Searsucker designed to suit North County


Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey recently opened a Searsucker location in the Del mar area. (Photo by Chantelle Marie, courtesy of Enlightened Hospitality Groups)

Manny Lopez

A restaurant metamorphosis took place July 17 with the emergence of Searsucker Del Mar from the chrysalis of Burlap located in Carmel Valley’s Del Mar Highlands Town Center mall.

Intended to coincide with opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack, celebrity chef Brian Malarkey and hospitality entrepreneur James Brennan look to transport some of the edginess and “new American cuisine” to North County that has made Searsucker one of San Diego-based Enlightened Hospitality Groups’ most successful brands.

“Many of our Searsucker clientele are North County residents who drive to the Gaslamp Quarter on the weekend to enjoy the food, design and ambiance that makes Searsucker such a unique destination,” Malarkey said. “To be able to now put a Searsucker in their very own neighborhood is a win for everyone.”

Gone are the bright colors, eclectic furnishings and “Asian cowboy cuisine” that gave Burlap a club-like atmosphere. In their stead now sits a warmer, more family-oriented Thomas Schoos designed environment, which Malarkey described as “urban cowboy meets California chic,” with a new menu designed by Chef de Cuisine Andrew “Dizzle” Phillips.

“Burlap was a concept. It was a trial run. When we first started our company we had a couple of different brands and styles that we were trying out,” Phillips said. “Searsucker is the one. I believe that’s what Del Mar has really always wanted from us and we’re going to give it to them.”

Phillips, who has been with Enlightened Hospitality Groups since 2010, helped open the flagship Searsucker San Diego and has worked his way through the ranks to his new position at the North County location. He said that his charge is to return the focus back to the food.

The grand opening special consisted of seared pork belly and scallops, prepared Del Mar style, with pork belly caramel sauce, micro-cilantro and breakfast radish. A three-course prix fixe menu crafted for the event, which included a number of Searsucker’s most popular dishes, was offered for $65.

“On opening day, my impression is that this is a winning bet,” said Kristine Grant of Del Mar, who was among the first customers through the door. “I love the feel of this place. There’s a good vibe, it’s very clean and it’s within walking distance from my house in heels.”

The six-week transformation, which Malarkey said cost more than $1 million, gives Enlightened Hospitality Groups a portfolio that includes Searsucker restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Austin, Texas. The group also owns and manages Herringbone, Gabardine, Stingaree and Campine, a catering and event production company

Malarkey said that after experimenting with different concepts, Enlightened Hospitality Groups has plans for a national expansion of its Searsucker and Herringbone brands. The company expects to open 15 new restaurants across the country within the next five years.

“We’re having a lot of fun and we don’t take things too seriously,” Malarkey said. “We’re entertaining with amazing food highlighted by great service in a party atmosphere and the glasses are always clinking. So put on your seersucker suit and head on over to Searsucker.”

Searsucker Del Mar is located at 12995 El Camino Real. Lunch will be served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. A Sunday brunch will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More information about Searsucker can be found at or by calling 858-369-5700.

Manny Lopez is a North County freelance writer