Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: New restaurant seeks to bridge downtown, midtown

Published: Saturday, Apr. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 10:20 am

A concrete island in front of Spataro distanced the white-linen restaurant from its environs. That changes now, as Hock Farm Craft & Provisions takes over the building at 1415 L St. in downtown Sacramento

"You're going to drive up now, and the trees are going to be lit up," said general manager Shaun Freeman. "There will be a whole little patio where people can hang out up front. ... We have an absolutely gorgeous view, why would we not use that?"

Freeman and Hock Farm's other managing partners, Brad Peters and David La Roche, also are removing the canopy on the east side of the building. These open spaces are an attempt to create a bridge between Hock Farm and neighboring restaurants.

"Where we're located, having the Capitol there and the theater and the convention center … and the hotels, we have built-in clients who obviously come in, but that doesn't always happen," Freeman said. "I think one of the main things we're focusing on is being able to bridge midtown and downtown together, so you have that residential core that's always coming in, so hopefully we can build to where it's not just assemblymen or convention-goers sitting at our bar or at our tables."

The bridge effect won't end once guests are inside. Freeman, Peters and La Roche have put three community tables in the bar area, so it will be hard to tell where restaurant begins and bar ends. Hock Farm opens tonight with a fundraiser for Soil Born Farms and will begin regular service on Thursday or Friday.

He's a social animal

If you have been outside the world of bar-hopping for a while, then a visit to Hock Farm should include a conversation with managing partner Peters, a founding member and current vice president of the Sacramento Bartenders Guild.

Peters helped to open Shady Lady, Hook & Ladder and Pour House, and he's an invaluable resource on the latest trends and even the hottest new reading among imbibers. That's Eureka writer Amy Stewart's "The Drunken Botanist," by the way.

In hiring barkeeps for Hock Farm, Peters has looked for individuals with a following.

"My favorite bar isn't the bar that has the best program," he said. "It's about the bartender, who I get along with. If you can bring some of those (bartenders) from midtown to downtown, then they bring their own guests with them.

"… You know what really does it, honestly, it's social media. ... If I'm going into work one night, and I post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, all those different platforms and say, 'I'm going to be behind the bar at Hock Farm tonight,' it's amazing how many people will show up."

Long live Paragary

You could be forgiven if you thought Randy Paragary or Kurt Spataro was running the show at Hock Farm. The restaurant is part of the Paragary Restaurant Group.

But Paragary, his wife, Stacy Paragary, and Spataro have stepped back and brought in three longtime employees as partners to run this new venture.

Freeman, a Pollock Pines native, ran kitchens for the nation's largest privately held restaurateur, Tavistock Restaurant Group, before becoming a general manager at Café Bernardo. Peters has been a lead bartender at Paragary restaurants for a number of years, most recently at Centro Cocina Mexicana. And La Roche, a protégé of Spataro's, was the chef at his mentor's namesake restaurant for many years.

"It's a strategy of ownership being a motivator, vs. just being an employee," Paragary said.

The 66-year-old businessman said the move also allows him to weigh successors to run or acquire his business when he retires. Esquire Grill and Centro also could be candidates for managing partners, he said. As for Café Bernardo?

"We could just hold Bernardo's on our own," he said, "but maybe Bernardo's is such a good concept that there's investors who want to buy us or take us on and run with it. There's nothing in the works for that, but it's certainly at the back of my mind as to what could be a likely succession plan."

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.

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