San Diego’s retro-swanky steakhouse Rare Society has a major expansion on the horizon. The Trust Restaurant Group’s two-year-old University Heights steakhouse, opens its second location on Friday, October 29 in the North County neighborhood of Solana Beach, with more locations already in the works up and down the West Coast. Located at the base of a new mixed-use development within the Cedros Design District, the 2,800-square-foot Solana Beach restaurant has a large sidewalk patio that is bigger than it predecessor, which will allow chef Brad Wise to add more seafood and raw bar items to a menu based on steakhouse classics like oysters Rockefeller, twice-baked potatoes, and hand cut steaks.
Wise’s Central Coast roots and love of live-fire grilling play into all of the group’s restaurants but is center stage at Rare Society. And the chef is more than doubling down on the brand, with locations in Seattle, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente already in the works as part of a large-scale expansion push beyond San Diego.
Wise says the pandemic forced him to rethink the company’s trajectory; though he loves coming up with ideas and still plans to open new restaurants, the past two years have prompted the chef to reexamine his existing venues to see how they could be refined and scaled up. In addition to taking Rare Society nationwide, Wise is bringing the Wise Ox, his North Park butcher shop, to Carlsbad next spring and tells Eater that Cardellino, his Mission Hills Italian American spot, is also primed to grow.
This latest evolution of Rare Society, which is starting with dinner service five nights a week but will extend to offer lunch and dinner daily, brings a shareable approach to steakhouse dining with trademark meat boards and the group’s twists on classic dishes.
Caesar salad: Breaking away from a boring and basic salad, Wise likes his Caesar extra bold and pungent. His take features a lemon-y dressing, fried anchovies, and a generous blanket of grated cheese, subbing pecorino for the traditional parmesan.
Ahi tuna tartare: New to the Solana Beach menu, this starter combines fresh tuna with cucumber, black sesame, avocado, sea beans, and taro root in a jalapeno ponzu sauce.
Executive Board: Presented on a custom-designed lazy Susan, this shareable platter is a showcase for the restaurant’s dry-aged steaks, which are aged for 30 to 40 days. Containing a selection of the kitchen’s favorite cuts — a whopping 53 ounces of meat — it comes with a variety of sauces like bearnaise and horseradish. There’s also an Associate Board, which holds 25 ounces of Australian wagyu.
Prime Bullseye ribeye: Wise says “bullseye” is a term used on the Central Coast to refer to a ribeye steak with the ideal weight and marbling. This 16-ounce steak comes from Cedar River Farms in Colorado and is cooked on American red oak; it’s the chef’s preferred cut, and he likes to eat it with Santa Maria-style salsa which helps to counter the richness of the meat.
Butter Cake: Wise says that during recipe testing, executive pastry chef Jeremy Harville presented several elaborate versions of this old-fashioned dessert until Wise took Harville to California Pizza Kitchen to try what he thinks is the best butter cake around. The final result is a casual but decadent cake topped with ice cream and whipped cream that counts as one of Wise’s favorite desserts on any of the group’s menus.
Rare Society, 333 South Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, 5 p.m. dinner service Wednesday through Sunday.