I believe public markets should be a permanent fixture in every city in the US so I was incredibly excited when I heard San Diego would be getting its own public market concept. Liberty Public Market opened in March in Point Loma’s Liberty Station, a Naval Training Center turned mixed-use development with restaurants, art galleries, and green space. The project was spearheaded by David Spatafore of Blue Bridge Hospitality, a group that operates a number of successful restaurants on Coronado. He’s done a fabulous job here recruiting a number of excellent local vendors from an artisanal butcher to a small batch coffee roaster and creating a space that feels light and bright but stays true to its roots. Here are my five favorite things about the market.
Spatafore visited virtually ever major food hall/public market concept in the US and many in other countries when coming up with his vision for a San Diego market and he really tried to keep in mind function as well as aesthetics. “We went to the market on Granville Island in Vancouver in July and it was prime season and we bought berries and grapes and we wanted to eat it right there, but we had to go into the dirty bathroom to wash it off,” he recalls. In the 22,000 square foot San Diego Market he’s added a large kitchen grade wash station so people can wash fruits and vegetables. Every vendor has hot water piped into their station, and each one has prep and storage space on site, something many markets in the US don’t offer, so nothing has to be made in another location and brought it.
Liberty Station is located in San Diego’s former Naval Training Center. The center was built in 1923 and was the US Navy’s first foot hold in Southern, California. On a side note–scenes from Top Gun were filmed here in the 1980s. The collection of salmon-colored Spanish Colonial buildings with outdoor covered walkways and large inner courtyards is one of the most pleasant places to spend an afternoon or evening in San Diego. The market is located in the center’s former mess hall where sailor’s would have taken their meals. The space has an industrial feel with vaulted wood ceilings, exposed pipes and a concrete floor. In the section where you’ll find Mess Hall restaurant and the beer bar Bottlecraft don’t forget to admire the original murals depicting Naval ships.
Mess Hall is the Restaurant San Diego’s Been Missing
In addition to the wonderful vendors in the market selling everything from lobster rolls to empanadas the market-driven Mess Hall restaurant serves the best local ingredients, many sourced from the market in dishes like a rustic strawberry tart, Merguez sausage and labneh pizza and chicken and dumplings with juicy Jidori chicken and and an aromatic broth infused with Lapsang Souchong tea.
Liberty Station is San Diego’s Most Exciting Neighborhood
In addition to the market nearly a dozen new retail, restaurant and hospitality-driven concepts from San Diego’s most progressive entrepreneurs will be opening soon in Liberty Station including Buona Forchetta, a wood-fired pizza restaurant, The Lot, a cinema, restaurant and bar and Moniker General, a take on a general store featuring a coffee shop and home goods from San Diego’s most innovative designers. Great places to visit that already exist in Liberty Station include Con Pané, Soda & Swine, Fireside by the Patio and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
The Market’s Wine Bar is a Hidden Gem
Tucked in a light filled space in a back corner of the market is Grape Smuggler a wine bar run by Greg Majors. Majors worked for Tom Colicchio’s Craft Restaurant, and Chef Marco Canora & Sommelier Paul Grieco’s former Insieme before become the beverage director for Blue Bridge Hospitality. The 800 square-foot space offers wines by the glass, daily tastings and flights. The cellar houses approximately 5,000 bottles with 500 selections from all areas of the globe so you can purchase anything from a mineral and crisp Sancerre to a cellar-worthy Barolo.
2820 Historic Decatur Rd
San Diego, CA 92106