One of Most Iconic Restaurants of Ocean Beach – Nati’s – to Be Replaced by Pie Shop

by on January 25, 2018 · 37 comments

in Ocean Beach

Is this the future for Nati’s? It could be, pending signing of lease by Pop Pie Co. From their website.

In the January 25th edition of the San Diego Reader, Delinda Lombardo, breaks the sad news that the days are numbered for one of the most iconic restaurants in Ocean Beach – Nati’s Mexican Restaurant.

In a piece of excellent investigative work, Lombardo reports the –

“Pop Pie Co. will occupy the restaurant space, pending the signing of a lease.”

Nati’s, the famous eatery – located at Bacon and Niagara – has been a mainstay in the Peninsula since the early 1960s – and even though some express disdain for the old-school Mexican food served – for many others, it’s their favorite place for Mexican. It was voted “best restaurant” for many years.

It was originally thought the recent sale of Nati’s would only result in remodeling and the restaurant would be re-opened. But now it appears any innovations will be going further. Lombardo reports:

Following a tip from a reliable source, I confirmed that Pop Pie Co. will occupy the restaurant space, pending the signing of a lease.

The eatery’s first location in University Heights opened on October 8th, 2016, serving sweet and savory pies (including breakfast pies). Owners Gan Suebsarakham and Steven Torres said they were “very excited” to come to O.B. but had no comment.

So just who and what is Pop Pie Co.?

Here’s what they say about themselves on their website:

Specializing in artisanal, handcrafted savory and sweet pies, Pop Pie Co. adds to the dynamic food scene in the University Heights business corridor of Park Boulevard.

Five inches of pastry perfection—savory meat, vegetarian and vegan pies are paired with fresh-made sides and salads. Come for our lunch combos or dinner meals and finish with our 3.5-inch sweet mini pies, or 4-inch sweet hand pies. …

Our menu is rounded out by breakfast pies in the a.m. hours, an assortment of complementary pastries baked in our kitchen, craft beer, and a multi-roaster specialty coffee bar promising our patrons new coffee experiences seasonally, as ever-changing as our pies. What doesn’t change is our signature all-butter crust, interesting ingredients from quality sources, elevating our craft, and being good neighbors for our San Diego community.

The green curry chicken pot pie was raved about at Thrillist San Diego, which named it as one of the “best new dishes” in San Diego in 2016. (See below for their menu.) In October 2016, Thrillist did a major piece about Pop Pie Co, claiming the place “has seen lines out the door since its early October official opening”:

“I’ve always loved pie and I felt a strong responsibility to bring it to market the right way,” says Steven Torres, a co-partner of Pop Pie Co., adding that savory pies, usually laden with meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes, are ubiquitous in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Great Britain. “It’s the equivalent of our burrito — there are different versions, from basic to gourmet.”

It’s a partnership between Torres, who interfaced with many restaurant owners in his previous job at JP Morgan, and chef Suebtrakarh Suebsarakham (Gan, for short), whose resume includes an MBA and a culinary degree from Grossmont College. Torres said his early career path gave him a “head start,” but adds “I probably learned more in the last year than I did in all my years at college.”

In a possible peek at the future for the old Nati’s building, the Thrillist article recounts how the co-partners of Pop Pie at their University Heights location took a former hair salon that “required extensive renovations to accommodate their vision.”

The entire space was gutted and transformed into a “neighborhood gathering space” with communal tables, roll-up windows, and no outlets or Wi-Fi (a deliberate move to encourage conversation).

This is all bad news for Nati’s long-time fans – and believe me, there are plenty. It’s not readily known but Nati’s was the very first Mexican restaurant in the Peninsula, before the days of Taco Bell or Roberto’s even. The outside patio, the assured parking are also attributes of the old time eatery that will also be missed.

Here is the menu from the current Pop Pie Co. in University Heights:


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Confused and Amused January 25, 2018 at 1:50 pm

I can’t understand the popularity of Nati’s for the life of me. It’s as overpriced as it is mediocre–in no universe is it a best anything. Thrilled for someplace new you can eat for under $10!


Judy Dibble January 25, 2018 at 5:35 pm

My family had been going to Nati’s for years. B’day celebrations and every Friday night. When I could afford the $.47 (tax included) I had a taco and large soda. After my Mom died in 2008, I drew a line in the sand. No more Nati’s. The last B’day we had there, all 8 at the table had to order, as sides, the various condiments that had previously been included with our orders. Average cost, $2.00 /side/person. Even then, wouldn’t stand up to Roberto’s. When Cecilla (as I recall her name) died, that ended it for all of us. No love lost here.


Chris January 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm

I’ve been to Nati’s about 5 times in a span of 15 years and to be honest I was always disappointed. And I AM a fan of old school Mexican food (are there really people who are not?) but I think there’s always been better in SD. I guess it’s a matter of preference but in OB during the 90’s my go to was Margarita’s until ownership changed. These days (for OB) it’s either Bravo’s or Mike’s Taco shop (strangely very similar to Oscar’s).


Chris January 25, 2018 at 5:37 pm

If it’s any consolation, I’ve been to the Pop Pie in University Heights a couple times and it’s pretty good, so I can only say give it a chance.


Don January 25, 2018 at 6:32 pm

I, too, never really got the Nati’s thing. Ate there maybe only seven or eight times in twenty years. Never a first choice and, frankly, never a consideration except when another local was dead set on going to the place. Sure it’s just down the hill, walking distance… but, heck, it was typically marginal at best.
Let the new restaurant/concept have a go. Let Nati’s be a memory… and that’d be perfectly reasonable.


Iris Hampton January 25, 2018 at 8:47 pm

I have been going to Nati’s since I was a young girl. It was a family tradition for graduations, birthdays, celebrations, etc… It wasn’t as much about the food as it was about the memories. My father set up a last minute birthday lunch for me about 6 weeks before he died. One of my finest memories! I am sad to see it go and so grateful for all the wonderful memories they provided for us.
PS Luisa was so dear to all of us!


Frank Gormlie January 26, 2018 at 11:02 am

I think you hit on it – the memories. Because Nati’s was the only Mexican restaurant around for many years,(and then only 1 of 2 – Margaritas on Sunset Cliffs) many OB and Pt Loma families had gatherings there. I know my family did. My sister – who has been away for decades – would always insist when she came to town that we go there. So, Nati’s is associated with fond memories of family get togethers.

And it’s nostalgia. Also, Luisa yes was great – and in general, the staff stayed for so many years; they must be doing something right if the workers remained for literally decades. Plus, they still have the cheapest after-dinner mints and chocolates.

I think we all – or just all – agree it wasn’t the food, and the prices have gone up (I once vowed never to eat their beans again!) Frankly, I went there more for the patio than the food. But, ah, no more.


Dave January 25, 2018 at 10:39 pm

For some reason I’m bummed about this – I always found Nati’s to be very mediocre, and it seems I’m far from alone. Just nostalgia getting me, I guess…and while Mike’s and Cotija up the hill are decent, all of my favorite taco shops are back in East County where I grew up – I haven’t found anything by the coast to compare to Machos, Sarita, or La Posta…


Chris January 26, 2018 at 5:56 am

Try Ponces in Kensington.


marc johnson January 25, 2018 at 11:32 pm

What a shame,Nati was a good restaurant for many years,investors probably bought the property and now they’re going to rent it out for top dollar to the pot pie company. OB is turning into yuppieville.


micporte January 26, 2018 at 5:06 am

always loved the pot pie shop on university, favorite place to go with my old traditional parents, good filling eats for cheap…
loved Nati’s Mexican too, fav hangout/meeting with locals..
the temples change, the gods change, the clouds change…
OB endures…


Brian Walker January 26, 2018 at 6:16 am

This news is quite sad. As an original Zonie I have been eating at Nati’s since it opened. Besides loving the food, the people and the atmosphere make it such a wonderful place. As a Zonie, our family would dine at least 7 times in our two week stay. Once I moved to San Diego it became a weekly visit. Now im in Seattle, longing for an O.B. experience, which will happen in 10 days. 3 generations of my family have experienced Nati’s with a forth coming that will only know the legend of this place.
In my opinion O.B. has been loosing it’s personality for the past few years…I’ve been loving it 55 years. I watch the pier grow out of the ocean, surfed before and after it was up. I guess the next thing I’ll hear is THE BLACK will become bar and cake shop…..


Erin M Prout January 26, 2018 at 6:58 am

Omg I’ve been going there for over 30 years. Ever since i was born. I agree it isn’t the best but Nati’s has so much heart and memories. It is so sad to replace it with a chain resteraunts.


Chris January 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm

The place that’s going in there is not a chain.


Peter from South O January 26, 2018 at 6:59 am

Holy crap . . . Donovan is involved (San Diego’s canyon killer)

Watch out, OB. He might try to bulldoze the Pier.


unwashedwallmartThong January 27, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Another ruthless developer w/ a fat mouth, no?


Chaz Lomack January 26, 2018 at 9:03 am

When that pie shop opens up Niagra and Bacon is going to be the new hot lunch/dinner corner. You’ll have pho, pizza, burgers and now pies. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.


Geoff Page January 26, 2018 at 9:38 am

I loved Nati’s and went there for many years for breakfast. It was a shame when they decided to do away with breakfast and not open until 11:00. Yes, their food was not top notch but breakfasts were just fine. The outdoor seating was great and the parking as well. I will miss it very much. I do have to say that the pie shop looks very interesting and seems a good new replacement. A 60 year run for a restaurant is unheard of so it lived a good life and it’s time for change. But, the funk is quickly disappearing from the OB I fell in love with 38 years ago.


Chris January 26, 2018 at 7:06 pm

I’ve been to the one in University Heights a few times and I can say it is pretty good. Plus a good beer selection.


ObKid January 26, 2018 at 11:14 am

Nati’s serves straight slop that my dog wouldn’t eat. Voted best restuarant in ob? By who? That joke of a sign to go with the joke of food. Place is a monstrosity of terrible food.

I give the pot pie place a few months before giving way to the usual bar/grill vibes seen in Ob.


Geoff Page January 26, 2018 at 11:57 am

Is it really necessary to piss on the grave like that? And to insult those of us who liked the place? That opinion could have been kept to yourself and no one would have missed it.


Eric DuVall January 29, 2018 at 9:16 am

Thank you Geoff.


Gail Hoffmaster Kampen April 8, 2019 at 6:18 am

Thank you, Geoff.


Mark-Elliott Lugo January 27, 2018 at 11:32 am

I’m glad to see that the new restaurant will be offering food items that can’t be found elsewhere in the neighborhood. It sounds fabulous (especially the chicken pot pie), if you ask me, though my best friend has been going to Nati’s since it opened and it’s still his favorite restaurant in OB. (But, then again, he’s from Finland and doesn’t like anything spicy!) I only hope that the Pop Pie Co. has comfortable seating, especially booths. There a very few restaurants in OB with a nice décor and where I can take clients for a business meeting without having our conversation drowned out by background noise. Also, I’d really like to see a full-service, traditional bakery in OB (something superior to CJ’s). In the old days, we used to have at least two of them, from what I remember. Now THAT would be progress!


marc johnson January 28, 2018 at 8:48 am

Future condo project.


Paula January 28, 2018 at 10:19 am

I totally agree with your! Definitely CONDOS in the future!


Chris January 28, 2018 at 10:21 am



Paula January 28, 2018 at 10:18 am

Definitely CONDOS in the future!


OB/PL Local January 29, 2018 at 3:20 pm

I go to the Chicken Pie Shop on El Cajon Blvd. once in a while. The food is great & the prices are very reasonable. It’s worth the drive for sure. I hope the Pop Pie Co. will be good also.


amp douth January 30, 2018 at 3:50 pm

I would like every one to know I spoke with owner / manager Marilyn today. She told me DO NOT BELIEVE THE READER STORY. She said the Reader writer was mad that the sales broker would not talk to her about the sale DUE TO CONFIDENTIALITY. The busybody writer DEMANDED he give her the story and pestered the man with texts and calls. Hearing this, Marilyn the owner decided to NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS PUSHY WRITER (& the horrible Reader) & gave the Nati’s update to the Pennisula Beacon. Here it is:–Nati-s–sold? I will send Frank more details with photos, if he would like to put it in the OB Rag.


Honey_Bunch January 30, 2018 at 11:45 pm

amp douth, I believe you.

I knew there was something pardon the pun fishy about the story. The Reader is beginning to piss me off. They have a history of doing this to small older restraunt business owners. One is the “Peking-Inn” (long-time oldstyle Chinese located near the North Park sign) which they misquoted the owner as retiring and closing up.
Nothing can be farther than the truth.

Put one and one together, these longtime businesses rely on you, and the Reader editors, and writers contort stories that slant towards their advertisers.
I’m getting tired of it. Pot and Pie Co. is slitting their wrists at the expense of established businesses. Watch, they’ll become the next Krispy Creme.
Now my little Obean readers (as the wicked witch would say),
“Now fly! Fly! get the word out”…Karma, karma, karma….yes that it…my little


Geoff Page January 31, 2018 at 12:10 pm

So are you saying that all of the information the Reader article contained was fabricated? That seems hard to believe because it contained a lot of detail. Given the cost of real estate in OB, it’s hard to believe that a new owner paying current prices for the location could afford to pay the mortgage with the proceeds of a place like Nati’s. Nati’s could afford this because they bought into this business and location almost 60 years ago. And, unfortunately, that parking lot is worth it’s weight in gold and it’s hard to believe it will remain just a parking lot. Something is not right.


Mark L. February 1, 2018 at 3:56 am

I agree with you totally. The Nati’s parking lot is probably the last, major, private piece of undeveloped land near the beach and in the downtown Ocean Beach business district. As you state, Geoff, it’s worth its weight in gold and there aren’t many other places where the business district can expand. I’m sure that the property taxes alone on that property are stratospheric! I wouldn’t be surprised to see a mixed-use retail and residential project built there sometime in the future and have heard word on the street to that effect. Like you, I believe that the Reader story seems credible, and unless there’s a last minute glitch signing a lease or whatever is going on, Nati’s days are numbered.


Frank Gormlie February 1, 2018 at 10:35 am

amp douth, sure send it. However, the Beacon article is now 6 weeks old and it mirrors what a Dec 14 Reader article stated:


OB Dude January 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Disappointing and disturbing the owners did not share with all those patrons that supported them through the years and those that voted them #1 restaurant in OB about their plans to sell. Maybe there could have been an OB local to purchase the business.

But when it comes to $$$$$$$$$$$$$$, people get weird. Happy Retirement!!!

I bet it gets re-sold for a multi-story condo project or at the very least “redeveloped” by the new buyer who seems to have so such a stellar reputation.


amp douth February 1, 2018 at 10:59 am

I agree that the Nati’s parking lot is valuable, real estate is on fire and condos seem like everyone’s guess as to what logically could be built there. I am not saying Delinda’s entire story is wrong. But the way she went about it–by trying to get a real estate professional to break a legal standard of confidentially–was wrong. She pestered a business that was already experiencing stresses and strains and upset the employees. I would venture to say that is not cool. Her actions to try and wrestle a story so she could get a scoop for The Reader were disrespectful and aggressive. Now management spends their time calming agitated patrons and answering angry phone calls because of the Pot Pie calamity.

I spoke with Marilyn Thomas this week, as she is a longtime family friend. She unburdened herself as to the stress and drama that has and is occurring with the transfer of ownership. She assured me that the new owner said nothing to her or Dennis Kerr about not continuing on with the Nati’s tradition. He asked for all the recipes and seemed sincere about not changing anything with the business other then adding a bar and refurbishing the interior.

The note they posted in their Bacon St. window speaks of their gratitude and appreciation for the many years of loyal patronage by their customers. They both realize the immense good will out there for their business and would never do anything to endanger that. Dennis is an attorney and Marilyn an astute businesswoman with strong local ties to OB and Point Loma. Both are decent people not out to snooker anyone.

I would hope that if you were or are a Nati’s fan as myself, you give the business the benefit of the doubt. If Marilyn and Dennis were lied to and tricked about the true intentions for the property, boycotts & protests are already being spoken of. I even offered to protest the ABC liquor license transfer, if the rumored Pie Shop opens after the remodeling.

Business is a ruthless business. Nati’s was always and will be an oasis of family fun, delicious food and friendly hospitality. I have my fingers crossed, it will remain that way for the future, as I am told it will. If you are a true Nati’s lover, send some good vibes their way that it all goes down smoothly as is hoped for.


Frank Gormlie February 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

Amp – thanks for the documents and text you sent to the OB Rag. (Can we post it ? see my email response to you.)


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