Weekly Dish: Jon's Street Eats Returns
Ex-food truck operator opening lunch spot in Oakland: a break up at Corners in Walnut Creek; sports bar & grill replacing Roti-8 in Blackhawk; more Habit Burger in the Tri-Valley; and more in this week's Dish!
Just a quick note about the 49ers Super Bowl loss. As a Patriots fan, it would be a little disingenuous to say that I'm completely devastated. But I was certainly rooting for the Niners (if for no other reason than the Ravens beat my Pats the game before), so hopefully this photo of an ingenious "meat stadium" whipped up by my crafty sister and friends for the big game will provide a little solace. And yes, the players are actually hot dogs with green and black olives for helmets...
Also, looks like yet another Valentine's Day is sneaking up on me unawares. You'd think I would have learned to plan ahead after the fiasco of getting my wife, then girlfriend, a blender a few years ago (she wanted one, I swear!) for V-Day, but alas, procrastination runs deep in my family. Anyway, check back to our homepage in the next couple of days, and you'll find a complete round-up of East Bay Valentine's Day ideas, including food and restaurant options. In the meantime, you're on your own, just like me ...
Jon Kosorek was one of the East Bay's first food truck pioneers with his popular Jon's Street Eats, which brought a slow food mentality (made-to-order food with sustainable, seasonal ingredients) to the mobile food scene. A couple years after selling his business and moving up to Wine Country, Kosorek is back in the East Bay with plans to open up a new eatery—stationary this time—in Oakland's Uptown/Lake Merritt area. Located in a small space at 325 19th Street in the former Looney's BBQ, the new spot will be called Marrow and will cater to the downtown lunchtime crowd (no dinner, maybe breakfast). As you might expect from the name, Marrow "will be a pretty meat-centric place" but with a cool twist: Kosorek plans to practice whole cookery, in which he buys one animal at a time, incorporating the individual parts throughout his menu. That means the steaks for the steak frites, the chuck for the fresh-ground hamburger, the meat for the corned beef Reuben, the lard for the fries, will all come from one cow. "I really wanted to build my menu around the concept of being responsible with how my meat is sourced," he says. "It's meant to be a tribute, a kind of respect, to these animals."
The menu will be fairly small (around six main items plus smaller plates) and serve an oft-changing selection of elevated New American cuisine, with a few constants like steak frites and a traditional corned beef Reuben on marble rye (a popular standard at Jon's Street Eats), mostly in the $8-$12 range. Kosorek hopes to debut Marrow by mid-March and no later than the start of April.
Speaking of whole animals, Oliveto just announced the dates for its 14th annual Whole Hog Dinners. Executive chef Jonah Rhodehamel will break down eight whole animals, using 2,000 pounds of pork over the course of four days from February 19 through February 22. It'll be an a la carte deal, with special dishes including a spit-roasted whole leg, Boudin Noir with sauerkraut, variety of sausages, and cured meats that will include a house-cured prosciutto aged for 24 months.
Interesting news from Walnut Creek, as according to Inside Scoop, heavyweight restaurateurs Mitchell Rosenthal, Steven Rosenthal, and Doug Washington of SF restaurants Town Hall, Salt House and Anchor & Hope have pulled out of their partnership with Corners Tavern. The popular year-old restaurant had previously been a partnership between them and the Moana Group, which owns the Piatti restaurants among others and will take over sole ownership of Corners. According to Scoop the parting was amicable, and Moana says that the overall concept, as well as executive chef Esteban Escobar, would remain the same.
A couple other Walnut Creek tidbits. Jay Crabb, the bar manager at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club and winner of Diablo's best bartender a couple years running, has parted ways with the downtown seafood eatery to pursue other opportunities. Taking his place as lead bartender will be Greg Palomo, who has been at the Yacht Club for five years under Crabb and former star mixologist Manny Hinojosa. Palomo recently won an International cocktail contest sponsored by Virgin Airlines, so the cocktails should be in good hands... Crabb told me he's filling in at various East Bay watering holes while he works on a business plan for his own bar.
Sounds like Fresh Choice, the recently shuttered salad and soup bar just off of Broadway Plaza, will be reopening soon under a new name. The local restaurant chain's CEO David Boyd has been reopening a few of the more successful Fresh Choice locations (according to the Sac Bee) as similarly-themed restaurants called California Fresh. A recent Craigslist post states that the Walnut Creek store will be reopening on February 11, presumable under that same rebranded moniker.
And if you're wondering about a new chef for Va de Vi after the departure of Shane McAnally, well, no news yet—but we'll keep you posted.
There will also be a new chef at Bocanova. The pan-Latin Jack London Square restaurant's executive chef John Ledbetter is leaving to join a new restaurant concept in Newport beach, closer to his family. His last day will be February 10. No word yet on a replacement, but stay tuned...
Down the street, Lungomare, the new northern Italian restaurant replacing Miss Pearl's from Chop Bar owner Chris Pastena is having its grand opening this Thursday. CLICK HERE for more details.
One more Jack London Square item: executive chef Kim Alter is hosting a special five-course dinner next Sunday, Feb. 17, that will pair hearty dishes like bone marrow and burnt barley braised short ribs with beers from The Trappist. Should be a great dinner for foodies and beer geeks alike: call the restaurant to reserve a spot: (510) 663-4440.
Over in Danville, dueling piano oasis That Bar isn't exactly changing its tune, but it is changing its name. Starting March 17, St. Patrick's Day, the Danville spot will be known as McGah’s Pub and Pianos. The new name is an homage to Eddie McGah, a former minority owner of the Oakland Raiders who was a relative of one of That Bar's co-owners, and also an effort to remind folks that they serve food there, not just drinks. Not to worry, the dueling pianos will remain, along with a new emphasis on Irish food and drink specialties (to match the new name).
Looks like another bar and grill concept, the Field House, is replacing the vacated Roti-8 space in Blackhawk Plaza. Not too many details yet, except that it will be more of a casual, sports bar theme.
Good news burger fans as rumor is the popular Habit Burger is expanding in the Tri-Valley to both San Ramon and Dublin. No word yet on Dublin, but according to The Storefront, the San Ramon location will be in the Crow Canyon Commons taking over the former Daphne's California Greek restaurant.
And coming soon to Dublin's Karma Fusion Lounge is Tokyo Playground, which appears to be some sort of cross between a sushi joint and a Hooters (their tagline is "the best looking sushi in town"). Here's the link, you be the judge...
Thanks to reader Linda Au, who clued me in on the opening of what could be the only vegetarian Japanese restaurant in Contra Costa. Saina debuted at 1819 Colfax Street in Concord between Rockin' Robbies music store and Sugar Plum Coffee Shop, and offers a mix of rolls, Japanese small plates, noodles, and salads, all completely vegetarian.
Speaking of which, I wanted to get a quick shout-out to Oakland's artisan tofu producer Hodo Soy, which will be supplying the tofu for the new vegetarian sofritas offerings that Chipotle will soon be rolling out in some Bay Area stores. Consisting of "shredded tofu braised with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos and a blend of aromatic spices," sofritas will be available as an addition to tacos, burritos, and salads starting this Tuesday, February 12 at seven locations in San Francisco, the Peninsula, and the South Bay. Nice little score for Hodo Soy, which produces only organic, non-GMO tofu.
It's not just Valentine's Day coming up, it's also Chinese New Year starting this weekend, ushering in the Year of the Snake. Uncle Yu's is celebrating with a five-course meal featuring specialties from various provinces that are traditionally enjoyed this time of year, including Good Fortune Salad (couldn't hurt) with smoked salmon sashimi and steamed dumplings with chives, garlic and shrimp. It's a very reasonable $38, and $60 when paired with wine. CLICK HERE for the menu.
Let's end with a little compilation of delicious dishes I've tried recently. I'm not going to lie, I've been eating well over the last week with stops at Prima, Esin, Postino, Sasa, and the new Duende (which is great by the way; really cool spot and definitely worth a visit). Didn't have a bad meal at any of those spots, and I'd recommend all of these dishes, in particular Prima's absolutely fantastic "candy wrappers" raviolis filled with braised ox tail; man oh man was that good ...