Paris, provocatively: Le Coq now open in La Jolla

With a cheeky name intended to evoke the best of French cuisine and provoke diners’ curiosity, Puffer Malarkey Collective has opened Le Coq at 7837 Herschel Ave.

Le Coq opened its doors June 22, taking over the space that collective founders Chris Puffer and Brian Malarkey once launched as Herringbone in 2012 before selling it completely in 2018 and buying it back in 2022.

“It’s all about making memories,” Puffer said.

The Puffer Malarkey Collective also operates Herb & Wood in Little Italy, Animae in Downtown San Diego and Herb & Sea in Encinitas.

Le Coq, serving dinners only daily at 5 p.m., describes itself as a “nouveau French steakhouse,” modeled after a 1970s supper club.

Chef Tara Monsod. Photo courtesy of Le Coq.

The kitchen is helmed by Animae chef Tara Monsod, fresh off her recent James Beard Award finalist news; Monsod is crossing the classic French fare with Southern California elements using her distinct approach. 

The “food is going to be off the charts,” Puffer said. “We are stoked that Tara is on board for another venue. She did such an amazing job at Animae.”

What’s in a name?

“There’s a lot of inspiration behind not only the name, but the style of food,” Puffer said.

“I was obsessed with Julia Child and watching her cooking show ‘The French Chef’ on KPBS,” he said. I would … tune in and … wish she was my mom and make me dinner.”

Child’s famous coq au vin dish, a traditional French chicken stew, “caused quite a stir,” Puffer said, as Child would announce “‘we’re going to make a cock!’ Everyone was shocked on public television.”

Provocative pun aside, Puffer adores France. “I love Paris, Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux… get me on a plane and put me over there, and I am so, so happy,” he said.

The rich decadence of French cuisine is inspiring, Puffer added. “I think the world needs French. Let’s start enjoying some cream and butter.”

“We always like to challenge ourselves,” he said, as with Herb & Wood’s Mediterranean and Italian- inspired steakhouse, Animae’s Asian fusion and Herb & Sea’s East Coast/West Coast casual raw bar and seafood concept.

Hatching Le Coq

Bringing the Puffer Malarkey vision back to La Jolla is “exciting,” as it means growing the brand using lessons from Herringbone, Puffer said.

The refreshed space reorients the Herringbone layout, which “was very pretty” but felt divided, he said.

“I’ve opened up the entire space,” Puffer said, with “a great sight line throughout. You can sit at the bar and see the back of the restaurant, and it’s incredible.”

And with the retractable roof above the bar, the sky is the limit.

The signature Herringbone trees, which died the first year of Herringbone’s tenure and were replaced with artificial versions, are gone, allowing for better lighting.

The front door has also been changed to the right side of the building to make more room on the interior. 

What was Herringbone’s entrance is now a riser for eventual live music, Puffer said.

 “It’s just absolutely gorgeous, … the way it’s come together,” he said.

Stew and stories

“I want to create memories, moments, not just, ‘Here’s your plate of food, eat it,’” Puffer said. 

Photo courtesy of Le Coq.

“We just try to focus on every single aspect of service, from the lighting, the music, the cuisine. Perfect balance: … that’s what we can do.”

The Puffer Malarkey Collective aims to “create a space in a restaurant that makes people feel like the world’s not so crazy” for a few hours. “Let [your] guard down, enjoy and take some pictures and remember this dinner for the next year and a half and how great it was,” Puffer said.

Puffer wants Le Coq to become a “place where the locals go to celebrate, dine, grab a quick drink or glass of wine at the bar, listen to some music and have a great time,” he said, along with a destination for those outside La Jolla.

“I hope we encourage people who haven’t been to La Jolla in a hot minute to come back … and see what we’re doing and be like, ‘Wow, that was worth the [drive].’”

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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