North Park’s Little Thief Wine Bar & Kitchen, located at 3017 University Avenue, will transition its restaurant-in-residence from Drew Bent’s Papalito to Elliott and Kelly Townsend’s Long Story Short in August.
Papalito, which began its residency last August, will have its final day of service on Sunday, May 21. Chef Juan Gonzalez of Mesa Agricola will take over the kitchen on an interim basis Wednesdays to Sundays from May 24 – July 30. Long Story Short will then start its full-time residency on Wednesday, August 2 after concluding a 20-month run at Vino Carta, the sip-and-shop wine bar and store in Solana Beach.
Mesa Agricola, which includes Gonzalez’s wife Megan Strom who farms the produce used in his cooking, will remain at Vino Carta Solana Beach on its normal Mondays-and-Tuesdays schedule during the transition phase.
“We had an unforgettable nine months with Chef Drew and Papalito, and now we are thrilled to welcome Mesa Agricola and subsequently Long Story Short,” said Little Thief Managing Partner Patrick Ballow in a statement. “We are transitioning from a 10-out-of-10 to a 10-out-of-10 to a 10-out-of-10, and we can’t wait for food and wine enthusiasts from a different part of San Diego to experience the excellence of Mesa Agricola and Long Story Short in their own backyard.”
Bent, a Michelin-awarded chef from his time at Lola 55 in downtown, started Papalito as an inspiration from Sonoran-style Mexican BBQ. It was a sophisticated, yet casual nod to the flavors, spices, and techniques within the Sonoran culinary tradition of slow smoked meats and sandwiches.
“It has been an amazing ride, my team and I learned a lot, and I am grateful to the Little Thief team for the opportunity,” Bent said. “The new concept from Long Story Short will crush it, and I am stoked to have Elliott’s and Kelly’s food not far from my new spot Papalo in the East Village.”
Long Story Short was the first culinary residency at Vino Carta Solana Beach beginning in December 2021. Chefs Elliott and Kelly spontaneously craft their menu of California cuisine every few weeks based on what they can source locally and seasonally from Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe.
“We are most looking forward to great weather this summer and great weather means great ingredients,” Elliott and Kelly Townsend said. “We are looking forward to cooking in the community we live in. Being close to home means a lot to us.”
Mesa Agricola will assume the full-time kitchen role at Vino Carta Solana Beach beginning August 2. Strom and Chef Juan own a 1/4-acre plot of land in Valley Center where they grow vegetables, and each Sunday, Strom harvests the produce and hands it off to her husband. The farm-to-table menu changes every week depending on what’s best available.