“D Bar” could be a terrific name for a ranch in Texas. It would make a recognizable brand on the sides of beef on the panhandle. But it is neither of those.
“D Bar” is the name of one of the exciting new restaurants to open in San Diego in the past year. Keegan Gerhard, a highly recognized pastry chef, opened up a second “D Bar” in Hillcrest, following up on his successful similar operation in Denver. He heard about the available space from Colorado friends, who opened Snooze, a breakfast and lunch eatery next door. He jumped at it.
Why San Diego? Why Hillcrest? “Coming to San Diego has been our dream for years. Hillcrest is the up and coming area of the city. Downtown, the Gaslamp, La Jolla and the rest has seen development. Hillcrest is where the future is going,” he confided. Gerhard went on to list the ten or so other restaurants that have opened up in the same block during the past year.
Keegan Gerhard was named one of the nation’s top 10 pastry chefs of 2002 and 2004 by both Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design magazines. He has worked as pastry chef with Charlie Trotters Restaurant, the Waldorf Astoria and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and also as Executive Pastry Chef of Four Seasons Chicago and Executive Assistant Pastry Chef of Wynn Las Vegas.
On television, he has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of America, and on Food Network and CNN. He served as technical advisor to Team USA 2001 Pastry World Cup, which won a gold medal. He taught his skills at Johnson & Wales University, has been honored widely by leading culinary magazines.
This is a family affair. Gerhard met Lisa Bailey, a renowned pastry chef who trained at the Art Institute of Houston and subsequently worked at major restaurants. They met in France and magic happened outside the kitchen. They are now married and working together. What is it like to share the kitchen with Lisa? “It works well. We each have our own areas of responsibility and don’t get in each other’s way,” Gerhard continued.
The large restaurant is beautifully, if simply, designed. The clean, long lines and enormously high ceilings create a sense of volume and space, accented by pleasing colors. A skylight illuminates the ceiling. Large windows in front bring in more light and can be raised up in the evenings so that the whole front of the building is open to cool evening breezes. A welcoming bar runs along one side of the interior and a long “open” dessert kitchen runs along the other. The comfortable patio near the front door is “pet friendly.”
Food offerings are almost personal. “We serve what we like to eat,” Gerhard revealed. He disclosed that one of the things he enjoys about San Diego is the tremendous availability of fresh produce, meats and seafood. “I love shopping at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, where real farmers show up with their goods. And there is Chino Farms nearby and so many more.”
There are two distinct menus, one for food and, of course, another for desserts. The dinner menu begins with “everything taste better with bacon,” which is incorporated into such appetizers as “d bar dates” with organic medjool dates and “crue fries” with melted jack cheese. Salads are described as “on the greener side of things” and include “grilled ceasar” with baby romaine and garlic croutons and “vert salad” with watercress and arugula. I strongly recommend “avos, avos, avos” for avocado lovers. The dish presents avocado three ways — sliced avocado, avocado puree with goat cheese, and an amazing shredded avocado flavored filo dough wrapping to a slice of avocado.
Entrees (listed as “grab a fork, maybe a knife”) offer choices of meat and fish. Salmon is grilled, halibut is pan roasted. Spaghetti and meatballs, with romano and heirloom tomato, taste practically homemade. The pork porterhouse is a large portion accompanied by tasty fingerling potato and topped by a delectable cherry barbeque sauce.
Don’t forget to leave room for dessert! There is something for every taste. Cake and shake combines amazing chocolate cake with chocolate shake (or vanilla, raspberry or a malted). Harlequin souffle combines vanilla and raspberry, raspberry sorbet, and crème fraiche.
D Bar offers an opportunity to experience good food and amazing desserts created by a great pastry chef, all at wonderfully moderate prices. And, in addition, happy hour specials – Tuesday through Sunday 3 to 6 pm (Nibbles & Sips) – make it even more affordable. D Bar is located at 3930 Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest. Call 619-299-3227 for more information.