The original facade of the iconic Army-Navy YMCA building on Broadway remains, but inside, the historic downtown site has been completely transformed into boutique hotel called The Guild that houses a new restaurant and cocktail bar. Designed by Sormeh Rienne, the eight-floor, 162-room hotel is part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio though its developer, Oram Hotels, and operator, Azul Hospitality Group, are both local companies.
Leading Luca, its main restaurant, is executive chef Justin Vaiciunas, who will also oversee all food and beverage for the hotel. A native of Detroit, Vaiciunas graduated from the culinary arts program at Schoolcraft and cooked in Chicago and Salt Lake City before heading to Miami, where his most recent post was at The Local House on Ocean Drive. His menu draws flavors and techniques from the cuisines along the Mediterranean sea, which is similar in climate to the San Diego area. Local ingredients factor into dishes like scallops with preserved lemon, chive aioli, and brown butter risotto and pork tenderloin, with goat cheese, chocolate mushroom sauce, herb pesto, and katafi. Later next month, the chef intends to start offering seven course tasting menu dinners on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, that will vary in concept and scope and be limited to just 20 diners.
Luca’s dining room is unique in that every seat is outside; its primary dining room is a plant-filled, 70-seat central courtyard off the lobby with additional tables on a large back patio called Grace Garden; the 40-seat garden space will also offer an express lunch menu for guests and area office workers. Happy hour and weekend brunch are in the works. The lobby also features The Guild Bar, which is open all day until 11 p.m. serving Intelligentsia Coffee and cocktails.