Enterprising restaurateur Scott Slater has been in San Diego nearly 25 years, and while he isn’t a native, Slater knows the city well. “I say if you’re from San Diego, you know three intersections: College and Montezuma, Fifth and Market, and Mission and Garnet,” said Slater, who is currently working to make the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue go beyond mere familiarity and become a true destination.
Taking over the spot that for 50 years was the home of the Pacific Beach Denny’s until it closed in 2018, Slater recently opened the aptly named Mission + Garnet at 800 Garnet Ave.
When it is finished, Mission + Garnet will offer six distinct eating establishments under one roof inside its roomy 4,000-square foot space. The spot will be open nearly 24 hours a day with early morning and late-night dining options available.
Slater said he looks for Mission + Garnet “to revitalize this corner of Pacific Beach.”
Four of the dining spots opened in February: Spitfire North of the Border, Earlybird Breakfast Burritos, Head Lettuce and Checkered Churros Waffle’d Churros. The spots feature walk-up windows or fast-casual counter service with outdoor seating available on a wrap-around patio. A spring 2023 opening is anticipated for the other two ventures, Harvey Carver’s, a whole-meat sandwich shop, and Scotty Dogs, which Slater said will be served out of a custom detached hot dog trailer.
Slater said he originally was looking at a spot next to Denny’s to open a second Spitfire and Head Lettuce next to one another. He opened the original Spitfire and Head Lettuce eateries in 2019 adjacent to each other in the UTC area.
“Spitfire and Head Lettuce is the brand we wanted to expand with, so as we were clearing the pandemic looking for second locations for them, Mission and Grand (area) came up,” Slater said. “We were actually looking at the location next to it, a much smaller unit. But then we saw the Denny’s was open, too.”
Slater, 41, grew up in Pasadena and moved south to attend San Diego State University, graduating in 2004. He started his business career with 36 concession stands around the country, from Orange County to Las Vegas, Phoenix and New York, set up at The Home Depot stores.
Slater said between the recession and a turf war between The Home Depot and Lowe’s, he decided to leave the concession stand business and start Slater’s 50/50 in 2009 in Anaheim. Slater’s 50/50 was quick to gain a near-cult following behind its menu of bacon-infused burgers and craft beer.
The restauranteur decided to sell all six of his Slater’s businesses, including one in Dallas, in 2017, and then opened a small wine bar in Mission Valley in 2018 — which he said he sold two weeks before the pandemic hit the U.S.
In 2019, he opened Head Lettuce and Spitfire Tacos near UTC and said he made it through the challenges of the summer of 2020 by partnering with the county and other government entities serving food to hospital workers and having 40 employees driving daily to the homes of at-risk individuals in the region.
“We had the rug pulled out from under us when the pandemic hit,” Slater said. “We raised $75,000 and my wife and I matched that and we served $150,000 worth of food to medical staffers. That’s what kept our doors open and allowed us to survive.”
Slater, who recently launched a Spitfire site inside of JuneShine’s hard kombucha tasting room in Scripps Ranch, has high expectations for Mission + Garnet, calling it a “jumping off point” for his umbrella group Apex Brand Collection.
Apex Brand Collection
CEO: Scott Slater
HEADQUARTERS: Downtown San Diego
BUSINESS: Restaurant concepts
EMPLOYEES: 75 at Mission + Garnet; 100 overall
WEBSITE: www.missiongarnet.com and www.apexbrandcollection.com
NOTABLE: Mission + Garnet will soon feature a free-standing hot-dog cart serving beachgoers and late-night partiers unique hot dogs until 3 a.m.