Sometimes you can’t help but toot your own horn. As is the case with San Diego’s first “celebrity” chef, the fine city has been praising former Top Chef contestant Brian Malarkey’s style for far too long; a style that unfortunately continues to reappear in all four of this spunky chef's repertoire now sprinkled throughout the county.
San Diego isn’t known for its culinary scene, but when Malarkey took to Bravo to show off his chops, things started to change. After leaving his original downtown seafood restaurant to start the popular San Diego Gaslamp drinking hole Searsucker, Malarkey impressed the town with his simply seasoned dishes from unusual ingredients. Though overpriced, people ate up everything in the rustic warehouse that draped fish reels from the ceiling and positioned couches at its entrance.
If anyone thought that Malarkey would slow down, it was obvious after many nights absent from his own restaurant that that wasn’t the case. His second restaurant Burlap was another blockbuster in the oddly placed Del Mar Highlands shopping center, where bland ambiance is forgiven in an overflowing parking lot of strollers and grocery shopping carts.
Burlap recycled popular menu items from his first downtown creation and was overzealous with décor that included tree stump seats and pond. As much as we enjoyed his Asian cowboy scene, we were confused as to how the menu swayed from its brother.
Now Malarkey is on a roll, rolling down a slope with several more restaurants including Gingham in La Mesa and Point Loma’s Gabardine. The former is already open and expected to set records for the small quaint town of La Mesa known more for its October beer festival than a revolutionary food scene.
We might be biased about the chef, but after meeting Rick Bayless at his Chicago original Topolobampo (in the kitchen no less, where our server told us he is every night) we couldn’t help but judge Malarkey. If you’ve been to one Malarkey restaurant, you’ve been to them all – so as loveable as La Mesa’s new hotspot might seem, you might already be familiar with every menu item. If you want to start an empire, don’t pretend to be innovative.
There’s one thing we can’t complain about – it has definitely turned the heat up in “America’s finest city.”