Cheeseboard Chris dreams of cheese (inset)
  • Cheeseboard Chris dreams of cheese (inset)
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Turquoise Cellars

5026 Cass Street, Pacific Beach

You wouldn’t guess it from their island-style coffee-shop façade, but beyond the organic drip java and veggie wraps lies a top-notch wine and beer bar with selections meant to be paired with their eclectic, globally minded cuisine. Turquoise Coffee was opened in 2005 by Chicago native Eddie Okino and relocated to its current location in December of 2012. With the move came the addition of Turquoise Cellars (keeping the name of its original block in north P.B.), which offers nearly 100 international vintages and 12 rotating brews highlighting suds from the West Coast, Colorado, Belgium, Germany, and beyond.

Here, everyone is a master of their craft with license to experiment and share ideas. Despite the high-end (but fairly priced) fare, the crew seems more apt to exchange high-fives than stiff nods. Hosts Rafael and Katie talk about each wine as if it were their own child, delicately cradling each bottle as they list off their achievements and unparalleled terroir. House fromager, a Wisconsin native nicknamed Cheeseboard Chris, is so obsessed with coagulated casein that he actually dreams about new arrangements, and it shows in his work. A variety of cheeses from Venissimo — gouda and aged sage Derby among them — form a golden spiral garnished with honeycomb, candied almonds, sliced apple and strawberry, and his own apple pie and strawberry jams.

Back in the kitchen, chef Taylor Martin-Funk personifies the place’s laid-back yet refined feel. At 25 years old, Taylor looks like the kind of dude you’d bump into on the boardwalk headed for the surf on a Sunday morning. Radiating a young, fun, and free vibe, Taylor studied the culinary arts in Denver and was later an apprentice of chef J. Michael Melton in Oakland.

Now, drawing on his world travels and local favorites, Taylor turns out dishes such as a fried squash blossom served on a green tomato with a dollop of burrata. The plantain-quinoa patty is inspired by staples of Peru and Brazil, while the glazed ham hock on top alludes to the chicharrones of Colombia’s bandeja paisa.

Around 7 p.m., a woman with curly blond summer locks hops on the keys and serenades the bustling venue with Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” and NIN’s “Hurt.” Her angelic voice demands a close listen as much as it facilitates breezy conversation. The place is humming. Everything is alive. This is Turquoise Cellars in its quintessence.

  • Prices: pints, $5–$9; wine $6+
  • Capacity: 50
  • Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 5–10 pm; Closed Sunday & Monday
  • Happy: 5–6:30 pm daily, $3 pints, $5 glasses of wine
  • Food: Fine international fusion at beach bum cost
  • Cards: Yes
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