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The Most Honest Man in San Diego’s Restaurant Scene

Sometimes the barest truths come from the least expected places

Recently, I ran into the most honest man I’ve ever met in the San Diego restaurant scene. I love this man. 

I won’t say his name, or any particulars. He must be protected. 

We sat down in a relatively new restaurant, and it was fairly empty, about 12 people in a place that seats 80-ish. The most honest man in the world comes to our table and says, “Hi, guys. If you want cocktails, you should order now, because they take a really long time.”

Okay, thanks for the heads up. We order. They do take a very long time, despite ours being apparently the only orders the bartender is tasked with. Not ideal, I think, but no biggie. Maybe the bartender is new and grace should be given, or we’re here early so they’re still prepping for the night ahead, or any number of other reasons I can’t visibly see. It gives us dozens of minutes to peruse the menu, really dig into the dish descriptions, daydream a little, salivate. 

He returns with the drinks, and they are delicious. Now, food. I ask him what his favorites are. What are the runaway hits of this vibrant new establishment? The dishes that launched an entire dream? He really seems to contemplate this question. After our pregnant pause enters its third trimester, he replies, “Well, I’m from [name of country redacted to protect the most honest man in the world], and there, our food has flavor.” 

That’s it. He doesn’t bother to lay bare his conclusion, which seems to have been: “If you’re in the market for food with flavor, I might try a different restaurant whose business model specializes in such exotic attributes.” 

This man has no lie in him today. Today is not the day his purity will bow to the tacit understanding that you feign wild endorsement if you accept employment. 

There are two thoughts here. As a business owner myself, I feel the pain of launching a dream, working day and night to create something of value, only to have someone you are paying to help you tell the general public, “Eh, meh.” It’s like hiring your own one-star Yelp review.

The other side of me is thinking, “This generous man just saved me $50.” 

The system does not need me interfering. That man will find his flavor, or will be urged to flavor-quest elsewhere. I’ve thought about him for weeks, imagining him telling a new customer: “The best thing about the fries is that they usually come out warm.”

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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