Mermaids & Cowboys is an independent, full-service restaurant located in the heart of La Jolla, California. The 3,200-square-foot concept has grown into one of the most coveted jobs on Prospect Street since the fall of 2020 pandemic.
Restaurant owner Michael Matthews named the restaurant in homage to San Diego’s rich history of land and sea, a reference to the historic La Jolla ranchers and Japanese mermaids diving for “Ama” pearls.
The restaurant tells a visual story through pearl chandeliers, saddle leather booths, teak furniture and a bar with mother-of-pearl fish scales. With an ocean-facing dining area and floor-to-ceiling accordion doors that give way to a 40-seat trellis patio, Mermaids & Cowboys is a contender for the best outdoor restaurant in town.
Duo Powerhouse in Mermaids & Cowboys
Joining the Mermaids & Cowboys team to spearhead a casual concept inspired by surf and turf is Chef ERIK FRESCHLY. An acclaimed Pitmaster, World Champion Barbecue, Hunter and Certified Gatherer, Eric’s storied career took him on an inspiring culinary journey across the US before he took his first position as Official Chef at Mermaids & Cowboys.
To reflect the creativity of the cuisine, Mermaids & Cowboys enlisted cocktail curator PRAVEEN DAS, a self-taught hippo bartender from India who is on the unlikely path to a career in cocktails.
Together, the duo are working to make their mark on San Diego’s evolving hospitality landscape, and their newly released menus reflect the untapped talents emerging in downtown La Jolla. Transcending farm-to-table, Chef Freshley’s menu prioritizes environmental impact, small producers and traceable sources, alluding to his soulful and southern influence.
Pravin develops the sustainable Mermaids & Cowboys bar program with homemade infusions, fermentations, tinctures and syrups. Its menus pay homage to cross-cultural influences and provide a learning bridge for staff and guests alike.
ERIK FRESCHLY, Chef and Pitmaster
Chef Eric’s childhood was marked by hunting, fishing and farming on his grandparents’ land outside of Chicago, Illinois. Growing and canning most of what they ate, butchering their own game, and grilling whole pork on weekends helped Eric build a work ethic and culinary spirit.
His first job in a restaurant was in the kitchen of a family friend when he was 19 years old. For the next 20 years, the self-taught chef cooked for dignitaries at the Fort Eustis base in Virginia, honed his skills in the luxury cruise industry, and spent time in the corporate kitchens of Marriott hotels in Miami, Tampa Bay. and Richmond.
In barbecue competition, Eric has made a name for himself in prestigious events such as the American Royal World Series in Kansas City (1st) and the World Championships in Houston (2nd).
He has gained a cult following in Southeast Virginia with his live fire cooking and teaching barbecue pop-ups. Upon arriving in San Diego, he quickly made his way into the culinary teams of renowned hotels and restaurants including The Grand Del Mar, AAA Five Diamond Hotel, La Valencia Hotel, Dolce and Grand Ole BBQ.
Today, Eric resides in San Diego, California and runs the kitchen as Mermaids & Cowboys Chef. He often offers his passionate perspective and time to organizations seeking to reduce poverty and increase inclusion. Eric pays for his success with regular donations to Father Joe’s Villages and the Rachel Women’s Shelter in San Diego, and he proudly hosts an annual community celebration on June 10, where he donates barbecues to hundreds of local residents in need.
Crab pie with bone marrow | sourdough toast, charred lemon
Signature Dish: Crabmeat coated in homemade bone marrow oil, aged overnight, then tossed with toasted breadcrumbs, fresh basil, spices, eggs and homemade aioli. The crab cake is again baked in a hollowed-out beef bone and served with bone marrow butter along with sourdough toast and a charred lemon.
portuguese stew | shellfish, shrimp, squid, seasonal fish, andouille, crostini
Chef Eric’s ode to his Portuguese grandmother’s original recipe: in keeping with the kitchen’s zero-waste cooking efforts, the chef boils seafood by-products (heads, fins, tails, carcasses) to make a flavorful broth while the 12-hour boiling red wine prepares San Marzano tomatoes create a solid base. Grilled vegetables and andouille are added to a stew with smoked white fish from Lake Michigan, small clams from Florida’s Cedar Creek, CenSea shrimp cooked in bone marrow oil, fresh squid and more. *seafood varies depending on the season.
lamb chops | barley, asparagus, succotash, roasted beets, roasted carrots and mint and spinach puree – served medium rare
A creation of love, the dish takes 72 hours from production to plate: half a rack of New Zealand lamb chops is topped with the chef’s signature rub, grilled medium rare, and served over barley asparagus succotash. Lamb chops are served with a variety of gourmet homemade purees. For example, beets are soaked in wine for 24 hours, cooked for another 12 hours in lemon, orange and grapefruit pulp, and then pressed in smoked sea salt. Puree is aged 12 hours before serving.
Roast pork stew in 10 hours | yellow wax beans, wild rice, caramelized mint greens, sauce
Bestseller: The chef buys pork from small producers in Northern California. The 24-hour brine cooks the roast, which is grilled for approximately 6 hours. Homemade marinade is added before cooking in the oven for another 10 hours. Caramelized mint greens are the chef’s ode to his southern roots, and the dish is complemented by yellow wax beans and wild rice.
vegan butcher | white and forbidden rice, pearl barley and asparagus succotash, fried mushrooms, fried beets, roasted carrots and mashed spinach and mint
Grilled vegetables topped with leek ash get their rich protein flavor after being soaked in grape seed oil and grilled with smoked sea salt to release the sugar and give the dish a strong, charred flavor.
PRAVEN DAS, cocktail curator
Born in India, Praveen Das became fascinated with foreign tastes through long travels. By the age of 30, he had lived in 18 countries and had developed a strong sense of adaptability and cultural competence, qualities that had a profound effect on his culinary outlook.
In his 20s, Pravin’s interest in hospitality prompted him to shift from impending career burnout as the CEO of a construction firm in Dubai to a two-year journey of exploring cities and cultures through cocktails and cuisine. In Paris, he spent four months immersing himself in bartending courses. He traveled to Prague to join one of the city’s finest rum bars at the Bartida Degustation Bar & Shop, and in London he completed a six-week internship at the Oriole Bar (Spirited Awards Best International Cocktail Bar, Worlds 50 Best).
Returning to Dubai in 2008, Praveen thrived in his newfound career as a bartender at a well-known private events company, and his entrepreneurial spirit led him to expand the company’s subsidiaries as a brand partner/representative representing spirits and luxury goods in the Middle East. East.
By 2012, Pravin’s approach to business had softened, and he embarked on yet another global journey to quench his curiosity about new ingredients and cooking methods common in the world’s cuisines. In 2014 Pravin moved to the USA. He worked on small farms in northern California and learned about sustainable farming.
After moving to San Diego in 2018, he opened his own cocktail consulting agency, Mixology Vida. During the global pandemic, Pravin supported the city’s best at the bar, working at the Hyatt’s Born & Raised, Lion Share and Red Marlin hotels before being recruited by Mermaids & Cowboys to join the cocktail program.
Tonto | Four Roses bourbon, brandy, dark rum, green chartreuse, lemon, ginger
Pravin’s personal favorite and hidden gem of the menu: Tonto’s is complex and deliberately enhances the flavor. This intoxicating combination features almost 2 ounces of four different liqueurs and is balanced with notes of lemon honey, ginger, vanilla and cinnamon for a wonderfully balanced and light drink.
Seasonal Margarita | The weekly shift is a staple on the menu, complementing the bar’s zero-waste efforts.
Praveen collects kitchen waste, usually produced by local producers, and is currently working on fermenting spiced purple carrots into traditional Indian kanji, an age-old healthy probiotic drink. In about two weeks, he will be using his last batch to create his own version of the tequila sour with the deep red kanji float.
gunpowder smoke | Ilegal Joven mezcal, Maker’s Mark, lemon, rosemary
Bestseller: Whiskey and mezcal are smoky soul mates in this cocktail inspired by 1950s American Westerns. Tossed with lemon juice, rosemary syrup, black walnuts and orange bitters, Gunsmoke is an old-fashioned take on Praveen and garnished with a smoldering sprig of rosemary.
Aztecs | Coffee liqueur Black, El Tesoro Extra Anejo tequila, Cointreau, cinnamon, chocolate
Mermaid & Cowboys’ answer to the espresso martini craze: Praveen found inspiration in Oaxacan Champurrado (hot chocolate), traditionally served warm and frothy. At Aztec, he uses top quality coffee liqueur and tequila mixed with egg white and served chilled. The result is a Mexican espresso martini with hints of cinnamon and chocolate.
Cordalis | Gin, Italicus bergamot, lime, prosecco
Inspired by the depths of the ocean, Cordalis is a layered cocktail with color shifting navy blues and purples. A highlight of the Aperol Spritz, Praveen uses bergamot liqueur for a more subtle citrus profile, natural blue pea syrup for color, and a dash of prosecco for a delicious fizz.
See you there
Mermaids and cowboys Opening hours:
- Dinner | 16:00–21:00 daily
- Live music | 18:00 Tuesday-Thursday
- Happy hour | 16:00–18:00 daily
50% discount on all fresh shelled oysters, bottled and glass wine, and all draft and bottled beer
1251 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037 | 858.999.0205 | www.mermaidscowboys.com
See you soon San Diego!