Back to Basics
Table 24 makes comfort food for everybody in the family.
Photography by Cedric Glasier
At first glance, the co-owners of Table 24 restaurant seem like an odd couple.
Victor Ivry is a first-time restaurateur and longtime Lamorinda resident, who has spent more than 30 years as a volunteer swim and water polo instructor. Michael Karp is a Boston native who settled in the area three years ago after more than 20 years helping to open eateries around the country, including signature restaurants for celebrities such as Alice Cooper and Toby Keith.
Yet the two owners’ divergent backgrounds manage to synch: Karp brings his encyclopedic knowledge of the restaurant industry, while Ivry adds his decades-deep ties to the Lamorinda community (as Karp says, “You can’t beat 30 years of public relations.”) One glance around the restaurant—packed with families, kids, couples, and seniors—justifies the duo’s commitment to a casual, family-friendly concept that serves as a neighborhood hangout.
“We felt strongly that what Orinda was lacking was a very comfortable environment where anyone can come in and have really good food,” says Ivry. “It should be basic, simple, comfortable, affordable, homemade.”
Also comfortable is the way tables can be rearranged in infinite permutations to accommodate families of any size. There are affordable kids’ menu options, but Table 24 takes it further by offering a “Littles” menu for children nine and under as well as a “Middles” menu (for kids 10 to 16) that includes downsized versions of regular menu items for $7 or less.
“I know when my girls were 8, 10, and 12, it was a pain in the butt when we’d go out to eat, because they didn’t want to do the kids’ menu, but they didn’t really get the adult menu either. I didn’t want to buy a $20 entrée, have them eat two bites, and then go outside,” Ivry recalls.
The food, reflecting the owners’ philosophy, is straightforward and not fussy. But it’s done well, as appealing to adults as it is to kids. The classic burger’s thick, juicy patty of flavorful Niman Ranch beef was sandwiched between soft, squishy buns, and the smoky char from the grill gave it a homey backyard barbecue taste. The crisp sweet potato fries were a great side. The grilled lamb chop lollipops were about as small as real lollipops, but were tasty, fragrantly accented by grilled rosemary and served with similarly addictive fries.
Perhaps more surprising were the seafood dishes, which were executed with subtle skill. The fried oyster popovers, an excellent appetizer, combined the oysters’ creamy, slightly metallic taste with eggy pastry and tart pickles. A simple but richly satisfying side of roasted brussels sprouts and squash on the sole special showcased chef Thomas Spear’s commitment to seasonality and made a hearty complement to the delicately prepared fish.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement. Table 24’s opening executive chef was replaced by Spear within just two months, and that lack of consistency resulted in some misfires. Though the fried chicken was tender inside, it was encased in a rock-hard, bland skin (why order fried chicken if not for the lightly crisped skin?). A limp Caesar salad tasted like it had been dressed an hour before it arrived at our table.
Still, the hits overwhelmed the misses. Also encouraging is that both owners acknowledge the restaurant is a work in progress. “The other day I asked someone how their meal was and they said, ‘Well, do you want to hear my honest opinion?’ ” says Ivry. “I said ‘Absolutely, don’t sugarcoat it.’ If the experience was just okay, then it wasn’t great, and we want to be great.”
It’s clear that Table 24 is well on its way.
At A Glance
What makes it special: The owners go the extra mile to be affordable and family friendly, while maintaining perks for adults, including a full bar open late and flat-screen TV.
The space: The light, airy interior feels modern—recycled materials abound, including reclaimed bleacher seats from a local high school on one wall—yet homey, with an open kitchen, daily chalkboard specials, and even Trivial Pursuit cards stacked at each table.
When to go: It’s open all day, every day, but try the weekend brunch or pop in for an early dinner before a movie at the Orinda Theatre (or a late drink after).
Don’t miss: The flavorful and hearty burger and fries hits the spot for lunch or dinner.
Bonus: Kids eat cheaply. “Littles” menu choices include a beverage and ice cream for $5; the “Middles” menu has small entrée options for $7 or less.Contact: 2 Theatre Square, Orinda, (925) 254-0124, table24orinda.com. Hours: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Price: Appetizers $7.95–$10.95, entrées $9.95–$18.95. Alcohol: Full bar.
To read more about owner Michael Karp’s celebrity restaurant experience, go to diablomag.com/celebs.