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If at first you don't succeed...shut down, board up the joint, and overhaul into something different. This scenario plays out all the time in the restaurant industry.

Owners think they have what a neighborhood needs and open a business to fill a void, only to find out they were way off. Turns out, Community X didn't need a neo Filipino-Creole gastro lounge.

Other times, restaurateurs stick with an untenable concept, riding it like a gourmet food truck from cradle to grave.

Chris Sayre, owner of Taco Banh (an eatery I foretold of and Ian Pike was able to dine at during its short life) decided not to be one of a member of that faction when he made the decision last week to mash on the brake pedal, closing down his spot for bahn and tacos stuffed with Asian-inspired fillings.

He's in the process of transforming it into a different concept. Stop me if you've heard this before, but his new project, Urban Eats, will be a local eatery offering classics and twists on traditional dishes made using locally-sourced and ingredients from places like Specialty Produce and Niman Ranch.

I appreciate that, instead of having to write up a new sentence to describe this business, I merely had to go into the My Documents folder on my laptop and copy-paste the description I keep on file to describe 90% of the new eateries that have debuted in San Diego over the past three years.

What might be more surprising is that I appreciate the fact Sayre recognized he'd either made a mistake, wasn't producing a dining experience that was up to expectations, or wasn't appealing to customers for a number of reasons.

He turned the Titanic around before getting within striking distance of an iceberg.Though Urban Eats may be based in an overdone concept, it will likely appeal more to inner-city dwellers who enjoy supporting dining establishments that support local producers.

The new dinner menu reads eclectic with its touches of Asian, Polynesian and Americana, and made up of starters, salads, sandwiches, and entrées. The restaurant will offer lunch and a happy hour menu available from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Urban Eats is slated to open in late March. Should that ambitious debut date be met, you can check out this 180 transformation at 3850 Fifth Avenue.

Pictured: Niman Ranch sausage

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Ian Pike March 21, 2012 @ 5:27 p.m.

Well, that was anticlimactic! I had felt like Taco Banh might have had a chance to carve out a little niche for itself. It was a slim chance, given the doubtlessly skyhigh rents and tough competition in the neighborhood, but a chance is a chance. I would surmise that the, as you said, "overdone" concept would have less likelihood of succeeding despite the fact that there still seems to be a lot of marketability left in the word "local."

Also, it never ceases to amaze me that restaurateurs (and other business owners) neglect to run their copy by a proofreader.


92103fan March 24, 2012 @ 11:02 a.m.

This site used to be the Caffe Vergnano 1882 Italian coffee place, and we looked in frequently as it got remodeled into Taco Banh, spoke to the new operators, and even picked up a menu the day it opened. My impression is that Taco Banh was open for less than a week and then closed for the next two weeks "to remodel to create a full bar," as we were told. Then it re-opened, apparently as Urban Eats just a few days ago with the new menu. Taco Banh in Hillcrest must have had the shortest run as a restaurent in SD history.


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