A new spot for dinner and drinks in Woodside is set to open its doors Monday, July 24. At the Village Bakery & Cafe -- located where the Woodside Bakery & Cafe stood until it closed in March 2016 -- a full bar takes up one wall with a large collection of spirits, including 80 to 90 different whiskeys, according to co-owner and Woodside resident Tim Stannard.
A year of rehabilitation at 3052 Woodside Road has moved things around a bit. What was an art gallery just west of the restaurant is now the bakery. With the cafe/restaurant no longer sharing floor area with the bakery, the restaurant's footprint opened up, making room for a bar without a penalty in seating capacity.
Stannard is one of five partners of San Francisco-based Bacchus Management Group, which owns this restaurant and eight others, including The Village Pub in Woodside, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto, Spruce and Saratoga in San Francisco, and a small chain of artisanal pizza restaurants.
The Village Bakery & Cafe opens for dinner only on July 24, although the bakery will also open that day, a Bacchus spokesperson said. Breakfast and lunch service begins in the following week.
Lunch seating capacity is what it was for the previous occupant -- about 95 people, Stannard said, with more seats for dinner. One notable difference: The tables inside had white cloths on them during a recent visit. They'll also have a layer of white butcher paper, in part to accommodate children and their desire for drawing surfaces, Stannard said.
Parking will almost certainly be an issue. The restaurant is not yet open and the surrounding lot was essentially full at 1 p.m. on a recent afternoon. "It's tough," Stannard said. "There's not much we can do. It's really an issue for the town to take up. ... It's always been difficult. We imagine it will continue to be difficult."
The operation employs about 100 people, Stannard said. The Village Bakery has more of a "European sensibility" with darker tones and a collection of vintage art, as compared to the all-American tone of the interior at the Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto, he said.
In the bakery, the espresso bar may, to some, have echoes of a soda fountain. The bulky components of the espresso machines are hidden beneath the counter, allowing customers to talk with baristas and watch their drinks being made, he said.
Fresh baked bread will be delivered at 5 a.m. daily, with pastries baked on site, Stannard said. Coffee will roasted by Bacchus' own roasting company in Oakland, and will include four or five varieties available for drip brewing a cup at a time.
As for menu prices, Stannard has said more than once that he hopes for a rating of $$ in restaurant reviews. "The community is best served by a menu at this range," he said in an email, adding: "There's not one main dish on the menu over $18; however, the nightly additions will most likely be priced over $20."
One of the dining areas inside was also full when this reporter paid an afternoon visit. The wait staff were seated and sampling an item from the menu, with sous chefs in attendance to field questions and provide information as to the menu item's ingredients and qualities.
These all-day sessions go on for three weeks and cover every menu item, every wine and every cocktail, Stannard said. Staff members are asked each day, in the form of essay questions, to recall the previous day's information, he said. The tests are cumulative so that at the end of the three weeks, staff members are reviewing the entire menu.
Customers with questions will have them answered accurately, Stannard said. He recalled working in restaurants where "they didn't tell you anything."
After the restaurant opens, chefs and staff hold two such review sessions early each day in perpetuity, Stannard said. The point, he said, is that once the doors open to the public, practice time is over.
"We work hard at it to get it right," he said. "You don't get two chances to make a first impression."
And it's not just the staff. As they look for refinements as small as a pinch of rosemary, Stannard and his four partners at Bacchus sample everything on the draft menu several times over before arriving at a working menu.
He recalled them revisiting rice pudding with peaches 15 times as the chef sought for a way to give the peaches "a little more pop of flavor."
The guiding spirit is: "It's not quite perfect. Let's continue tweaking it," Stannard said.
The rice pudding experiments included grilled peaches and peaches roasted with honey, with black pepper, and with pink pepper.
Chef training is rigorous, providing specific guidance for questions such as: Exactly how high should the gas flame be for a particular dish? Has a dish been sufficiently agitated in the pan? Has the pasta water been salted with the necessary precision?
"There are no two ways to salt water for pasta," said Stannard, a culinary school graduate.
The goal, he said, is having a dish taste the same every time you eat it. Asked if this constitutes micromanagement, Stannard did not object to the term, at least not when it comes to "black and white" nonnegotiable matters such as ingredients and technique.
Bacchus has exclusive access to SMIP Ranch in the hills above Woodside, which supplies produce to its Bay Area restaurants. In deciding what to add to a menu on a given day, Executive Chef Mark Sullivan said he refers to a complete list of what's available at the ranch and considers how to combine ingredients.
A recipe fails or succeeds based on its ingredients, he said. The aim is to use an ingredient "at the peak and height of its season ... to create (dishes) in a simple but not simplistic way," Sullivan said. The Village Bakery & Cafe menu will represent American food by way of farm to table, with a strong Mediterranean influence, he said.
Where and when
The Village Bakery & Cafe at 3052 Woodside Road (across from Roberts Market) in Woodside, opens at 5 p.m. Monday, July 24, for dinner and closes at 9:30 p.m. for the first week.
The bakery also opens Monday, July 24, at 7 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. Breakfast and lunch service begin in the following week.