New Vision for the Golf Course Restaurant: Interview with Johan Engman

Johan Engman
Johan Engman, new golf course concessionaire

Come August, the restaurant at Coronado’s Municipal Golf Course will have a new name — Feast & Fareway  — and a new concessionaire, Johan Engman, who promises to bring a new look and a new culinary experience to one of the city’s most spectacular views.

“The style could be called modern American,” a combination of old-school coffee shop with some creative touches, Engman said. Three meals a day will be served, as well as a grab and go menu all at a reasonable price. “We don’t want to give people sticker shock,” he said.

The Swedish native has been in the industry since he was 17 years old. “I got a job as a dishwasher and never left the business,” he said. He now heads Rise and Shine Restaurant Group, which operates ten restaurants, including three Fig Tree Cafes and seven Breakfast Republics, with plans to open four more restaurants this year, not including Feast & Fareway in Coronado.

Engman moved to San Diego when he was 16. His American-born mother had family here. “I wanted to try an American high school,” he said. “I only planned to stay one year.”

Engman’s restaurants have won high praise from critics and diners alike.  TripAdvisor, Yelp and Open Table all give them high marks. Fig Tree received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, which it gives to eateries that “consistently receive great reviews” from customers.

Even among the fine dining crowd Engman has fans. David Nelson, food critic for San Diego Home and Garden called Breakfast Republic “irrepressibly fun” with an “extensive, very creative menu.” The Reader’s Candice Reed raved about the butternut squash soup and short-ribs she had at the Fig Tree in Liberty Station. “The short-ribs were so tender. I didn’t need a knife,” she said.

While the emphasis on quality will be the same, Feast & Fareway will not try to replicate Engman’s other restaurants. “Every concept is unique,” he said. He and his team submitted a sample menu with their proposal and plans to develop it further now that they are in contract negations with the city.

“It will probably be a combination of Fig Tree Café and Harry’s Coffee Shop,” he said. Harry’s owner, John Rudolf, is one of Engman’s partners, as is Tom Penn, a principal for the consulting firm Real Restaurant Solutions.

“We’ve known each other for a long-time and had wanted the work together,” Engman said. “When the request for proposals came out we decided to give it a shot.” Penn, who worked for Hyatt Hotels, has banquet experience, and Rudolf, a former semi-pro golfer, knows his way around the links and what golfers need.

The banquet business is one area the group hopes to expand. “We are definitely going to go after it,” Engman said. “We plan to do everything, wedding, showers, reunions, as well as golf tournaments.”

Engman also wants to modernize the restaurant itself. Give it a fresh look by opening up the bar area and adding an outdoor patio. “A place where people can enjoy a drink and view of the bay,” he said.

Last month the city council chose the San Diego trio over two local contenders, Ken Irvine and Brian Smock. It was not an easy choice of the council, Councilman Whitney Benzian said. All presented good proposals. Smock and Irvine had the added advantage of being local, always a plus here. But Engman’s group offered the best “balance of industry experience with vision and style,” Benzian told the San Diego Eater. “The key factor was cost,” he added. “This is a public golf course. Taxpayer money is involved.”

Engman clearly heard that message. Several times during our interview he used the word moderate to describe the menu’s price point. He also made it clear that he and his partners don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the community. “We want to be a good neighbor,” he said.

 

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A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@ecoronado.com