Steuben's and Vesta partners break ground on Ace, their ping pong project

In the almost-six months since Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben's restaurateur Josh Wolkon and his cohorts -- including wife Jen, Matt Selby, Brandon and Emily Biederman and Jeff Bustos -- took over the old Storz Garage space next to Steuben's, they've been busily drawing up plans to convert the address into a ping pong hall, bar and restaurant (plus extra space for Steuben's).

And the team hit a major milestone this week: They've officially broken ground.

"It's moving," says Wolkon, who notes that construction teams are spending the next two weeks making major structural updates that will ultimately determine the timeline of the build-out. "If everything goes well, the rest of the timeline will go smoothly. If not, well..."

Once the new foundation is laid and steel beams installed, they'll build a bar, restaurant space and a ping pong hall -- as well as a private ping pong room in a back corner. Design firm Xan Creative -- which has worked with Snooze, Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria and the new D Bar in San Diego -- is in charge of filling out the details of the space, though the team isn't ready to divulge exactly what the spot will look like. Wolkon does note that Melissa Friday, who owns Xan, did all of the steel work at Vesta. "It came full circle," he says.

With ground-breaking came another decision: a name for the new spot. It will be Ace.

Choosing that name took some time -- "I don't think anyone has as many problems as I do with naming a place," Wolkon jokes -- but ultimately, this one rose to the top. "There's a subtle reference to ping pong," he says. "And there are lots of obvious references of what the name means. But above all, we just like it. It's cool, short and easy to say."

Wolkon had already told us that Ace's culinary focus will encompass Asian fare -- the team has been traveling the country researching bao, dumplings and Korean fried chicken -- and that Ryan and Randy Layman will build a bar program to compliment the food.

But right now, he's still keeping one thing secret: an opening date. Given the uncertain construction schedule, Wolkon is hesitant to offer a hard target, but he says he's shooting to open Ace in the late summer or early fall.

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