Swagyu Opening Butcher Shop & Eatery In San Diego's Little Italy

March 11, 2024

The ups and downs continue at San Diego's ever-expanding-yet-dwindling Swagyu, as the company is now reportedly planning to open a butcher shop and eatery in Little Italy. 

Chef Steve Brown opened his first Swagyu Chop Shop in summer 2020 at 1002 Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach, with a second location launched in Poway soon after. In 2021, Brown took over the 19-year-old Isabel's Cantina in Pacific Beach for a branch of his butcher shop and steakhouse Swagyu Burger & Chop Shop. 

Other branches of Swagyu were in the works for the space previously occupied by Schooner Station Pizzeria & Sports Pub in Encinitas and as part of the currently under-construction Freeman Collective in South Oceanside, but neither of those projects came to be. A complaint for breach of contract was filed against Brown's parent company regarding the Oceanside lease. There have also been several other small claims suits filed against Brown in recent weeks. The Oceanside space is now set to become the first brick-and-mortar location of Tanner's Prime Burgers, which is scheduled to open soon. 

Last summer, Swagyu's Pacific Beach location shuttered and Brown claimed at the time it was going to be repurposed to become a new concept dubbed Beach Bum Burger Bar, but that ultimately was not true. This is far from the first time a promised restaurant from Brown has fallen through.

In mid-2016, after opening a short-lived restaurant in Los Angeles, Brown returned to his home town of San Diego and immediately began announcing ambitious projects bolstered by local media attention (us included). Most of those eateries never came to fruition, including a promised shipping container restaurant in his hometown of Imperial Beach, a brewpub in Barrio Logan, and a restaurant as part of the revival of Chula Vista's historic Vogue Theatre. The one eatery that actually did open as expected in 2017 was Temp° by Cosecha in Chula Vista, but it was not long after that Brown was disassociated from the bistro and the name was condensed to Temp Restaurant. Temp ended up shuttering after less than a year in business.

In 2018, Brown moved to the Bay Area where he signed on as Executive Chef of the Wagyu-focused Niku Steakhouse, which opened in the San Francisco's Design District in February 2019. Brown was out at Niku by late March 2019 and replaced by Chef Dustin Falcon. Brown then returned to San Diego in April 2019 and news immediately broke that he was seeking a restaurant space to open a 12 to 20 seat, omakase-style eatery in Little Italy, a neighborhood in which Brown had previously stated he would never open a restaurant. Suffice it to say, Brown has not opened a restaurant in Little Italy. 

But things may now change, as Brown claims to have taken over the small space that long housed a branch of Grab N Go Subs and most recently was the short-lived Blue Box Butcher on India Street in San Diego's Little Italy. In the space, Brown will open Butcher Shop by Swagyu Cattle Co., which will sell meat from Brown's Swagyu Wildlife Ranch in Ramona, as well as cuts of American, Japanese and Australian Wagyu. Brown also states he will use the space to host multi-course tasting menu meals.

Last September, Brown opened a branch of Swagyu Burger within a CloudKitchens space at 1750 Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, CA. There is also a branch located at 14149 Twin Peaks Road in San Diego's Poway neighborhood. The Swagyu Imperial Beach location, which Brown previously stated would be his flagship branch moving forward, has been closed since early August. Brown has assured this is only temporary and the IB location would reopen soon, but it is not listed on the company's website. The Swagyu Burger website currently lists locations coming soon to Barrio Food Hub, Pacific Beach, UTC/Westfield, Coronado, and Los Angeles.

Butcher Shop by Swagyu Cattle Co. is anticipated to open by month's end at 2102 India Street in San Diego's Little Italy. For more information, visit swagyuburger.com.