A few months back, I contacted restaurateur Jay Porter to see if he’d like to have himself and his businesses spotlighted for a chef feature I was working on. To my surprise, he wasn’t interested. Porter cited frustration about the local dining scene. He’s not the only one to share such aggravations, but has been one of the most vocal over the past half-decade.
Back when Porter opened his farm-to-table restaurant, The Linkery, it was ahead of its time in highlighting fresh, seasonal cuisine built on ingredients procured from local purveyors. It helped motivate other restaurateurs to follow suit, inspired employees of The Link to stake out and perpetuate that ethos, and built a legion of regulars. All of this, despite mixed reviews on food, the general opinion that prices were too high, and a near universal disgust over built-in gratuities (and, not coincidentally, some of the worst service in San Diego).
While often polarizing, Porter believed in his policies. He was unflinching and unyielding to criticism. It was his business, and hence his right to run it how he wanted to, but when things didn’t work out, he would often criticize San Diego diners for not being advanced, savvy, or open-minded enough. On the day he emailed me to turn down my inquiry, he said he wasn’t sure how long he’d be sticking around town. Mere weeks later, he announced he was closing down The Linkery and his other restaurant Hubcap (formerly the several times revamped, but never terribly successful El Take It Easy) and moving to San Francisco.
Porter’s migration left two prime pieces of North Park real estate for others to snap up. The individual to get their hands on The Linkery is an unlikely candidate, Brian Jensen. His name should be familiar to San Diego Beer News readers. Jensen is the owner of the pair of Bottlecraft craft beer stores in Little Italy and North Park. The latter is a block from The Linkery. Rather than reinvent the wheel, he and his partners will be adding shiny new hubcaps to The Linkery, keeping the place sausage- and beer-focused but expanding on the number of taps (50) and bottle list (300).
But Porter’s vacated space isn’t the only one being turned over to a new owner. Todd Alexander is in the process of selling his venerable San Diego Civic Center business Downtown Johnny Brown’s (1220 Third Avenue, Downtown) to a homebrewing entrepreneur. If it goes through, that beer geek's passion for beer will ensure this bar and resto continues providing a wide array of craft beer options.
Eventually, the new owner-to-be would like to raise Downtown Johnny Brown’s suds options to the next level by installing a small brewing system on-site, thus converting the venue to a brewpub. This would make it downtown San Diego’s fourth brewpub, joining The Beer Co., Rock Bottom, East Village’s Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, and Little Italy’s original Karl Strauss Brewing Company.