WHAT'S NEW: El Take It Easy eatery
El Take It Easy in North Park.
Photo by Maya Kroth
“I just made it up,” says Linkery restaurateur Jay Porter, pausing before breaking into a loud, giddy laugh. He’s talking about the eat-around-town event he started on 30th Street in North Park, South Park and Normal Heights, the reason why there are Saturday-night crowds roaming uptown sidewalks on a Wednesday. Tonight marks the sixth edition of the monthly 30th on 30th, when pretty much every restaurant with a 30th Street address offers some kind of deal (two-dollar half-pints of beer, three dollar apps, etc.) designed to entice diners on a tapas crawl through the restaurant zone.
Tonight is extra special for Porter, who is officially debuting his new baby, a “gastro-cantina” with the love-it-or-hate-it name El Take it Easy. From the food to the music to the art on the walls, the place is inspired by our local region—meaning both sides of the border (the website lists the eatery’s location as “North Park, Tijuego”). With a menu developed in conjunction with famed Baja chef Jair Tellez, the restaurant’s been soft-opening in the former Apertivo space north of University for the better part of three weeks, but this marks the grand unveiling, and the crowd is a who’s who of local tastemakers.
“Jay is a gastronomic-mastermind. A gastromind. He’s always two steps ahead of the curve,” says Jason St. John, whose sought-after design firm Bells & Whistles is responsible for the look of hotspots like UCSD’s The Loft and The Smoking Goat pub in North Park. St. John is here celebrating B&W’s latest gig—renovating the restaurant and bar at the historic Lafayette Hotel—and is about to tuck into a steaming plate of rabbit sausage pasta.
Across the table are Sean and Stacy Kelley of the Barrio Logan-based arts collective Set + Drift. The Kelleys are both veterans of Porter’s regular foodie outings to Tijuana, an experience that may’ve helped prepare them for El Take It Easy’s unusual menu. With dishes like sautéed chicken spleens, Kentucky-fried buches (chicken necks) and unctuous pork belly tacos, it’s not exactly a vegetarian’s nirvana.
“I wasn’t really eating much meat until I started going down to TJ,” Sean says. “A meal at Erizo (a cevicheria in the upscale Chapultepec neighborhood) just slapped me in the face, and I couldn’t resist it.” Right then, a waiter brings out a meaty-looking sandwich made from natural goat meat and pastured egg.
“I’m all about the goat face torta!” exclaims DJ Claire, seated at the head of the table. Known around town for the vintage soul/funk sets she spins at clubs like the Whistle Stop and the Casbah, Claire’s about to dig into a plate of mole-sauced chicken “nuggets,” ironically made from organic, free-range birds. Next to her sits Louis, an employee at The Linkery who just had his first run-in with Tostilocos, a familiar TJ street food made by tossing peanuts, crunchy veggies and pork rinds into a bag of chips and drenching it in hot sauce and lime juice. He washed it down with a clamato chavela, an elaborate and spicy beer-based drink served in a giant chalice and garnished with octopus and shellfish. “You drink it down and there’s these tasty bits at the bottom that you eat with a fork,” he says, enthralled.
“It’s really fun,” says Kelley about the El Take It Easy experience. “It captures the fun and the tasty shamelessness of Tijuana. It’s got humor to it. That’s what makes it special.”
- City: San Diego
- Phone: 619-291-1859
- Name: El Take It Easy
- Address: 3926 30th Street