Kimberly Blough 6:28 p.m., March 9
El Take it Easy set to close April 22
Jay Porter weighs in on the closure of his "New Baja" restaurant and shares his plans for the future.
El Take it Easy lasted much longer than a lot of us gave it credit for. It has always attracted a small cadre of fiercely defensive loyalists, and a larger majority of vocal detractors, which isn’t a conventionally successful business model. The 30th Street restaurant from Linkery owner Jay Porter opened three years ago with a mission to deliver the style and flavor of Baja California Norte’s, both traditionally and from the avant garde frontier of cooking in nearby Tijuana, Ensenada, and the Guadalupe Valley. The restaurant’s blog, authored by Porter, announced that Easy will close after a final dinner service, on April 22nd.
With the candor that has made him a polarizing figure among restaurateurs, Porter remains optimistic about the future for him and his employees. Characteristically, he’s already looking ahead for the space at 3926 30th Street.
“We waited until we had a plans in place before we closed the restaurant,” he said in a brief interview from the road today. Easy may be closing, but it will reopen as “an American bar and grill called ‘Hubcap.’ Food-wise, it will be vintage American cuisine like grass-fed burgers, bar food, cocktails (some of which will be available by the pitcher), and a pretty good wine list.”
Since the seeds of change were sown long before the notice to close Easy, Hubcap should be up and running by mid-May. Porter intends to keep his staff, including long-time chef Max Bonacci.
“All the food will be under $10,” he added, addressing a common slight against Easy, since diners often perceived the restaurant as expensive. “People are willing to pay a premium [for quality ingredients], but it’s a little hard if you’re doing food and ingredients that are unfamiliar and the price can come off as a little confusing.”
Porter was frank about the fact that Easy lacked a wide enough appeal to succeed as a restaurant. He was effusive about the love and loyalty from the regulars, whom he thinks of as friends, but he admitted that there just weren’t enough people coming in the door to keep the restaurant running.
“Constantly tweaking the concept to try and bring in new clientele would alienate other people,” he said.
He was also emphatic that this is different than the Linkery’s remodel from a few years back.
“The Linkery always worked fundamentally,” he explained. “It just had to evolve, operationally and in terms of design, in order to be ahead of the market and do things differently. The fundamental ideas behind El Take it Easy don’t bring in enough customers. We need to do something that will bring in enough people to let us do our best work.”
Maybe Hubcap is it.