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The bar is beloved by locals.

Girl Power

by Amy Finley | Photography by Andrea Bricco | Riviera San Diego magazine | February 28, 2014

When my son, Indiana, finished licking the plate clean of every last bit of gravy-drenched chicken and biscuits, he pushed himself away from the table and slumped in his chair. When we ordered, Michael McGeath, Brooklyn Girl’s owner and a fixture at the Mission Hills restaurant, had joked that they call the brunch dish “chicken and a nap.” So Indy closed his eyes and threw his head back—a mischievous smile spreading across his face—and feigned snoring. I’m no joke at this motherhood thing, and I know an Instagram moment when I see one. So within seconds, I’d pushed my Bloody Mary aside and was snapping away. Image artfully blurred but for the bright focus on my 11-year-old’s face, a quick wash of the app’s golden-toned light, and boom! Instant nostalgia.

Mission Hills has always been a prestigious address, its noteworthy gardens and architectural mix of Craftsmans, bungalows, Spanish revivals and colonials giving the area yesteryear allure. If S.D. has a Mayberry contender, the canyon rim neighborhood is probably it.

But while it has had some food destinations over the years (RIP Sausage King and Parallel 33), until longtime restaurateur McGeath and his wife, Victoria, opened Brooklyn Girl, you wouldn’t have said Mission Hills had a neighborhood eatery. Or, at least, not one of the kind that becomes the rallying cry of the strolling sidewalk set. “Where are you headed tonight?” “Brooklyn Girl!” We are a memory-craving people. Neighborhood spaces anchor our collective identity. And shared nostalgia—the way an actually-right-now moment feels important and timeless—is Brooklyn Girl’s currency.

The sleek bar at the heart of the industrial-chic space is a big part of it. Under dangling, exposed-bulb fixtures, couples take selfies and sip Breuckelen whiskey on the rocks, or a Kentucky Blue served in a frosted copper mug. The restaurant has had about a two-week wait for prime-time reservations since day one, but determined locals just pull up bar stools and sip from carafes of wine until a coveted table opens. There’s a wide range of starters on offer that make the drinks go down easily—spicy shrimp-and-pork meatballs; succulent roasted bone marrow; crisp-fried, addictively salty pickles. And besides, the chatter is lively, and if hunger grows too great, there’s always the high-top communal table bridging the gap between the bar and dining room. And McGeath recently converted a stage-left space—formerly housing a Brooklyn-themed pantry concept that never took off—into a raw bar, complete with oysters, fresh-from-Montauk Jonah crab claws and a gleaming white marble countertop. More importantly, the revised digs added more than 20 new seats for walk-ins.

The neighborhood took notice.

And when I say neighborhood, I don’t just mean the Hillians.

It is incontestable that Brooklyn Girl brought new energy to once-sleepy Goldfinch Street. In quick order, as the clamor grew and the raves rolled in for chef Colin Murray’s chewy, cold-rise-crusted wood-fired pizzas—casual fare that feels sophisticated when you’re dining under sparkling birdcage chandeliers—buzz began about other restos eyeing spots on the stretch. Soon, P.B.’s indoor-outdoor hang, The Patio, will open a 92103 outpost right across the way. And The Gathering, which served up fried Brie and Fireman’s specials with a side of (actual) magic for nearly 30 years, will make way for Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar later this year.

Is McGeath worried? Should he be?

The short answer is no on both counts. The restaurant’s menu is solid. Murray and McGeath (who’s opened and/or owned 14 restaurants over the years—he met Victoria when he hired her to be a server at the Gaslamp’s Old Spaghetti Factory) have hit on a user-friendly mix of mostly-successful big-night-out and eat-anytime dishes. You have the brined Duroc pork chops with vegetable hash, or take the wood-oven-roasted Mary’s duck for two, when it’s all about devil-may-care gaiety. The rest of the week, there’s the tender and creamy (but gluten-free) winter vegetable lasagna, or a side of cauliflower “couscous” for a light bite. Brunch here manages to be both sexy and family-friendly, between the very good Bloodies and the sugar-dusted stacks of buttermilk pancakes. And I’m a huge fan of that raw bar, an East Coast staple the likes of which hasn’t yet been seen much around S.D. A heaping tower of shell-and-eat shrimp on ice with fiery horseradish sauce? My personal heaven.

McGeath’s heaven is this resto he calls his swan song. And its backstory is romantic as heck, even beyond when he and Victoria met cute over noodles and red sauce. Victoria’s from Brooklyn. She’s his Brooklyn Girl. Her Barbie collection flanking the bathrooms, the black-and-white family photos, and all that Brooklynana... you can’t fake that kind of heartfelt nostalgia.

Not even on Insta.

The Special Delivery
When it comes to seafood, it’s all about East meets West. Fresh, dry-ice-packed delicacies like littlenecks, Long Island oysters and Atlantic tilefish hit the kitchen daily.

The Sundowner
The weekend draws to a close with Sunday Supper, a prix fix two-course meal that changes weekly.

The Wall of Fame
Artist-by-day, server-by-night Patrick Jantz is the force behind the resto’s celeb portraits. New Yorker Scarlett Johansson currently has pride of place, since Jantz’s ballyhooed Anna Wintour rendering sold to a fan.

The Hot Seats
Two words: sidewalk seating. These puppies go fast when the sun shines!

Brooklyn Girl
4033 Goldfinch St., 619.296.4600

Mon.-Thu., 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm; Fri., 11:30-2:30pm, 5-11pm; Sat.,10am-2pm, 5-11pm; Sun., 10am-2pm, 5-10pm. Starters, $9-$15; raw bar, $2.50-$28, entrees, $14-$44; desserts, $3.50-$8