by Robby Robinson
YOU HAD ME AT THE NAME
Something new just happened in La Jolla. Something new and exciting. Something new and exciting and glamorous happened. Mermaids & Cowboys came to town. And wait until you see this restaurant.
The 3,200 square foot restaurant slid into Alfonso’s former space at 1251 Prospect Street. There’s an elevated, heated patio that allows diners to people watch and car watch along Prospect Street – ooooh. At the entrance of the dining room sits the Pearl Bar, named for its pearlescent fish scale adornments – aaaah. Opposite the bar is a brown leather banquette resembling a well-worn horse saddle. The ceiling bears pearl chandeliers bringing a true sense of elegance to the restaurant- brilliant!
The concept of Mermaids & Cowboys celebrates the best of both land and sea. “I am enamored by La Jolla’s rugged history and seaside beauty”, says restaurant owner Michael Matthews. “I fell in love with the village in 2000, and my dream has been to own a restaurant here ever since then”, he continued. Matthews shared with me that cowboys ran cattle up the coast to Los Angeles. Ergo, the cowboy portion of the name. And mermaids? “Just look across the water, and imagine the bounty,” said Michael. “Surf and turf have long been an integral marriage in all La Jolla fine dining, and Mermaids & Cowboys is no exception.
An accomplished entertainer to entrepreneur, Michael Matthews was an entertainment producer in Las Vegas for two decades. His office was in the heart of Caesar’s Palace and he was surrounded by top drawer restaurants and chefs: Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Bobby Flay, and the list goes on. “I had the chance to observe and enjoy the talent of these culinary artists, with delectable dishes and incredible presentations. I was absolutely blown away. I knew La Jolla was where I wanted to be. The Alfonso’s space became available and we knew it was time,” says Michael. “We respect the long and beautiful relationship Alfonso’s had with the residents of La Jolla and we intend to build the same camaraderie. We know we have big shoes to fill, and look forward to surprising and delighting our guests.”
The final piece was to find Executive Chef Chris Barre (bio includes Pacifica Del Mar, The Fishery, Le Papagayo, Vintana Wine + Dine), which completed the offering.
The vision is to have Mermaids & Cowboys similar to the feeling at Cheers where everybody knows your name. Michael wants his customers to feel comfortable and at home at his place. He’d like to greet them with “how’s the kitchen remodel going” or “is your new puppy still chewing the heels off your Manolo’s?”
The menu is quite unique and Chef Barre intends to present dishes in a way that has never been offered before in La Jolla. For example, the crab cake is created with bone marrow and served in a hollowed-out bone. The salmon rillette is cooked in fat – similar to preparations at New York’s Le Bernardin.
Anything that we can look forward to in the future? “Absolutely!”, says Michael. “We will be serving more unique choices for brunch, lunch, and happy hour.”
We can’t wait!
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