Famous State Fair Food At American Restaurants

By Jenn Rice, Special for USA TODAY

Two key fair foods were born at the State Fair of Texas back in the early 1900s: the snow cone and the corn dog. Fast-forward to 2016 and these popular bites are making appearances on menus across the country — along with whacky new creations.

Famous state fair foods across the country:

Locals flock to Don Chido in San Diego for executive chef Andre Alto’s Cinnamon Churros y Abuelitos Chocolate. Unlike regular churros, his version is tempura-battered and fried, dipped in cinnamon, and served with a warm chocolate dipping sauce or seasonal dulce de leche sauce.

RMD Restaurants Don-Chido-Churros

RMD Group Debuts Salvucci’s Near Petco Park


More Italian for the East Village

Launching tonight and open for dinner Monday through Saturday is Salvucci’s, the new Italian restaurant from RMD Group, which counts Don Chido and Rustic Root among its downtown area assets. Two weeks from today, the restaurant will start its regular hours — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. then 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, with Sundays added eventually.

RMD Group announced the project in March, when it took over the East Village space vacated by Comun Taqueria and gave it a moderate refresh. Now, hanging market crates obscure the existing open kitchen while handmade pasta hangs in the see-through walk-in cooler and vintage photos decorate the walls.

The menu, influenced by the group’s East Coast roots, revolves around homestyle Italian food by chef Michael Marino and ranges from fried ravioli and meatballs as starters to salads, pizzas and main dishes that include chicken parmesan, lasagna and spaghetti with clams.

Salvucci's Ristorante Opening in Gaslamp

Salvucci’s Ristorante Ushers Old School Italian Into the East Village


Bring on the red sauce

The East Village food scene is filling back in again after several notable restaurant closures; over on J Street, Oscar’s Mexican Seafood has replaced TOAST Enoteca & Cucina and we’re hearing that a local hospitality group has something in the pipeline for the former Table No. 10. And today, the RMD Group announced that it will be taking over the space vacated by Comun Taqueria last November.

RMD Group, whose high-profile projects include the Gaslamp’s FLUXX nightclub, Don Chido and Rustic Root, is venturing east to open Salvucci’s Ristorante, which will specialize in “authentic, home-style Italian cuisine”. Inspired by the group’s East Coast Italian roots and named for one of the partner’s grandparents, the menu will be based on family recipes (including osso buco, spaghetti alle vongole, housemade gnocchi and eggplant involtini), implemented by chef Michael Marino. The kitchen will also bake up pizzas ranging from the classic Margherita to the “Fig & Pig” made with smoked bacon, figs, fontina and mozzarella cheese.

Scheduled to open by late April or early May, Salvucci’s will serve lunch and dinner daily. Moderate structural changes are being done to the space, which will feature copper tables and old school images of Italian families, plus a 12-seat bar pouring Italian and California wines and signature cocktails.

Salvuccis Italian Restaurant - RMD Group

What It’s Like Getting Wasted At One Of The SMALLEST Bars In The Country

Pop’s Liquor Cabinet is not only San Diego, CA’s smallest bar, it’s arguably the tiniest official place serving alcoholic drinks in the country.

Even their reservation page on reads, “reserve your stool.” It’s not a marketing ploy — there are in fact only three stools in the entire 157 sq. foot place.

One fateful night out in San Diego (this is a retelling, so let’s pretend that night is tonight), my friends and I left a drunken dinner at a restaurant nearby with grand hopes of finding a big, fun and vibrant bar to continue our debauchery.

Somehow, we ended up at Pop’s Liquor Cabinet instead.


Where is this place?

In the heart of the whale’s vagina Californian town of San Diego lies the Gaslamp Quarter, 16-square blocks of Victorian-era buildings intermingled with modern skyscrapers, 100s of amazing restaurants and Pop’s Liquor Cabinet, the smallest of small bars sandwiched between two massive night clubs on F. Street.

What’s it look like?


Upon arriving, we were already a bit tipsy. We saw a glow of an ATM from the street parked right outside of the Pop’s Liquor window and like moths-to-a-flame we entered the modest dwellings.

Inside, the decor was basement-chic, a faux window set high against the wall, three barstools, a wall mounted karaoke machine that also doubles as a photobooth for space-saving. Then there was the bar, which was tiny with no visible entrance for the bartender, everything was within arms reach. After my first drink I asked her, “How did you get behind there?!”

The kind face responded, “I hopped over the counter.”

Fair enough.


What to drink?

Everything is craft here — there is a menu on the short counter top with some key cocktails, you can’t go wrong with any of them. They have a mini fridge of beer in the back if you’re so inclined, but the bartender was real proud of her concoctions and rightfully so — the whiskey sour was music to my lips.

What else?

Cash only, thus the ATM at the entrance. Also, expect people to walk in during the night just to grab some cash — you won’t be lonely, even if you’re alone at the bar.

Also, there’s no bathroom. If nature decides to call you, just tell the bartender you need bathroom access. She’ll radio over to the neighboring club and you’ll get to walk into their VIP bathroom.

With a capacity of 8, maybe 6 people comfortably, this place is a must if you want to tell tales of how you and your friends shut a bar down on your last trip to San Diego. And best of all, the photo booth can be your proof of the best night ever–in the smallest place ever.

11 Thanksgiving Cocktail Recipes Straight from America’s Best Bartenders

With cozy Netflix movies queued up, late fall is finally upon us. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on a little happy hour fun. Sure, it might be time to say goodbye to breezy, beach-side drinks, but tasty Thanksgiving and fall-themed sippers are lovely in their own right. Read on for the best 11 fall cocktails from all over the country and get ready for some serious pumpkin-apple-squash-infused delights. Bonus: The bartenders spilled some of their pro secrets…

Hot Apple Toddy at Rustic Root in San Diego

Rustic Root Hot Toddy Cocktail - RMD Group Restaurant

Don’t think you like bourbon? Allow this cocktail to prove you wrong. With apple cider and ginger-y goodness, it’s hard not to love this simple-to-prep beverage. Happy hour, indeed.
– 1 1/2 ounces vanilla-infused bourbon
– 3/4 ounce ginger-spiced simple syrup
– 6 ounces hot apple cider
Mix all ingredients and serve in tall coffee/tea glass and garnish with an apple slice, or candied apple slice, if you’re feeling fancy.

RMD Group Takes Home Multiple Lamplighter Awards

Thank you to all that joined us on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at Parq Restaurant & Nightclub (615 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101) as we celebrated the best of the best at the Lamplighter Awards brought to you by RMD Group, an ultra-exclusive VIP cocktail affair where the 2015 Best of the Gaslamp award winners were announced.  This evening of whimsy and elegance featured craft cocktails, delicious hors d’oeuvres from the finest Gaslamp Quarter restaurants, exclusive items and gift packages available through our silent and live auction, and much more. 21+, GQA event.

 RMD Restaurant Management and Consulting

Congratulations to the 2015 Lamplighter Award Winners

Special Recognition for Commitment to San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter
Jimmy Parker
For his significant contributions and service to the Gaslamp Quarter community
Executive Director from 2004 – 2015
GQA Board of Directors from 1998 – 2004

Rustic Root
Best New Gaslamp Restaurant/Bar
Favorite American Cuisine – TIED
Favorite Pizza
Favorite Nightclub

Menu Moves: Restaurant desserts inspired by state fairs and summer carnivals

Chefs tap into their inner child to create nostalgic desserts. Written by:
Restaurant Managment, Consulting, and Development

Don Chido Mexican Food – Churros

Churros y Abuelitos Chocolate

Never underestimate the nostalgia factor of the fried pastries and midway treats your customers indulged in at summer carnivals and fairs when they were children.  Several restaurants are tapping into this fondness for childhood favorites. At State Fare Bar & Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, CA, for instance, desserts include the Funnel Cake ($9), dusted with powdered sugar and topped with house-made kumquat jam and whipped cream, served with a side of Nutella.

Powder Beignet Bites ($12) are among the dessert offerings at M Bistro in the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans. The beignets are served with a trio of sauces—chocolate, vanilla and caramel. Coffee and Donuts are on the menu at Avant Rancho Bernardo Inn in California. The doughnuts ($12) are dusted with cinnamon and sugar, paired with house-made Baileys ice cream and topped with espresso foam. At Don Chido in San Diego, the Churros Y Abuelitos Chocolate is a comfort food carnival-inspired dessert ($6), tossed with cinnamon and sugar. Don Chido’s lighter version of churros are tempura-battered and dried, and come with a warm Abuelitos chocolate dipping sauce or a seasonal dulce de leche sauce.

The classic Old Fashioned Rootbeer Float ($6) is a nostalgia dessert offered at Puccini & Pinetti in Hotel Abri, San Francisco. The float, made with vanilla gelato, takes on an Italian spin.  At The Buffet at Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Valley Center, traditional Caramel Apples are included in the buffet offerings.  Mission Point Resort, Mackinac Island, MI, features a Frozen Fudge dessert, crafted on property using Michigan-made chocolate.

San Diego Nightclubs – FLUXX Nightclub

Looking for the best in San Diego Nightclubs?  Check out FLUXX!

Ready to spice up your night with a visit to one of the best San Diego nightclubs? Get your dancing shoes on and experience San Diego’s hottest nightlife destination.

FLUXX nightclub is located downtown in San Diego’s buzzing Gaslamp District. Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable way to celebrate a special occasion, or just trying to hit the town in style, a night at FLUXX is an absolute must.

The name FLUXX comes from the ever-changing vibe of this original venue. The club transforms and evolves every few months by shifting its dramatic themes. A brand new scene is implemented from employee uniforms, performers, and décor. If you’re a returning visitor, you may not recognize it your second time around.

My FLUXX experience was exceptionally magical. I entered just as the candy-striped dancers took their places on stage and the fog machines filled the dance floor. The theme for the evening seemed to be a hot and steamy winter wonderland.

The laser shows, aerial performers, dancers in giant snow globes, and the massive LED screen above the dance floor created a spectacular ambiance for a night of non-stop entertainment.

San Diego NightclubGet your dancing shoes on for a night out at FLUXX!
(Image courtesy of

I especially appreciated the spacing of the venue. While the club was jam packed, I never felt cramped or suffocated the way I do at most of the other nightclubs I’ve experienced.

I was able to successfully make it from one end of the building to the other without ever spilling my drink.

There is a second level above the dance floor where VIP tables and a second bar is located. You heard me correctly…a second bar!

It was so nice to get a drink in less than twenty minutes. If one bar is a little too crowded for your liking, just head on over to bar number two.

Not only was I able to get a drink at top-notch speed, the service was better than any other nightclub I have ever been to. I was very impressed by each of the bartenders who served me.

And last but certainly not least was the music! I experienced one club hit after another. You won’t be able to stay off the dance floor. The DJ was spot on with his choice in artist, mixes and transitions.

FLUXX has become a hot spot for some of today’s most popular disc jockeys and entertainers, featuring DJ’s such as Benny Benassi, Paul Oakenfold, Baaur, Morgan Page and many more. On their main stage, performers like Flo-Rida, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Macklemore, and A$ap Rocky have put on incredible shows.

FLUXX is the ultimate party destination for any occasion. It’s an enchanting arena for the ultimate night out, and the perfect place to celebrate birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties and more.

Plus, the VIP tables are perfect for group gatherings. If you’re ready to get a little wild and experience San Diego’s hottest nightclub, than this is exactly where you want to be. You might not remember your night at FLUXX, but you certainly won’t regret it.

By Madison Teague

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Down-home dining in the Gaslamp

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

RMD Group’s second restaurant venture in the Gaslamp Quarter holds some big surprises, starting with its newly constructed rooftop patio overlooking the bustling Fifth Avenue. If the rare sight of customers peering down from three floors above on this street doesn’t grab your attention, then the quirky design appointments flowing throughout Rustic Root’s ground-level dining room will.

Rustic Root Restaurant-bao-bao-sliders

Fronted by a sidewalk patio, and adjoining RMD’s Don Chido restaurant, Rustic Root stands out the moment you pass the outdoor host station. The wall to your right shows off columns of white ceramic plates, seemingly suspended in midair. Further back is a display of faux deer on Astroturf, raised and illuminated as if belonging to a prairie museum in central Montana.

On the opposite side of the room is a well-stocked bar featuring a panel of wooden rolling pins at one end. And hovering over the expansive dining room are various-sized colanders — lots of them mingling with the ceiling lights.

Should these homey visuals begin triggering your appetite for elk chops, fried chicken and bison meatballs; you’ve come to the right place.

Stairs and an elevator lead to the rooftop patio, which opens July 4 as an alternative zone for drinking and noshing by day or night. Adorned with gaslamp light posts and equipped with a large bar and separate kitchen, it’s exactly the kind of above-street perch this thriving avenue of bars and restaurants sorely lacks.

Rustic Root Restaurant-Fried-chicken

Chef and managing partner Antonio Friscia presents a succinct menu of dishes long revered in our homesteads for their warm and hearty qualities, whether they’re of American origin or not.

His bison-pork meatballs as an appetizer are lean and mean, thanks to their low-fat content (perhaps too low) and the delicious, creamy whiskey sauce lacing them. They tasted part Italian, part Swedish.

Friscia resurrects his classic Green Goddess salad that was a longstanding hit during his kitchen years at Stingaree, a Downtown nightclub that shuttered before he joined the RMD Group. The tarragon-based dressing is made from scratch, providing a sea foam-green blanket to lettuce, chopped eggs and sliced mushrooms — just like hip moms of the ’60s used to make the salad to impress company. What a treat.

We started also with carnitas bao bao sliders offering a blissful mélange of flavors and textures from Japanese pickles and crushed peanuts tucked inside puffy steamed buns. The shredded pork was teasingly sweet from red sugar, making them fierce rivals to authentic Asian buns.

We proceeded to mac ‘n cheese, which was acceptably creamy and elevated by smoky applewood bacon, a huntsman-style recipe with a Spanish kiss from manchego cheese. Rustic Root Restaurant-Bison-pork meatballs

While deciding on entrees, we imbibed on a couple of “timeless cocktails” from a list that names them only by the years they were invented. Their ingredients and one-line clues are stated below, leaving customers to either guess or defer to the staff for their actual names.

The 1895, for example, is a classic Presbyterian combining whiskey, ginger beer, bitters and lemon juice. The 1980, made with vodka, orange liqueur, blueberry syrup and lemon juice, is easier to figure out if you attended parties televising “Sex in the City” while sipping on none other than cosmopolitans.

We chose the 1902, which translates to a daiquiri as they were made before Ernest Hemingway brought fame to the drink with his preferred addition of pineapple juice. Using only white rum, lime juice and simple syrup, it was refreshing and no less boring.

Before eating here, the Gaslamp district was the last place I ever considered for finding good fried chicken. Friscia’s version now ranks at the top of my list.

Rustic Root Restaurant-Double-cut pork chop

Served with tender butter beans and ginger-spiked sweet potato puree, he brines the boneless chicken parts overnight before dredging them in buttermilk and flour. But rather than feed them to the fryers at that point, they rest another day on racks, which results in a firmer, crispier batter.

My companion’s double-cut Duroc pork chop was equally impressive. The designer knife he chose from a wooden box presented by our highly likeable waitress glided effortlessly through the chop’s shocking girth. Hickory-smoked sea salt and reduced balsamic made it all the more flavorful. Served with fried Brussels sprouts and so-so fingerling potatoes, the reigning sidekick was rhubarb chutney spiked with star anise. Think Christmas in July.

Amid several other entrée choices such as elk chops in Mexican mole, halibut encrusted in Japanese spices (furikake), and a burger comprising ground short ribs and brisket, there is hope for vegetarians in butternut squash ravioli. They’re dressed in browned butter, sage and walnuts.

Fabulously rich Grand Marnier cheesecake and butterscotch-mousse cream puffs capped off our meal. Although if you’d rather finish with lasting warmth in your belly, an aged scotch by Glenmorangie, Macallan or Highland Park will surely exemplify this playfully rustic dinner experience.

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Designing a Moneymaker

Written by David Klemt

Image source:

RMD Group has designed some incredibly successful venues. The most notable amongst their projects is likely FLUXX, located in San Diego. Unlike traditional design firms, partners and past Nightclub & Bar Show speakers Dan and Dave Ranzella and Mike Georgopoulos approach projects from the perspective of operators, a key element to their success. As many operators know, working with a designer who has never actually owned or managed a bar, nightclub or restaurant can be frustrating. As operators themselves, RMD Group knows what to focus on throughout the entire build and what works.

When designing a space, Dan, Dave and Mike put their emphasis on optimizing the customer experience while keeping the design and build-out within budget. RMD Group’s main design considerations are maximizing space and creating the desired flow, maximizing efficiency in operations, guest and staff safety, durability of materials selected and obtaining the client’s desired look and feel. In terms of finances – a major area of focus for RMD – the group cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your costs at all points of the build and understanding that limited funding will dictate design choices. These choices encompass the layout, lighting and sound, build materials and flooring.


Unlike some other designers, RMD’s first concern is operational infrastructure. The location of bars, bar storage areas, the kitchen, service stations and restrooms are the first order of business. Next up is maximizing the efficiency of bottle service should a venue offer it. Ever the innovators, RMD has developed multi-tiered VIP tables. Storage is built into multiple levels with pullout drawers for backup supplies. Reducing the number of steps it takes for a server to attend to their tables properly means more time with your VIP guests.

“The more items that you can keep at that bottle service table, the less trips back and forth to the kitchen or storage area by your bottle service waitress or your server assistant, spending more time at the table actually mixing drinks for clients and upselling,” says Dave Ranzella.

Another RMD Group innovation is custom-built VIP seating, which has become fairly standard now within the industry. These booths are designed with built-in storage for removable cushions. When your guests are ready to stand or dance on your booths the cushions can be removed and stored for a safer, more stable platform. Additionally, removing the cushions means they won’t be damaged by high heels. These booths are also multi-level which means the number of people who can be seated at your tables is effectively doubled.

The design group also employs a concept they refer to as Shrinking the Field. Through the use of curtains, Spandex and other room dividers, bars and entire sections within a venue can be closed off on slower nights or shifts.  Furniture can also be used to give an empty space a busier feel, and it can be removed as the venue becomes busier.

Lighting & Sound

As any operator and bar manager knows, sound and lighting design is crucial to the success of any nightclub or bar. Lighting and sound add ambiance, inspire a mood, shape a room and energize your guests. Choosing your lighting and sound designers can be just as important as selecting an architect and interior designer.

When considering your options, you need to understand who you intend to have controlling the audio inside your venue. Will your patrons have access to such controls or will you keep that out of their hands? Also, how prominent do you intend the sound and lighting to be inside your space? Will your music be front and center and in your face like that of a dance club or live music venue or will it be in the background like a bar or lounge?

While it may be tempting to buy the biggest and best when it comes to speakers and the rest of the sound system, realize that your space will dictate the size and number of speakers and your audio will only be good as the quality of the formats being used by your DJs. Speaking of which, DJ booth placement is another important factor to consider. You can either choose to install the booth in a permanent location or utilize a mobile DJ platform. Again, your music choice will help you make this decision. For example, venues playing EDM should have the DJ booth very near the crowd while open format venues should place it further away. Don’t forget about lighting controllers, either. A system like Lutron will save you money in the long run and it’s important to remember that your lighting is only as good as the one programming and controlling it.


There are a lot of options out there flooring, all with their pros and cons. For instance, concrete is your most cost effective option as the only actual cost is the finish. However, it’s horrible for acoustics. Linoleum is also cost effective and durable but can look cheap. Carpet, unlike concrete, is great for acoustics, is widely available and therefore comes with a short lead time and allows for colors and patterns to run throughout the entire space. Unfortunately, carpet also stains easily and absorbs odors and liquids. Other options are stone, wood and engineered wood. On the plus side, every one of those options looks fantastic in just about any venue, regardless of the theme. However, stone and wood are expensive. Engineered wood is less costly than the other two options but when damaged cannot easily be repaired.


Upholstery is one of the final – but more fun – of the design element considerations. The main materials you’ll be considering are vinyl, leather and fabric. As any bar owner knows, vinyl offers plenty of options in terms of colors, is readily available and therefore enjoys a short lead time, doesn’t stain or absorb liquids and odors easily, is ideal for outdoors and is inexpensive. Of course, vinyl also looks inexpensive and that can affect the perception of your venue and your brand.

Leather is, of course, more expensive but offers a rich appearance and feel. However, the issue with leather is that is not the best choice for outdoor areas. Also, it can tear and crack over time. The option with the biggest swings in terms of pricing is fabric. The colors, patterns and textures available give you a lot of freedom in terms of design. Also, soft fabrics are inviting and comfortable for your guests. Fabrics can be very expensive and will stain and absorb liquids and odors.

Learn more about designing a venue and maximizing the customer experience at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show!