How many times do we go to restaurants each month—or week—and fail to really comprehend the physical process of pulling together all the elements that a restaurant requires, from permitting to plumbing, to every hoop jumped in between?
I tend to notice aesthetically pleasing design, but don’t go much beyond my hedonistic pleasure in identifying its lineage. My encounter with Travis Wirt, owner of Black Creek Builders, changed all that. Or rather, I should say, my encounter with many compelling Oakland restaurant spaces that Wirt has had his hand in made me aware of the process in a way I hadn’t considered before.
I got wind of Black Creek Builders from Hollie Hardy, a poet-friend and long-time employee of the company. She had seen a piece I wrote for Bay Area Bites on burgers, which included Handlebar and Victory Burger, both Black Creek projects. And she asked me if I had ever thought of covering the process of opening a restaurant from much earlier on than when it opens its doors to guests. I had not. And when I heard about the spaces that were forthcoming, I jumped at the opportunity to interview three owners of soon-to-be shiny new restaurants, along with Wirt, about what they do, and how.
Analiesa Gosnell, co-owner of Clove & Hoof butcher shop and restaurant with John Blevins, didn't know anything about meat until she started working for Prather Ranch Meat Company about five years ago. But that brief experience made her want to learn the art of butchery. Her family had owned a cattle ranch in Siskiyou County back in the 1850s and, perhaps not coincidentally, the beef served at the new restaurant will be from nearby Jenner Ranch. Clove & Hoof will mark the first restaurant/butcher-direct sale of their grass-fed brand. As she and Blevins went through the process of opening Clove & Hoof on Oakland’s Broadway-40th St. corridor, they realized that their priority would be to listen to the desires of the neighborhood, so the kinds of sustainably raised meat they focus on will first be responsive to customer demand.