos: Kimberly Motos
January 29, 2020
On paper, opening a restaurant in Mission Hills looks a little ominous. Might be that pile of fresh restaurant bones on the ground. The Patio on Goldfinch, with its lush Golden Girls plant wall, recently shuttered (granted, this was amid fraud allegations against its owner). Then Brooklyn Girl—the massive, marquee dinner spot run by respected veteran restaurateurs Victoria and Michael McGeath—called it a day after nearly eight years.
Some industry pros I talked with suggested that Mission Hills is a neighborhood, not a destination. A place to raise a family, not a toast. There’s no music venue (no offense to the city’s greatest karaoke bar, The Lamplighter), no multi-theater movieplex (though the Cinema Under the Stars, an al fresco backyard theater, is wonderful), no significant stretch of boutiques to stroll with a trigger finger on your expendable income.
But most of those same pros also said something along the lines of… “If anyone can do it, it’s those guys.”
Those guys are chef-owner Brad Wise and owner-operator Steven Schwob of Trust Restaurant Group—known colloquially as the hill people. Starting with their first concept, Trust, they successfully navigated the tricky restaurant plateau of Hillcrest. That led to another oh-wow success with the wood-fired Fort Oak in Mission Hills (one of my personal Best New Restaurants of 2019). They struggled with their Hillcrest bar, Hundred Proof, but in its new incarnation as casual modern steakhouse, Rare Society, it’s turned around.
And this week they open their biggest project yet in Mission Hills—the Italian-ish Cardellino (“goldfinch” in Italian). It takes over all 4,800 square-foot, high-ceiling industrial space vacated by Brooklyn Girl.
“It’s terrifying,” Wise admits.
Both he and Schwob are in pre-opening attire—basically soft clothes comfortable enough to panic in (jeans and Trust hoodies)—as construction crews hang final menus, touch-up signage, hammer and sand the final pieces of their hopes and dreams. With the help of GTC Design and Second Sight, they’ve cut the bar size in half, added communal tables, and a private dining room with a huge flatscreen and a wall to project businessy presentations.
The “terrifying” thing for Wise is the act of opening another restaurant, period. Let alone one the size and scope of Cardellino—an all-day eatery with a bakery, breakfast, lunch, full-service dinner, bar, wine shop, and to-go ice cream window (called Mr. Trustee) featuring pastry chef Jeremy Harville’s line of housemade ice creams. [read the full article on SD Mag]