Restaurateur Gruber living the ‘Americana’ dream in Del Mar
Americana Restaurant has been serving American classics in Del Mar for 15 years. The eatery, which offers Mediterranean-influenced American food, first opened in October 2000.
“It’s a nice accomplishment,” said Americana chef and owner Randy Gruber. “I’ve worked hard and I try to make people happy.”
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Americana features American classics, from tasty cheeseburgers to warm apple pie. The breakfast menu features omelets, pancakes, French toast, waffles and more. Lunch offerings include salads, sandwiches and burgers, and dinner selections range from fish to flatbreads.
Always adding to the menu, Americana also offers a variety of specials that end up on the menu if they do well.
The Roman Breakfast is a popular dish that started off as a special. The item includes two fried eggs, prosciutto, tomato, burrata cheese and fresh basil served on an English muffin and with baby greens.
Gruber also likes to experiment with the latest trends.
“I try to stay current,” he said. “When kale and quinoa became mainstream, we made sure that we had that on the menu.”
Casey’s Call is now one of the most popular breakfast dishes. The item comes with poached eggs, spinach, goat cheese, quinoa and potatoes on toasted Tuscan bread. Americana’s mixology cocktails have also become fan favorites.
“Food is like fashion,” Gruber said. “It’s always changing. Things that were in style come back in style. I think you have to be that as a restaurant. You have to keep evolving with the times.”
Good food and good service, however, never go out of style. That’s something Gruber learned when he was just a boy.
Originally from New York, Gruber is a fourth-generation restaurateur.
Although he grew up in the restaurant business, Gruber went on to study business at Tulane University in New Orleans. After college, he worked in real estate, but on the weekends, he worked in his dad’s restaurant.
That’s how he discovered his dream.
“I didn’t like real estate very much,” Gruber recalled. “I liked working weekends in my dad’s restaurant. I decided that’s what I was going to do.”
Gruber went on to study at the French Culinary Institute, now called the International Culinary Center, in New York City.
He later worked for notable chef Lydia Shire at Biba in Boston and managed Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach, before he opened Americana in October 2000 at 15th Street and Camino Del Mar.
“Eventually, I came across this opportunity and I was able to create this,” Gruber said.
At the time, the site housed a branch of San Diego-based Café 222. Interested in the corner spot, Gruber contacted the restaurant owner and learned she was going to list the location for sale.
“I was lucky,” he said.
Gruber’s general contractor helped transition the eatery to Americana almost overnight. The restaurant opened for business during the day, and at night, the team installed new floors and kitchen equipment.
He proudly displays his first customer’s check on the wall in his office.
“It turned out to be my dream and better than I thought it would ever be,” Gruber said. “I got really lucky and I worked really hard. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Offering indoor and outdoor seating, Americana has space for about 140 people. The restaurant is busiest on the weekends and during the summer.
“It’s a dream that’s come true and I’ve been able to maintain it for 15 years,” said Gruber, who has a 50-year lease.
Serving seven days a week, Americana opens at 7 a.m. everyday and closes at 9 or 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, depending on the time of year. The restaurant closes at 3 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.
Living just down the street, Gruber is at the location on most days.
“I live here in town and I’m a member of the community,” said Gruber, who has named dishes after his wife, a local physician named Caron, and their children, 13-year-old Lina and 12-year-old Dylan.
“Even on the days I take off, I still come by and make sure everything is going OK,” he said.
As if his schedule weren’t busy enough, Gruber has plans to open another shop on the same street in the Village of Del Mar.
The shop will be Americana’s version of an ice cream parlor, located at the former site of Mariposa Boutique and named in honor of the late shop owner, Margaret Ann Young. The store will offer shakes, sundaes, smoothies and other treats, including baked goods from Americana.
“I think it will be a nice addition to Del Mar,” said Gruber, adding that the shop’s name might be Maggie’s Malt Shop or Maggie’s Milk Bar.
“I feel lucky,” he said. “My life is rich. I’m lucky to be living in this town, doing what I’m doing.”
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