Weekly Dish: Tribune Tavern Rises

Ike's in Walnut Creek and Tribune Tower in Oakland set to open within the week; Vanessa's Bistro 2 relocating downtown; Habit burger and Freebirds World Burrito coming to Dublin; and more in this week's Dish!



First up, I had a chance to get a sneak peek of the Tribune Tavern, the upcoming new restaurant from Chris Pastena located in the ground floor of downtown Oakland’s iconic Tribune Tower. Set for a grand opening next Wednesday, April 10, Pastena, a co-owner of Chop Bar who recently opened Lungomare in Jack London Square, partnered with Teemor Noor of Grand Tavern and local Oakland businessman Tom Henderson, who bought the building in 2011.

Just like Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern is infused with an Oakland-bred DIY ethos that permeates the interior. I lost track of all the locals who contributed to the wood work, lighting fixtures, beautiful stained glass (pictured above left), and furniture. “I wanted to create a creative outlet for Oakland artists," says Pastena.

It’s also retained a nice sense of place, exuding a comfortable but sophisticated tavern-type feel—plenty of original marble, and preserved and restored columns and molding—with several design nods to the over-100-year-old building’s newspaper roots. Pastena said that he was acutely aware of taking over such a significant building in a downtown area that doesn’t have a lot of high end places to go.

Tribune Tower owner Chris Pastena“We’re really proud of the building and to be able to showcase what’s great about Oakland. I think this can be a connection between all the activity and energy that’s happening in Uptown and in Jack London Square—a place for people who are living and working in the downtown. I wanted to create a place that has a casual elegance: somewhere you can come and get lunch a few times a week or get a cocktail or beer for happy hour, but you can also get a $150 bottle of cabernet and a nice dry-aged steak.”

The food will be ingredient-driven “modern tavern fare,” featuring items such as chicken liver pate, Welsh rabbit, beer-steamed mussels with chorizo, Shepherd’s pie with lamb, beef, and English peas, buttermilk fried chicken with collard greens, and a selection of grass-fed, dry-aged steaks. The chef is Huw Thornton, who brings a nice culinary resume that includes stops at A16, SPQR, and a brief stint at the short-lived Locanda da Eva in Berkeley. The kitchen plans to make as much as possible in-house, which includes breaking down whole pigs and eventually quarters of beef (they'll be hiring a full-time butcher), baking all the bread, and making its own charcuterie.

Housemade liqueursThat DIY philosophy extends to the bar program, which will be managed by Paul Christensen, formerly of Haven and Plum Bar. The restaurant’s huge kitchen actually has a whole section devoted just to the bar, which will make nearly all its products in house, including homemade sodas, tonics, liqueurs, syrups, and bitters. Says Pastena, “I didn’t want a bartender just slicing a lemon on a cutting board and that was it. We wanted the bar program to have a full kitchen space to work in, just like the butcher will have a dedicated space—we want to give the staff the tools they need to work with to do a great job.”

(And lest you think the bar program sounds a little, well, serious, Pastena points out that they'll also be offering pitchers of beer and margaritas.

It’s been an exciting few months for Pastena, who just opened Lungomare (CLICK HERE for a nice review in the East Bay Express), which specializes in northern Italian seafood on the Jack London Square waterfront, in February. Lungomare has a very different vibe, more upscale, less urban, but Pastena says he believes there’s room for both in Oakland.

“Lungomare I see as more of an escape, sort of like a vacation—getting a glass of wine and mussels on the water, I mean what’s better than that? [Tribune Tower] is more entrenched in the city, more nitty gritty, more of a place where you see and meet people every day. But I think they’re both part of what makes this city so interesting.”

401 13th Street, Oakland, (510) 452-8742, tribunetavern.com


Good news Ike’s fans, according to owner Ike Shehadeh, the new Walnut Creek location is set to have its grand opening either next Tuesday or Wednesday. Shehadeh was just waiting for the final fire inspection, which takes place today. Provided all goes well, he'll need just a week to start serving up his popular selection of sandwiches like the Matt Cain: Provolone, Roast Beef, Salami, Turkey, and Godfather Sauce.

Not as good news for Oakland burger fans. According to Umami Burger HQ, the popular Southern California-based gourmet burger spot will not likely be opening its Uptown location until more towards the end of the year. No word on what’s causing the delay…

Also in Oakland, I touched base briefly with Commis chef-owner James Syhabout, who told me that the opening for his highly anticipated new Box and Bells restaurant planned for Rockridge’s College Ave has been pushed back a bit: it’s looking more like a June, early summer launch now. 

Build Pizzeria Roma, the cook it yourself Roman pizza concept is also set for to open next week (April 11) in downtown Berkeley at 2286 Shattuck Ave. According to East Bay Express, the chef, Brian Langevin, is a protégé of Tony's Pizza Napoletana-maestro Tony Gemignani.

Get a taste of the island life, as DishCrawl is hosting a evening of eating in Alameda this Tuesday, April 9. Tix are $45 and there are just six left: CLICK HERE for the details.


Changes in downtown Walnut Creek, as it looks like Vanessa’s Bistro 2 is moving out of its North Main Street space and taking over the location currently occupied by Bosphorous on Locust Street. According to owner Michael Nguyen, he's opened escrow to buy the Turkish restaurant at 1508 Locust Street next to Hubcaps. His current landlord, Jon Licht, who owns the building where Vanessa’s is located, recently bought Nguyen out in preparation for the new two-story, 8,000 square foot Davidson and Licht store Licht is hoping to open by 2014.  Nguyen says he’ll be out of the North Main space by April 28 and hopes to reopen in the new location by late May, early June with the same menu and Vietnamese small plates concept. Bosphorus, which debuted in 2011, does not appear to be reopening.


Cooperage, taking over the former Petar’s space in Lafayette, will have a bigger footprint that originally thought. The American bar and grill concept from McCormick & Schmick's scion Andrew McCormick will be taking over the next-door book store Storyteller. Good news is, Storyteller isn’t closing for good, but rather relocating to a space behind Peet’s Coffee & Tea near Whole Foods.


Burgers and burritos are headed for the Tri-Valley, as Habit Burger and Freebirds World Burrito will be opening up new East Bay locations in Dublin. According to the city, the two popular chains will be part of new construction in the Sprouts Farmers Market shopping center at the southeast corner of Amador Valley Blvd. and Amador Plaza Rd. Both restaurants, which have opened successful Walnut Creek stores in the last two years, are slated for fall debuts.


Berkeleyside Nosh has the scoop on a couple of interesting, if highly specialized, new places: Heat, a hot sauce–specific store on MLK Way and Mead Kitchen, a new wholesale producer of the very Game of Thrones-esque fermented honey beer.

Speaking of Berkeleyside, the Nosh tips a few cool events happening in Oakland/Berkeley, including a bageling class, a pickling party at Grand Lake Kitchen, and Roman-themed dinners at Dopo: CLICK HERE for more.

The Danville Chamber of Commerce is hosting the business and (importantly for me) Culinary Showcase 2013 this Thursday at the Crow Canyon Country Club. Tix are $35 and get you tasty bites from more than 20 great local restaurants. CLICK HERE for the details...

And Brentwood's Hannah Nicole Vineyards & Winery is celebrating its 8th annual Barrel Tasting weekend this Sunday, April 7 from 11 to 4 p.m. it's $15 for wine club members, $20 for non-members. CLICK HERE for more information and to buy tickets.


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