By Loralee Olejnik
SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY NEWS GROUP
Wet Stone Wine Bar is a hidden gem in Banker’s Hill. Executive chef and proprietor Christian Gomez, a San Diego native turned citizen of the world, has created a classy yet unpretentious escape tucked in a historic building on Fourth Avenue between Grape and Fir streets.
A style he describes as “contemporary American, with bold, refreshing flavors done with global influence,” Wet Stone offers a menu of small plates, salads and paninis to complement a rotating selection of domestic and international wines.
“It’s definitely a labor of love and a [means of] expression for me in many ways,” said Gomez, who was born and raised in Barrio Logan and spent several years traveling abroad and living in Los Angeles.
Born the youngest of seven to a chef father of Filipino-Spanish descent and a Panamanian-Chinese mother, there was not nothing bland about Gomez’s upbringing. His childhood included memories of perusing markets in Tijuana and helping the family run a business importing Asian foods.
As a young adult, a study abroad program in Europe and, later, a move to Los Angeles greatly expanded Gomez’s culinary horizons. While living in L.A., he filmed a season of a food program for NBC-LA called “Green Eats,” about organic and locally-sourced foods. After Los Angeles, he returned to San Diego as a personal chef before opening Wet Stone in 2008.
Gomez got an early start in the hospitality business working for well-known restaurateur and prominent San Diego civic figure Frank Fat, an experience that would inspire him years later to strike out on his own and open the restaurant after stints in catering and the emerging field of “food styling.”
Open in an 1896 building in a space formerly occupied by a small bohemian coffee shop, Wet Stone’s warm décor features wood, natural elements and exposed concrete flooring in a contemporary style, creating a relaxing atmosphere well worth the short drive (or walk) from downtown’s hub.
Banker’s Hill itself is an emerging culinary hot spot. Not just Mr. A’s anymore, a recent addition of new restaurants and businesses is injecting life into the neighborhood nestled between downtown and Hillcrest.
Wet Stone’s name has a triple meaning taken from a term used to describe a characteristic of wine, a knife sharpening tool and a time Gomez slipped off a rock waterfall in Brazil, falling 50 feet and living to laugh about it later.
On the menu, salads and paninis run in the $8 to $10 range and small plates range from $12 to $15. Small plates include lamb meatballs with mango yogurt-toasted coriander pool, Peruvian-style albacore cebiche, and mac and gourmet cheese with Spanish chorizo bilbao and prosciutto. It’s a menu “thinking outside the bread and cheese box” of the traditional wine bar.
On the wine side, Gomez aims to create a list that matches well with the variety of flavors offered. The wine list changes quarterly, and Gomez tries to create a selection of both state-side and global wines, with a special emphasis on boutique wines from makers in lesser-known areas.
Wet Stone Wine Bar, located at 1927 Fourth Ave., is open for lunch and dinner. Happy hour specials are available.
Read more: San Diego Community News Group - Thinking outside the bread and cheese box