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First Look: Smoking Gun & Spill the Beans

Chef Kevin Templeton and bartender Eric Johnson lead new Gaslamp spots


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Ethics and giving a damn matter. Especially in the restaurant world, where the average food waste is 25 percent nationally. That’s why I’ve always been interested in chef Kevin Templeton. I’ll be honest. Never had the man’s food. As the exec chef of the Verant Group, I just didn’t expect greatness from his kitchen at barleymash in the Gaslamp. Seemed like more of a bar to me. Nothing wrong with Gaslamp bars, except usually the food.

But sustainable food friends in San Diego always rave about Templeton. Every week, on his own time, he takes 700 pounds of scraps from barleymash and delivers them to Olivewood Gardens, a nonprofit that helps kids and families in National City—a part of town with an incredibly high obesity rate—learn how to grow and cook healthy food.

Now he’s opening two new concepts at the corner of Fifth and Market in the Gaslamp (555 Market Ave.), so I’m going to try the decent human’s food. He, Verant Group, and awesome bartender Eric Johnson (Sycamore Den, Juniper & Ivy) have taken over the 7,200 square-foot space that used to be home to Blush Ice Bar. The first concept is The Smoking Gun (so-named because there used to be a shooting range in the basement), designed for retro-loving 70s pop culturalists with shuffleboard, ping-pong, foosball, a photo booth, and 16 surround-sound TVs. Templeton will do southern-inspired fare with a brisket (his specialty), plus pork shoulder, fried catfish, vegetarian sides, etc. Johnson’s a managing partner. He and bartender Scott Wheeler will do oldie cocktails (“The Smoking Gun” has Grouse scotch, Laphroaig Islay, Averna, lemon, and mint).

Next door will be their breakfast and all-day concept, Spill the Beans, a partnership with Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. Expect breakfast sandwiches, bagels with compound butters of all sorts, house-made cream cheeses, etc. They’re calling it “California-style bagels,” which is good. Because no one can recreate NY-style with our SoCal water.

Both concepts open today. Take a look at the first shots of the space below.

The Smoking Gun will be open Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2 a.m. Spill the Beans will go Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Restaurant reviews, food trends, top cocktails, wine, beer and generally the best eats and drinks in San Diego, by Food Editor and general good guy Troy Johnson.

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