Saturday, Mar 29 2014 09:05 AM

The Dish: La Costa goes mucho grande

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    By The Californian

    La Costa Mariscos owner Maria Coward, center, is seen with her children Larissa and Alex Joya at the restaurant in 2011.

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BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist

After 20 years at its downtown location, La Costa Mariscos is opening a second restaurant in the Icehouse space long occupied by Sizzler (which closed in 2012).

The new Mexican seafood restaurant should be open as early as May or in June at the latest, according to Alex Joya, general manager and son of Maria Coward, the restaurant's well-known owner/hostess. Joya said the move was necessary because the 21st Street location is just too small, especially for banquets and private parties.

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"Our new space is over 5,700 square feet, and our old locale is only 1,900 square feet," he said in a phone interview. "We have a tiny little kitchen right now, and that slows us down in trying to get the plates out to the customers."

The current location will close when the Icehouse restaurant opens, possibly just temporarily. There's an 80 percent chance that the 21st Street space will be reopened after the Icehouse restaurant gets established, though it likely would be reconfigured as a "fast food, order-at-the-counter place, like Sequoia Sandwich Company," he said.

This isn't the first time that a second La Costa was opened. Years ago they operated a second one on Oak Street, but that has since closed. The original restaurant has been in business 21 years, he said.

"We've really been blessed to have such loyal customers that made such a move necessary," Joya said. The remodeling of the old Sizzler will mainly remove the buffet and, he said, "add our colors and flair to the interior."

The Kern County Land Company built what was once called the Union Ice Company in 1910.

It was restored as a commercial property in the 1980s and has been home to many restaurants and other businesses since then. The Sizzler occupied the center restaurant space for a long time, but the larger corner location, complete with a fountain, has had more tenants.

Patrick Beck, the French chef who originally opened in a small space at the corner of Ming Avenue and New Stine Road, opened Patrick's there, and that was followed by Bootlegger Brewing Company, a brew-pub concept opened by Frugatti's founder Ralph Fruguglietti, who hired Jeff Williams and Darin Schwicker, the beer specialists who later went on to open Lengthwise Brewing Company.

Other restaurants in that space over the years include an Italian restaurant called Bella Italia (opening in 2004), McGee's at the Icehouse (opening in 2005, later called McGee's Steakhouse) and Shagnasty's Food and Spirits.

A thrill for grillers

Barbecue season is here (did it ever really go away with our next-to-nonexistent winter?) and I'm always in the market for good gadgets to use once grilling time starts.

We found one called Groover Cleaning Pads, which are pre-saturated with a heat-activated cleaner -- so you use them as the grill is cooling down to get the burned grease off.

You put the pad on the bristles of a grill brush and scrub. No rinsing required afterward and the grill brush never contacts the grill surface so no damage to the brush from contacting the hot grill-activated cleaner. They can be used on steel, porcelain or cast iron and leave no chemical smell or taste. Cost is $8.99 for eight pads. Webpage: gratechef.com/

New and different

In the past we've written about Talenti gelato , available in most local grocery stores in its distinctive plastic jar with the brown top. They've got three new flavors out: raspberries and cream (fresh raspberries in a ripple through sweet-cream gelato), fudge brownie and caramel apple pie (apples, pie crust and a caramel swirl in cinnamon gelato) ... Del Taco's latest "epic" burrito combines carne asada steak and crispy shrimp with a creamy ancho sauce ... El Pollo Loco is offering four new fire-grilled chicken tostadas, including citrus mango, avocado bacon and Ultimate double chicken ... Red Robin , which claims to be the first national restaurant to roll out beer shakes two years ago, now is offering a mango Moscato wine shake ($7.49), made with wine, vodka, vanilla soft serve and mango puree. More wine shakes are in the works ... New items at Applebee's (available through May 4) include a citrus lime sirloin, chicken and shrimp tequila tango and artisan grilled chicken ciabatta sandwich ... Togo's has a lemon pepper tuna sandwich, also available as a melt, through May 27 ... McDonald's is testing breakfast pastries at its San Diego stores, offering Petite Pastries in raspberry and cinnamon cream cheese varieties, $1.29 with the purchase of a beverage and $1.99 alone ... The spring menu at Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar is out and it includes lavender lemon chicken, roast pork with cherry compote, grilled radicchio and tropical fruit salad, and a new seafood entree with sea beans and asparagus as well as steak tartare, shrimp in champagne sauce, Kern County carrots done three ways, and halibut with hearts of palm, white wine gelee and pea shoots ... Ben & Jerry's has four new "core" flavor ice creams, with a column of fudge, caramel or raspberry jam running down the middle of the pint container. Flavors are salted caramel, peanut butter fudge, That's My Jam and Hazed & Confused ... Trader Joe's is currently offering some irresistible salt and pepper pistachios ($7.49 for 13 ounces) that sound simple but are amazing. Also good are the thai lime and chili almonds ($5.99 for 12 ounces) ...

Wine with that?

Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar has two upcoming wine dinners. There's a Heitz vertical tasting dinner with only four seats left set for Thursday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $190 per guest. On May 29, Chateau Saint Cosme is the winery for a new vintage release celebration at $100 a guest. Call 834-0397 for a reservation.

Hungry Hunter Steakhouse on Rosedale Highway is offering a sparkling wine tasting on Wednesday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $30, including light appetizers paired with each of the four wines from Wilson's Creek, including a Grand Cuvee, Almond, Mimosa and Peach Bellini flavored sparkling. Call 328-0580 for reservations.

Wine Find of the week

We're quite familiar with the products of the Geyserville winery Clos Du Bois but we recently had a chance to sample some of their 2012 "North Coast" wines, a cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and found they represent an exceptional value.

The cab is perfect for barbecue season, with dark berry and bittersweet chocolate notes and a drinkability right now that is impressively smooth. The chardonnay has oak balanced with pear and apple notes and would go well with cream sauce pastas and almost any chicken.

These are priced a bit below the typical Clos Du Bois product, at about $15 for the chardonnay and $17 for the cab, but I saw the chardonnay at Vons at The Marketplace priced at $7.76 if you're in store's club program.

New beer from Mexico

Got word this week of an interesting Mexican craft beer that will be available in Bakersfield called Cabotella (Pronounced CAH-bo-TAY-uh). It's produced by Baja Brewing Company by a Colorado native named Jordan Gardenhire, who moved to Cabo and never came back. It's made in small batches with premium two-row barley, a medium bodied ale with 5.5 percent alcohol content and currently available in only five U.S. states. Keep your eye out if you like craft beers.

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