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  • Writer's pictureJarnard Sutton

In the Kitchen: Chef Lety Gonzalez

Photo courtesy: Jarnard Sutton

You are in for a flavorful treat in this episode of "In the Kitchen!" We met up with the executive chef of Uptown Tavern, Lety Gonzalez, who showed us make her flavorful braised rib gnocchi, inspired by a mexican dish called Birria (shown in video). Trust me, after watching this, you'll want to try this dish the next time you're at Uptown Tavern.

Watch as executive chef Lety Gonzalez prepares this mouthwatering dish.

Tell us about this dish?

This dish was inspired by a mexican dish called Birria. It melts in your mouth. The tender goat is braised for many hours with dried chilies in a stock pot. However, I used short rib instead, a protein more common and acceptable in our community. I Americanize a lot of my dishes.

Why is this dish a good addition to the menu?

It is something new and different. Flavors of all over are fused together. I had a great pasta dish that sold well on the last menu. My thought this time was how can I come up with something better.

Describe the taste to someone who hasn't had this dish?

It's smokey, with a hint of spice, tender short rib, sweet elements from corn and freshness from the herbs.

What component does the cactus add to the dish?

Cactus, like okra, brings in the elements of a ticking agent. Adding this to the rib jus when cooking allows the meat to bind with liquid, giving the meat full flavor.

When do you know that the gnocchi is cooked?

It floats.

Tell us about the sauce that you used with the gnocchi?

Besides the rib jus, we add a Chile de arbol oil, made in-house.

You get the gnocchi from a local spot -- where?

Our gnocchi comes from Assenti's Pasta, located in Little Italy.

How do you get the short ribs to taste so amazing!?

I use four kinds of dried chilies, garlic, onion, bay leaf and love.

How long do you braise it for?

Three hours. We let it rest for 24 hours prior to portioning.

Any inspiration for adding these dish to the menu?

My dishes are all inspired by flavors that I grew up with.

What's a good beer and/or cocktail to pair with this dish?

This dish packs a lot flavors. So a blonde ale or a stout, for sure. If you are going with a cocktail, a tequila/mezcal for sipping.

Cost: $22

Photo Courtesy: Jarnard Sutton

What kind of experience will a diner get at Uptown Tavern?

Experience at Uptown is fun. It's great for groups and for date night. We've made it a point to make sure there is a little something for all walks of life. We aren't a "gay bar" just because we are located in hillcrest. This is a true neighborhood bar.

About Lety Gonzalez:

Did you grow up in San Diego?

I am a San Diego native.

How long have you been working at Uptown Tavern?

Three years now. I started as a line cook and worked my way up to where I am now.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I love to cook. I feel more comfortable in a kitchen.. I will be the very round old lady trying feed everyone. It's in my blood. All the women are cooks, except my mother. She was great at delegating who was cooking what and how. She taught me how to cook some amazing dishes.

What's your favorite meal?

My mother's potato queso fresco and onion enchiladas. I was vegetarian the majority of my life. My mother is diabetic, so I learned to cook healthy before I learned to cook gluttonous.

What's your favorite dish to prepare?

Sopa de papas, a dish my grandmother and mom would make when I was sick. It is thick cut potatoes, cooked in a tomato broth with cilantro.

When you're not coming up with delicious food items for Uptown Tavern, what do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

Eating, Ha ha ha. As you know, chefs don't have a chance to sit and eat. So I'll eat a lot and explore new places. My boyfriend and I spend our time together listening to our massive record collection.

Follow Uptown Tavern:

1236 University Ave, Hillcrest. (619) 241-2710 or


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