Erick Castro (Courtesy photo)
Consortium Holdings—the ambitious social engineering duo sparking a new wave of cultural interest in San Diego’s evolving urban hospitality movement—continues to deliver boundary-pushing innovations by announcing their newest project, Polite Provisions and sister restaurant, Soda & Swine.
Slated to open doors this week, this dual-concept initiative will bring a renewed spirit of community to a bustling street corner of one of San Diego’s most eclectic, burgeoning neighborhoods, Normal Heights.
Consortium’s founders, Arsalun Tafazoli & Nathan Stanton reveal that with this news, the collective will elevate the credibility of the city’s escalating cocktail scene by partnering with internationally celebrated bartender, Erick Castro to launch this venture. Castro is a respected innovator best known for helming several of the most influential beverage programs in the country at San Francisco’s acclaimed Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch.
ERICK CASTRO: Erick Castro built his spirits empire in San Francisco by searching for obscure recipes, methods and ingredients that originated prior to Prohibition. But his humble beginnings first began in San Diego, where he tended bar while attending classes at San Diego State. After leaving for Northern California in 2005 to develop his now revered approach to cocktails— which he describes as “vintage minimalist” with a distinct emphasis on the classics— Castro was recognized by the prestigious StarChefs organization as “Rising Star Mixologist” in 2010. Castro has created unique spirits programs that have earned a place on some of the most coveted lists including, Esquire’s Best Bars in America, Food & Wine’s “World’s Top Bars” and three nominations in at the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail awards in New Orleans.
“Returning to San Diego to partner with Consortium Holdings, I feel like I’ve come full circle,” Castro said. “When I’d come back here to visit throughout the years, I could see that Arsalun and Nate were nurturing something really cool — so I kept in touch with them. The San Diego cocktail scene is probably my favorite in the country now; there’s no pretention, everyone here is in it for the right reasons. They’re just excited to be making really good drinks.”
ARSALUN TAFAZOLI (Courtesy photo)
POLITE PROVISIONS: Consortium Holdings stays true to its intrinsic core philosophy with the development of this new concept, noting how “a space should inspire, its simplicity allowing for the seemingly lost art of conversation to thrive in an environment that cultivates charisma and the resurgence of real human interaction”. Located on 30th and Adams, Polite Provisions reminisces on the golden era of the drugstore and pharmacy; an institution of Main Street America where people would gather together to exchange thoughtful dialogue at the soda fountain. Focused on old-world values and craftsman culture, Tafazoli aims to spark a cultural shift by bringing that same drugstore notion of community back to the forefront.
Together with Tafazoli, Castro will create a beverage program for the concept, focusing on craft cocktails prepared with house made tonics and bitters as a nod to those ingredients’ medicinal uses. The 2,200-square-foot space will feature Consortium’s most ornate bar setup yet, and although Tafazoli is nationally recognized for his eclectic craft beer programs, he feels that San Diego’s beer climate is already well represented in this area of the city. Instead, he presents a new level of cutting-edge innovation to locals by installing a massive, 46-tap system, which will focus primarily on wine, handcrafted sodas, spirits and cocktails—all offered on draft. Polite Provisions will also serve milkshakes, classic variations of the egg cream and malts, both nonalcoholic and spiked, as well as beer cocktails developed in partnership with local brewers. The deliberately intricate and intellectually stimulating décor will be conceptualized by notable San Diego design impresario Paul Basile, a returning force who also worked on Consortium’s Craft & Commerce and UnderBelly concepts in the Little Italy area of San Diego.
Adding to the neighborhood feel will be a culture of collaboration behind the bar among the nation’s leading visionaries. There will be a dedicated “bartender’s chef table” featuring seminars and classes by Castro, as well as an elite group of guest bartenders invited from all corners of the country to share their knowledge of this progressing industry with the general public.
SODA & SWINE: Opening immediately after Polite Provisions will be Soda & Swine, an adjacent sister restaurant concept featuring a straight forward menu by Consortium’s recently appointed Executive Chef Jason McLeod, who brings Michelin star experience to San Diego. In keeping in line with the simplicity of Main Street America, McLeod’s menu will consist of two classic staples: meatballs and apple pie. The meat will be ground in an old-fashioned butcher shop setting, available in basic or “smashed” meatball form, in various flavors including chicken, pork, beef, and vegan alternatives. The pies will be lovingly prepared from scratch, complemented with house made soft serve ice cream, and all food can be brought to the neighboring Polite Provisions to enjoy. Soda & Swine will feature the experimental elements that Tafazoli has become known for such as a living wall, a colossal centerpiece smokestack, as well as a to-go window and unique glass display cases, but it will exude a feeling of approachability and familiarity—an organic addition to a budding neighborhood, designed to feel as though it’s always been there.
About Consortium Holdings: San Diego, California’s southernmost city, has for decades been known as a sleepy coastal getaway with a culinary scene to match. Enter Consortium Holdings, the visionary restaurateurs-come-social engineering duo consisting of Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton, who are pioneering the city’s cultural progression with five other ambitious concepts in as many years (Craft & Commerce, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, El Dorado, UnderBelly). In stark contrast to the overwhelming neon lights and volatile drone that emanates from plasma screens-as-art in less calculated restaurant and bar settings, Consortium Holdings’ projects eschew trendy, stagnant décor and menus in favor of an eclectic, contemporary quality borne of collaboration among like-minded, innovative individuals. Consortium Holdings’ concepts have been recognized for their innovation in publications such as Food & Wine, GQ, The New York Times, Imbibe, The Los Angeles Times and more.