When the craft beer and burgers-focused neighborhood restaurant opened in East Village 14 years ago, it was the first foray into restaurant ownership for the now prolific Arsalun Tafazoli, whose hotel group has places as prestigious as Born & Raised, Craft & Commerce, and Raised by Wolves.
At the time, Neighborhood was considered fairly avant-garde with more than two dozen craft beers on tap – and not a Heineken in sight – and an interior-exterior design that included artificial turf around the perimeter and the fake moss and ivy on the walls. In recent years, however, the G Street venue didn’t feel so edgy anymore, as San Diego has seen an explosion of craft beer-focused pubs. And so, the neighborhood closed in March 2019 – a year before the pandemic – in anticipation of a six-month transformation.
Two years and over $ 2 million later, Neighborhood, along with fellow speakeasy Noble Experiment and new bar, Youngblood, debuts Monday, the latest in CH Projects’ portfolio of 15 restaurants and bars.
âFor us, it’s emotional. I’ve had the best and the worst times in this area, âsaid CH Projects co-founder Tafazoli, recalling Neighborhood’s first year when he applied for Sears credit cards to do the payroll. âWhen it comes to restaurants, groups don’t always improve as they evolve. This is something that we are terribly aware of and that we are not sure of. How can we apply this decade of experience and hopefully this will be our best job to date? “
Gone are the reinvented neighborhood, its old industrial-chic atmosphere, its open windows and outdoor seating. And banned from Noble Experiment are its television screens and woodwork, replaced by faux-finished walls. The whimsy, whimsical design and obsessive attention to detail of CH Projects are always present.
The 2,000-square-foot neighborhood features custom oak flooring, cowhide-covered bar stools, and a ‘Hi-Fi’ wall with turntables and reel-to-reel tapes that will play a selection of music ranging from punk, metal, new wave, rock and hip-hop. The benches are covered with fabric from the long line of work clothes Ben Davis (the menus will be inserted in the pockets).
The 34-seat restaurant, with a seating capacity that’s now half of what it used to be, will still feature craft beer with a focus on San Diego brewers, as well as rare selections that it says. CH, date back to the early days of the movement. New to Neighborhood is a section of the restaurant that has been set aside for the retail sale of specialty beers. The culinary offer will be constantly evolving, from crispy tofu curry to schnitzel and falafel.
Ch Projects CIO Brian Eastman is excited about the restaurant’s rare selections, including a legendary 1996 Double IPA which is one of the few remaining bottles of its kind in the world – “a true piece of” history, âhe said.
Noble Experiment, which still keeps its wall of rows on rows of golden skulls, is a refreshed cocktail bar with no menu – “you’re going to tell us what you like and we’ll make that drink for you,” Tafazoli says – while Youngblood is a new addition to the G Street location. Together, the two bars cover 2,000 square feet.
Occupying a former loft, as Noble Experiment does, the sleek Youngblood is imbued with warm golden lighting, amplified by a large neon chandelier. The bar top is fashioned from layers of marble and granite, and the padded bar front is crushed gold velvet.
The hidden speakeasy is accessed through a door that has a deceptive front – a glass refrigerator case. Youngblood’s concept is a more personalized and intimate cocktail experience that will be marketed as a fixed-price tasting of three cocktails and rare champagnes that will change every day. The price will start around $ 65 per person but will vary depending on the offers.
Highlighting a storage area for rarer whiskeys, Eastman said a single storage space could hold between $ 150,000 and $ 200,000 worth of vintage spirits, which have been kept by the restaurant group over the years.
Tafazoli says it’s both risky and enticing to sidestep current trends in hospitality.
âI love the nerd culture where you take a very specific genre and put that irrational level of attention into it and go deeper into it,â he said. “We’re restaurant and bar nerds, and we get into the weeds and details that may seem trivial to most.”
He acknowledges his restaurant group is fortunate to have so far survived the pandemic with its businesses intact, but says this latest project could not have come this far without the concessions made by its lender and owner. .
âWhen the pandemic hit, we were already a year and two months into this project, and the train had already left the station, so the only way was to go,â Tafazoli said. âOur bank was local and everyone shared the same belief that there would be light at the end of the tunnel, so we moved forward. The bank basically gave us a 12-month reprieve. It allowed us to see it through. Between the owner and the banks, they really supported us during this year-long dumpster fire.