It’s never too late to pivot, especially if you ask German ex-pat Carmen Lindinger. It’s a sentiment that echoed throughout our interview. You see, Lindinger is a biochemist by trade, but she is branching out and opening her first bar, restaurant, and day club hybrid, Enlitenment.
If permitting allows, the concept will land on 5th Ave in downtown by late December in the 4,500-square-foot building that last housed Inka’s Bar and Grill. Lindinger is building and installing a custom Zen garden with a swing set, commissioning art from Austria, and promises Korean crispy chicken sandwiches, and a number of other bites that draw from all corners of Asia as inspiration.
“I’ve thought about this for quite some time. I wanted to open it before Covid hit, but I held back. Now I’m ready,” Lindinger explains. “I’ve managed cocktail bars and breweries, and whenever I worked somewhere I had lots of ideas, but when you don’t own it, you can’t change it. I’ve always worked for other people and made their businesses more profitable.”
Like bio chem and hospitality, travel is close to Lindinger’s heart. She’s spent several holidays frockling around Asia absorbing the continent’s sites, sounds, and flavors, and falling down rabbit holes of inspiration. “I’ve lived in Asia and travel there often. It’s the only food I eat, so I wanted to give San Diego something that I know and love,” she says.
Although she has pinned a chef, Lindinger is holding off on releasing details until the chef has completed fulfilling a prior commitment. Until then, Lindinger teases a menu of bao bun tacos, grilled shrimp over Thai slaw and lemongrass aioli, vegan crispy king oyster mushroom sandwiches, ube mochi brownies, and pina colada cream cheese wontons.
She’s tapping into her craft cocktail management experience and adding a touch of whimsy, so all beverage bases are covered. “I can’t open a bar and not have it be a full one,” Lindinger says with a giggle. “I’m thinking alcoholic boba tea, matcha pina coladas, and old fashions topped with ube foam.”
Enlitenment has some exciting plans slated for the future, including brunch, lunch, all the happenings of a day club, and a full speakeasy buildout downstairs.
“One side of the place is clubby and loungey, and the other side is a bar. I want it to be a big brunch spot, maybe even a day club because I feel like San Diego is missing that,” Lindinger says.
As for the speakeasy? Lindinger would rather remain coy but offers a couple of hints. “Imagine a zen garden at night, but lit up by trees.”
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