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Local nightlife, restaurant developer raise the bar on design

Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine have received acclaim for its design aesthetic as well as its menus. Photo by Zack Benson/Courtesy of H2 Public Relations

If you haven’t visited Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine since the restaurant and bar opened a little over a year ago, then you are missing out on one of University Heights’ most successful and uniquely designed establishments.

If you have tried the meatballs at Soda & Swine or sipped on one of Polite Provisions’ signature cocktails such as the punchbowl, then you know each visit feels like a new experience, thanks to its seasonal food and drink menus.

Nathan Stanton and Arsalun Tafazoli, founders and managing partners of Consortium Holdings, which own Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine, will be changing things up again with the addition of a new skylight.

Paul Basile, principal and owner of Basile Studio, whose company was in charge of designing and renovating both establishments, said the skylight is going to open up at Polite Provisions; Soda & Swine doesn’t have a roof.

Basile said they will install cast-iron arms and gears that will push the window of the roof open vertically, like a clamshell, to allow for natural sunlight and air into Polite Provisions. The new skylight is slated to open next spring.

“We are really excited about this,” Basile said. “In San Diego we have such great weather all the time and the owners felt like they need to take advantage of where we live.”

The new skylight is just one of the many uncommon design elements of both Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine. Basile Studio has been acknowledged for its creative reuse of an existing building and the resulting ambiance.

Both establishments are next-door neighbors at 30th Street and Adams Avenue in what used to be a house from the 1920s.

Basile and his team gutted out the entire insides and renovated it with custom finishes to the floor, walls, ceiling, bar, kitchen, tables and chairs, with hardly anything prefabricated.

“What we did was retrofit the house with nice wood and brass finishes,” Basile said. "The challenge of the project was the edging of the buildings, the little details. This was the most detail we have ever done on a project.”

Soda & Swine is the eatery where there are communal tables, a fireplace, no roof and a walk-up kitchen. The menu is all about meatballs, with varieties such as chorizo, quinoa, smoked pork, and beef with marinara and mozzarella. The meatballs are served several ways via sliders, spaghetti, submarines or just by themselves.

“We do like to change the menu and bring in different variety of meats and vegetarian options every three months or so,” Tafazoli said. “We are always experimenting and looking for new ways to give our customers a different experience every time they come in.”

The same is done at Polite Provisions: A new cocktail menu appears every three months and 12 wines rotate on tap.

The 2,200-square-foot bar resembles a vintage drugstore and pharmacy in both menu and design. It has a 46-tap system featuring 18 craft beers, carbonated and noncarbonated cocktails, nonalcoholic sodas, wines, coffees and spirits.

Bartender and proprietor Erick Castro inspires the drink menu, which focuses on spirited cocktails prepared with house-made bitters, soda, tinctures and syrups, as a nod to ingredients used in a bygone era.

“One of the unique things we designed was a full walk-in cooler behind the bar,” Basile said. “It allowed us to put a façade in front.”

All food from Soda & Swine can be ordered from within Polite Provisions to eat while inside the bar.

“Our goal and vision was to create this atmosphere of a neighborhood soda fountain pharmacy,” Tafazoli said. “We wanted a place that served our community, like a drugstore used to be a hub for the community; a place where architecture has a purpose.”

“It’s been pretty amazing since we’ve opened,” Tafazoli said. “The community has been incredibly supportive. We surpassed our expectations.”

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