Bob Shallit

Taqueria to join development boom in Sacramento’s Oak Park area

Amber Mark of City Signs works on the exterior of La Venadita, a new restaurant opening soon in Oak Park.
Amber Mark of City Signs works on the exterior of La Venadita, a new restaurant opening soon in Oak Park.

An acclaimed Bay Area restaurateur is set to open his first Sacramento eatery within two weeks and already is in talks for a second location.

Tom Schnetz, a Sacramento native who owns several highly regarded bars and eateries in Oakland and Berkeley, hopes to have La Venadita – Spanish for “the little deer” – open in Oak Park’s booming Triangle District no later than the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

Schnetz said this week that the place will be modeled on his East Bay locations, which feature innovative takes on Mexican cuisine in brightly colored spaces with provocative art.

“We’ve got a lively color scheme with the vibrant look of Tacubaya,” he said, referring to his popular taqueria on Berkeley’s tony Fourth Street retail strip.

Tacos will be the main fare at La Venadita, too, he said, but patrons can also order quesadillas, tostadas and soups. One novel offering: A taco made with albondigas, or Mexican meatballs.

“That’s something I’ve never seen on a menu, but it’s so damn good,” he said.

Also planned: a full bar featuring tequila, mezcal and rum drinks.

While putting the finishing touches on the new place, Schnetz is rumored to be in negotiations to open another sort of restaurant in the same neighborhood.

He confirmed that such talks are underway but declined to provide details, saying: “I don’t want to jinx it.”

The restaurant developments are only one sign of Oak Park’s continuing economic renaissance.

This week, high-end architecture firm Popp Littrell became the first tenant in the completely remodeled Pedroni Building, on the opposite side of Broadway from the Triangle complex. And numerous firms are in talks for the building’s four other spaces, said Sam Allen, owner of Grounded Real Estate, which is handling leasing for developer Ron Vrilakas’ various Oak Park holdings.

Among those interested: Operators of a gym, a coffee shop, an interior design shop, a women’s clothing boutique and a children’s clothing store.

“I think we’ll see it fill up quite quickly,” Allen said of the Pedroni, a 1930s-era building with exposed trusses and brick.

Dustin Littrell, a partner in the Popp Littrell firm, said he’s excited to be working in a space that’s in the midst of so much activity, near new housing, coffee shops, gift and clothing stores, restaurants, an urban nursery and a brewery.

He’s lived in the neighborhood for about five years.

“This is my ’hood; these are my people,” he said.

Lofty sales

What may be Sacramento’s most notable residential tower is finally filling up, eight years after it opened.

The L Street Lofts, completed in 2008, were a symbol of the city’s pre-recession resurgence. It languished during the downturn, ultimately going into receivership.

Its comeback began four years ago when the nine-story, 92-unit condo complex was acquired by Southern California developer Bob Clippinger. He initially opted to rent the building’s unsold 67 units but resumed sales in 2013.

Over the past year and a half, “it’s been selling really well,” said Michael Onstead, who heads the L Street Lofts sales efforts for Coldwell Banker Development Services.

There’s still a lack of for-sale, first-class product in Sacramento and there’s a pent-up demand.

Michael Onstead, Coldwell Banker Development Services, on the strong sales at L Street Lofts

In fact, just four units remain for sale – three priced in the mid-$500,000s and a penthouse unit going going for $1,039,000.

Clippinger said he improved the property at 1818 L St. by remodeling the lobby, installing what still may be the city’s only doorman services and adding small touches, such as putting fresh flowers on all floors.

But he said the main appeal is the building’s still-rare status as a high rise for-sale property – and a strong desire from people, especially retirees and suburban transplants, “to be in the hustle and bustle of downtown in a nice, secure building and live without a lot of brain damage.”

Clippinger, an active investor in Sacramento real estate, also reports he has a new deal in the works. He expects to close next month on the purchase of the four-story Regis Building, a landmark former hotel at 11th and K streets that’s now home to the Ambrosia Cafe and other retail and office tenants.