CH Projects Unveils Dramatic Remodel Of Their Original Concept, Neighborhood
On March 25, 2019, CH Projects closed its first restaurant and original location, Neighborhood, for a dramatic renovation. The timeline to reopen quickly surpassed estimates and then the pandemic increased delays. Reopened on April 19, 2021, the East Village beer-focused eatery is welcoming guests into a ground up renovation and expansion from Brooklyn-based designers Home Studios (Gwen, Five Leaves).
The restaurant features a technique-driven, ever-evolving menu by Chef Benji Moore in place of its original comfort food, curated taps emphasizing rare beers from small producers, and a dedicated retail bottle shop that will exalt the beer curious. Upping the cocktail exploration within Neighborhood, is not one, but two additional spaces, Noble Experiment and the unveiling of Young Blood.
More ‘intentional, elevated, and elegant’
When Neighborhood launched in 2007, placing local craft beer at the center of its experience—and infamously banning ‘soulless’ products like ketchup and vodka, while eliminating screens and other distractions to encourage people to talk and socialize—it was a pioneer in San Diego at a time when the city’s now nationally recognized craft beer scene was just starting to take off.
ArsalunTafazoli, CH Projects founder, was drawn to craft brew culture because of the prevalence of passionate, under-the-radar producers trying to revive a handmade, artisan product. Neighborhood’s original design leaned on industrial motifs, a rough-around-the-edges look meant to honor the industrial parks and home-garages where craft brewing was born.
“But today, the culture has jumped the shark,” says Tafazoli, who over the last decade has grown CH Projects into one of San Diego’s most lauded restaurant groups. “People are piling on, just trying to get in on a business opportunity and exploit a trend. Bars have, like, thirty to forty taps, but everything looks, feels, and tastes the same. With the renovation of Neighborhood, we want to get back to the roots of the culture, and at the same time push the craft beer bar forward to an entirely new place. Make it more intentional. We think it can be more elegant and elevated, more of an immersive experience that honors the passion and vibrancy of the culture as we first experienced it, while reflecting on where we’ve been as a brand and our growth.”
Impressive vintage sound systems and vinyl library!
Inspired by their detailed art deco design for Los Angeles’ Gwen, the renowned Curtis Stone restaurant, and the firm’s historically informed approach, Tafazoli tapped Brooklyn-based Home Studios for the Neighborhood renovation. Chicago’s Uncanned Music created the space’s new acoustic environment, which includes a Hi-Fi wall with vintage sound systems and a vinyl library.
A curated selection of seminal records spanning punk, metal, new wave, rock and hip-hop is available for guests to play in full-length analog format for a more immersive experience while dining in wrap-around booths covered in Ben Davis fabric, contrasting the high design with American workwear fabrics.
Taking beer seriously as it should be
The tightly edited tap selection at the reopened Neighborhood emphasizes unique beers from small producers and features a concentration by San Diego brewers along with rare and Belgium beers. A retail bottleshop is a brand new addition to the space, exposing guests to limited edition bottlings and treating beer with the serious connoisseurship normally reserved for wine. The ever-evolving menu at Neighborhood is an eclectic mix of worldly pub classics, and modern interpretations of grandma’s nostalgic dishes to complement the beer selection, yet feel lighter and brighter.
A menu with most in-season produce
“When we first opened, we were into comfort food,” says Tafazoli. “But our ideas about what comfort means have changed since then. Now we don’t want to do more for the sake of more. This place is all about scaling down, and doing it really, really well. We shrank the seat count so we can execute a more developed menu. At our larger restaurants with 100 plus seats, we’re constantly trying to balance creativity and execution. We intentionally shrank the seating down for us to have the ability for more culinary exploration. In theory, it should be some of the better food we’ve ever served.”
Leading the kitchen is Chef Benji Moore, who spent time at Specialty Produce helping spearhead their Farmers Market program in 2015, and has developed personal relationships with some of the region’s most notable culinary farmers, such as Kong Thao Farms, who has been known to provide produce for David Chang. “It is an exciting time to be a part of the Neighborhood re-launch and to be able to re-imagine the menu to its fullest potential without any limitations,” Moore says.
“The menu will change often and will lean heavily on the culinary farmers’ most in-season produce. That’s the beauty of being able to print the menu daily. It’s a continuous evolution of ideas and inspiration amongst our kitchen team and the farmers.”
Noble Experiment + Young Blood
Inside Neighborhood, guests will find a refreshed Noble Experiment, the obsessed-over cocktail bar and pioneering cocktail experience in San Diego. Sam Ross (Attaboy, Milk & Honey in NYC), often credited as leading the cocktail renaissance over a decade ago and the original mixologist behind much of the cocktail menu at Noble Experiment, has returned to demonstrate a decade of learning and teach and finesse the cocktail program at the bar within the bar.
Going a step beyond this experience will be a second, bar within a bar, Young Blood, a new addition to Neighborhood’s transportative encounters. Young Blood is a culmination of years of learning and trial and error, with the guiding ethos that it is a reflection of what the CH team, including Anothony Schmidt, Sam Ross and Tafazoli, have learned since opening their first projects.
Young Blood will be an immersive cocktail experience featuring a modular bar console that will be in constant flux with its offerings. The intimate 16-seat bar is flanked by ceiling height bar shelves, custom lighting and Parisian carpet. “We put an irrational level of detail into this project. To think of where we started and where we are, on a personal level it’s rewarding that we’ve been so supported by the San Diego community and beyond. I’m hoping there were enough weirdos like us who will appreciate it,” says Tafazoli.
Neighborhood is open 11:30AM to midnight daily. Noble Experiment is reserved on a first-come-first-served basis 6PM to midnight. Young Blood’s entrance is ticketed via OpenTable.
Other restaurants and bars by CH Projects include: Craft & Commerce, Polite Provisions, False Idol, Ironside Fish & Oyster, Born & Raised, Morning Glory, Fortunate Son, Underbelly, and Raised by Wolves. For more information, visit here.
See you there….and stay healthy, San Diego!