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Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 - Nibbles | Food & drink

More Malarkey closures

Point Loma's Gabardine and Searsucker Scottsdale go the way of Burlap and Gingham

By Michael A. Gardiner
HamachiLardo Hamachi lardo with grape and chili
- Photo by Michael Gardiner
A month and a half ago, I wrote about the troubled year experienced by Brian Malarkey, Jim Brennan and their Enlightened Hospitality Group's (EHG) "Fabric of Social Dining" restaurant empire. I wrote about how the pressures from the expansion of the business were leading to cracks in the dining experience as well as restaurant closures. Five restaurants and a bullet-proof reputation led to two closures and questions.

I also wrote about how, despite those pressures, Searsucker was still capable of delivering a terrific dining experience. A visit to the flagship of EHG’s Herringbone brand in La Jolla confirmed that point. Even after Amanda Baumgartan’s departure, the food was excellent. The wood-roasted striped bass was exceptional, the shrimp 'n' grits, corn and pancetta was quite good and the hamachi lardo with grape and chili was superb.

Now comes news that two more restaurants have closed. In a statement, Brennan, EHG’s CEO, says, "In an effort to remain focused on the national rollout of [EHG’s] 'fabric of social dining' restaurant concepts we have decided to close our Searsucker Scottsdale and Gabardine San Diego locations. As [EHG] continues the expansion of our premier brands, we must continue to focus our efforts on the immense success of our current restaurant portfolio. [EHG] remains incredibly thankful for the support of the San Diego and Scottsdale communities and are looking forward to the launch of Herringbone Los Angeles this month."

Unaddressed in the statement, of course, is how the closure of a branch of one of those “premier brands” furthers the “national rollout” of those brands. It's certainly understandable, from a business perspective, how EHG might need to retrench. It's not hard to see why EHG might choose to take some business hits before the launch of Herringbone Los Angeles. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, in the playbook.

However, without a doubt, these moves put added pressure on the launch of the L.A. branch of Herringbone. Malarkey—and Brennan—need to make this move the right move. I wrote that Malarkey’s food still had the power to thrill. EHG's restaurants need to show that they have the power to thrill at the table and prosper at the cash register. They need to show staying power. 

At this point, that is very much the matter in question.

Write to michaelg@sdcitybeat.com and check out his blog and reviews. 

 
 
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