On Sunday, Blackbird Kitchen and Bar participated along with other top Sacramento restaurants in supplying food for the Farm to Fork gala dinner on the Tower Bridge.
On Monday, the fashionable downtown eatery, opened just last year, closed abruptly, notifying employees by email.
The shuttering of Blackbird, which made a splash with its sophisticated seafood dishes and raw bar, was one of two upscale restaurant closures in Sacramento this week. The other was Maranello Bar and Kitchen in Fair Oaks, which opened New Year’s Eve 2010 and has been sold to the owners of Dad’s Kitchen in Land Park.
“Their focus is reopening it within 30 days, with a new concept ” said Joe Hensler, who co-owned Maranello with his wife, Gayle. “Dad’s Kitchen is more casual, and that concept may work better in this location.”
In the case of Blackbird, John Thacker, a partner in the restaurant and stepfather of chef/co-owner Carina Lampkin, said the eatery at 1015 Ninth St. was hampered by its image as an expensive place to eat.
“We appeared a little too high-end and boutique-y and quirky at the beginning, and that it was a costly meal we put on the plate,” he said. “At the beginning, it was my hope that the bar could support the kitchen. My fear was that Sacramento would not support what was coming out of the kitchen at this time in that location. I qualify that statement in that way because I absolutely feel that downtown is not a lost cause.”
Thacker noted that Lampkin suffered a near-fatal car accident in 2006 when she was struck by an uninsured motorist. She received a “substantial settlement” but had serious physical issues that persisted.
“This venture originated with the notion that because Carina has a permanent disability, she’s never going to be physically 100 percent,” Thacker said. “She trained and had a passion for an occupation that is physically demanding. In order for her to continue in this industry, where she clearly had a talent and a passion, it was not feasible or practical to work as a line chef. The idea was that she had some money and we were willing to put up some money so she could have some flexibility with her work.”
Lampkin recently lost her talented executive chef, Kevin O’Connor, who left the restaurant after about a year in the kitchen to travel, retool and host private dinners through his popular Tree House series.
“This is a day of mourning,” O’Connor said early Tuesday, noting there were issues with management style and questions about who, if anyone, was running the restaurant. “I knew there were a lot of problems, but money wasn’t really an issue,” he said.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni contributed to this report.