Laid-off restaurant manager fulfills dream, opens his own eatery

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SAN DIEGO — The pandemic has been brutal on small businesses, but one local restaurateur says getting laid off gave him the time and motivation to finally follow through on a dream.

Joshua Evans, the owner of the new Cocina Calavera in Hillcrest, says now was the right time to launch his first business. The day he lost his job managing a restaurant back in March was the day he started working on a long-time dream.

“This was a full-time job at my house working out all the recipes, all the costing, all the design, my menu,” Evans told FOX 5. “So it took a lot of time that really only COVID gave me.”

He had long been saving up to one day open his own restaurant but — before the pandemic — he could never afford it.

“I’ve had this dream for many, many years,” Evans explained. “When I looked at this a couple of years ago, my buy-in half was going to be over half a million dollars for my startup budget, and right now, because of COVID (it’s lower).”

He bought the Two Paddles seafood restaurant on Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest, which shut down for good because of the pandemic, and transformed it into a health conscious restaurant with a Latin flavor. The restaurant has about 30 seats outdoors.

Evans knows it is risky to open a new business during the pandemic. But he says if he can weather this storm, he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. 

“It’s a very tough time right now and there’s a lot of negativity to the world, and I think that if we pay too much attention, it’s going to drag us down. What we really have to do is just focus on the positive things that we can change,” Evans said. “Whether it’s picking up a hobby, learning a second language, creating a business.”

Cocina Calavera’s soft opening begins Monday and Evans hopes to have a grand opening on Labor Day.

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