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Elliott and Kelly Townsend of Long Story Short in North Park. Courtesy photo
ColumnsTaste of Wine

North Park’s Long Story Short offers casual, upscale food and wine

Long Story Short is nestled in the heart of North Park’s bustling, revitalized commerce area filled with shopping, fast casual, and upscale dining. The ambiance was approachable and inclusive, perfectly fitting the North Park vibe. It is part of a portfolio with Vino Carta Wine Store and Bar along with Bottlecraft Beer Shop and Tasting Room. Managing partner Brian Jensen leads the portfolio along with partner Patrick Ballow.

Scotty Brunson, general manager and wine buyer at Long Story Short, adheres to Vino Carta’s small producer playbook, seeking natural wines made with native yeasts and no filtration. Embracing this philosophy, I began the evening with a glass of Chateau de Rougeon 2019 Bourgogne Aligote from Burgundy, France, a rare grape preserved by determined winemakers.

The wine delighted with aromas of apple, apricot, Meyer lemon and key lime zest, while the palate offered notes of lime, ginger and apple blossoms, featuring a crispness and subtle creamy texture distinct from chardonnay. Following a recommendation from Frank based on his choice, I opted for the 2021 Ghostwriter Pinot Noir from Santa Cruz Mountains as my second glass of wine.

Long Story Short, say Chef Elliott Townsend and his wife, Kelly, formerly Vino Carta’s Solana Beach resident chefs, isn’t just a restaurant but a narrative of their decade-long journey together in their beloved neighborhood, North Park. The food, an evolution of their relationship, reflects what they believe should be enjoyed in the present moment.

The roasted winter squash, left, and charred carrots at Long Story Short are must-gets. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Chef Elliott presented a culinary smorgasbord of some of his favorites. What I loved about the menu is that the items were intended to be shared. The laid-back, lively ambiance would be perfect for groups of 4 to 8 people open to family-style dining. The cuisine is farm to table, with garnishes and accents that change based on what is seasonal and fresh.

We began with the roasted beets with ricotta, bitter greens, beet agrodolce (meaning sour and sweet) and herbes de Provence vinaigrette, along with the Cali beef tartare. The American wagyu beef tartare had pico de gallo, cotija cheese, avocado, radish and chili flake. The Mexican-inspired tartare dish, adorned with potato shoestrings and accompanied by warm tortillas, was truly fabulous.

Following this delicious pair of shareables, Chef Elliott brought out a saba (Pacific mackerel) crudo. The slightly charred skin along with citrus, red onion and cilantro established an exciting flavor fusion.

GM Brunson said that Long Story Short always has a crudo. It is a main menu element; however, the fish changes based on Chef Elliott’s direction for the freshest and most flavorful combination. Just weeks prior, the crudo featured a yellow tail tuna with fig.

Chef Elliott further indulged us with the roasted winter squash and charred carrots plates. The winter squash was stunning, earning an A-plus grade. If you could serve the fall season on a plate, this was it!  Kabocha squash, grilled oyster and maitake mushrooms, pumpkin seed, and miso were combined with buckwheat and wild rice toasted in brown butter topped with thyme. If you go to Long Story Short, this is a must-get dish.

The charred carrots were served with a creamy passion fruit and orange wine sabayon sauce that perfectly complemented the carrots. The dish was further garnished with serrano salsa verde, and round, green nasturtium leaves with a light, peppery flavor.

Another must-get item is the chocolate and palo santo dessert, offering both medicinal and spiritual elements. In the case of this dessert, the wood is charred and then soaked in a heavy cream. The cream is strained and then made into ice cream that sits on top of a layer of chocolate ganache and garnished with bunuelos (browned tortillas).

The unique flavor of this dessert, along with a shot of Valdespino Vermouth that Brunson paired with it, made for a heavenly conclusion.

Thank you to Scott, Elliott, Kelly, and servers Eva and Jill for a wonderful evening. Long Story Short gets a big thumbs up. Patrons can find parking at the North Park Garage with 350 spaces and is only one block away at 3829 29th Street.  Learn more at

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Randy Smerik, proprietor of Solare Ristorante at Liberty Station, is having a special Christmas Eve four-course dinner that Executive Chef Denice Grande is designing. Many choices are on the menu, plus a “Feast of 7 Fishes” selection. Cost is $68/person + tax/gratuity. A kids menu is also available. Guests can dine either indoors or outdoors on their heated covered patios. Seating is limited. RSVP at or call 619-270-9670.

Reach them at [email protected].                                                                                             

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