Bob Shallit

Bay Area restaurateur sets sights on Oak Park

The building at 3501 Third Ave. in Sacramento’s Oak Park area is set to become the site of a new restaurant.
The building at 3501 Third Ave. in Sacramento’s Oak Park area is set to become the site of a new restaurant.

A top Bay Area restaurateur is planning to open an upscale taqueria and cocktail bar in Oak Park, the latest evidence of rebirth in the once-blighted neighborhood.

Tom Schnetz, a Sacramento native who now owns five trendy restaurants in the East Bay, says his next venture will open early next year in a onetime butcher shop at 3501 Third Ave., just across the street from the Broadway Triangle mixed-project built by developer Ron Vrilakas.

His goal: to provide the same sort of traditional dishes made with high-quality ingredients that have drawn raves for his existing eateries.

“We’ve been able to stand out in the Bay Area and I think we’ll do the same in Sacramento,” said Schnetz, who is 49.

The menu will likely include a mix of tacos with Niman Ranch meats, tortas, tamales and soups along with beer, wine and cocktails using tequila and mezcal.

Schnetz is partnering in the business with his younger brother, David, a Sacramento resident and a construction expert who helped build out the Bay Area restaurants.

Why Oak Park? It’s close to the Land Park neighborhood where the brothers grew up, Schnetz said, and it’s on the upswing.

“Even though historically it’s been somewhat downtrodden, it seems to be revitalizing and all the right things are going on,” he said.

Schnetz learned the restaurant business from the ground up after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in political science. He worked for a couple of San Francisco restaurants, then opened his own place – Doña Tomás – in the Temescal district of Oakland in 1999.

His next venture, in west Berkeley, was an upscale taqueria called Tacubaya, which will be the model for the Oak Park operation.

Schnetz has three other restaurants – Flora, Fauna and Xolo – clustered at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

For most of those operations, Schnetz took over neglected spaces and used innovative design, eye-catching art and excellent food to create a buzz. He’s hoping to do the same with the 3,000-square-foot, century-old Oak Park site, which once housed the Urban League’s headquarters.

“Historically that’s what I’ve done: Take beautiful old buildings and bring them back to life,” he said.

This isn’t Schnetz’s first Sacramento venture. In the 1990s, he and David ran a cafe called Marshall Grounds on J Street in midtown. And earlier this year he partnered with boyhood friend Jeff Tochterman to open a cocktail lounge at 5340 Auburn Blvd. at the former site of the Embers strip club.

That operation, called the Cinders, is “doing great,” Schnetz said. “Each week’s a little better than the previous week.”

Glittering piece of real estate

You don’t see many modern homes near the rustic Gold Rush town of Coloma.

But one, a steel, glass and concrete house built a decade ago along the south fork of the American River, just came on the market. The asking price: $1.6 million.

It’s unusual in ways besides its contrast with neighboring, more traditional structures, many of them built decades earlier.

For one thing, the home in the town of Lotus is being listed by the San Francisco office of Sotheby’s International, which typically markets pricey Bay Area condos.

Notable features are views up and down the river from huge walls of glass, ceilings that rise as high as 35 feet and “robust” construction materials, including highway-grade concrete, said Sotheby’s agent Daria Saraf.

“It all sounds over the top,” Saraf said of the 3,800-square-foot home’s steel framework, concrete block walls and metal roof, “but you can feel the care and thoughtfulness that went into it.”

Saraf said she got involved in the deal far from her usual sales haunts because she knows the architect and thought the home deserved the “special marketing” that Sotheby’s employs.

“It’s sort of sculptural in nature,” she said of the house, adding that there’s a “Frank Lloyd Wright-ness to the way it relates architecturally to the land.”

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