I chose the word “experience” for a reason. I think CUSP Dining and Drinks on the 11th floor (top level) of Hotel La Jolla offers more than just a nice meal in a La Jolla restaurant. A few months ago (yes, this post is sorely overdue) I enjoyed a truly special meal there with my family. It had been a while since we’d been in last so, at Chef Donald Lockhart’s insistence, we tossed our menus aside and let him send out tastes of his popular Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
As a fan of lists, I decided to compartmentalize our experience into ten highlights because I’m sure several, if not all, will resonate with you.
1.The View Is Absolutely Spectacular
Perched at the bottom of Torrey Pines Road overlooking La Jolla Shores Beach, CUSP’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide one of the best views of San Diego. Peer over La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, pristine residential areas and off to the ocean. We dare you not to photograph it.
Trust me, the spectacular sunset view is one reason we prefer to come during happy hour.
2. Cool Seating Options
If you’re bringing a date here, ask to reserve the half-moon-shaped tables (seen in the top photo) near the window that allow both intimate conversations and spectacular views for two. On the other side of the restaurant, booths with views provide perfect seating for families. My 7-year-old was cozy and cool for several hours as Chef Lockhart’s creations rolled out.
3. Bourbon Craft Cocktails
As impressive as that custom-shaped ice cube is, the drink is pretty spectacular. I don’t—or thought I didn’t—typically like bourbon but my husband described his preferences to mixologist Nate Howell and this is what arrived at our table. I could have tossed back a few of these, but stuck with wine to be sure I had the wherewithal to focus on out multi-course meal. Craft cocktails are mixed with fresh juices and spirits infused in-house to create perfectly balanced, tasty libations.
4. Chef Donald Lockhart
We had the opportunity to chat at length with Chef Lockhart—we were mostly raving about his food—but it’s clear that he takes great pride in his menu and actually cares about what he’s feeding you from quality ingredients to a healthy portion size. There no pretension… he’s a really down-to-earth, nice guy. I do seem him out in the dining areas chatting with patrons, surely seeking feedback from happy guests. The kitchen is open to the dining room so peek in an say hello.
5. Toasted Quinoa and More Mediterranean-Inspired Favorites
Over multiple courses, we sampled popular menu items. My all-time favorite, however is the toasted quinoa with yellowtail, curry cream and pita chips which is also on the happy hour menu in the bar area. The crunchy kick in contrast to the raw fish and curry kick is enough to send taste buds into overdrive. I order it every time.
Our tasting menu included an amuse bouche, ceviche and ahi appetizers, paella (not pictured), toasted quinoa, pepperoni rolls, pigs in a blanket, braised short ribs and donuts with a side of housemade ice cream. All were delicious. My favorite thing to do at CUSP is to order multiple tapas for a light meal—usually the ceviche and toasted quinoa since my husband opts for heavier options that I can tax.
6. Room for Private Parties
Need to throw a small luncheon or a private party for 80? CUSP Dining and Drinks can handle it and customize a menu your guests will love. Their open-air, contemporary space works for everything from business lunches to baby showers to wedding receptions. Natural light floods the rooms during the day, creating a festive ambiance.
7. It’s Open for Breakfast and Weekend Brunch
Start your morning off with a view and a healthy (or not) breakfast from 7:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. complete with fresh juices and traditional favorites like huevos rancheros, omelettes and more. Weekend brunch happens from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and incorporates salads, paninis (the crispy pork belly panini with honey siracha looks amazing) in addition to morning fare.
8. Veuve Clicquot Happy Hour (!!!)
Wednesday is the day for wine and champagne lovers. Heavily discounted premium bubbly can be enjoyed for a price corresponding to what time of day it is. Starting at 4:00 p.m., glasses of Veuve Clicquot are $4.00. During the 5:00 p.m. hour, the price raises to $5 and so on. In addition, Wino Wednesday is an opportunity to sip bottles of wine (retailing up to $100) at half price. Fun, right?
9. Kids Like It
My daughter was won over by the pizza rolls so is always game to eat at CUSP. Booths help keep her from squirming around in a chair and even she takes photos of the view.
10. Relaxed, Sophisticated Vibe
Though it’s perfectly acceptable to arrived dressed to the nines, it’s totally not necessary. Smart casual will do. Nice jeans and a shirt will, too. CUSP doesn’t exude a hurried vibe. In our experience, staff has always been warm and welcoming and it’s a comfortable spot to spend a lengthy evening with friends, coworkers or family.
If you, want to impress guests with a spectacular La Jolla view in a casual, festive environment with good food, CUSP Dining and Drinks is a great option. Bring business associates, meet friends or come for a nice family dinner. It doesn’t matter. Pay attention to special events. Lobster Wednesdays are currently happening and sometimes, there’s live music in the bar.
This La Jolla restaurant also receives major props for finding my daughter’s iPad mini and storing it for us until we could pick it up the following morning.
What do you order at CUSP Restaurant?
CUSP Dining and Drinks
7955 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037
*Thanks to CUSP Restaurant for hosting us!