Decadence and savory often exist on separate planes. But what happens when we make them occupy the same dish? Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro in the South Park neighborhood of San Diego sets out to explore just that.
With their tagline, “culinary explorations with vanilla, caramel & cacoa,” Eclipse Chocolate finds a balance of confectionary and cuisine that leaves each customer enchanted upon arrival. Imagine vanilla ailoi as the spread that eases a panini to glide into your tastebuds, beer battered fish with a chile burnt caramel hollandaise that spices your tongue, or a smoked brown sugar drinking chocolate to cap off a meal. These are only a few of the magical combinations that Eclipse creates.
Originally opened in El Cajon in 2004, Chef William Gustwiller began Eclipse as a chocolate bar, experimenting with ways to make decadence more engaging and accessible to the community. The shop has since evolved into a cafe that served food, desserts and houses a monthly supper club, all arms focusing on the approachability of its cuisine.
“He wanted to create consumable art,” says his partner, Daniel, who also runs the front of house in the restaurant.
Will obtained his Master’s of Arts in Metalsmith and Jewelry, while Daniel obtained his degree in Art history. Together, they fused their knowledge to make inanimate art digestible to those around them, endowing their foods with human quality.
Eclipse now resides in the South Park neighborhood, adjacent to Balboa Park, an eclectic community that prides itself on being unconventional and inclusive.
According to the United States Small Business Administration, there are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S in 2018., and as of October 2016, only 909 small businesses were NGLCC-certified LGBT-owned small businesses. While there are more more LGBT-owned businesses that aren’t certified, this only leaves .000003 percent of LGBT businesses that are in comparison to the national amount. California only has 219 certified businesses, out 3.9 million small businesses in the state.
This disparity makes LGBT-owned business a rarity in any community, especially with fear of prejudice a strong possibility in any city or town. However, Will and Daniel have both experienced nothing but appreciation from the neighborhood of South Park and believe that it will only continue with love.
“It’s [South Park] an unusual place for a city and we’re unusual for a restaurant,” says Daniel.
While it may have been unintentional, the staff that makes us Eclipse Chocolate is primarily minority and LGBTQ+, with one of the head chefs being a woman. This culinary makeup isn’t common in a culture that’s white, cis-hetero male-dominated. The people of Eclipse reflect the notion that the restaurant is built for an all-inclusive community, and there isn’t space for exclusivity in it.
Favorites of the restaurant range from brunch to dessert, but some of the most popular items include the Egg & Bacon Cinnaroll, a buttermilk cinnamon roll base with a fried egg, maple muscovado bacon and chile burnt caramel hollandaise; garlic parmesan biscuits baked with white chocolate and served with lemon curd, jam and orange vanilla butter; and deep dish portobellos with cress, hickory salt, cacao balsamic drizzle and stacked with a choice of: sausage, bacon & meatball; pulled pork, caramelized onion & point reyes bleu cheese; or crispy cauliflower, tomato, caramelized onion & peppadew.
Events at Eclipse include weekly game nights, a monthly supper club and a monthly “build-a-bar” night where guests are invited to build craft their own unique chocolate bars. Eclipse also partners with many local businesses, and businesses around San Diego, to help raise funds for causes or organizations, or donates baskets of their confections to different communities.
I’ve had the pleasure of being eclipsed on several occasions, each one leaving me more enticed to come back again. It’s a must-see when I bring my friends to the area, and a place where I feel wholly comfortable. It’s a staple in the community that truly obscures the everlong debate of savory vs sweet by blending them together to create something exquisite.