Chef Wade Hageman might be the biggest restaurant employer in Encinitas. Together with wife Kristi, Hageman owns and operates the farm-to-table Blue Ribbon Pizzeria on S. Coast Highway 101 and the gastropub Craftsman Tavern on N. El Camino Real. The neighborhood residents’ latest contribution to their coastal North County community is a sprawling complex of food and drink concepts spanning 7,000-square-feet of Moonlight Plaza, located just across the street from the well-trafficked Moonlight Beach.
Last year, Hageman took over the site vacated by El Callejon when the longtime Mexican restaurant lost its lease. In its place, debuting this Thursday, is Open House which holds a variety of complementary chef-driven bars and eateries. Fueled by two kitchens, the 274-capacity space is anchored by Asian Kitchen, led executive chef Marlaw Seraspi who worked with Hageman when he headed up Blanca in Solana Beach and has been a longtime collaborator. Also back in the fold is Andrew Santana, another former Blanca chef who most recently worked at Campfire in Carlsbad.
The menu for Asian Kitchen features the chefs’ interpretation of some of their favorite Asian dishes, from poke to yakitori and ramen; the chef’s special ramen is based on smoked bacon dashi with chashu pork, braised pork belly and spicy ground pork. Seraspi’s Filipino heritage is reflected by fried lumpia and a coconut vinegar-cured raw fish dish called kinilaw, but there’s also wasabi deviled eggs, black garlic fried rice, Hawaiian-style smoked short ribs and hot honey-dipped fried chicken.
Flanking Open House’s entryway are two stand-alone bars; the larger, dubbed Driftwood, serves interpretations on classic cocktails and offers the full Asian Kitchen menu while a more intimate bar called Saltwater will have its own distinct food offerings and a bar program centered around over 70 varieties of tequila.
Beginning this Thursday, Open House will starting serving at 4 p.m., with lunch and weekend brunch to follow. In a month, Hageman says he will introduce Saltwater’s food program, ranging from noodles to a raw bar staffed by the chef himself. The ever-changing seafood plates, including sashimi, crudo, ceviche, oysters and more, will only be available to bar diners. Other things to come include the debut of a private dining room and the launch of an on-site fast-casual burger concept called The Crafty, offering hand-crafted burgers to-go or for dine-in service based on the burgers from Craftsman Tavern’s menu.