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The Coast News

A conversation with the team behind Priority Public House

David Boylan

The signature burger and fries at PPH
The signature burger and fries at PPH. Photo courtesy PPH

Now that it’s had a while to settle into the Leucadia space once occupied by Calypso Café, I had a chance to visit Priority Public House for dinner and Sunday brunch. The Friday night dinner scene and brunch were bustling with folks enjoying the wide selection of craft beers and American Gastropub style food. I caught up recently with owner Brian McBride and Chef Mark Dowen to get a feel for how their still new venture is going.

LTP
You grew up in the area and were around for the Calypso Café years prior to opening PPH. Did you have restaurant related experience or was this a new experience for you?

Brian
First off, Calypso was a staple in Leucadia for over 17 years, you can never 'replace' an establishment like Calypso, it had a great legacy and I can truly respect what they accomplished. My direct restaurant experience was very limited. I worked in restaurants in college to make a little money on the side. I was in a completely different industry before opening Priority Public House. PPH is a true passion project, one that I didn’t think was going to become a reality, but God kept opening doors, and I just kept trying to walk through them and here we are today.

LTP
You definitely put your own stamp on the building, what were your inspirations and describe the look and feel you were going for.

Brian
We worked with a great design firm located in San Diego, Moniker Group. They took our ideas and made them better. We wanted something simple, yet purposeful with an attention to detail and craftsmanship. Leucadia is a community that appreciates art, culture and surf, but you don't have to be pretentious to show it. We want people to feel at home at PPH, that it's a comfortable, safe place for them to eat, drink, laugh and enjoy good company. We made a space that my wife and I would want to hang out at along with our 1 year old daughter.

LTP
You brought in an established chef in Mark Dowen and are calling it an American style gastropub. Was the menu a collaboration?

Brian
Yes, there has been menu collaboration, but Mark has been the driver of our dishes. Mark didn't have gastropub experience before, he comes from more of a French/gourmet background, however when we first met I was drawn to his loyalty, lack of ego, love for his family, trusting nature and of course his culinary skill level. Mark has been instrumental in creating a menu that's simple, however elegant that uses fresh ingredients. I'm excited about the direction of our kitchen, we're about to change a few of our menu items and we're at a point that we can start to be more adventurous.

LTP
Your culinary background includes a mix of time spent in San Diego and New York. Describe how those experiences have influenced your menu at PPH.

Chef Dowan
Having spent time on both coasts has been a luxury that I have been able to draw from several times during my career. I've worked in all areas of the field from four star restaurants to luxury hotels to private country clubs building recipes and, writing menus for an eclectic group people. No matter who I was cooking for it was always the same philosophy fresh, locally produced, made in-house. That's the reason at PPH we are a scratch kitchen making everything in-house.

LTP
What would you consider your signature dishes on the dinner menu at PPH?

Chef Dowan
At PPH we decided that we would start simple, something that our clientele could enjoy, and match with their favorite craft beer. All of the proteins that we serve are all natural, grass fed products. Our Roasted Jalapeno/Chipotle stuffed Burger and Pulled pork sandwich have very quickly become two of our most popular items. We have some very exciting items coming out on our new dinner menu this coming week, such as our brown nut ale braised beef short ribs, a slow roasted pork French dip, a traditional east coast style chicken pot pie wrapped in a flaky puff pastry crust, as well as a delicious bison chili with jalapeno/smoked cheddar fritter just to name a few. Our brunch and lunch menus are looking great as well.

LTP
Craft beer is a big draw at PPH, what do you have going on in that area?

Chef Dowan
Beer is San Diego....and we love it. There are so many great breweries locally and we love featuring San Diego beer. There are also good breweries outside of San Diego and it’s fun to have them available as well. Our goal is to serve beer we enjoy and would want to drink. It's awesome to see the growth in craft beer in coastal north county over the past few years, good news is there's still room to grow. We're excited to utilize our strengths in the kitchen to compliment the amazing beer we have on draft.

PPH is located at 576 N. Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia. Check out their full menu at www.prioritypublichouse.com

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