Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Gregg.
Alex, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am the bar manager at Curadero, the bustling and colorful Mexican eatery at Hotel Palomar. I fell in love with the craft and classic cocktails in 2009 while working at a steakhouse in Houston, TX. I was enrolled in sommelier apprenticeship program there, and each week, in addition to studying wine, tea, and cigars, we’d cover a cocktail.
Well, one week, that cocktail was the Sazerac, and my life was changed – the Sazerac is still my favorite cocktail to this day. My love of the Sazerac led me to the newly opened Anvil Bar and Refuge, Houston’s first cocktail bar. My sights immediately shifted from focusing on wine and pursuing a sommelier track, to that of craft cocktails. Within six months of that first visit, I would find myself employed at Anvil as a full-time bartender, a year later I was AGM.
From Anvil, I would go on to open and manage a number of notable bar programs in Houston ( Mongoose VS Cobra, Pass and Provisions, Goro & Gun) while spending considerable time volunteering and networking with the national cocktail community via events like Tales of the Cocktail, San Antonio Cocktail Week, Portland Cocktail Week, and others.
In 2014, I partnered with two Houston nightlife pioneers to open a bar of my own vision as managing partner. That bar, Moving Sidewalk, became a breeding ground for young, aspiring bartenders in the region, with our emphasis on in house production – we did our own ice, syrups, sodas, shrubs, with a focus on elaborately themed menus. Many now run their own programs.
Then Hurricane Harvey hit the region hard in late 2017, and while the bar (Moving Sidewalk) managed to skate by unscathed, the lingering effects of such a large scale disaster left me searching for milder climates. Long story short, in early 2018, I sold my share of the bar and set out with my partner Lauren to sunny San Diego. Within a few months, I would land as Bar Lead at Curadero, and here we are!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely been a journey, but I would not change one bit of it. Some of the tougher aspects of maintaining a career in this industry include the long nights and weekends – missing weddings and family events.
As a manager for many years, and later as an owner, the stress of being constantly on call can gradually wear you down. Dealing with city planning, permitting and compliance is grueling for sure, as is navigating landlords and leases.
At the end of the day, I am happy to look back on all of the challenges I’ve faced as critical learning experiences.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Curadero – what should we know?
Curadero is a coastal Baja cuisine driven restaurant at Hotel Palomar – located on the edge of San Diego’s Gaslamp District. We specialize in crudos and ceviches, regional tacos, and larger plates full of flavor. On the beverage front, our focus is agave spirits – Tequila and Mezcal – as well as classic Mexican cocktails, like margaritas and Palomas.
We are probably best known for our Butterfly Margarita, a drink created by our own Heather Lugo and has won multiple awards, as well as our Octopus Tacos – the best north of the border. We are definitely in one of the most competitive markets in the country for Mexican Cuisine. Just in the downtown area, there are close to twenty Mexican restaurants.
We stand apart by sticking close to the concept – we are not a Cali Mex or So-Cal Mex restaurant; there’s no Cali Burrito or carne asada fries. There’s a ton of other places nearby where you can find those offerings. We focus on the traditional Coastal Mexican dishes like Aguachile Verde, Tostadas de Atun and Pescado Tikin Xic to name a few.
At the bar, we set ourselves apart by always using fresh ingredients, as well as ingredients that tie directly back to the cuisine and the Baja culture. Take for example the K-38, which combines mezcal and tomatillo with white rum, lemon, and bitters.
Or the 44 Buck, a gin mule variation which incorporates roasted Pasilla chilis (in the form of house-made grenadine). And while Margaritas are the top seller, our craft cocktail approach to the category keeps things fresh and interesting.
Finally, our agave spirit flights offer an educational component and are geared for agave spirit newbies and seasoned pros alike.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Curadero’s bar team. We have a dedicated crew behind the bar. Many who have been there for a long time, and are always strive to learn, grow and improve.
- Address: 1047 Fifth Avenue San Diego, CA 92101
- Website: www.curadero.com
- Phone: (619) 515-3003