Chef Steve Brown found success during the pandemic when, forced to pause his Cosecha pop-up dinners last summer, he pivoted to open a butcher shop in his hometown of Imperial Beach. His ongoing obsession with wagyu beef spurred the creation of Swagyu Burger, based on his signature smashburgers, which has proved to be so popular that Brown is launching a food truck to increase its reach in San Diego and Orange County; it’ll make its debut this Sunday, May 9 at the Poway branch of Swagyu Chop Shop, which is close to being USDA-certified to serve as an shipping center for nationwide sales of Swagyu’s steaks as well as wagyu beef jerky.
Swagyu Burger is even making its way to the islands of Maui and Honolulu, where it’ll join Hawaii’s contingent of food pods.
Closer to home, Brown has just officially acquired Isabel’s in Pacific Beach, which will serve as the flagship location for the burger joint and butcher shop. The longtime Felspar Street restaurant is owned by chef and cookbook author Isabel Cruz, who allowed Brown to use the space for outdoor dinners and as a pop-up butcher shop the over the course of the last year.
Cruz, who is embarking on a remodel of her La Jolla cafe, the Coffee Cup, shared, “After 20-plus years doing what I love, I’ve decided (after a devastating year for our industry) to have Steve Brown expand his concept in the space. I believe in Steve and his food is amazing — I will do everything I can to support him. I am grateful for having had the privilege of serving this amazing community and look forward to this next chapter.”
Aiming to reopen by early June, Brown is splitting the restaurant into two sections. One side will house the butcher shop as well as a burger bar offering wine, sake, and beer — local beer, of course, but also a wide variety of Japanese beer imported from the same prefectures where the chef sources his wagyu beef. In addition to Swagyu’s smashburger and nitro potatoes, the menu will include a katsu burger made with a panko-crusted Kagoshima A5 wagyu beef tenderloin and diners will also be able to choose any steak from the meat counter and have it cooked up for 25 percent more than the retail price. The other side of the space will be a dining room dedicated to Brown’s 12-course wagyu tastings, which restart on May 29.
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