San Diego’s First “Restaurant Collective” Opens in Del Mar

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Eight restaurants, each with their own distinct design and space, circle the central bar at Sky Deck. It is a 26,700 square foot restaurant collective, the first of its kind in San Diego. Unlike the ‘food hall’ concept, each restaurant offers a more immersive experience, with their own seating area, servers, and all the details you’d expect at a standalone restaurant concept.

The vision for the Sky Deck originated from Patrick Donahue’s holiday trip to Barcelona. He was so impressed with the city’s La Boqueria and El Nacional that he sent members of his construction and leasing teams to tour both. RDC was then commissioned to do the same and begin conceptual drawings to envision how this inspired concept could work at Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

“The design process for the Sky Deck consisted of an extensive conceptual development in order to achieve an authentic story as the basis of design and to create a unique place that would inspire the creativity of the restaurateurs,” said RDC Senior Principal Mitra Esfandiari, AIA. “We wanted to create a ‘wow’ moment for visitors as an initial reaction upon entering this grand space, inviting them to discover and appreciate carefully curated details that unveil the story as they experience the place, the diverse cuisine and amenities.”

The Sky Deck’s signature feature is an expansive 35’ x 60’ skylight with electro-magnetic smart glass that tints automatically to optimize daylight, reduce glare and manage heat gain to create a comfortable and sustainable environment. This skylight guides natural daylight into the center of the space, highlighting the central cocktail bar and café, as well as the restaurants, and further connects indoor and outdoor settings. The four suspended art installations – Boats & Buoys, Bottles & Rebar, Nets & Pulleys, and Driftwood Fish – counterpoint both the 100’-long hand-painted mural by Celeste Byre and the steel-panel walls.

Sky Deck brings its own maritime industrial design that ties all the restaurants together. Tim Sullivan, property manager of Del Mar Highlands Town Center, explains, “a curation of art and signage can be found throughout the space inspired by the heart of San Diego’s maritime history. With offerings from a number of different cuisines, the Sky Deck allows each culinary experience to flourish simultaneously.” 

Those individual experiences include:

Ambrogio15, The Milano Pizza Experience: Ambrogio15 has gained popularity in its North PB location as well as within the Little Italy Food Hall. Owned by three co-founders that grew up in Milano, Ambrogio15 offers it’s own homemade special dough recipe alongside an innovative pizza-making process.

J at the Sky Deck: Owned and operated by executive chef James Augustine, this ‘New American’ restaurant takes familiar flavors and transforms them with modernist cooking techniques.

Craft House Sky Deck: Originally a North Park food truck, called Monster Crafts, Craft House is the first permanent location of the concept. Offering a Modern American cuisine with a Mexican fusion Craft House offers a wide selection of burgers.

Kiin, Extraordinary Thai: Based on family recipes brought over from Thailand, Kiin has an extensive menu featuring seasonal ingredients.

Glass Box: Held within an entirely glass-encased setting, guests are able to meet the chefs in an intimate setting while enjoying Yakatori-style sushi alongside other coastal-Asian inspired bites.

Marufuku Ramen: Serving authentic Hakata style Tonkotsu ramen, Marufuku features house-made umami-rich broth boiled from pork bones for hours and artisan noodles. Additionally, their menu offers a variety of mini-sized rice bowls, Izakaya style appetizers alongside premium beer and sake. 

Urbana, Mexican Gastronomy: Robust flavors help to redefine Mexican cuisine at Urbana, served alongside their cocktail menu that celebrates agave spirits like tequila and mezcal.

Zizikis, Street Food: This family-owned, fast-casual restaurant brings modern Greek street food to the Sky Deck. Chef James Augustine based his menu off of family recipes and techniques. 

Le Parfait Paris: Known for award winning desserts, macaroons, and pastries, Le Parfait Paris offers a variety of savory and sweet fares all made from scratch and offers a variety of coffee and teas.

Understory: Serving as the central cocktail bar for the entire Del Mar Highlands Sky Deck, Understory offers a bespoke menu of spirits and craft cocktails. The concept was created by Scott Slater of Slater 50/50, his wife Thai, and Guillaume and Ludivine Ryon of Le Parfait Paris. The menu itself is a work of art, breaking down ingredients alongside whimsical drawings of each cocktail.

Upstairs, the Sky Deck showcases craft beer and kombucha on the open air Brewers Deck. Options include Boochcraft Organic Hard Kombucha, Northern Pine Brewing, and Rough Draft Brewing Company. 

Michelle Stansbury is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] with story ideas!

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