Waterbar is primarily co-owned by Todd Brown, Joe Vaught and Eric Leitstein. Leitstein is CEO and founder of OMG Hospitality Group, which acts as the operating management company of Waterbar. John Ellis is a fourth co-owner, who was mainly involved in the construction of the restaurant.
Brown, Vaught and Leitstein have each been in the restaurant business in PB for the past 20 years. Together, they formed a partnership to start Waterbar, a restaurant and bar that draws heavily on its location, as well as its elevated menu and emphasis on craft culture.
For the past 15 years, Brown says he had been considering starting what he describes as a “social seafood” experience, but the specific idea for Waterbar took off when Brown and Vaught heard that Joe’s Crab Shack might be closing. Thus began the four year-long process of establishing the restaurant.
Waterbar is open Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., with the kitchen closing at 10 p.m. every night. Valet parking is available starting at 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends.
The space is a 6,700-square-foot location that can seat up to 230 people at a time. There is a south bar and a north bar, and what may seem to customers as surprisingly minimal TV space.
“We’re not a sports bar,” says Brent Noll, general manager and sommelier of Waterbar. “We want the food, the beverages and the view to be the focal point for us.”
The coastal view is a highly distinguishing factor of Waterbar, one that the restaurant has taken full advantage of. With windows that open out entirely, customers can sit inside to enjoy their food and drinks, while still experiencing the beachy atmosphere.
Waterbar is both unique and accommodating in that, as Brown describes it, a customer in search of “fine dining” can be dressed up, visit the restaurant and be satisfied, but someone coming in off the beach during the day can also fit in and enjoy food and drinks at the bar.
“I think it’s that diversity and fun social setting to be able to enjoy seafood,” says Brown. “It doesn’t have to be stuffy. It doesn’t have to be that traditional experience.”
Executive chef Steven Lona, formerly of Tasting Room Del Mar, has created a menu through which customers can expect not only an incredible dining experience, but an expanding one.
Brown says that the menu may have started compact, but there are plans to add new items as they continue to receive feedback and learn who their customers are.
Additionally, Brian Gaudet, the bar manager, says that the bar will be showcasing beers from other parts of the state and the country as time goes on. He adds that the craft culture is what the company prides itself on, and that the main mindset of the beer list is to “have a little something for everyone.”
“We’re trying to create a project here that is unique for Pacific Beach, but also we’re kind of transcending PB,” says Brown. “We want to do something that attracts people from all over the city. That’s really what it’s about.”
Where: 4325 Ocean Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.