Thursday, November 19, 2009
An unlikely but seemingly inevitable conclusion emerged from a weekend spent swooping through the graffitied alleys and electrified avenues of the so-called Bay Area: The Original Bay Area is quietly taking over the coastal community to the north.
On Oakland’s Grand Avenue, Temoor Noor, a native of our state’s first strategic and epicurean hub (Monterey), has arguably the best new bar of the resurgent Lake Merritt-adjacent area with The Grand Tavern. A primary reason why the reimagined Victorian home is humming: The chef, his mom Kay, has some luscious lamb shanks and basil chicken kicking in the kitchen – in fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing a cook-off between her and her brother, Ali Amir, the chef-owner at Amir’s Kabob House in Monterey (642-0231), who has the best kebabs, and one of the top happy hours, in town. Noor’s also pouring handpicked beers (Tripel Karmeliet’s one of six on tap), beautiful bourbons (hello Tamazaki) and pre-Prohibition-style drinks over larger, denser “Kold-Draft” cubes. As our independent siblings at East Bay Express put it: “a great place to kick back, sip a cocktail, and make yourself at home.”
The evidence didn’t ebb from there. All weekend long, Carmel Valley-cradled Earthbound Farms had one of the biggest and busiest booths at the giant San Francisco Green Festival near the Mission (crushing the stand with the purses made from candy wrappers). And on Sunday, our own Jeff Moses of Monterey Bay Beer Festival fame showed the City how a real beer festival is done, assembling as many rare and delicious craft beers – inspired Dogfish Head, Tibetan Llasa, oh-yeah Anderson Valley Brewing Company limited editions – as I’ve seen in one place for his Holiday Beer Festival at Fort Mason. Salinas is lucky to get at many of the beers he brought to bear at their BevMo on North Davis Road (442-2411); Moses and Chris Nelson, Carmel Valley’s heady “Beer Geek” (who was also in attendance – check out www.thebeergeek.com), recommend Vince and Karlen Poma’s Bottles N Bins (375-5488) in Monterey for Peninsula peeps seeking killer swill.
Speaking of S.F., 240-pound baller 49er ’backer Patrick Willis and I wouldn’t appear to have much in common beyond our traps and lats, but after watching Jay Cutler hand Willis’ Niner D five interceptions to punctuate San Francisco’s four-game yucky streak, I realize there’s more we share: We’ve both received gifts on recent game days.
Pigskin Mondays at Kula Ranch in Marina (883-9479) are good to begin with – they illuminate the six-foot big screen, spit-fire a whole pig (then pile substantial chunks on a nice roll with tasty sauce and macaroni salad for $5), queue up $3-$5 food specials and pour stiff $3 house margaritas, $2 pint Coors, and $4 mai tais – but at halftime the gifts really rain. That’s when Joe Loeffler grabs the bullhorn and directs the raffle attack: On this Monday, there were sunset dinners, pupu platters and $30 Lance Armstrong hats handed off. I even caught a dessert of choice. Nice play.
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The Carmel crux Jack London’s (624-2336) has new authors. Best friends and local entrepreneurs Kevin Kosick and Paul Owen aim to update the historic spot with cracked grass accents, historic photographs, a bigger bar, lounge chairs, dropped lighting, bamboo flooring, fireplaces and a piano of grand proportions – though I’m not sure how I heard or retained anything Kosick told me after he mentioned the new ostrich skin seats they’re planning on putting in. The menu will be similarly refreshed with upgraded whole grain-fed beefs and more Angus beef burgers, locally sourced seafood and the introduction of pizzas. Kosick, who has run a restaurant for a decade and a pizza joint in Canada, says the timetable for all the upgrades to be in place is 60 days, and the joint will stay open in the interim – they’ve even got live music from happy hour to close on Thursdays and a Thanksgiving spread next week.
“You don’t know Jack’s,” Owen says. “It used to be the place you started and ended. It’s not any more. We’re going to bring that back. Carmel’s a world-famous, really beautiful place. We need a really beautiful bar.”
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Sarita’s is a savory Seaside (394-4407) and Prunedale (663-0229) staple thanks in no small part to the value they pile on their plates (try the $3.99 all-you-can eat breakfast one time). Here’s a holiday deal to celebrate from the family behind the Mexican restaurants: On Thanksgiving day a turkey dinner – tender slices of bird, salad, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing and rolls – is totally gratis for the first 400 folks who visit. Soft drinks or pumpkin pie are just $1.
In all fairness, the idea isn’t simply to float free meals out there, but to say thanks and rally donations for Monterey County Food Bank.
“We felt like we needed to give something back to the community in this economy,” owner Juan Dominguez says, “especially when the Food Bank is broke. It’s been tough for restaurant owners, including us, but we wanted to do this.”
Other Thanksgiving events are appearing – the C Restaurant (375-4800), Sardine Factory 373-3775 and Pacific’s Edge (622-5445) all have prime prix fixe menus, Bernardus (658-3800) has a buffet to gobble gobble. Calls for a pilgrimage.