Brian Malarkey's Lunch Bunch at Searsucker

June 28, 2011

In the past year, Gaslamp's Searsucker has sizzled, sparked and flamed its way into the role of hottest spot in town, and seems unlikely to surrender the title anytime soon (although partners Brian Malarkey and James Brennan want the spotlight shifted to their just-opened Burlap in Del Mar Heights).

While it takes reservations – or a willingness to wait in the bar – to snare a table during prime-time dining hours, it's no sweat to enjoy the Searsucker vibe at their weekday lunch, when the restaurant serves an enjoyable menu of inventive salads, sandwiches and desserts from 11:30am to 2pm.
It's a casual experience at lunch, and while the restaurant delivers food to the table, some work is required of guests. If you want a full-service meal, take seats at the bar, where the speedy-as-lightning dudes will take your order and pour you a drink, or just a glass of water, in a flash. Otherwise, stop in the entry to read the chalkboard menu, and give your order to the hostess, who will hand you a number in exchange. Then grab silverware and choose a table on the terrace or among Searsucker's varied seating areas, which range from lounge-type furniture to long wooden tables built for communal dining.

The food rarely takes long to arrive, but who's in a hurry when there's so much scenery to enjoy? Occupying a large corner of the restaurant is chef Malarkey's vast exhibition kitchen. He's known to put on a show during dinner. In the opposite corner, the large rectangular bar offers the most prime views of Gaslamp action in the neighborhood. The location at Fifth Avenue and Market Street is more than prime. The warehouse-esque interior hums with non-intrusive classic rock and features vintage brick, black beams and exposed plumbing, along with an odd homage to the Gaslamp Quarter paid by black-and-white prints of, well, gas lamps.

If you and your companion like sharing, the spinach salad makes a nice way to start, with huge leaves dressed in a delectably delicate, citrus-accented poppyseed vinaigrette, and toppings of charred peppers, plenty of pine nuts, and Brie croutons. The croutons are like an airy delight of crispy cheesiness ($9; add $6 for a garnish of chicken, shrimp or steak).

The wide array of tantalizing hot and cold sandwiches includes choice items like The Triple “C,” which stuffs a sweet, buttery brioche bun with a thick crab cake, bacon, avocado, crispy fried onion strings and a flavorful dressing of tarragon aioli $12). The steak and egg sandwich blows away the competition, though. This one has it all: a perfectly poached egg set atop a petit filet mignon garnished with crumbles of blue cheese, roasted tomatoes and a chipotle hollandaise sauce. Served on ciabatta bread, it's as sizzling as Searsucker ($14). Sandwiches are served with a simple yet flavorful salad of “champagne” greens in a superbly sweet, aged balsamic reduction. The salad becomes a fast favorite. The house fervently recommends the brown butter fries ($3), which are a particularly rich and delicious version of french fries. These are served with house-made tomato jam, an interesting stand-in for ketchup.

Another sandwich not to miss: the “peach pulled pork,” a richly succulent arrangement of juicy pulled pork flavored with truly wonderful, Bourbon-spiked barbecue sauce, topped with a bit of peach cole slaw and plenty of fried onion wisps (they add loads of crunch and flavor) and served on a square toasted ciabatta bun that has been spread with baconnaise. The word may be new, but it's meaning is obvious: this is mayo flavored with bacon. It adds a tasty accent, and the kitchen is careful to use just a bit. It's touches like this that explain why Searsucker has become such a destination – although the atmosphere counts for more at night.

Because the servings are reasonably sized, most guests don't feel too full for dessert. We tried the homemade twix bar made by Pastry Chef Rachel King's homemade “Twix Bar” is a familiar layering of crunchy nougat and creamy caramel, coated in a thin layer of milk chocolate, and sprinkled with just a touch of sea salt to counteract and complement the rich sweetness of the caramel.

So stop by Searsuckers for its value-oriented, casual, weekday lunch, and see what the whole town is talking about.

611 Fifth Avenue, Downtown
619.233.7327 (SEAR)

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