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8 San Diego Uptown News | July 22–August 4, 2011

Three excuses to grab a pint this summer

Businesses in San Diego’s Uptown neighborhoods are constantly in flux, and this summer is no exception. It seems every week there is a new announcement of a restaurant, a menu change, or an expan- sion—especially when it comes to craft beer. Take, for instance, the exciting news that’s emerged in the past few weeks: Lee Chase and the folks at Blind Lady Ale House are planning a new restaurant near the corner of El Cajon and 30th; Scot Blair and the folks at Hamiltons are brewing up an East Village brewpub; and Tom Nickel of O’Brien’s, along with Vince Mar- saglia of Pizza Port, plans to open a brewpub in Julian.

HoptownGirl Lauren Duffy Lastowka

example of how the craft beer scene is constant- ly on the move, quickly working to expand its grip

on this town—always, of course, to the benefit of craft beer fans. Of all the news and develop-

ments this summer, there are three I’m especially excited about. If you’re looking for an excuse to explore the neighbor- hood, visit an old haunt, or try a craft beer somewhere new, here are three to get you moving.

OK, well that last example isn’t exactly in Uptown. But it is another

A REIMAGINED LINKERY The Linkery has evolved over the years, not only moving from its original location (now the home of Sea Rocket Bistro), but also changing its menu, focus and dishes. While the underlying

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philosophy has never wavered, the offerings have changed often, as the restaurant continues to experiment and acclimate itself to its niche. The latest evolution hap- pened in early July, when the team overhauled the menu, changed the hours, and doubled the tap selection. The result is a Linkery that very much resembles the res- taurant’s early years, when 30th Street was just starting to wake up and craft beer in North Park was far from common. “We want to keep it simple,” says owner Jay Porter of his deci- sion to limit the menu to casual pub fare and to increase the focus on beer at the restaurant. “Historically, we’ve always been a neighborhood pub. That’s part of what we do.” But, he explains, “part of that got lost” over the years, as the restau- rant expanded, started to play with more challenging dishes, and step up the service of its dining area. This return to basics is an effort to reunite the Linkery with its early neighborhood-restaurant vibe. Most notable is the menu change, as Porter has decided once again to offer a wide range of house-made sausages. Now, link fans can find old favorites as well as creative experiments in the form of plain links, sausage tacos, and sausage sandwiches. Recently the six-sausage lineup included andouille, chicken chorizo, and an English banger. Aside from sausage, flatbread piz- zas, sandwiches and salads now dominate the menu, with prices that mostly fall in the $9 to $13 range. Bar snacks and sides also appear, including tempting beer- battered Wisconsin-style cheese curds and the always-popular grilled green beans. “We’ve made the menu more pub-friendly,”

Porter explains. The expanded tap selec-

tion—10 taps plus a cask—means a wider selection of craft beer from around the globe. Craft beer has “always been a natural part of what we do. We’ve never had to call attention to it,” says Porter, adding that the expansion was inspired by the realization that just five taps “was limiting our ability to serve beers we wanted to serve.” Porter expects to keep a tap dedicated to sour beers and another tap dedicated to craft lagers—two styles he believes are underrepresented in the craft beer selections in the city. As for the rest of the lineup, Porter promises it will be “all over the place,” in terms of origin and style. “Our goal is to put in a really great selection and breadth of really good beer.” The restaurant also launched a late-night happy hour, offering beers for under $4 from 10 p.m. to midnight every night of the week. Porter’s explanation for the evolution is his quest to help the restaurant “carve out a niche” among the other bars and restaurants along 30th Street. He decided to play to the restaurant’s strengths, to re-emphasize its casual, inviting setting, and “to re- mind everyone that this is a really fun place.” My guess is that after a few visits for beer and sausage, we won’t need much reminding.

MY LOCAL HABIT IN HILLCREST “Craft beer is real beer,” says Local Habit co-owner Adam Hiner. Hiner, who with partners Nick Brune and Barry Braden, debuted Local Habit on July 4 of this year, is committed to filling the 12 taps at the new Hillcrest restaurant with all-craft, all-Cali-

Photography by Lauren Duffy Lastowka

fornia beer. “We wanted to bring in many

flavors and styles,” Hiner says of the beer program. “Look for Stone, Iron Fist, and Hess,” Adam says, quickly adding Alesmith and Port Brewing. “We’ll be sup- porting all the local guys.” The restaurant also features a rotating cask, which Hiner explains will always be local. “We own three firkins,” says

Hiner of the vessels that store cask-conditioned beer. He’s send- ing them to local breweries to be filled, sometimes with a request to create a special version just for the restaurant. “We’re looking to have special beers created for us,” Heiner explains. “For our grand opening, we had a Hired Hand cask [from Iron Fist Brewing] that was dry hopped with peppercorn and chocolate mint,” says Adam. To cel- ebrate the specially prepared cask, the restaurant created a lamb shank pizza with chocolate mint pesto designed to pair with the farmhouse ale. “We’re all about pairing our food with beer,” says Hiner. Thankfully, their food is quite

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creative, which should make for some inventive beer pairings. House-cured meats, pickled vegetables, and homemade sauces grace most dish descriptions, and creative flavors such as pickled beef, toasted coriander chicken sausage, and smoked beer-braised onions stand out from the menu. In addition to making many ingre- dients from scratch, the restaurant is committed to sourcing as many ingredients as possible from with- in the state. “We wanted to stick with everything all-California,” says Hiner of the produce, meat, and beer. “We get as much as pos- sible from local [purveyors],” says Adam. It is working with Suzie’s Farm and Brandt Beef to supply produce and meat, and supple- menting local ingredients with provisions from California farms that have a strong presence at lo- cal farmers’ markets, such as Smit Orchards and Spring Hill Cheese. It also features specials with local ingredients that it can’t regularly source, such as local chicken from Womach Ranch. Hiner, who also owns and

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operates Eco-Caters with Brune, says the duo had been looking to open a locally sourced restaurant for years. It was “good timing,” he says of teaming with Barry Braden of Pizza Fusion, to open the Hillcrest space. It’s exciting to see a restaurant dedicated to California flavors pay just as much attention to liquid offerings as well as solid. I’ll be keeping an eye on both the menu and the beer selection as this restaurant grows into its shell.

see Hoptown, page 17


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