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Saffron Thai Closes La Jolla Location To Become Karina's Mexican Seafood Offshoot

November 14, 2019

The La Jolla location of San Diego mainstay Saffron Thai recently closed, and the team behind Karina's Mexican Seafood will open a fast-casual concept in its place.

Bangkok native Su-Mei Yu opened Saffron Thai on a northern stretch of India Street in Mission Hills in 1985 and quickly had hungry diners packing the house to get a taste of her grilled chicken and authentic Thai dishes. In 2013, the second location of Saffron Thai opened within Terminal 2 of San Diego's Lindbergh Field International Airport. In Fall 2016, Su-Mei sold her restaurant to the Karina's Restaurant Group, owner of the Karina's Mexican chain of eateries, who installed a fast-casual location of their Karina's Ceviche & More concept within one-half of the space at 3731 India Street and vowed to expand the Saffron brand with one new opening per year. Yu stayed on as a consulting partner with the company to assist with growth, and  Saffron La Jolla location opened in October 2018. This was not the first venture into La Jolla for Saffron, as in 1993, Su-Mei opened a Saffron outpost in the small shopping center that houses Vons off Regents Road that lasted a little over two years.

Saffron Thai closed in La Jolla after only a year in business. The Karina's Restaurant Group intends to convert the 2,000 square-foot space into a new branch of their fast-casual Karina's Ceviche & More. Expect a menu of ceviches, tacos, burritos, seafood cocktails and other Mexican taco shop items. Like the Mission Hills outpost, the new Karina's location will offer counter-service for dine in or take out, and the menu will include such highlights as the spicy crispy shrimp in mango sauce, bacon wrapped shrimp tacos, campechana seafood cocktail, ahi tuna ceviche, and the rotisserie chicken burrito. There will also be a menu of Mexican sodas and beers.

"While we were able to develop a solid customer following in La Jolla for Saffron over the past year, we felt the location’s potential was not being fully maximized with that concept," explained a representative of Karina's Restaurant Group. "As a result, we believe the Karina’s concept may be a better fit for the La Jolla market and beach vibe given the menu’s heavy seafood influence and the popularity of Mexican cuisine in the area."

Karina's Mexican Seafood has been a South Bay favorite in San Diego for more than 35 years. Owned by Sinaloans Arnulfo Contreras and his wife Maria Ines Curiel, and named after their daughter, Karina's has come to be known for its Baja-inspired seafood offerings, festive cocktails, and its buxsom staff of "Karina girls." Karina's Mexican Seafood has expanded to five locations spread around San Diego, as well as Savoie Italian Eatery in Chula Vista. This fall, Karina's Restaurant Group also took over operations at downtown San Diego's Taka Sushi.

Karina's Ceviche & More is expected to open at 1055 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla by spring 2020. For more information, visit karinasseafood.com.