Patio seating at Wormwood
The patio seating area at Wormwood in University Heights. Photo by Arlene Ibarra

Wormwood, a cocktail bar and restaurant celebrating the drink of artists and writers in fin de siècle France, opens Thursday in University Heights.

Absinthe, a green-colored, anise-flavored spirit, was the favorite of Bohemian Paris, with Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway among it’s fans. The drink was once banned in the United States over unfounded fears of psychotic effects, and the “green fairy” still carries with it an air of mystery.

Wormwood will showcase more than 30 absinthes sourced from Europe, New York, Louisiana and other states. Guests will be able to enjoy absinthe served in slow-drip fountains with a cube of sugar, in the tradition of how it was served in the early 20th century streets of Paris.

The restaurant’s French-influenced fare will take the form of small plates and shareable entrees that revisit classic dishes ranging from roasted bone marrow wagyu tartare to steak de boucher served with cherry-mezcal bordelaise, creamed pearl onions and pommes paillason.

The new restaurant is the latest creation of Amar Harrag, founder of the Tahona Bar in Old Town. Located at 4677 30th Street in the space formerly occupied by Jayne’s Gastropub, Wormwood brings a novel drinking and dining experience to a neighborhood of popular bars and restaurants.

The 1,700 square-foot space will feature indoor bar and dining areas reminiscent of old Paris with a garden-style outdoor courtyard surrounded by high brick walls.

“Wormwood is truly a passion project. The history of absinthe is intertwined with the history of France and even Algeria, both my countries of origin,” said Harrag. “In developing our concept, we decided to honor the cultural aspect of the spirit and built a team of passionate individuals to create a restaurant experience that will continue to enhance San Diego’s culinary status.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.