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Best of San Diego: Food & Nightlife

BY The Editors | January 6, 2017 | Feature Features

Be it an inspiring gallery, an innovative new food hall or an exuberant comeback, in San Diego creativity is thriving like never before. Here's a look at the people and places responsible for putting S.D. in the global spotlight for 2017 and beyond.
David Spatafore's Blue Bridge Hospitality is also known for popular restaurants Leroy's, Stake Chophouse & Bar and more.

Blue Bridge Hospitality’s David Spatafore changes S.D.’s culinary scene with Liberty Public Market.

“I think the social aspect is attracting people to Liberty Public Market,” says David Spatafore, the food hall’s founder and project principal. “You’re not bound to one seat, one table or one reservation. It’s fluid—you walk around. Everybody gets something that they are looking for. It fits all molds, not just one thing.” Since opening last March, the market has seen great success thanks to its 30 vendors, like Wicked Maine Lobster and Crafted Baked Goods, but Spatafore—who’s spent the better part of the year evaluating what’s working well and what could work better—is looking to evolve LMP into the best it can be. This December, the S.D. native made the tough decision to close Liberty Public Market’s fine dining restaurant, Mess Hall, in order to open the space to additional vendors. “Inspired by the format of the Pine Street Market in Portland and confirmed by the various bars within La Boqueria in Barcelona, I recognized that we could still take a more elevated approach to our restaurant’s culinary program while integrating the format of the surrounding market and increasing common areas,” says Spatafore. “The more casual approach to in-market dining is simply a better fit with the way Liberty Public Market is used by our guests.” Thus, the space that was once Mess Hall now houses three distinct eateries: Mess Hall Bar, a fast-casual rebirth of the former eatery, offering its greatest hits like the cauliflower steak, and fish and chips; Grape Smuggler Bar, which relocated its outpost within the market and will offer an extensive wine list alongside a tapas menu; and Pi Bar, which serves up two-foot-long Roman-style pizzas. “Making [these] changes is a fun position to be in,” says Spatafore. “Before the market opened, I felt like we were selling a dream that no one could see, touch or feel. Now, we have people coming to us who want to be a part of this. We have to find space for them and find the right mix of [vendors] and people.” Liberty Public Market, 2820 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, 619.487.9346

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