By Karen Billing
Foodies, craft beer and wine lovers have a new local spot to frequent with the new Sublime Tavern.
The new restaurant from James Limjoco of Sublime Ale House in San Marcos opens Wednesday, July 10, on the top level of the Polo Plaza on Via de la Valle, with a long patio view that looks out onto the San Diego Polo Club fields and stretches to the sea.
Limjoco is a self-glossed “flavor hound” who has created a unique menu offering gourmet comfort food with an emphasis on local, fresh, high-quality ingredients.
You’ll find dressed-up pizzas, burgers and mac ‘n’ cheeses on the menu along with 55 craft beers on tap and 27 premium wines by the glass.
“It’s unpretentious, approachable food brought to another level,” Limjoco said.
He said besides being blown away by the view, he chose the intersection of Del Mar, Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe for his latest restaurant venture because it’s a great foodie area.
“I think this is an area where people know their flavors really well,” he said.
Limjoco’s love of flavor and food started when he was in business school at Tulane University. He worked everywhere in the restaurant industry from line cook to front of the house.
“It was the best, most creative time of my life,” Limjoco said.
He set aside his passion for cooking and focused on his business career, to make a living for his wife and children. He worked as an account executive for JP Morgan Chase for 10 years but his mind never strayed far from the kitchen.
“I realized after awhile and talking to my wife, it was time to chase my dream,” Limjoco said.
In 2007, he started a small pizza place, Sublime Pizza in 4S Ranch, doing farm to table fresh food and serving up his creative macaroni and cheeses, grilled cheese sandwiches and pizzas.
Limjoco decided he wanted to expand and include an aspect of San Diego that people really love: craft beer. He opened Sublime Ale House in San Marcos in 2011.
“Since the day we opened we were killing it, even in the middle of a recession,” Limjoco said.
In his restaurants, the stress is on his food being fresh, which he said makes for the best flavors.
There is no freezer at Sublime, everything “comes out of boxes that we have to shake the dirt off.” They bake their own bread, they grind their own meat.
They make their pizza dough from poolish, an Old World, pre-ferment starter method Limjoco picked up from a French baker in San Francisco. It may take a little longer (18 hours) for the dough to be ready but it’s all about the flavor.
He insists on importing Hawaiian pink sea salt for his burgers to make them taste just perfect.
“Those little differences I think are what really sets us apart,” Limjoco said.
On the menu will be items such as local grilled asparagus and crispy prosciutto, a “pretty incredible” charcuterie plate, lobster and andouille sausage gumbo, locally caught yellowtail and tasty salads like watermelon and arugula with heirloom tomatoes.
There will be six different kinds of gourmet pizzas and macaroni and cheese.
In a favorite, the Ecstasy Mac n’ Cheese, pasta is paired with Gorgonzola béchamel, applewood smoked bacon, wild mushroom, roasted pepper, garlic and thyme.
“It comes with a Parmesan shell that you have to crack to get into it and it’s nice and gooey and warm inside,” Limjoco said.
While pizza can look like the Get Figgy Wit It Pizza with figs, prosciutto, arugula, Parmesan with a balsamic glaze drizzle, Limjoco said they also do a great simple pepperoni pizza, something that soccer players finishing up practice across the street at the polo fields might come on over and enjoy with their families.
Limjoco has always written his own menus but has brought on Executive Chef Josh Richardi, the former sous chef at Roppangi Restaurant and Sushi Bar. Together they have collaborated on some new comfort classics and with Richardi in the kitchen, Limjoco can focus more on the front of the house, which is where he most loves to be.
Of the 55 craft beers on tap, some of the top breweries in San Diego have dreamed up some specialty brews exclusively for Sublime.
Mother Earth has partnered with Sublime on a Belgian IPA called Alpha Ferrier; Rip Current has created a “malty, sweet and carmelly” Scotch 80 and the collaboration with Belching Beaver has produced Racetrack Red, a Belgian hoppy amber.
All will have their debuts with the opening this week.
New to this Sublime location, Limjoco is also introducing a wine element, having splurged on a wine preservation unit behind the bar that will allow him to offer glasses from high-end bottles.
Limjoco hand-selected the wine list. “There’s not even a mediocre wine on that list, I think they’re all outstanding,” he said.
Tavern will have names such as Gaja, Quintessa, Silver Oak, Louis Roderer Cristal, Opus One and Cakebread at prices that he promises aren’t seen around the area.
He guests will have the opportunity to try wines they might have never had a chance to before, like a Nickel & Nickel reserve cab by the glass.
He already has several wine dinners set up and plans to offer one every couple of weeks.
Limjoco recently sold the small Sublime Pizza in 4S Ranch and is now focused on his two bigger restaurants — the Via de la Valle location being his biggest at 7,000 square feet. Great care was taken in the look of his restaurant —there’s lots of wood in the custom-made tables, the round log cutouts in the wall and portions of the wall are actually pieces of kegs that in a former life aged the cult beer Black Tuesday.
Chasing the dream has been fulfilling for Limjoco and his pride in his product is unmistakable.
“My favorite part about owning a restaurant is when I walk around and see people enjoying a meal with their friends. Maybe someone is visiting from out of town and they’re showing them their spot or they’re celebrating a birthday…they chose my place,” Limjoco said. “It’s an honor and it’s really cool. I tell my servers, they chose us, let’s show them a great time.”
For now, Sublime Tavern will be open for dinner from 4-11 p.m. all week. Eventually they hope to add weekend lunches. For more information, visit