Ironside Fish & Oyster Opens Doors in San Diego
Two-star Michelin chef Jason McLeod has officially opened doors to Ironside Fish & Oyster in San Diego.
In partnership with powerhouse hospitality collective CH Projects (nationally renowned for craft cocktail venues such as Polite Provisions, Craft & Commerce, and Noble Experiment), Ironside is more than a year in the making, but is undoubtedly CH's most ambitious, culinary-focused concept to date.
Located in the heart of Little Italy at 1654 India Street, the stunning statement space is packed with provocative design elements and progressive architectural details. Ironside aims to reintroduce a rich oyster culture to San Diego, a known seaport city born from the local fishing industry that once existed as the tuna capital of the US.
Key people include:
- Executive Chef and Partner: Jason McLeod (Awarded Two Michelin Stars at RIA at the Elysian, Chicago; The Grand Del Mar, San Diego)
- Chef de Cuisine: Jose JoJo Ruiz (Searsucker, Herringbone, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Tower 23)
- Pastry Chef: Donna Antaloczy (Manresa, Los Gastos; Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, Yountville; Gordon Ramsay at the London NYC, New York; Eleven Madison Park, New York)
- CH PROJECTS: Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, Neighborhood, El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, UnderBelly, Polite Provisions, Soda & Swine
The concept is So Cal's ode to the oyster. Surprisingly absent in California's southern-most city, is a rich oyster culture, one that is deeply engrained in coastal communities such as the Puget Sound of Washington State, or the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia and Maryland.
Executive Chef McLeod's goal at Ironside Fish & Oyster is to reintroduce this culture with an approachable raw-bar concept in San Diego, a known seaport city, born from the local fishing industry that once existed as the tuna capital of the US.
Born and raised along the seafood-abundant coastlines of British Colombia, a mere 90 minutes south of Fanny Bay, Chef McLeod was spoiled at a young age with plenty of local catch, but his favorite, undoubtedly, was the oyster. With over 25 years of culinary experience under his toque, Chef McLeod has traveled the world to train with several of the most prestigious chefs in the industry, including culinary icons Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White.
While Ironside will be Chef McLeod's first venture as an owner, it will certainly not be his first foray into developing a concept focused largely on seafood. In 2009, as the opening executive chef of RIA in Chicago's 5-Star Elysian Hotel, McLeod led a luxurious seafood-driven restaurant from being relatively unknown, to receiving two Michelin stars during its first year of operation—an honor that only two other restaurants in Chicago (Charlie Trotter's and Avenues) were awarded that year.
CH Projects spared absolutely no expense to transform the 4,500-square-foot, 1920s-era warehouse. At the epicenter of Ironside's $1.8 million build out is an impressive raw bar that is one of three open-air culinary hubs, offering guests a daily changing menu of bivalves, oyster flights, crudos, crab claws, seafood platters, house made mignonettes, and more.
The in-house bakery and European-style open kitchen each features its own chef's table, and a 5-foot, live lobster tank houses crustaceans from the coasts of Baja, Maine, and beyond. Alongside the raw bar and bakery, McLeod's culinary program features an extensive menu of seafood-heavy specialties feature Beer Braised Mussels with Andouille sausage, Fried Oyster Po Boy, Shrimp Bahn Mi, and a Lobster Roll, in addition to more traditional classics like Daily Catch served a la plancha, Seafood Chowder, and Fish & Chips. Ironside also offers a happy hour and late night dining options.
Ironside's impressive in-house bakery is led by Pastry Chef Donna Antaloczy. Antaloczy has gathered invaluable Old World knowledge about the art of baking at acclaimed kitchens throughout the country including Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park, Christophe Eme's former Ortolan Restaurant, Gordon Ramsay's The London NYC, and David Kinch's Manresa, where she trained under famed head baker Avery Ruzicka and pastry chef Stephanie Prida, who've propelled the Manresa Bread Project to celebrity status.
Antaloczy's bread program weaves its distinctive, high-quality ingredients into all aspects of Ironside's menu, offering up items ranging from fresh hearth loaves, porridge breads, brioche and lobster rolls.
CH Projects is respected for turning out some of the best and most ambitious bar programs in the county. Ironside's cocktail menu, helmed by Bar Manager Leigh Lecap, pays tribute to a resurgence of sherrys, ports, and Madeiras, with more than 90 different fortified wines proudly gracing Ironside's 14-foot overarching, steel bar trellis.
A viscous beverage traditionally enjoyed as a digestif, Lecap translates the natural affinity between fortified wines and spirits into a selection of Fortified cobbler cocktails. This re-imagined take on the beloved and uniquely American sherry cobbler is a resurgent lost art among bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts, and general imbibers.
Alongside a handful of Fortified creations, Ironside's bar menu showcases more than 50 cocktails divided into categories such as Uplifting, Stimulating, Hold Fast, Seaworthy and Cocktails On The Halfshell, which is a single raw oyster served alongside a lively concoction of restorative qualities.
The menu is designed to give imbibers a variety of options to complement each aspect of their meal from start to finish. Pouring from the bar's 26 taps are 16 beers, eight wines, one draft cocktail, and ice-cold coffee on draft in partnership with Coffee & Tea Collective.
Underscoring the collaborative spirit that Ironside aims to restore, CH Projects once again commissioned brick-and-mortar guru Paul Basile of Basile Studio (Craft & Commerce, UnderBelly, Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine) to convey the collective's essential spirit and philosophy. Tucked into every corner of the restaurant are design accents such as a massive wall adorned with hundreds of faux piranha skulls.
From custom, plasma-cut barstools and copper tabletops, to the 14-foot-tall overarching steel bar trellis and a blend of mix metals throughout the space, Ironside's deliberately intricate and intellectually stimulating décor includes experimental design elements that Basile himself customized and fabricated in his San Diego warehouse.
Five massive floor-to-ceiling steel flip doors at the front of the building can be lifted to create an open concept restaurant that faces the bustling avenue, and a 15-foot marble countertop near the open-air kitchen transforms into a 14-seat communal table with outwardly swinging bar seats that discreetly hover below the countertop.