By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Mike Hess on expansion, philanthropy and LGBT “noise”
After recently opening a second taproom in Seaport Village and wrapping up the annual “Hess Fest” that raised money for Oncology and Kids, we caught up with entrepreneur and former Navy officer Mike Hess of Mike Hess Brewing Company to talk about his philanthropic efforts and the LGBT controversy that surrounded his business several months ago.
Hess launched his newest tap house this summer in Seaport Village, which sits a stone’s throw away from a satellite tasting room and kitchen that opened there a couple years ago. The new venture offers commodious outdoor seating and marks his seventh outpost; six of them are in San Diego County and one resides in Walnut Creek, California. All of the company’s craft beers are brewed at his North Park location.
A former resident of Rancho Penasquitos, Hess and his wife have since relocated to Bourne, Texas, although he returns to San Diego each month for a week to oversee operations. His success as one of our city’s early craft brewers allows him to donate around $150,000 a year to charities benefiting military veterans, kids with cancer, and service dogs.
“Those are our main focus,” he said.
In April, the dual digital network known as TheBattleCry_US.com and PublicSq.com, which supports “freedom-loving businesses,” came out in opposition to Bud Light’s pro-trans campaign, which temporarily featured trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney on its label. Amid the backlash, the site meshed together a glowing endorsement of Mike Hess Brewing with a message for consumers to “ditch and switch to businesses that value you.”
The post applauded Hess Brewing Company’s “traditional family values and exceptional hand-crafted beer.” And the LGBT community and its supporters were quick to respond across social media channels, accusing Hess of being both homophobic and transphobic.
“We didn’t endorse it,” Hess insisted. “We were tagged in the post and I’m not getting involved in the fray. This was all a niche minority making a bunch of noise,” he added.
When asked if he subscribes to BattleCry_US and PublicSq as an online member, he firmly responded, “no” before pointing out nonetheless that Anheuser-Busch “lost millions in market sales” over its Bud Light partnership with Mulvaney.
Hess went on to emphasize that his brewery and tasting rooms welcome LGBT families. He also noted, “We have LGBT on staff.”
When also asked if he has ever donated to any political organizations or civil-rights causes, he again answered “no” and preferred returning to the topic of his philanthropy.
“All people need to do is to see our brand and website as to where we stand. What we do is different in that we are purposely philanthropic every single day,” he said.
Other organizations that have benefited from Hess Brewing include The Girl Scouts of the USA and One More Wave, a surfing-therapy organization for veterans.
For more information visit mikehessbrewing.com.
“Hate-free” chicken in Normal Heights
With a whimsically written menu in place and a passion for innovative cooking, chef Pete Servold and his wife Sarah, a creative marketer, are off to a brisk start with their new venture, Young Cluck.
The eatery’s concise menu, which features a handful of breakfast and lunch options, is a result of the chef’s schooling at Le Cordon Bleu and his experience running the meal-prep company, Pete’s Real Food for the past 10 years.
The top seller at Young Cluck so far is the Southern fried chicken sandwich, which carries the tagline “hate free and served on Sundays.” As Servold explained, it’s an indirect prod to Chick-fil-A’s record of donating to anti-LGBT groups and being closed on Sundays for religious worship.
Servold’s fried chicken is brined for 24 hours, pounded flat, and then double breaded in flour, cornstarch and buttermilk.
Other menu items include a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich added by Servold’s wife. It’s served on a Kaiser roll and based on the version that she came to love when living in Manhattan before the couple met.
There is also a “South in the grits” bowl with bacon, cheese and eggs, plus a grilled chicken banh mi sandwich using baguettes sourced from K Sandwiches in Clairemont.
The couple plans to open more locations over the next year in Pacific Beach, Mission Valley, or Clairemont, and possibly one in Del Mar. 3460 Adams Ave., 619-795-9995, youngcluck.com.
A revision of 1980s-style Italian cuisine?
The Mexico City-based restaurant group, Grupo Hunan, has entered the San Diego market for the first time with the La Jolla opening of Lucrezia.
Lushly appointed with mature olive trees and hanging foliage, the designers took their cue from upscale restaurants along Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Lucrezia’s website states that the menu offers twists on “80s Italian cuisine,” even though by most accounts, dishes such as arancini, veal Milanese, arrabbiata penne pasta and several others predate that particular decade. And many of the dishes actually adhere to classic tradition with perhaps the exceptions of shrimp scampi in salsa verde, and the intriguing salt-and-vinegar roasted potatoes that come with a half Jidori chicken.
Nonetheless, customers will encounter an array of tantalizing choices that include whole sea bass, baby lamb chops, various pizzas using imported herbs, and meaty Bolognese sauce that’s cooked for six hours.
The 10,000-square-foot restaurant is located in Westfield UTC mall. It replaces Larsen’s Steakhouse. 4301 La Jolla Village Drive, Suite 1050, 858-352-6266, lucrezia.us.
–Frank Sabatini Jr. has been writing about food in San Diego for over 35 years. He launched his own food blog during the pandemic, called, “The Hash Star,” which you can follow at thehashstar.com. He can be reached at [email protected].
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