“Curadero” may not mean much outside of the downtown San Diego Kimpton, but within its lobby-side, mural-strewn walls, the neologism signifies top-quality Cali-Baja cuisine, inspired cocktails, choice drafts, 80+ premium Mexican spirits (including mezcal, bacanora, sotol, and, of course, tequila), Valle de Guadalupe wines, and an alleyway atmosphere in the comfort and luxury of a boutique hotel.
1047 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
“The name is a play on curandera, or a Mexican folk healer,” says general manager Casey Jones. “Where is the house of healing? The curadero.”
It’s akin to Tijuana’s popular Los Remedios — a diner and michelada fountain meant to stand in defiance of (and thereby only prolonging) hangovers — except it’s upscale and of much better quality. Bottles of charcoal lemonade and aloe vera juice sit on the bar as lead bartender Jade Boyd explores potions garnished with seasonal ingredients for the fall menu. Across the barrio-chic restaurant — designed by interior architects Studio Unltd. and decorated by Mexican muralist Neuzz — the Crudo Bar prepares ornate, raw-seafood dishes at the hands of executive chef Brad Kraten and sous chef Emiliano Najera.
Upstairs in the Arriba Room, late-night patrons sip cocktails around coin-free classic arcade games and order snacks from a brick-bound taco window spackled with graffiti. It feels set apart, dangerless, sophisticated, and even homely by the time you reach the private party room with exposed wood beams and cozy furniture. Casey calls it “an escape from the madness of Gaslamp,” and that’s about right.
Having opened in April following Saltbox’s five-year tenure, Curadero’s happy hour (3 to 6 daily) highlights Tijuana bar and street snacks such as cacahuates, chicharrones de harina, papas de carrito, guacamole con totopos, ensalada curadero (fruit salad), and, best of all, orders of two chicken tinga (stewed bird) tacos or beef suadero (juicy braised short rib, and plenty of it) tacos for six bucks. Oh, and several killer $8 cocktails.
But let’s turn over to the specialty menu, where the Luna de Playa ($14) shimmers with El Jimador blanco, Hendrick’s gin, a guanabana rum liqueur, lemon, agave, and — check this out — 1/4 ounce of creme de violet. The ionone in the violet binds to scent receptors, masking the flower just moments after you sense it, leaving a tug-of-war between citric acid and floral powder, in which citrus wins, to nip at the taste buds amid ghost notes of distant bouquet. It’s really quite the cure.
Prices: Beer, $6–$8; cocktails, $8–$14; wine, $9–$14.
Food: Classy Cali-Baja
Hours: Restaurant, 7 a.m.–10 p.m.; Taco Window, Th-Sa 9 p.m.–1 a.m.; Bar: M–F 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sa–Su 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Happy: Daily 3–6 p.m.
Parking: Downtown... good luck
Capacity: Sits about 40 downstairs, 30 upstairs.
The Deal: $8 Mule of the Week during happy hour