Swagyu gets underway in the former Isabel’s space in Pacific Beach today and is the first large-format local restaurant for chef Steve Brown — the culmination of five years of roving pop-up dinners and several stops and starts for the Imperial Beach native since he moved back to San Diego in 2016.
Known for his wagyu beef tasting dinners, Brown shifted to the retail side during the pandemic and launched a butcher shop in the South Bay and later in Poway which in turn spawned a wagyu beef burger concept that has developed a cult following.
All of those endeavors are now under one roof on Felspar Street, where the first phase of the project spans a counter-service restaurant, butcher shop, and bar serving sake, beer, and wine. In addition to Brown’s popular smashburger and nitro potatoes, the menu will include a $40 katsu burger. Featuring a four ounce, panko-crusted A5 wagyu New York strip steak served with secret umami sauce on a brioche bun, it’ll start as a Pacific Beach exclusive but will eventually be available at Swagyu Burger in IB.
Currently operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, the restaurant will expand its hours in few weeks when its casual steakhouse component is activated. Swagyu will be cooking up any of the wagyu steaks in its butcher counter at half the price of luxury steakhouses and serving up sides and other bites like yakiniku skewers and seasonal bao buns. The space will also host Brown’s continuing Cosecha pop-up dinner series, and he and executive chef Nate Horton will be offering a wagyu tasting at a reservation-only, 10-person chef’s table in the kitchen.
Brown tells Eater that he’s planning on opening more of these burger bar, butcher shop, and steakhouse combos, and has already secured another location in Encinitas.