University Heights

Hidden Dining Gem in University Heights Rebrands in Effort to Survive Pandemic

Chef Oz's restaurant of 10 years, Cueva Bar, is rebranding its name, menu and space to be called De Nada Kitchen and Market in an effort to survive pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

In San Diego, we've seen how hard the pandemic has hit small, locally owned businesses financially. Keeping up with changing restrictions has made it tough for especially tough for restaurants to bounce back.

In University Heights, a hidden gem is now fighting to make it through these challenging times.

Cueva Bar on Adams Avenue, soon to be rebranded as De Nada Kitchen and Market, opened a decade ago, after owner Chef Oz Blackaller and his wife left their corporate jobs to pursue their passion. They have had a steady flow of loyal customers through the years that always kept them just barely making it through.

But the pandemic has presented specials problems in adapting to the changing health guidelines.

"Not even a week after that, they’re like, 'No capacity at all," Chef Oz said. "And we're like, 'Whoa!' "

The rebranding they had been mulling over the past few years- suddenly became urgent. So now they’re making one more big push to save the establishment with a new name, new space and revamped menu.

The location, which is more than a half-dozen blocks from the busy center of University Heights, has always made it challenging to find new customers, but don't Chef Oz's unique menu of tapas with Mexican flair has always packed a punch. He was even featured on Chopped, on the Food Network.

“I just like to believe that when you have the gift of cooking, you just let it flow,” Chef Oz said.

It’s now or never.

"This is our last resort," Chef Oz said. "I mean, after 10 years, it’s been really hard."

They're revamping their menu, moving from tapas to grain bowls, fish tacos, a tasting menu and takeout pizza, to name few menu changes.

But one thing will remain the same, the cozy and inviting atmosphere. Chef Oz told NBC7 that the new name De Nada is a play on the words in English and Spanish.

“People sitting at the bar would see someone who's, like, from out of town or whatever, and they would talk to them, you know?" Chef Oz said. "So it’s like a neighborhood community feel."

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