Anthem Vegan recently closed its first sit-down restaurant in North Park after just a year in business, but the homegrown brand will soon make a neighborhood comeback under a new partnership with beer haven Toronado.
Anthem, which started as an area farmer’s market vendor in 2013, gained a steady following for its comfort foods built with plant-based meat alternatives. Its brick-and-mortar venture on El Cajon Boulevard didn’t pan out because its menu was way too big, Anthem Vegan owner Patrick Murray tells Eater. He’s since introduced a pared-down lineup at Anthem’s shared cafe operation in Chula Vista and says the smaller menu has been received well.
Its new North Park location inside Toronado (4026 30th Street), called Anthem on 30th, will also serve a short list of the brand’s best sellers like its fries-and-fried “chik’n” tossed in house buffalo sauce, Philly cheesesteak sandwich, and avocado ranch “chik’n” wrap. The setup is expected to be up and running by Wednesday, April 17.
It turns out Toronado owner Ian Black and Murray go way back in San Diego’s bar scene. They first met in 2005 while working at Mission Beach’s Liar’s Club, an early pioneer in San Diego’s craft beer boom. Murray was one of the first bartenders Black hired when he opened Toronado in 2008 as a spinoff of the legendary San Francisco location.
“We do have a long history — that’s part of what makes it feel right,” Black tells Eater.
Black reveals he’s struggled over the years to marry Toronado’s core beer business of 56 draft lines and over 100 bottles with a strong and consistent food component.
“We have had problems in our kitchen for quite a while — it’s hard out there,” he says.
His in-house menu’s jumped from higher-end bar snacks to California cuisine, most recently settling on a scarce lineup of chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and mac and cheese.
He found out Anthem Vegan was closing via its Instagram post, and the conversation to work together again moved along fast. Black caught a glimpse of his work ethic while Murray ran a weekend pop-up across the street from Toronado until 2016.
“He was there late at night and I realized how motivated he was,” says Black.
Black admits his expertise lies in the beer and bar side of his business, and letting Anthem hold down the kitchen means he’ll have more time to source in-demand beers from across the country.
“I wanted to give someone else an opportunity to do the food they want and I can focus on the beer. It allows both of us to keep doing what we want to do in the face of rising costs and labor,” he says.
Anthem’s food will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Sunday. Murray hopes to bring back brunch in the future, which was the busiest meal at his short-lived restaurant. He also plans to also revive its expanded offerings like its pulled “porque” sandwich and bowls as specials. Programming in the works at Anthem’s new home includes hosting special beer collaboration dinners.
“Our food definitely goes hand-in-hand with beer,” says Murray.