Karina’s Cantina opens in the Gaslamp this weekend in the Fifth Avenue space that last housed the fast-casual Tocaya Organica. Once home to tapas bar and dance club Ole Madrid, the multilevel space was purchased and fully remodeled by the Karina’s Group, which owns a number of Mexican seafood restaurants throughout San Diego and also operates longtime spots like Saffron in Middletown and the Gaslamp’s Taka Sushi.
Partner David Contreras Curiel, whose parents founded the restaurant group in the early 1980s, says the family is thrilled to be returning to downtown after closing a location on B Street in 2016.
An evolution of the restaurant and bar that they opened in La Jolla last year, and Curiel says he hopes Karina’s Cantina will serve as a gateway to the local Mexican food scene as visitors and party-goers return to the Gaslamp. Featuring new dishes and the most popular items from Karina’s large-scale South Bay restaurants, from seafood cocktails and ceviches to Puerto Nuevo-style lobster, the nearly 7,000-square-foot venue boasts a 50-foot bar with custom tequila lockers, multiple dining and lounge areas, private event spaces, and a mezzanine where DJs and bands will be in regular rotation.