SEASIDE >> Googie is a funny-sounding, vowel-draped word that has nothing to do with a search engine (it's pointless and probably illegal to Googie someone). And it's not another word for baby talk, or a synonym for mucus, or the name of an outcast Teletubbie.
Googie is the exaggerated modern architecture seen in the coffee shops and bowling alleys of the 1950s and 1960s, defined by upswept roofs, geometric shapes, dramatic angles and a certain space-age, gee-whiz element (think "Jetsons" or Disney's Tomorrowland).
An intriguing new restaurant in Seaside will open in June as a casual neighborhood eatery that promises to recall the Googie era in fun, engaging ways. The Googie Grill at the "entrance" to Seaside (1520 Del Monte Blvd.) will offer simple comfort food (burgers, fries, wood-fired pizzas) with modern twists in an upbeat, contemporary setting.
Longtime, long-retired local restaurateur Jack Hakim (with 50 years in the game, owning Scandia and The Avenue in Carmel, and working as a server at some of the Monterey Peninsula's finest restaurants, including The Sardine Factory, Pacific's Edge and The Lodge at Pebble Beach) has turned a unique 1950s building he owns into a new venture.
Hakim has spent the last year renovating the Seaside spot, formerly Phat Burger.
"The building itself inspired me," Hakim said. "The tilted walls and windows, the geometric angles. I wanted to create a restaurant around it."
The whole project is a family approach. Hakim will oversee the new eatery while giving his daughter, local teacher Jennifer Kadosh, a new career path. Hakim's other daughter Lisa Allen, who co-owned Monterey's Trailside Café, will also pitch in.
Kadosh will manage the joint, and Hakim's former Scandia chef Tedulo Pinto (who most recently worked at Anton & Michel in Carmel) will handle the kitchen, cranking out breakfast, lunch and dinner in a fast-casual setting.
"When we started talking about ideas for a restaurant, Dad really loved this building, and we started researching Googie architecture," Kadosh said. "It will be just a touch of Googie to bring it together in a really fun way."
That dramatic style will be reflected in the angular walls and windows and splashes of neon paint, as well as Googie lamps and fixtures. Crews have remodeled the building, replaced the kitchen and covered the once open-air patio.
Hakim wants to attract families, college students, neighborhood workers and anyone interested in "fresh, delicious comfort food."
Googie Grill will price its menu items in the $6-$15 range, and will serve beer and wine. Customers will place their orders with friendly, expert staff at the counter and food will be delivered to the table.
"The menu will reflect our taste and style, and my dad's experience," Kadosh said.
Hakim calls it "American food with a twist," and it's his belief that "comfort food is coming back, and we're going to make good quality food with fresh ingredients."
The grill will open for breakfast daily at 7:30 a.m., and serve a lunch and dinner menu from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Find out more about Googie Grill at www.googiegrill.com or call 392-1520.
Who makes the best bloody?
Born in Paris when the 18th Amendment met the Russian Revolution, the Bloody Mary has become an iconic American cocktail.
While its original name and recipe may be disputed (also, it does not, in fact, cure hangovers as some insist), its birthplace is certain. Ferdinand "Pete" Petiot invented the Bloody Mary at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s, as thirsty Americans escaping Prohibition loved the new spirit vodka introduced by emigres from Russia.
Petiot experimented with the potent Russian spirit, combining it with American canned tomato juice. He called it the Bucket of Blood, and the drink made its way to America in 1933, after Petiot headed up the King Cole Bar at the St. Régis Hotel in New York. There they called it "Red Snapper" (the name they still use today).
Why the Bloody Mary history lesson? Well, I've had a hankering lately for this complex cocktail, and want to identify the best Bloody Mary on the Peninsula. Help me by emailing me in your nominations. I will set out on a month-long quest to find the best.
Where there's smoke there's fire
My column on the lack of barbecue joints hit a few nerves. Here are a few excerpts from my email box:
"Californians don't know barbecue. They grill and they chill. Barbecue takes patience and expertise. What we have here is substandard, shortcut barbecue, period. It's no surprise that the best place is a chain from Texas (Dickey's)."
— Lloyd W., Seaside
"I can't believe you write about barbecue and don't mention Salinas City BBQ. Have you never eaten there? Brisket that will make you cry. Pork that will make you swoon. Ribs. Dude, ribs. And their sides are fantastic ... cole slaw, potato salad and beans that are excellent. Here's what I think you should do: 1) Go to Salinas City BBQ and have your mind blown. 2) Write a follow-up and share the good news!"
— Cynthia A., Salinas
"We were very disappointed with the local offerings until we discovered BBQ 152 in Gilroy. Please go sample it and report back. You will not be sorry."
— Theresa S., Carmel
I think they made my point. If we have to patronize a franchise, or drive to Gilroy, then something is amiss.
Our food scene gained unprecedented street cred over the last few weeks, with several new pop-ups and ethnic-food events.
Hotspot jeninni kitchen + wine bar in Pacific Grove let visiting chef Paras Shah take over the premises on April 29 for a Filipino-inspired pop-up. The New York chef has worked at such prestigious restaurants as el bulli in Roses, Spain, as well as Momofuku Noodle Bar and Per Se, both in New York.
Shah is currently a chef-contestant with the Dinner Lab National Tour, a membership-based pop-up dinner series with events in major cities across the United States, where the winner of the competition will be awarded a stake in their own restaurant. His crudo of local petrale sole with loquat, black garlic, nori puree and calamansi espuma brought actual applause to our table.
The Monterey Street Food Festival at the fairgrounds was a rousing success, with a dozen trucks and carts serving everything from Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches to Korean meat sticks called bulgogi. The meat stick came from Carmel Valley barbecue caterers Gangsta Grill Smoke House (206-6705). Owner John Hendricks makes a mean pulled pork, and hinted at a brick-and-mortar store in the valley someday soon.
I gave him a hug and wished him Godspeed.
Mike Hale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his weekly radio show "Food Fodder" at noon Wednesdays on KRML, 102.1 FM.
Googie is an architectural style that was born in Southern California in the 1940s and died out in the 1960s. Here are a few tidbits about the style, from Googie Architecture Online.
Origins: The style is traced back to designer John Lautner. The look got a name in 1949 when he opened Googie's in Los Angeles in 1949.
Elements: Upswept roofs, large domes, large sheet glass windows, boomerang shapes, amoebae shapes, atomic models, starbursts, exposed steel beams and flying saucer shapes are most common.
Examples: The Space Needle in Seattle, early Bob's Big Boy restaurants, buildings in Disneyland's Tomorrowland