Last December construction crews tore through the east-facing wall of the vacant Old Bath House in a symbolic move that ushered the iconic Pacific Grove building out of a six-year purgatorial state.
Locals eagerly anticipated the new direction, both in a spiritual sense (the building and the past failures it represented had become an eyesore) and a logistical one (plans called for the dining room to jut out toward the ocean, providing spectacular views).
The new 104-seat restaurant was dubbed The Beach House at Lovers Point. But four months after an anticipated July 1 opening, small-town rumors are circulating from local buzzards who question the viability of the project. Some say ownership ran out of money. Others suspect they lost building permits or city support.
So here's the scoop from Kevin Phillips, managing partner of the restaurant group owned by Jim Gilbert.
"There are stories circulating about supposed problems we have encountered, or may have encountered," he said. "But there is only one truth: This is simply a complex construction project, undertaken by caring people desiring only the best possible outcome."
Late last week, Phillips finally received the tenant improvements building permit, and interior work is now accelerating at a furious pace.
"Contrary to what some have assumed, there have been no obstacles other than those self-imposed in order to deliver the best possible project," Phillips said.
A call to a few of my spies did nothing but support Phillips' contentions. It seems Gilbert decided to change the layout of The Beach House at the last minute, which required new planning permits. And there's no urgency because the city is not officially charging rent on the property until Jan. 1.
Phillips tossed verbal roses to developer Robert Enea, designer/builder David Prew and Pacific Grove City manager Thomas Frutchey and the entire building department staff.
Sounds like a big love fest to me. I hope so. The city and the entire dining community need this project. It's sad to see that dark "corner" on Lovers Point, once the most vibrant on the Peninsula when both The Tinnery and the Old Bath House packed them in.
So, when can we expect the ribbon-cutting?
Phillips said the "window" will be much clearer this time next week, but I can tell you that the restaurant is auctioning off a dinner for four at the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce's Fashion Show on Saturday.
The next question: Who will be the chef? Stay tuned.
Rising from the ashes
Ten months after a fire nearly leveled Big Night Bistro in Pacific Grove, the Favaloro family is still trying to rise from the ashes. The reconstruction and subsequent permits have delayed the relaunch, but didn't prevent them from starting a new project called Café Ariana.
Actually, it's not really a "new" project. They previously operated Café Ariana in the Holman Building before closing it a few years ago. But when the store next to Big Night became available, it seemed a great time to buy the space and reboot Ariana, which specializes in panini and pizza. I checked out the menu and it looks great (I can't wait for the Chicken Saltimboca Panini with grilled chicken, prosciutto, jack cheese and sage mayo).
Look for a Nov. 1 opening, with a grand-opening party on Nov. 9. As for Big Night Bistro, it may not open its doors until 2013.
What the doctor ordered
Carmel Valley is quietly becoming a hotbed for artisanal olive oil producers. The latest to hang a shingle is The Quail & Olive.
Local cardiologist Dr. Stephen Brabeck owns The Quail & Olive, and practices what he preaches.
"I have long appreciated the unique vascular protective properties of quality extra virgin olive oils," he said. "The Quail & Olive is a result of my love of food and the role it can play in our health."
Visitors to the tasting room may select from 15 varieties of California extra virgin olive oil and 10 varieties of balsamic vinegar. Additionally, The Quail & Olive also features skin cosmetics, bottled olive goods, dry pastas and spices.
The tasting room is now open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5p.m. Information: 659-4288 or www.quailandolive.com.
New blood at Courtside Cafe
Courtside Cafe at Chamisal Tennis & Fitness Club has reopened with some culinary heavyweights behind it.
Owner Eduber Bonilla, the former owner of El Migueleno in Seaside and Plaza Linda Restaurant & Cantina in Carmel Valley, has teamed with Robin Sachs, the original chef at La Bicyclette in Carmel. Sachs describes his style "poly-ethnic cuisine," which consists of only fresh, local, seasonal, organic ingredients from Farmer Pat's Organic Farms, just a few miles away at Corral de Tierra.
"These beautiful vegetables make each dish colorful and satisfying. It's art on a plate," he said.
Ed's Courtside Café is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9p.m., with happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. More at www.chamisal.com.
Some Monday Night specials
My beloved San Francisco 49ers hit the Monday Night schedule in a few days (against division rival Arizona), so I thought I would mention a few under-the-radar, grub-loving spots.
At the Monterey Cookhouse this Monday, buy a pitcher of draft beer and get a 49ers pint glass to take home. They also have $3.50 drafts, $4 well margaritas and $5 shots, and plenty of food specials.
Edgar's at Quail Lodge offers quiet corners where you can agonize over your team in peace, and eat one of the county's best burgers. Chef Julio Ramirez hand-forms Angus beef and char-grills it, adding double-smoked bacon, cheddar and all the trimmings on top a grilled chive bun. Plenty of flatscreens here, and generous bartenders, too.
And at Carbone's in Monterey, the owner hands out raffle tickets for each drink purchased and he gives away a trip to Hawaii to one lucky lush.
Doggie Stylez on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey will shutter the dog house on the day after Halloween. It seems the lease didn't work out and so the hot dog joint is looking for other avenues. In the short term, get your late-night dogs at the Golden State Theatre during events held through the new Alternative Café. Doggie Stylez will also dig its way into the local farmers markets until a new space can be secured. There are also rumors of a possible food truck ... The Holman Ranch tasting room in Carmel Valley celebrates its first birthday on Nov. 3 by offering free tasting that day ... The cocktail series at the Sunset Lounge at Hyatt Carmel winds up on Nov. 7 with mixologist David Nepove wowing guests with lessons on holiday-inspired drinks. Limited to the first 24 participants, the interactive event also features tapas from chef Matt Bolton. Cost is $45. Call 622-5445 ... Wild Thyme Deli and Café in Marina has launched a new brown bag lunch program called Serious Eats. The contents of the to-go bags change weekly. The rest of this week look for lemon mozzarella bowtie pasta salad, oven-roasted turkey with cheddar cheese, sprouts, tomatoes and cranberry mayonnaise (along with a cookie). Call 884-2414 ... Lee Mangone, the prepared-food maven who operates under the Il Mio Cognome banner, has introduced some of her products to Grove Market in Pacific Grove. Look for eggplant Parmesan, stuffed shells and vegetarian manicotti (spinach and gorgonzola), among other specialties. Meals for two are $15 and meals for six are $24. All are prepared and packaged with labels, sell-by dates and cooking instructions. More at www.ilmiocognome.com.