The sought-after, multi-lot site at the northeastern corner of 30th and University that’s been vacant for years won’t sit empty for too much longer as an enormous new restaurant and bar has just begun construction in the space. Ringing in at 4,600-square-feet and due to be completed in February 2023, this will be Death By Tequila’s third location in San Diego and its most ambitious yet.
Originally opened in Encinitas in 2018 by a team that included “Top Chef” alum Angelo Sosa, Death By Tequila was acquired during the early part of the pandemic by Empress Restaurant Group, which also runs the Hen House, a tapas-style brunch spot in Crown Point, along with Crafted Culture in Sabre Springs and Escondido microroaster Leap Coffee. In 2021, the group converted Madero’s, their former tequila bar at the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch in Carmel Valley, into a second outpost of the modern Mexican restaurant.
Telling Eater that he and Empress founder and CEO Jimmy Langley regard Death By Tequila as their flagship brand, COO Joey Pena says they intend to open several more locations in San Diego beyond the North Park project.
With 165 seats, the restaurant will have floor-to-ceiling windows and an indoor/outdoor bar set right on its most high-trafficked corner; extending above the cocktail bar, which will have 12 beer taps and margaritas on tap, will be multi-tiered shelves on a pulley system stocked with a large range of tequila and agave spirits.
The 75-seat bar and lounge area will be able to be partitioned off from the dining room, staying open late into the night with DJ entertainment on weekends as well as live music.
While its menu, which ranges from ceviche and aguachile to tacos on homemade blue corn tortillas and dishes like octopus with recado negro, a Yucatecan spice paste, and Baja striped sea bass al pastor will carry over, the group’s executive chef Josue Baca-Gutierrez tells Eater that he’s planning on expanding the menu to add more composed plates, including tomahawk steaks, tableside items, and brunch; in North Park, his glassed-in kitchen will also feature a raw bar. Born and raised in Mexicali, Baca-Gutierrez staged at Pujol in Mexico City, cooked for celebrity chef Michael Mina, and worked at the St. Regis Dana Point as well as the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.