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It was 2008, but I remember it clearly, sharing a table with young restaurateur Arturo Kassel and discussing the origins of the name for his farm-to-table Whisknladle (1044 Wall Street, La Jolla). He explained it was the name of a New York supper society and how he wanted the same brand of thought-provoking cuisine and inviting foodie atmosphere at his then brand new eatery. He was so into the supper club thing that, when I mentioned to him I was cobbling together my own group of experimental gastronomes, he asked if he could join.

My supper club wouldn’t become a reality until 2010. By then, Kassel was too busy running not one, but two highly patronized restaurants, so he couldn’t participate. Whisknladle, originally greeted by critics and other industry folks with a moniker-inspired question mark, was drawing exclamation points from patrons who made the fast fave successful enough to breed a spin-off, the sorta-fast casual, dine-in or take-out Prepkitchen.

The Prepkitchen concept has since spread from a tiny nook in The Jewel to larger locations in Del Mar and Little Italy. Over the span of that growth, WNL has remained in the upper echelon among other San Diego eateries. Today, Kassel shares local resto mogul status with the likes of Tafazoli, Stanton, Malarkey, Brennan, Borkum and Blair. Only the habitually prolific likes of the Cohns look down on him.

Five years in seems a good time to take a step back and appreciate the steady rise from the foot of the mountain. In doing so, Kassel is holding a special family-style anniversary dinner at Whisknladle on February 8. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception with the meal—a smattering of food and bar menu favorites from the past half-decade—kicking off at 7 p.m.

But it’s not just the food that will be reset. So, too, will the roles of the restaurant’s creators. Kassel will resume his front-of-house duties for the evening (including serving his personal wine selections during dinner) while chef Ryan Johnston will return to the WNL kitchen. That last one’s a move that’ll stick as Johnston will once again be head chef there. It’s back to the future, restaurant edition, and figures to keep the flagship going full steam ahead.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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