Recently I visited the owner of a new restaurant going in Off the 56, Knotty Barrel Gastropub. It will be opening in the old Café 56 location in the Rancho Penasquitos Town Center off Black Mountain Road. The previous tenant, Café 56, vacated that spot about 3 years ago and the space has been empty ever since. Locals have said whatever has gone in the spot never lasts. But I like to believe whatever has gone in the spot was never very good in the first place.

Knotty Barrel has been a staple of the East Village neighborhood of Downtown San Diego for many years and this will be their second location. They have gathered quite a following over the past few years, earning over 600+ Yelp reviews. They feature locally sourced food and a selection of over 100 local, domestic and imported beers from around the world, including over twenty craft beers on tap. They pride themselves on partnering with local farmers and vendors to provide their guests with the freshest ingredients possible.

I met with the owner, Ken Lovi, who took some time to walk me around and share a little bit about his vision for the restaurant:

​Ken Lovi (KL): My name’s Ken Lovi, I’m the founder and president of Knotty Barrel and we’re at our new location in Rancho Penasquitos. We had a few different options when it came to opening a second location in San Diego. We were looking at locations in Encinitas and 4S Ranch and then somebody told me about this location. We came, looked at it, and once we compared it to the other two, we liked this location the best.

We liked the demographics, thought the amount of nearby residents was great, and felt there was somewhat of a lack of sit down restaurants in the area. We loved the patio obviously. We’re going to be opening up a little bit of the front, but still keeping the left and right French doors. The center French doors will open up and that will be the beginning of the indoor/outdoor bar. We’ll have a new trellis coming out about 20 feet to have patio seating and the new patio will come all the way out to about where you’re standing. We’ll have four fire pits and the fountain will be removed. There will be a new tree in the center of the shopping center. Bern McGovern (BM): So this fountain is gone, you’ll have a big, nice tree–

KL: Tree with grass in around it.

BM: —for shade out here. Okay.

Knotty Barrel Gastropub

​​KL: This will make it good for families with kids. They can play on it, have the giant Connect Fours on it, and different things like that. If you come to our downtown location, we’re also family-friendly there. We have a lot of younger people that live in downtown that are single or just starting their families. They bring their kids with them and we have giant Jenga, we have board games, and we have corn hole. Our locations try to accommodate whole families and singles.BM: You envision it as a place where people can hang out for a little while, not just come, eat, and move along?

KL: Absolutely. We kind of envision this space to be similar to what we have in downtown where it’s not just a place you come, eat, and leave. When you come, you hang out, you meet up with friends, and it’s a place that really belongs to Rancho Penasquitos. The people that live here, this is their place. We plan to entrench ourselves into the community, too. We’ll be participating and working with the local schools for fundraisers, charity events, little leagues, youth soccer. We’ll be sponsoring different activities around here, doing fundraisers, and so forth.

BM: Oh, that’s great.

KL: It’s funny, we didn’t know what to expect when we announced we were opening a location up here and we were absolutely shocked at the response. I didn’t realize how many people 1) knew about us already and 2) how excited people really were.

BM: Yeah. Can we take a look inside real quick?

KL: Sure come on in.

Knotty Barrel Gastropub

​​BM: All right, so I know we’ve got to use our imagination here a little bit here, but can you tell us about what you’ve got planned for this space?

KL: So we came in where the new front entrance will be. As you come in, we’ll have the hostess stand right here to the side. And the center of the room, that’s about where the bar will be. We’ll have booths and more seating throughout. And all the way in the back will be the kitchen. We’re shooting for February 1st to open to the public.

BM: Okay.

KL: Once we do, we’ll be doing a ton of meet and greets that first month, getting to know everyone in the community, inviting people in to check us out, give us a try, and that’s the time that we always ask for a ton of feedback. Please just be honest with us. Tell us what you like, you don’t like, what we can improve on. We’re all ears. Nobody’s perfect, so we’re the last to say we are.

BM: That’s great. My family and everybody here on Off the 56 seems to be super excited about it and we can’t wait for it to happen.

KL: Well thank you and feel free to follow us on Facebook. And again, if anybody has comments, you want to ask questions or anything like that, you can just email us at info [@]

Knotty Barrel Gastropub

​If you’d like to browse the menu at their East Village location to see what you can expect at the new Rancho Penasquitos location, click here. The Knotty Barrel location in the East Village is dog friendly and this establishment will be the same. So they will have a water bowls out and pups will be welcome on the patio.

in my opinion, Knotty Barrel Gastropub, will be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood. Because of Knotty Barrel’s great food, a variety of drinks, a wonderful patio, and even a little room for the kids to run around, this area has lacked something like this for years. I for one am happy to welcome them to the neighborhood!

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