Get to know Verbena Kitchen’s head chef and see what he’s cooking up at home and in his new restaurant now open in North Park
I’m Chef Ronnie Schwandt and I am thrilled to be at the helm of Verbena Kitchen, opening this summer in the heart of North Park. I am a native San Diegan and currently live in South Park with my wife, Laura and our daughter. I attended The San Diego Culinary Institute and began my training at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, then started my culinary career in Coronado where I began as a sous chef at Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge. I spent a decade with Blue Bridge Hospitality Group, where I became the executive chef of both Maretalia Restaurant and Leroy’s, and most recently I worked with the Trust Restaurant Group. I was inspired to keep pushing the needle in San Diego’s food scene because I have had amazing mentors like Urban Restaurant Group’s executive chef, Tim Kolanko, and Wine Vault's Gregory Chavez. I hope Verbena will encourage more chef-focused projects to open in the North Park community and am excited to give back to my hometown and neighborhood.
Located at 3043 University Avenue in the heart of North Park, Verbena will be the first solo venture for myself and my business partner Jillian Ziska of To Be Designed. We have come out of the pandemic with fresh ideas, designs, and recipes. Verbena Kitchen will operate Wednesday through Saturday for happy hour and dinner, plus brunch service on Sundays.
Expect light, clean, and straightforward bites and small, seasonal shared plates with a dash of nostalgia with dishes like fresh oysters and classic deviled eggs. The super seasonal menu will revolve around the North Park Farmers’ Market and the relationships our team has cultivated with local purveyors. We invite the day drinkers, happy hour enthusiasts, and casual fine dining seekers to enjoy Verbena’s curated menu.
The beer and wines will be sourced from our beloved West Coast–stretching from Valle de Guadalupe in Baja to the Puget Sound in Washington–allowing us to showcase these devoted artisans. Each will pair with our farm- and sea-to-table menu to exemplify their profiles. Handcrafted seasonal Amaros and vermouths will be designed with the essence of the local farmers’ market and crafted cocktails will be adventurous with milk washing techniques and the use of dry ice. Guests can also expect more traditional wine cocktails including sangrias and spritz options.
Oysters and one of everything–our menu is perfect for groups!
We love turning anything into a bowl; rice bowls, grain bowls, grains and vegetables, etc. I always have to add vinegar and oil!
Our family recently went to Cori Pastificio Trattoria (aka Cori Pasta) and we ordered one of everything on the menu. We had the most amazing fresh pasta (we ordered six different dishes) and their lamb chops are phenomenal and super flavorful. They are located at 2977 Upas Street in North Park and we highly recommend them.
The vendors at North Park Famers' Market have been so good to us and you can find the best strawberries (JR Organics) and salsas (Ruth's No. 5). Building a community with these vendors has been really special as we create our menu at Verbena Kitchen.
Verbena Kitchen is now open to the public! Check out their Instagram account for more information.
This article was originally published June 29, 2021 exclusively on Edible San Diego Weekly. Want to join the club? Support the region's only dedicated, local, and independently-owned food media company by signing up for a digital membership or subscription today.