Business / Economy

Friday, April 19, 2024

Look Up for Rooftop Sushi

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2024 at 6:24 PM

Those of us craning our necks in Old Town can satisfy our curiosity at last. The frankly named Rooftop Sushi is out in the daylight at last (148 E St., Eureka). Slip into the modest entrance on the E Street side of the new building and ride the elevator (a Eureka rarity) to the fourth floor, where the soft opening is in full swing. 
Joe Tan and silent partner Lily Tan. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Joe Tan and silent partner Lily Tan.
Opening during a welcome streak of sunshine, co-owner and chef Joe Tan and his silent business partner Lily Tan (no relation) say the first couple of days have been busy. While the indoor dining space and counter were empty off hours, every seat on the patio was taken with diners enjoying nigiri, maki sushi and plates of spiraling beef carpaccio. And sunshine — lots of sunshine. The view of the bay is reserved for the event space on the other side of the rooftop, but the restaurant's half of the partially covered wood deck overlooks Old Town and environs. 
The view from the top at Rooftop Sushi. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The view from the top at Rooftop Sushi.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Wildwood Waffles Heads North

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2024 at 8:47 PM

The sweet smell of Wildwood Waffles has left Rio Dell. After a final weekend of waffling, owner Harry Smith has packed up his irons for Gig Harbor, Washington, where another branch is already in business.

"This isn't my choice to leave that place," says Smith, nor did he want to leave Rio Dell. But after parting ways with Root 101 and its owner, former partner Nick Mitchell, Smith says he was unable to find a viable location for the shop. Wildwood Waffles, he says, has done well since its start in August of 2017, often serving 50 customers a day and pulling in an estimated quarter of a million dollars in waffle and coffee sales last year. "Out of the corner of a hardware store," he says with a laugh.
WILDWOOD WAFFLES FACEBOOK
  • Wildwood Waffles Facebook

Smith, who has been active with the Veteran's Hall, the Kiwanis Club and other organizations, says, "I'm gonna miss the community the most."

Shuttering the shop where so many enjoyed grab-and-go stuffed sweet and savory waffles was "the last thing I wanted to do," says Smith. The rush of customers coming in for one last waffle over the past week has “been heartwarming but also sad,” he says. “Bittersweet.”




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Sushi Spot’s Tipping Point

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2024 at 2:00 PM

The social media response to Sushi Spot posting its new policy regarding gratuities was swift and nuclear, with Facebook posters and commenters largely deriding the announcement, some even swearing off patronizing the business for good. But the plan itself, the automatic addition of an 18-percent “equity fee” for dine-in and 10 percent for takeout to be shared among all staff in lieu of traditional tipping, had been in the works for some time.

“Other restaurants around California have started doing this a few years ago [coming] out of COVID … that’s kind of where the idea came from,” says Sushi Spot owner Eric Stark, who also liked the sound of “equity fee” as used by some of those businesses. During the early part of the pandemic, he says, “We didn’t have servers, we were 100-percent takeout and the tips that came in were split between our staff.” Reopening to dine-in service brought back the old system of tips for servers, from which they would routinely and voluntarily tip out the kitchen staff. This, he notes, effectively left cooks and chefs with a paycut, their shares having gone down in percentage from the takeout-only system.

Workers at the McKinleyville Sushi Spot counter. - FILE
  • File
  • Workers at the McKinleyville Sushi Spot counter.

Stark says an experienced “sashimi chef and server are equally valuable,” and even a 40/60 split doesn’t reflect that. “We want to have a fair distribution of this 18 percent.” Some 75 to 80 percent of the staff at Sushi Spot’s three locations, he says, work back of house, including seven chefs with 10 years of experience each. “We’re trying to create a system where it doesn’t matter if you’re in the front or the back.”

The American tipping system can, Stark says, undermine teamwork, motivating servers to guard their sections rather than helping each other out during a rush or with a large party, while kitchen staff can be less invested in helping servers with diners’ experiences. Hosts, he notes, also make fewer tips than servers, which can make it difficult to find someone willing to perform an important role in a full-service restaurant. This, he says, is not to paint a bad picture of waitstaff or suggest they aren’t deserving, noting the servers on staff are “incredible,” but the system could be more equitable. He says he’s also seen customers harassing servers, doing or saying inappropriate things because “maybe they think they’re entitled because they’re tipping.” (See the Journal’s previous reporting on server harassment, “We’ve All Got Stories,” Feb. 29, 2023.)


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Monday, January 22, 2024

Mazzotti's Shuts its Doors

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2024 at 3:43 PM

On Thursday, Jan. 11, Joe Mazzotti says he had nobody to cook at Mazzotti's, so he didn't open the iconic Arcata Plaza restaurant. "December was probably one of the toughest financial Decembers I’ve had to face," he says, explaining the restaurant was only pulling in about half of its usual $5,000 per night. “My money ran out and I was unable to keep our employees paid on time,” prompting some of the more than 40 staff members to look for work elsewhere. "People gotta do what they gotta do." For him, that means shutting down the restaurant.

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Monday, October 23, 2023

UPDATE: Belly Up to the Salsa Bar

Posted By on Mon, Oct 23, 2023 at 4:12 PM

UPDATE: In sad salsa-related news, Paco's Tacos, the Eureka Mexican restaurant that briefly dazzled us with its array of salsas, has closed. When contacted by the Journal, the owners responded that the partnership "didn't work out," but they are hopeful that they'll be able to open elsewhere down the road.

PREVIOUSLY: The revolving door spot on Eureka’s Fifth Street Los Sinaloenses and its marvelous white menudo occupied has flipped again. Alfa Torres and her husband Bosacio Villagrana have opened their first restaurtant Paco’s Tacos Taqueria (1134 Fifth St., Eureka) in the spot, bringing big flavor in the form of its salsa bar. A Southern California standard, the array of self-serve salsas has thus far eluded us on the North Coast, and the couple weren’t finding the level of spice they wanted. “It’s something different in Humboldt; no one has it,” says Torres.
A rainbow of salsa options at Paco's Tacos Taqueria. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • A rainbow of salsa options at Paco's Tacos Taqueria.

Salsa aficionados, your moment has arrived. Lift the stainless steel lid of the salsa bar and reveal a dozen options from dark and oily to bright and creamy. On a recent visit, they included: freshly made chipotle, verde, habanero, pico de gallo, chile de aceite, roja, chile de arbol and guacamole salsas, fresh lime and habanero slices, sliced pepperoncini and pickled jalapeño. Somewhere in that field is the tang and heat you have been looking for, the oily chile de aceite — spiked with chile japones and chile de arbol — and the habanero being closest to the top of the Scoville chart.

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Monday, September 25, 2023

Carriage House to Open in Arcata

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2023 at 10:37 AM

Over the phone, chef Rochelle Burgess says she wasn’t looking for a restaurant gig after the abrupt closure of her former post, the Angelina Inn, in Fernbridge. Her work as a personal chef was going well enough and she wasn’t eager to work for someone else again. But after a friend tipped her off to a Craigslist post that sounded right up her alley, she got curious. A meeting with Carriage House owner Shannon Yodowitz and a cooking test later, and Burgess says, laughing, “It’s just been both feet and arms in.” The restaurant at 937 10th St. in Arcata (formerly The Griffin), is set for a soft opening Sept. 30, followed by a few days closed to fine tune the menu using diner feedback before opening for good.
The soon-to-open Carriage House location in the former home of the Griffin. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The soon-to-open Carriage House location in the former home of the Griffin.

That cooking test, held in Yodowitz’s home kitchen, was indicitave of the Carriage House menu and Burgess’ style: udon with preserved lemon butter and shaved fennel, and, per Yodowitz’s request, a BLT. The former served as an example of Burgess’ interest in international influences and local ingredients, as well as her love of a thick noodle. (She is an unreserved fan, she says, of the underappreciated bucatini.) The latter was to see if she could perfect something simple and classic.

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Friday, March 31, 2023

Dumplings and Tea at the Carwash

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2023 at 11:58 AM

Even in a rainy month, Auto Spa in McKinleyville still sees a little traffic since the bright blue Auntie Hao’s truck is parked out front Thursday through Saturday (1642 Holly Drive). The trim menu of Chinese crepes, dumplings, fried noodles and tea stands out amid bumper-to-bumper taco and sandwich trucks, and it’s likely the only one with a punch-card that gets you a free carwash.
Pork dumplings from Auntie Hao's truck. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Pork dumplings from Auntie Hao's truck.

Co-owner Michael Evenson is part owner of Auto Spa, too, hence the deal and the permanent parking spot. But his wife, Xuanli “Shirley” Hao, is the one rolling thick, homemade wrappers and stuffing the juicy pork dumplings. She’s tight-lipped about the filling, but it’s a simple, straightforward pork mixture with mushroom-y earthiness, wrapped, sealed and pan fried to toasty brown on the bottom. Splashed with an unfussy soy dipping sauce, they’ll steam up your car nicely while you shelter from the rain.

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Arrivederci, La Trattoria

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2023 at 12:57 PM

After 21 years, Jim Becker and Patricia Cambianica, husband and wife owners of La Trattoria in Sunny Brae, are bidding farewell, shuttering the little restaurant after service Saturday, April 1.
Orchette and kale at La Trattoria. - FILE
  • File
  • Orchette and kale at La Trattoria.
“We've been doing this for 21 years," says Becker over the phone. In that time, La Trattoria has built a loyal following with its traditional, seasonal Italian fare in the incongruous Sunny Brae strip mall location. Throughout, it's been a tight operation, with Cambianica as chef and line cook, creating the menu and cooking everything that comes out of the kitchen. Becker, who formerly handled both prep and front of house labor with a pair of servers, was down to one server and finally on his own recently.

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Monday, December 5, 2022

Bob's Footlong's Comeback

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2022 at 2:03 PM

After 72 years in business, Bob’s Footlong, beloved hot dog haunt of teens and truckers alike, shut its doors November of 2021. But like the chili stains on a shirtfront, it seems it wasn’t gone for good. Jessica and Daniel Milich have bought the business, are now, keys in hand, hiring staff and readying to reopen the shop in early January. You can almost smell the chili.
The chili cheese dog from Bob's Footlong. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The chili cheese dog from Bob's Footlong.

In 1949, Bob Broome and Lula Mclure opened Bob’s Footlong as a mobile business selling hot dogs at the Humboldt County Fair and later by the Fortuna movie theater on Main Street. Eventually it moved into the brick-and-mortar location at 505 12th St., where it throve under owners Ozzie and Joanne Smith. They passed the business down to their son and daughter-in-law Mike and Karen Smith, who kept the tradition going before selling to Jose and Tanya Moreno. The Miliches, who’ve purchased the business and will rent the space, which is still owned by Mike and Karen Smith. The Miliches plan to stick to the storied shop’s style, as evidenced by the familiar orange-striped logo with its sly Dachshund on the building and online, where they are accepting applications.  

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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Oberon Plans its Final Weeks

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2022 at 11:08 AM

Nicholas Kohl, owner of Old Town's Oberon Grill, has announced the restaurant will close its doors for good after December. The business will be open through at least Dec. 31, during which time he and the staff will be juggling one last round of holiday parties.
oberon_magnum.jpg

A number of factors played into the decision, according to Kohl, including the continuing impacts of COVID, rising energy costs and a disappointing summer recovery that fell short of hopes. “I had to start evaluating after our second mechanical failure that was in October.” Before the disruptions and supply issues brought on by the pandemic, he says, repairing the restaurant's stove hood would have taken a couple hours to repair. Instead, work was held up a week waiting for a part. He estimates the two closures cost $20,000 including lost revenue, labor, inventory and continuing overhead.

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