Tri-Tip, Beer And A Historic San Diego Gathering SpaceEat + Drink Interview with Little Italy's 'Loading Dock' Owner Chris Joseph
In the place that used to house 98 Bottles — now resides the home of Little Italy’s Loading Dock. It’s a place for sports, conversation, and the best Tri-Tip sandwich south of Fresno, as they say.
We sat down with owner Chris Joseph, who alongside of his father Gary “The Dude” Joseph and his cousin on the Casey side of the family, Ryan Feld, has created a barbecue and beer-fueled hot spot in a historic San Diego gathering space.
Can you start off with a bit of background and history about the Loading Dock? We know that 80 years ago it was the central meeting place of the neighborhood where the community gathered. What drew you to the space?
History has always been exciting to my family and me. Through story-telling and information-gathering we enjoy past actions, leaders, efforts and how that affects our lives today. To think of all the great people in the past who have made our city even better through risk and forward-thinking is something deserving of homage.
And the space — it’s so real. Original wood floors, the original pull-down industrial elevator lift, the Loading Dock level split. When I first walked it, I felt the history.
The Loading Dock is inspired by your large family, who always had trouble finding a space big enough to host all 28 cousins. What were family meals like for you guys? What are some of the things that were served?
As of 4 years ago, my dad A.K.A. “The Dude” converted his (and my mom’s) garage into a dining hall for holidays. He clears out the cars, tools, etc. and sets up lights, heaters, greenery. Now that all the cousins are getting married and having children, even The Dude’s 3-car garage can’t contain the family.
Many people in our family can cook, but The Dude is the guru. We cook up everything from tenderloin, to chicken, to different cuts of beef (Tri-Tip is a favorite).
It is usually set in a buffet style: Get in line and load up your plate!
What’s it like being in a family business with your father? (A.K.A. “The Dude”) — As the catering and event’s chef?
It’s amazing to work with family. We get to know even more about each other. Often times we are working, strategizing and meeting — discussing business, life and fun. These topics wouldn’t be talked about in a normal family setting. It is a tough business, but with family it makes things manageable.
Your menu boasts BBQ favorites like pulled pork, bratwurst and BBQ chicken and prides the business on having the best Tri-Tip sandwich south of Fresno — what goes into that sandwich?
Being from the Central Valley, we know and appreciate our Tri-Tip. We create our rub, smoke it on our custom BBQ, and finish it with our Santa Maria style BBQ fitting. It’s thinly sliced, lathered in BBQ sauce on an 8-inch Italian style roll, and heated and crunched to perfection.
We noticed specialty cocktails designed to take the drinker back the 1930s. Can you tell us about a few of those?
Well, while we are waiting approval from ABC of California, we must be creative with our 25% liquors. These are amazing-tasting cocktails. Our real beverage focus is on our selection of local craft beer and creatively selected wines from around the world. Don’t forget the sangria!
When you opened the Loading Dock, what were you looking for?
We really like the event space — a chill, friendly sports bar in front with a unique event space that can host everything from corporate forums to raging birthday celebrations.
What vibe did you want to create?
Safe, easy, comfortable, collaborative. We purchased a full Alligator Juniper Tree. Milled it 3 inches thick and created all of our tables and rails. Every inside seating area is a common, large, with live edge tables for groups to meet and chat.
Can you tell us a bit about your mug club?
Yes! So much fun. We take a 23 ounce stainless steel mug created by Workshops for Warriors (wounded warriors and vets trained, certified and placed in advanced manufacturing careers). Members receive a 23 ounce pour (not 16), $1 off their beer, their name/number engraved on the mug, access to the annual golf tourney, free fill and entrée on your birthday, $250 lifetime membership — and your mug kept at the bar!
The Mugs are coming soon to the Loading Dock! Huge thank you to @workshopsforwarriors for their amazing mug design &…
The event space seems like it can be transformed to fit any occasion. What are some fun events that you’ve hosted?
We’ve hosted everything from weddings, lip sync battles, corporate discussions/forums, reunions (HS Reunions are always wild), rehearsal dinners, live music, comedy, flamenco shows and more! We encourage our guests to “Make themselves at home!” — just no glitter.
It’s a place meant to bring back the tradition of coming together, sharing stories and unwinding after a long day (like the fisherman used to do on the loading docks). Are there any good stories that have been shared with you about the space or in the space?
Yes — we’re actually working to be the first restaurant group to write a fictional novel! I will keep the details a secret for now.
What’s in store for the future of the Loading Dock?
We want to become a brand that people associate with easy, affordable and friendly. We always deliver on expectations.
For now, we have a new mascot — Captain L. Dock will greet you as you walk in the front door! (We purchased him from our neighbor Architectural Salvage.) We have a build-in photo booth, live air traffic control streaming in our restrooms, 1,500 pounds of steel piping under our top bar and a camera on our roof that streams the airplanes landing live, a timeline put together by the airport authority of the airport from 1927 (Lindbergh takeoff) to 2016 terminal expansion — and a lot more.
To see what the team at Little Italy’s Loading Dock has created, give their website a visit: http://www.liloadingdock.com or visit them in person: 2400 Kettner Blvd. #110, San Diego, CA 92101.
Hours of operation are Wednesday through Friday 4pm to 10pm & Saturday and Sunday: 12pm to Late.
Events can be booked during non-operational hours.