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Few restaurants weathered the tough times of the past few years in more colorful fashion than the Linkery. Most places either went belly-up or buckled down and out-toughed the tough times. The Linkery and El Take it Easy, freshly opened when things went south for the industry, went berserk with menu changes, staff changes, and remodelling. By the end of it--this was in late 2010--the restaurant was barely recognizable. Traces of the pre-recession Linkery started to creep back in. The menu got longer longer, sausages came back front-and-center, etc. This Harding-esque “return to normalcy” was in the best (and worst) tradition of a restaurant that has had its best (and worst) moments as the result of experimentation and a staunch refusal to sit down and just do one thing for a little while and see if it sticks.

Some say this is a good thing, some don’t like it. I say it’s just the way it is.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s what they say, at least. Brandon recently reported that Max Bonacci, long-standing big hat at the Linkery and El Take it Easy, was going to be hands-off at the Link in order to focus on EZ. New kid in town Keith Adams is supposed to take the reigns at North Park’s premier sausage kitchen. This isn’t the first such “shake-up” at Jay Porter’s restaurants, at there’s no doubt it won’t be the last. For now, at least, what’s the state of the Linkery?

As of today, the Linkery hits and misses, just as it has always done. Fried cheese curds ($6.50) were without flaw. Covered in bacon chorizo and tangy pickles, the airy batter surrounded molten cheese that was a supercharged version of mozzarella sticks. Some bites were herbed, others were spicy, all were perfect. Give me more of this, forever, and there will always be a place for you somewhere in my heart, Linkery.

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In the same meal, a fish plate of sauteed sculpin came up shorthanded. The fish itself had been brushed with a tangy peach reduction, so far so good, but the cold squash and tomato salad underneath couldn’t distinguish itself. The saddest thing was that this was a near miss. Whole leaves of basil had been strewn about the dish. I pushed them aside at first, but when I finally went to the trouble of cutting them up and mixing them in with the vegetables, the effect was transformative. All of a sudden it was a late-summer ratatouille and the plate started to come together, although the cold vegetables still threw me off.

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They are (still) trying.

The restaurant even has its own bottled vintage of Guadalupe Valley red wine. The “El Take it Easy” blend lacks refinement, however, tasting mostly hot and alcoholic.

I guess change and sameness do increase in proportion to each other. You still can’t be 100% sure what you’re going to get if you stray from the sausages, but it might be great. That’s always been the rub with the Linkery and it strikes me that the restaurant’s capability for greatness might be irrevocably tied to it’s capacity for failure.

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