The latest launch from the Cohn Restaurant Group is a reinvention of their DIY steakhouse, La Jolla Strip Club into the recently opened craft beer and sausage house Draft Republic.
Operations manager James Stephenson says that he and the CRG wanted to broaden the appeal of the space, so instead of an interactive grill station where diners cook their own meat, there are now bar games, from ping-pong to foosball and shuffleboard, to get people active and mingling in the open space, given a makeover by design dynamo Philippe Beltran into an appealing Americana-style gastropub.
Draft Republic's executive chef, San Diego-newcomer Mike Camplin, is a Kiwi whose culinary resume includes private cheffing on yachts, working on a Virginia farm and cooking in several New York City kitchens. Recently, Camplin spent a year in the Midwest as the head butcher, charcuterie and sausage-maker at the James Beard-nominated Heartland restaurant and was named a finalist in the charcuterie category of the 2014 Good Food Awards, which honors sustainable artisan food.
Camplin intends to make as much as he can on-site, from pickles to beer mustard, and has repurposed the restaurant's old keg cooler into a curing chamber where he's crafting a in-house meat program that includes bacon, prosciutto and lomo, a dry-cured pork tenderloin. His new bar food, but better, menu includes flatbread topped with housemade sausage, beer-brined chicken, housemade pasta and a platter of pork that includes pork shank terrine, smoked kielbasa, bacon and pulled pork.
A new cold box fuels 36 beer taps and 4 taps pouring kegged cocktails; if you're indecisive, you can spin a roulette wheel and get a $1 off whatever drink you land on.
Draft Republic serves lunch and dinner daily, plus Sunday brunch and a daily 2 to 6 p.m. social (happy) hour.