Billy Zoellin believes the migration of midtown restaurants to outlying neighborhoods is just beginning.
He’s banking on Tahoe Park for the new location of his Bacon and Butter. Zoellin closed its original midtown location on 21st Street back in May, after being unable to secure a long-term lease with the landlord. Now Zoellin is taking up shop in the former location of Phu’s, a Chinese restaurant on Broadway near 59th Street. He’s expecting to open by mid-September.
Zoellin originally scouted central city locations for Bacon and Butter’s move, and nearly moved into 1015 Ninth St. when Blackbird Kitchen & Bar closed in September. (Blackbird has since re-opened in the space, which is another story unto itself).
But Zoellin found an especially sweet deal in Tahoe Park. His lease amounts to about $1 per square foot, an almost unheard-of figure in midtown and downtown as real estate continues to skyrocket. Zoellin found that keeping Bacon and Butter in the central city would cost him closer to $3.50 per square foot, or a non-negotiable 6 percent of his sales.
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“In midtown and downtown, with the arena coming in, the landlords are expecting some big bucks,” he said. “You’re going to see the mom-and-pop shops and the fabric of midtown kind of evaporate and fall to these corporate places that have a lot of money behind them.”
Zoellin, 30, isn’t depending on any deep pockets to help open his restaurant. He’s the sole investor for Bacon and Butter, which opened in 2012 and quickly became a go-to spot to park that beach cruiser bike and grab a hearty breakfast or brunch.
But running the midtown location wasn’t easy. Bacon and Butter shared its space with Club 21, which meant Zoellin had to be closed by the time the nightclub took over. Zoellin would come in some mornings and find the place fairly trashed from the dancing denizens.
Zoellin found the Tahoe Park spot after driving home one night and saw the “for lease” sign. While being primarily residential, Tahoe Park is also home to a handful of prominent chefs and restaurateurs, including Zoellin, Adam Pechal (Pour House) and Tyler Williams (Tank House). Alex Origoni, co-owner of Shady Lady Saloon, also lives in the area.
Dining options have slowly increased around Tahoe Park and its nearby locales during the past decade. A stretch of Broadway between 56th and 65th streets now hosts a variety of independent eateries, including Cafe Lumiere, MoMo’s Meat Market, A Bakery & Thai Food and Kansai Ramen & Sushi House. Food truck round-ups in Tahoe Park attract upwards of 1,200 hungry folks.
“Tahoe Park is growing quickly,” said Zoellin. “You’re seeing a lot of home ownership with dual-income families that have the disposable income to eat at places like Bacon and Butter. The restaurants are slowly starting to come this way. There are some prime locations and I wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody jump ship (from midtown) to claim.”
While Zoellin believes Tahoe Park is ripe for new eateries, and a reasonably priced area to open a restaurant, he’s still got plenty of work before opening the new Bacon and Butter. He originally hoped for a grand opening around Father’s Day, but in a familiar saga for Sacramento restaurateurs, has been bogged down in the permitting process and unforeseen construction issues.
“In the last few weeks there’s been tremendous progress, but we’ve obviously been at a standstill for about four months,” said Zoellin.
Zoellin found the bathrooms at Phu’s weren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so he had new bathrooms constructed in a different part of the restaurant. He also found that the kitchen hood was manipulated improperly by the previous owners and would have to be replaced. Another setback: An architect Zoellin hired suffered a heart attack.
“I had this perfect storm eating up time,” said Zoellin. “When we signed the lease, we thought we’d slap some paint up, fix some things and make sure the structure was good. But it quickly ran down the hill and got away from us.”
Zoellin is now sketching out the new menu, which means the grand opening will be coming soon. He plans to expand on the gutsy yet seasonally fresh foods that Bacon and Butter was known for, with a renewed emphasis on vegetable dishes. Among other expansion plans, he expects to add a patio space that will bring the total seating to about 120 diners.
He had a good run in midtown, but Tahoe Park’s tasting especially good.
“This is home for me,” said Zoellin. “I’m going to do my best to put this whole neighborhood on the map.”