Papalito Ending Run In North Park & No Longer Opening Previously Planned South Park Sister Location

April 14, 2023

Chef Drew Bent, who was the founding chef behind San Diego's Michelin-recognized LOLA 55, is ending his Papalito Sonoran barbecue eatery sited within Little Thief wine bar in North Park by this summer, and he also pulled plans to open a sister location in South Park.

Last summer, Chef Andrew 'Drew' Bent left his position as executive chef and partner of LOLA 55 in San Diego's East Village, which he helped open in August 2018 after several years of menu and concept development. During Chef Drew's tenure at LOLA 55, the restaurant earned the highly coveted Bib Gourmand distinction from California’s Michelin Guide. In August 2022, Chef Drew opened Papalito within the new Little Thief Wine Bar in San Diego's North Park, offering Sonoran barbecue flavors in a sandwich and bistro menu. Chef Drew also planned to open a sister concept dubbed Papalo as part of the incoming Bock Bar in San Diego's South Park.

Both Little Thief and incoming Bock Bar are projects from Brian Jensen, the founder of six locations of Bottlecraft craft beer bar and bottle shop, as well as branches of Vino Carta Wine Store and Bar in Little Italy and Solana Beach. There is little "official" information on what happened to cause this sudden shift in trajectory, only rumors at this time, but parties are chalking it up to a lease expiration for Papalito in North Park and Chef Drew's desire to open a "standalone" eatery for Papalo. Papalito claims it will continue to operate inside Little Thief through the end of the lease term, which goes through July. 

It is believed that husband-and-wife Elliot and Kelly Townsend, who oversee the culinary program (dubbed Long Story Short) at Vino Carta in Solana Beach, will take over the kitchen at Little Thief in North Park. The original plan was to have them design a globally-inspired food menu to compliment the wine offerings, and that is likely what will happen moving forward. As far as Chef Drew, he will continue operating his Papalo Sonoran barbecue concept from within the new ModBom bar & restaurant now open in the space that last housed Amplified Ale Works in San Diego's East Village.

Little Thief Wine Bar & Kitchen is located at 3017 University Avenue in San Diego's North Park. For more information, visit