By Erin Jackson, Photos by Bhadri Kubendran
From the first day it opened for business, Liberty Public Market has made a big splash in the local culinary scene. The first project of its kind in San Diego, the ambitious concept has attracted visitors from all corners of the county and nurtured the growth of several independent operators. One year in, Liberty Public Market is as vibrant as ever, with new vendors, new concepts, and some serious pastry talent. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest developments at San Diego’s first food hall.
Updates to Mess Hall
The most obvious change is the complete reconfiguration and redesign of Mess Hall, which originally launched as a full-service restaurant. In the new setup, there’s more open seating and the space has been divided into three unique concepts: Mess Hall Bar, Pi Bar, and Grape Smuggler Bar—all helmed by Executive Chef Tim Kolanko and Beverage Director Greg Majors.
Mess Hall Bar is a casual reincarnation of the original restaurant where diners feast on an all-day menu of market-sourced fare like Fried Chicken, Beer-Battered Fish, and soup made with in-season produce. At Grape Smuggler, the stylish wine bar in the market’s eastern dining hall, guests sip wines from artisanal vineyards alongside a selection of tapas and gourmet cheese and charcuterie boards. True to its name, Pi Bar serves up a selection of pot pies, hand pies, and pizza. Instead of the standard circular configuration, the shop offers wood-fired pizza al taglio, a rectangular variety from Rome that’s available as a two-foot-long pie or by the slice. Variations include chef-styled creations like the Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Fresh Ricotta, plus more traditional varieties, like a Red Sauce Pie with guanciale and fresh mozzarella.
Recent additions to the market include Lolli San Diego Sweets, a colorful candy shop bursting with bins of salt water taffy, cotton candy, English toffee, and a selection of local and imported chocolates. For a hearty lunch or dinner, Roast is a prime pick. The Canadian import (whose other location is housed in the Victoria Public Market) offers a tempting selection of sandwiches, roast meat, rotisserie chicken, and sides that you can enjoy onsite, or take home to feed a hungry horde. Phô 5th Avenue also recently launched a counter-service location with an enticing menu of Vietnamese favorites like vermicelli noodle bowls, bánh mì, stir-fried dishes, and their famous filet mignon phô. Other enticing options opening soon include Olala Crêpes, a French-influenced crêperie (and farmers’ market favorite); Smoothie Rider, a “farm-to-cup” smoothie shop serving up health-conscious fare with seasonal fruit; and Saganaki, a destination for pan-fried bites and Mediterranean-style wraps and Greek yogurt bowls by the team behind Meze Greek Fusion.
New Pastry Team at Crafted Baked Goods
If you appreciate the sweeter things in life, make sure your visit to Liberty Public Market includes a stop at Crafted Baked Goods. Blue Bridge Hospitality recently tapped two of the city’s top pastry chefs to supply sweets to the bustling bakery (along with their restaurant properties, including Stake Chophouse & Bar and Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge in Coronado). Executive Pastry Chef Lori Sauer (formerly of George’s at the Cove) and Pastry Sous Chef Rygie Dy (formerly of Bottega Americano) are rolling out a dazzling slate of goodies, including Orange Creamsicle Cake (sold by the slice) and Melting Moments (sweet cookies with a lemon buttercream center).