When Juniper & Ivy first opened in San Diego’s Little Italy, the owners had a unique goal: “We were very deliberate—we didn’t want to be the hot new restaurant,” says owner Michael Rosen, who founded the restaurant with Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blais. “We wanted to be the place that people visit every month, or quarter, or every time they visit San Diego.”
While Juniper & Ivy certainly generated plenty of heat right off the bat with its creative, locally sourced cuisine (and even got props from Architectural Digest), the restaurant also proved to have staying power and is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month. Granted, a few things have changed. The restaurant is now under the daily guidance of executive chef Anthony Wells, and plenty of menu items have come and gone along the way. “We experiment with cuisine,” says Rosen, “and over the past five years, at any given point we might look at an old menu and ask, ‘Whatever happened to that dish?’ ’’
For their anniversary, they opened the discussion to their Instagram followers, asking which past dishes they missed most. In response, the culinary team is putting three of those oldies-but-goodies back on the menu each week—including Foie Gras French Toast, BBQ Carrots, Chicken Ballotine, and Duck Pancakes.
As the fifth anniversary approaches, much has changed outside the restaurant’s doors too. Little Italy has evolved into San Diego’s primo foodie destination, with acclaimed neighbors such as Brian Malarkey’s Herb & Wood, Japanese Cloak & Petal, Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room, and Blais’ fried-chicken-fueled Crack Shack. “What’s gone on around us is incredible,” Rosen says. “Since we opened a non-Italian, chef-driven restaurant, there have been a dozen non-Italian restaurants open since.”
While Juniper & Ivy has indeed never been Italian, Rosen says it has something in common with good Italian cuisine. “San Diego is more like Italy. While restaurants [in other cities] ship ingredients from all over, we have the best proteins and produce right here—we have some of the best ingredients in the world.”