Malarkey reopens Little Italy restaurant for 1st time since pandemic


SAN DIEGO – Yet another San Diego restaurant chose to reopen Wednesday despite the county’s new order that permits only outdoor dining.

The rule has presented a challenge for many restaurants, but Herb & Wood in Little Italy decided to move forward with welcoming guests back. After Monday’s announcement, the restaurant had to cancel many indoor reservations, but the location refused to cancel making its comeback.

“We decided you know what, we’re going to come get you, COVID! We are tired of getting pushed around and we just have to play inside the playground that we have,” said Brian Malarkey, Chef and Co-Creator of the Puffer Malarkey Collective, which includes Herb & Wood.

While the very recent restrictions on indoor dining in San Diego County have left many restaurants scrambling, some like Herb & Wood were lucky enough to find a sweet spot, allowing their locations to work.

“Earlier this year, we launched our retractable roof so we could control it and now we have to keep our roof open,” Malarkey said.

Malarkey considers the open-air area of the restaurant similar to a “secret garden” — you almost don’t know you’re dining outside until you look up. 

Wednesday was opening day for Herb & Wood after nearly four months closed, but the restaurant could only open at about one-tenth the capacity it could typically hold.

“We said we are going to be the first to close and the last to open. We want to be responsible to our staff, to our guests, to everybody out there,” Malarkey said.

It’s not the reopening he planned for but it’s the one Malarkey is choosing to move forward with, especially since small business PPP loans have extended funding through October.

Malarkey’s other San Diego restaurants — Herb & Sea and Animae — are currently working on figuring out how to add outdoor dining, while the more casual Herb & Eatery right next door to Herb & Wood is set to reopen next Wednesday for takeout.

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