Chef and restauranteur Brian Malarkey “put the band back together” for the debut of Herb & Wood earlier this year, now one of San Diego’s hottest restaurants.
Malarkey in 2014 sold his interest in Enlightened Hospitality Group, which ran Searsucker, Herringbone and others concepts, to Hakkasan Group. He still holds equity in those brands.
He then tapped Enlightened Hospitality alums Christopher Puffer and Shane McIntyre as partners to launch Herb & Wood. Puffer helmed the design and serves as G.M.; McIntyre serves as co-chef.
Malarkey’s fabric restaurants are decidedly casual, but Herb & Wood steps up the elegance with a “sexy and sleek” atmosphere that leans toward “Great Gatsby-ish” class, Malarkey says, with an open floor plan and exhibition kitchen.
“We kind of dumbed things down for a while, making things very casual, but I think people want to dress up again,” he says.
The massive California/Mediterranean-inspired menu, built around the restaurant’s wood-fired grills and ovens, includes choices from a spinach-and-feta pizza with garlic confit, pickled onion and oregano, to a Serrano-ham-wrapped whole roasted branzino stuffed with lemon and herbs.
And while most restaurants avoid having more than one or two 10-tops, Herb & Wood has eight large-party tables, adding to the restaurant’s energy and buzz. “Our kitchen executes at such a high level, we can seat these 10-tops all at the same time,”
Malarkey says. “And people are having a blast.”
Adjacent to the roughly 9,500-square-foot restaurant is a fast-casual sister brand called Herb & Eatery, which was scheduled to open in late September, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner and a more casual café menu.
Located next to Richard Blais’ popular restaurants Juniper & Ivy and adjacent sister brand The Crack Shack, Malarkey jokingly refers to his collection as “the herb shop that will serve as the gateway to The Crack Shack.”