A diversity of food offerings catering to the local palette
Morgan M. Hurley | Downtown Editor
Longtime San Diego resident Moe Sadighian has been in the restaurant business for decades, operating many in and around Downtown, but he is about to become a super-power presence in the Gaslamp Quarter in 2013.
Though he still consults for many restaurants on both sides of the border, right now his time is focused primarily on growing the three establishments that extend from a coveted southeast Downtown corner at Market Street and Fourth Ave, as well as developing a couple more surprises he has up his sleeve for this new year.
His current three properties – The Reef, El Pulpo and Funky Garcia’s – all nestle around that one busy corner of the Gaslamp, offering casual eats and drinks at great quality and value.
The Reef Bar, anchoring the trio at 556 Fourth Avenue, offers a surfer / beach bar style scheme, with surfboards and kayaks mounted on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, LCD screens with videos and music playing from open to close, 16 beer taps, and at 67 feet – boasts the longest bar in San Diego, according to Sadighian.
Around the corner is El Pulpo, Sadighian’s latest endeavor, a Mexican seafood restaurant at 415 Market. “We are the first restaurant to bring authentic Mexican seafood to the Gaslamp,” Sadighian said, and when he brags that his food is fresh, he means it. “We have no freezers in house,” he said. “We don’t believe in freezers. “
El Pulpo is also the kitchen that supports hungry Reef dwellers with a full menu at their table. Reef happy hour or late night customers can also satisfy their hunger pangs by a quick trip through that secret passage to the neon lights of El Pulpo’s, where they can grab a stool at the bar and watch the chefs go to work or take over a nearby table with friends.
“We take pride in our food, our freshness, taste, authenticity – all our fish is wild caught and brought in from Baja.” Sticking local for the shellfish since it can’t be imported, Sadighian said despite the exceptionally low prices, the oysters they serve come from Blue Point Coastal Cuisine.
One of the things on El Pulpo’s menu you don’t often find stateside is a whole fried fish, which takes 15 minutes to make, and also comes charbroiled with an adobo marinade. Ceviche and fish burritos are popular menu items, as well.
Next to El Pulpo at 421 Market in the historic Sun Café building is Funky Garcia’s, Sadighian’s traditional Mexican restaurant and bar, now in its fourth year of operation. You can’t find $1.50 beers anywhere else, according to Sadighian.
“We want to blend into the community,” Sadighian said. “We are more hip to the regulars than the tourists. People come in for lunch or after work dressed in suits, jeans and even flip-flops. Casual is the big thing over here.”
Sadighisian shares ownership of the restaurants with Alberto Macias, owner of A&M Rehab Construction, although he is the hand-on, “boots on the ground” day-to-day management member of the team while Macias takes on other roles.
Their likenesses are emblazoned on the wall at Funky’s and in the secret passage, which shows the fun the two put into their jobs.
Having these restaurants in such close proximity is not seen as a problem to them, especially since they offer such different menus and environments.
“The people that go to Funky’s don’t come to The Reef,” Sadighisian said. “Funky’s is not that big and is home for a lot of people. We have the best happy hour Downtown.
“Funky’s was originally geared towards locals, which includes distant locals not just those that live Downtown,” he continued. “The economy has changed. People can’t afford the one tablecloth dinner restaurant anymore. We offer affordable quality food and make it available to the bar-hopping crowds that enjoy the Gaslamp.”
Sadighian’s previous venture, Tabule on Fifth Avenue, was also popular but he said that property (currently closed) is reopening in February as the “New Yorker,” a New York style pizza restaurant with a full bar. A little further down the road Sadighian et al will be opening The Standard at 536 Fifth Avenue, next to Burger Lounge and under the Lincoln Hotel.
“Consider Barleymash meets Side Bar,” he said when describing the new venue that will take a leap from typical bar food scene, offering instead an American contemporary menu that he hasn’t released yet. He expects the Standard to open in late March or early April, making his five-property diversity of dining and drinking options within the popular Gaslamp Quarter complete.
To learn more about El Pulpo, The Reef, and Funky Garcia’s, including their fresh food options, standard and late night happy hours, nightly specials and more, visit elpulpo.com and scroll to the bottom to reach the other locations’ websites.