Urban Solace’s Matt Gordon joins Blue Bridge Hospitality


Less than two weeks after shuttering his groundbreaking North Park restaurant Urban Solace, Matt Gordon has joined Coronado-based Blue Bridge Hospitality, completing a three-way chef shift that involves some of the biggest, and most respected, names in San Diego’s culinary circles

Gordon, who also closed his Solace & the Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas on March 13, started work Monday at Blue Bridge — a group that includes Stake Chophouse & Bar, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge and Liberty Public Market in its portfolio — in the newly created position of vice president of operations, managing both aspects of a restaurant, the kitchen and dining room.

Gordon replaces executive chef Tim “TK’ Kolanko, who has moved from Blue Bridge to the Urban Kitchen Group, which includes Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill and Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, Newport Beach and Irvine. Kolanko will oversee kitchen operations in San Diego and Orange County.

Kicking off the three-chef domino effect was Joe Magnanelli , who left the top culinary job at Urban Kitchen Group several months back to work working with Herb + Wood’s Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer on the upcoming upscale Asian restaurant Animae in downtown San Diego.

Gordon said in the days following the closures of his restaurants, he was contemplating how he could find a job that would utilize the skills managing both front of the house and back of the house operations that he had honed in his years as a chef-owner.

“Then my phone rang and it was TK,” Gordon said of Kolanko, a friend and a North Park resident who regularly visited him at Urban Solace, which opened in 2007. “It was a little bit of kismet, if you will. He knows one of my goals … was not to be a chef again, to be in front of a cutting board with a white coat on.”

“Sometimes the universe hands you what you want. It’s been a while since that’s happened to me.”

David Spatafore, founder of Blue Bridge Hospitality, said he’ll miss Kolanko, with whom he worked for six years, but wishes him well.

“Although we’re sad to see him go, he’s going to a good place,” Spatafore said, of Urban Kitchen Group.

Gordon’s elevated role in managing both kitchen and dining room operations dovetails with what Spatafore was looking for at Blue Bridge.

“With the departure of TK, I don’t think there could be any better scenario than Matt joining us. His nature, demeanor, his sense of humor, that coupled with Matt’s restaurant ownership and knowledge, is just what we were looking for,” Spatafore said.

Spatafore said there are no current plans for Gordon to overhaul the culinary approach to the hospitality group’s 10 eateries or Liberty Public Market — or introduce the signature comfort food that helped Urban Solace put North Park on the dining map when it opened in 2007.

“Comfort food is more than (food). One thing he excelled with that was neighborhood warmth and hospitality,” Spatafore said. “The food, the service, the atmosphere, that’s what really fits into what it is we do.”

Spatafore on Monday also announced other developments with Blue Bridge.

In May, West Pac Noodle Bar in Coronado will reopen as Little Frenchie, a traditional Parisian-style bistro headed by executive chef Matt Sramek, a veteran of Thomas Keller’s now-defunct Bouchon in Beverly Hills. Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville holds a Michelin star.

Spatafore said while Little Frenchie’s dishes will be classic bistro fare, Sramek will look to lighten some of them up to appeal more to local tastes.

“One thing we’ve been very conscious of is where we’re located. We want to try, where we can, to California-ize some of the buttery side of French food,” he said, citing Sramek’s use of crème fraiche instead of butter in his salmon rillettes spread.

Liberty Public Market, the popular food hall at Point Loma’s Liberty Station, is also adding new vendors to its lineup.

The recently opened Latin Chef-Liberty Station features Peruvian-Brazilian cuisine and replaces Mezé. Owner Freddy Palma and Peruvian-born executive chef Tony Kanashiro moved into the hall after the closure of Latin Chef in Pacific Beach, where it had operated for 13 years.

Also coming to Liberty Public Market this spring:

  • Landini’s Pizzeria, featuring New York-style pizza by the slice;
  • The Pig’s Gig, a barbecue joint from the team behind the market’s Mastiff Kitchen;
  • Hold Fast, a sustainable hand-roll eatery from North County’s noted sushi and seafood chef Rob Ruiz;
  • Bao Bar boba & bun, a bao bun and boba drink concept from the owner of the market’s Mama Made Thai;
  • And a fast casual stall featuring Mexican-influenced Korean barbecue.