Sunday, March 26, 2023

Costa Azul, Then & Now – A Local’s Legacy

Editor’s Note: We are sharing this story today after the unexpected death of Brant Sarber, who passed peacefully in his sleep on February 24, 2022. Today, February 26 is Brant’s birthday.

Brant Sarber Obituary – published March 7, 2022

Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine
The original article ran in Crown City Magazine in January 2022 and can be viewed here.

Written by Carol Pastor, Coronado Historical Association Volunteer
January 2022

Costa Azul was originally located at 1031 Orange Avenue.

We look forward to a new year, new goals and an opportunity to once again dine out in Coronado. Looking back over the past two COVID-19 years, we see that restaurants have closed and others have opened in their place.

Yes, there have been some of our local owners who, due to either illness or age, have chosen to retire. Others were forced out due to increases in rents. In the past, Coronado was served by mostly family owned businesses, from ice cream shops to fine dining. Today, however, it is far more likely to see the corporate food chains opening in Coronado. In spite of this, there is still one man I know who grew up in Coronado with a dream of opening his own restaurant.

This is the story of Brant Sarber, who now owns two sites in Coronado. He comes from a Navy family; his father a former seal, his mother a school teacher who later turned to real estate. As he tells it, Brant and his brother worked their way through high school with a variety of odd jobs. Not the usual mowing lawns or walking dogs — no, Brant was doing touch up painting at the Shores as owners moved in. At seventeen he was a front desk clerk at the Glorietta Bay Inn. After graduating Coronado High School, class of 1977, he then worked his way through San Diego State.

Coming back to Coronado to work was natural. Many of you would remember him from running the upstairs bar at the Chart House — now the Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill — for over 10 years. After several years he was able to convince the owners to serve food upstairs. That proved to be an excellent choice. I know many people like myself who rejoiced when we learned we could enjoy food at the upstairs bar thanks to Brant.

Then, things changed. The owners of Oriental Arts on Orange Avenue chose to retire and their space on the 1200 block of orange became available. Seeing this as his chance at his dream, Brant went on to open Island Pasta in 1990. He wanted something simple and affordable that would perhaps cater to young people like SEALs in town and locals alike. His idea of pasta offerings and affordable wine took hold and is still in operation today. His sister-in-law has been its manager, and he still has the same chef after all these years. He has also had the same landlord since day one who has always been willing to work with his tenants.

These are some of Brant’s photos of the early days of Costa Azul and Island Pasta. Provided to Crown City Publishing in December 2021.

Once again, in 1999, another opportunity came his way. He was able to open Costa Azul on Orange Avenue, the site of the old Mulvaney’s. He offered both a good bar and a large dining room, with a variety of Mexican dishes both large and small. Outdoor seating in good weather was definitely a plus. How many families celebrated one event or another at Costa? Too many to count.

Brant was always there to try to accommodate large parties, usually for local businesses or families. Many a CHS sporting event was followed by dinner at Costa Azul. Then came the blow, when after 20 years of operation he was forced to close and that block was both sold and remodeled. Not being one to give up easily, he was finally able to procure a site at the Ferry Landing with an outstanding view of the bay from both the dining room and the upper deck as well. Happy to be up and running once again, with the same chef now with him for 20 years, Costa Azul opened its doors bayside.

Unfortunately, two months later he was forced to close due to COVID-19. He remained closed for over a year, reopening this past year. This year has been the year of recovery, starting with a limited menu of Mexican entrees. He was happy to share with me that as of November Costa has a new expanded menu, offering some of the old Coronado customer favorites. He was able to upgrade the seating area behind the bar with all new booths and tables. It is both attractive and perhaps a little more private. I was somewhat surprised that he had found that some locals did not seem to want to go as far as the Ferry Landing to dine. I have found that this really is a great location with an outstanding view, ample parking, and an opportunity to stroll the boardwalk or get a window table at Costa Azul and people-watch.

Costa Azul is now located at the Coronado Ferry Landing with a gorgeous waterfront view of the San Diego Bay and Downtown skyline.
Current Costa Azul photos courtesy of Crown City Publishing by Joel Ortiz

Happy New Year to all of you. Hope you can enjoy a night out to dine in Coronado this new year.

Brant Sarber unexpectedly died peacefully in his sleep February 24, 2022.

Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine
The original article ran in Crown City Magazine in January 2022 and can be viewed here.

Brant Sarber obituary published March 7, 2022:

Brant Sarber (1959-2022)

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]