Bar 1502: Did You Know the New Noodle House is Open?

by on May 19, 2014 · 36 comments

in Culture, Economy, Ocean Beach

Fried rice and a Thai tea infused with Makers Mark whiskey.

By Matthew Wood

It’s just after noon on Friday afternoon and Steven Yeng looks nervous.

The man who opened the wildly popular OB Noodle House is standing in the middle of his new creation, Bar 1502, and the place – which opened less than a week before – is half empty during the normal lunch rush. (Ed.: this is the site of the old Blue Parrot.)

“I don’t think people know we’re open,” he says.

It’s hard to imagine being able to walk into Noodle House and get a table. At the original location, on Cable Street just north of Voltaire, the wait is almost always an hour-plus can grow to more than two hours.

“Locals just couldn’t get in anymore,” Yeng says.

The new location, at Bacon and Niagara, is a sentimental one for Yeng, who grew up on the same block.

His family came to the United States from a refugee camp in Southeast Asia with no money. They found their first television set in the alley behind where the restaurant is now.

“Me and my brothers put it on a skateboard and wheeled it home. Then we turned it on and said, ‘Whoa, it works!’”

Yeng said he got offers from all over San Diego to build a new Noodle House location, but he never hesitated when deciding to stay in OB.

The new spot is certainly a gamble. Not many restaurateurs would have the guts to build basically the same restaurant just blocks from the original. But not many people love Ocean Beach as much as Yeng.

“I mean, who opens the same concept restaurant in the same neighborhood?” he asks.

The question lingers as he pauses for a moment, thinking about it himself. Then, he moves on, as if it doesn’t really need to be answered in his mind. And then his phone rings. It does that a lot.

Yeng said he’s been putting in 140-hour work weeks (is that was even physically possible?) and it shows. He has the look of a man who won’t rest until everything is exactly perfect.

Yeng, who met his fiancé when they both attended Ocean Beach Elementary School, said the new place really wants to focus on the locals. And whiskey. Really good whiskey.

“There’s a lot of crap whiskey out there,” he says.

Bar 1502 bartenders Shaun Sylvester, John Wenzel and Jay Birger. Photos by Matthew Wood.

That point is echoed by bartender Jay Birger, who knows his drinks. “We’ve got the good stuff,” he says of a drink menu that includes nine specialty cocktails and a beer list that will focus on drinkable IPAs and a large selection of sours. They also serve a Thai tea infused with Makers Mark whiskey that Yeng thinks will become the place’s signature drink.

The food menu is limited for now, but will be much the same as the original when it’s up to full speed. Get the usual assortment of pho soups, along with the wildly popular fried rice. There will also be some more adventurous items on the menu, like chicken hearts and fish meatballs.

The place is much smaller than the original, but also much more open. A row of outdoor tables (yes, you can drink at them, unlike the other place) line the Niagara sidewalk. The bar stretches outside with seats perfect for a sunny OB afternoon. The inside is deceptively small, but it has an open and inviting atmosphere. A tree grows through the middle of the indoor tables.

Yeng says they have big plans for Farmer’s Market Wednesdays. A live blue grass band will play in the middle of the restaurant as bartenders serve up specialty drinks made from produce found at the market.

The focus isn’t just on local customers. It’s on local employees as well.

“I have about 140 employees and a solid 90 percent of them live in OB,” Yeng said. “All these guys you see here live in OB. It’s all for family. Everyone here is my family. If they are happy, we will succeed.”

He didn’t even want his photo taken for this story, instead deflecting the camera to his bartenders. Yeng’s worries of nobody showing up turn out to be unfounded. Just a few hours later, there’s a wait for tables and the bar is packed. Not bad for a place that hasn’t even had its grand opening – that comes this weekend.

So, if you haven’t checked it out yet, it might be now or never to avoid the long wait. Yeng doesn’t hesitate when asked if he hopes the new spot will be as big as the original.

“Oh yes,” he replies. “If you don’t shoot for a star, what’s the point?”

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Tyler May 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

They were definitely jam packed when I walked by several times last weekend. I really hope this doesn’t grow so quick the locals get shut out of a 2nd OB location.

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avatar another review May 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Another review:

1. No happy hour yet. bummer.

2. They don’t allow kids after five. Bigger bummer. They want it to be more of a “bar environment” was the reasoning I heard. This is a scary trend seen throughout the Newport restaurant/bar scene. Instead of a small town community feel where neighbors can get together this area is turning into Pacific Beach catering to only the youngest and rowdiest at the expense of the full Ocean Beach community (full disclosure: I’m often be one of those young-ish/rowdy types but I value the ability to raise a family in this community).
I really hope they rethink this policy. Community businesses are what make OB unique and not being able to eat at half of them anymore is driving a large part of the community away in favor of tourists.
– I’ll wait to see what the policy is before I yelp about this place and others with this policy.

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

5 does seem a bit early, but I like the idea of enjoying a meal without screaming brats kicking the back of my chair and throwing food all over the floor.

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avatar Ron K. May 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

I walked by there yesterday & the crowd was a good size, but it wasn’t crazy hectic like I viewed it. It looks like you can get a table & not wait very long. But I definitely like the setup on how it looks, inside & outside.

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avatar claudia jack May 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Yea~~~~ Ob Noodle 1502 Bar, is Super>> Life is Great at the corner of Bacon & Niagara~~~ WOW, what a great addition to the OB Hood!!!!! Gotta Love this corner, Nati’s, Raglan, Poma’s and OB Noodle~~~~ Love all of You~~~ Claudia

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avatar Dave Rice May 19, 2014 at 11:43 pm

No! Don’t tell anyone!

Not that it’ll matter – I’ve seen solid crowds there already myself, aiming to get in to check it out soon, as this has long been the closest place to my pad to imbibe alcohol…and sour beers. Mmm, sour beers…I’ve always gladly walked a mile, wife not so much – cut that distance by 3/4 and maybe I’ll finally get her in.

I’m so glad the Parrot is gone, I (almost) wouldn’t have bitched if they’d put in an Applebees…with 1502, Raglan, and Poma’s this may now be the most solid corner for good grub in town.

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avatar What About It ? May 20, 2014 at 12:17 am

We were really hoping this would be a place for food with friends & not just another bar that serves food. Ugh
We went for lunch on Wednesday @ 1230. Of course, No place to park.
Tables too Hot to sit at due to the heat & the material of tables & benches that got too heated up in the sun, it burned our legs and our seats. So we had to sit inside where the music was way too Loud to hear our selves talk. Waiter did not know the menu or even what MSG was. Lol. Oh well. Never brought us our tea or our setup. Place only had 6 customers there for good & 5 for beer. Food just ok, not really as good as the other place.
Had to keep asking for tea & h2o refills too.
Worst part was the cigarette smoke wafing over from the outdoor patio. Lordy, it was only 1 cig , but yuk, double yuk. Gave us a sick h/a. Took away our appetite too.
Should be a Non smoking place anyway. The corner area does not work, Steve
Waiters all looked too warm in their black outfits. We felt do bad for them as long pants and long sleeves were out of place on such a hot day.
A lot of servers just stood around attempting to be. “Cool”, instead of helping a waiter who needed help. No one offered to refill our beverages or even ask if we needed anything. Maybe we should have just had beer so we would not notice all of the uncaring attitudes , poor service, haphazard service and an owner who did not even come over to speak to his customers. . We would have loved to share this w him, but instead told the hostess who will be subjected to a very large amount of second hand smoke, no doubt.
We will just get it to go if we want that type of food again & for go all of the negative.
OB doesn’t need just another bar place that serves some food.

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avatar oburntout May 20, 2014 at 7:42 am

We ate a late lunch there yesterday, had a great beer, the outside seating is comfortable. Since I live on this side of town (further south, actually) it is great to just head for that corner on foot and not have to worry about parking. Good luck at your new location!

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avatar catsmom May 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Please make this a NON-SMOKING venue, inside and out!! You will have a lot more customers. No kid policy, thumbs up!!

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 21, 2014 at 8:16 am

Unless you want our business, in which case leave the outside area smoking allowed.

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avatar John May 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Non smoking preferred.

Hold on to your butts!!!!

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

If you don’t like it, don’t smoke. But you shouldn’t dictate what others can do outdoors where it has no effect on anyone but themselves.

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avatar Tyler May 22, 2014 at 6:41 am

You can’t honestly be that ignorant. Smoke does bother non-smokers outdoors. Bring your ECig if you can’t go a hour without lighting up,

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 6:57 am

Lots of things “bother” people. You don’t have a right to deny others their rights just because it offends you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re the majority, you still don’t get to tell other people what to do.

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avatar Tyler May 22, 2014 at 8:59 am

Delusion treats you well, huh?

Private establishments DO have the right to deny you the ability to smoke in their restaurant. Hell, public places can establish rules as well. There’s a reason a vast majority of places in this country, save a few bassackwards states, have banned smoking in many public and private places. As a large majority, we have a right to state our opinion, just like your small faction has the right to your own opinion.

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 10:35 am

“Individual rights are not subject to a vote; the rights of the minority cannot simply be voted away by the majority.”

– Ayn Rand

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avatar Tyler May 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

Ms. Rand is an idealist author. The rest of us choose to live in reality.

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm

The reality is that others have rights, whether you approve or not. And while this restaurant might, if they chose to, have the right to tell patrons they may not smoke on the premises, YOU do not. Open your own restaurant.

If an establishment is trying to maintain a “bar with food” type atmosphere, smoking in outdoor areas is appropriate.

avatar Christo May 21, 2014 at 8:59 am

89% of Californians do not smoke. Those 89% are forced to smell your rank, life endangering habit when you light up. Or they take their business elsewhere.

So- pander to the 11% who insist on destroying the enjoyment of others- or alienate the majority.

Easy business decision.

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 21, 2014 at 10:22 am

While we’re at it, why not ban body odor, cheap cologne, and shrill laughter? Those are all annoying too.

OK 89% don’t smoke. But are all 89% d__ks about it?

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avatar Christo May 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm

My habits are not offensive and dangerous to those around me. Yours are. Whose the d__k?

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avatar Steve May 21, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Your habits might not be, but your comments sure are.

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avatar Christo May 22, 2014 at 9:37 am

I was indeed more offensive then necessary to make my point.

“Another Anonymous Neighbor”- my apologies with my choice of words. They were a visceral reaction to what I feel when someone lights up next to me when I am trying to enjoy a meal and I have to smell it.

We all deal with the negatives of OB because we feel the positive far outweighs the negative. Last thing I want to do is create hard feelings and create more negativity due to my choice of words.

We can disagree and still be civil.

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

Agreed. Anyway, I quit 15 years, it’s my wife’s freedom I’m defending.

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avatar Dave Rice May 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm

I didn’t realize how rank my cigarettes were, or worse, how bad I smelled after I was done smoking, until a few weeks after I quit. That said, I’m not the type to become an anti-smoking zealot and start trying to crack down on the people that still choose to smoke (outdoors, at least – I could never stand indoor smokers even when I did smoke).

Besides, if they completely ban smoking, the zealots will be coming after my vaporizer next, because even the sight of odorless, tar-less, smokeless “smoke” will become the next thing to be offended over. And if I have to quit vaping, I might just go back to smoking…

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I vowed when I quit (actually it was 17 years ago) that I would never be a pain in other people’s butt about it. And yeah, I can smell it now, and it smells good when people are smoking, but people who’ve been smoking smell pretty rank.

You’re right that the next thing will be your vaporizer, but that’s not the end. Some people are determined to force others to conform in every way. I have my doubts about whether people like that will really be happy in OB.

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avatar Tyler May 23, 2014 at 6:46 am

I already stated I have no problem with ecigs whatsoever. Don’t straw man this argument. I also don’t have a problem with cigarettes in many situations. Patronizing a restaurant is one of the few places it bothers me. Like I said, we are all entitled to an opinion. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything, just expressing my view that I would be pleased with 1502 if they decided to exercise their right to make whatever policy they want.

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avatar SaneVoice May 21, 2014 at 11:32 am

Yeah, because that cigarette smoke is so gross and disgusting while you sit outside sucking down all the car exhaust from the street traffic. Typical hypocritical Californians. Smoking is so bad, but I’ll drive my car two blocks down the street instead of walking.

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avatar objamieW May 22, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Who is “You” Sane?

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avatar CC May 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

what a logical statement, no holes there.

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avatar SaneVoice May 22, 2014 at 4:13 pm

It’s quite logical. Non-smokers piss and moan, turn their noses up and make faces when someone’s smoking a cigarette. But they think nothing of the damage done to their lungs from car exhaust (which is much worse than cigarette smoke). You got your laws passed, no one smokes inside.

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avatar Debbie May 22, 2014 at 8:06 am

Yuckie Poo if smoking is allowed outside. One thing about the area at the Noodle House and Lucy’s ….walking by the cig smoke gets me queezie. Kind of like sitting next to someone who smells :-( Esta no bueno!

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avatar Another Anonymous Neighbor May 22, 2014 at 8:16 am

Agree with your analogy – both body odor and smoke are unpleasant.

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avatar off topic June 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I agree with all of you. The OB noodle house is awesome.

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avatar OB Wood May 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm

OK, we’ve probably sufficiently beaten this smoking discussion into the ground.

For the record, I was there last night and did not see anybody smoking anywhere near the place.

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 24, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Thanks OB Wood, had to chuckle, as your review of the opening turned into a mish-mash on smoking. But you’re right to sense an end to that particular train of discussion.

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