Comfort and pain in Solace


March 12 was a day of mixed emotions.

Already on my calendar that evening was an invite to celebrate the second anniversary of You & Yours Distilling Co. The East Village spot, where owner Laura Johnson is crushing the vodka and gin spirits game, holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first features I helped with when I started working for PACIFIC.

A day with such a promising and happy ending turned sad around lunchtime when a notification hit my Facebook inbox.

“It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today,” chef Matt Gordon’s message read. “We have come to the very difficult decision that Solace Restaurants have run their course here in San Diego.”

There it was. A post straight from the chef-owner of Urban Solace and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge announcing he would be closing both his North Park and Encinitas restaurants the following day.

I have seen a lot of restaurant closings in my time in San Diego, but this one stung.

I started eating at Urban Solace 12 years ago when it opened in North Park and I lived in neighboring University Heights. So many great times with friends and family were spent over such comfort food orders as duckaroni, kitchen-sink biscuits and gravy, the irresistible tomato fennel soup, and specialty bites during 30th on 30th (including a very memorable bite of foie gras during the delicacy’s original 2012 ban when a couple North Park restaurants served up for “Foiemegeddon” specials).

I wouldn’t say I was a regular of Urban Solace — with my job, it’s difficult to be a true regular when I’m always out trying new restaurants and menu revamps. But, for a long time, I’d say it was the restaurant I most frequented and the one that, up until the end, I would recommend to anyone looking for a good place to eat.

In February, when chef Gordon was a guest on PACIFIC’s Dish It Up podcast, he said something that really got me thinking. The title of the episode was forebodingly titled “The future of the industry is murky” (a direct quote of his) and he went on to say that many of the people who lived in North Park when he first opened had since aged out of the neighborhood and moved to places where it was better to raise a family.

I am one of those people who has since moved on from North Park, where I lived from 2011 until last year. It wasn’t to raise a family, but the neighborhood just became too expensive. With higher rents, I wasn’t able to enjoy the area as I had when I moved there. And now that I live in La Mesa, it’s not that I stopped loving the places I used to visit, but these days, I have a host of other local small businesses that I want to help support in my new community.

Is there a way to move to a new place and support those businesses in a new neighborhood AND still support those in the old? Or do you just have to put faith in the people who moved in behind you and hope that they find their way to those staple places?

I wish there was an easy answer here. If there were, maybe chef Gordon, or many other great restaurants for that matter, wouldn’t have had to make that farewell announcement. I could be way off base, too. But either way, all was made a little more palatable remembering so many fond food memories sitting alongside all those who returned on March 12 for one more bite of comfort from chef Gordon.

— Leslie Hackett

Editor’s note: After this letter was pubished in print, it was announced on March 29 that chef Matt Gordon has joined forces with Blue Bridge Hospitality (Maretalia, Stake Chophouse, Crafted Baked Goods, to name a few) as the Vice President of Operations.