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Dining: North Park’s El Take It Easy

Like most idiosyncratic turns of phrase, there is no literal translation for “take it easy” in Spanish. But for restauranter Jay Porter and his latest culinary endeavor, perhaps that was the plan all along.

With a gastronomic line-up that touts everything from chicken nuggets doused in mole sauce to Tosti-locos made slightly more sophisticated, it’s, well, easy to spot the border-spanning influences on El Take It Easy’s frequently shifting menu. Spicy-cold Micheladas and bottles from the Guadalupe Valley chill alongside drafts from breweries literally down the street and the Calimocho, a wine drink from the Basque region crafted with Coca-Cola.

Porter’s creative catalyst for the restaurant, a follow-up to his cult (and Culture Lust) favorite The Linkery, was time spent in Ensenada, something he says played a major role in shaping the eatery’s cool-kid cantina aesthetic.

He even recruited Jair Téllez, proprietor and head chef at Baja favorite Laja and Mexico City’s Merotoro, to collaborate on the menu with The Linkery’s Max Bonacci. Like The Linkery, much of El Take It Easy's dishes are locally-sourced and organic, so fastidious foodies can rest easy while savoring their pork belly tacos and veg-friendly plantain empanadas. Also like The Linkery, the server-friendly (and City Attorney-disputed) no-tip policy stands firmly in place.

Perhaps the most interesting location Porter’s affinity for all things border-line cool crops up is not the menu, but on the walls.

Currently on display: Tijuana-based artist Enrique Ciapara, whose abstract, Rothko-summoning canvasses generated buzz at MCASD and whose studio is nestled inside “the old T.J. roller rink.” His first full U.S. show debuted at the eatery last Friday; the two met through Porter’s network of Baja chefs and culturati. He’s the first of what Porter hopes will be many artists showing there in the coming months.

The restaurant opened last week, and while we highly recommend it, a word of advice: don’t call it Mexican food.

“It’s meant to be authentic, but to (San Diego)… the people and the place that we live in now,” says Porter. “Like, hey – this is where we live. This is where we are.”

El Take It Easy is open every day except Tuesday, from 6 p.m. until "late."

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