A Look Behind the Scenes at Restaurant 1833
February 17, 2011
Stand around long enough, alone, in the landmark Stokes Adobe in downtown Monterey—one of the area's oldest buildings and the former home of standout restaurants like Gallatin's and Stokes—and you expect the ghosts to start arriving any minute.
I was there for an appointment with Coastal Luxury Management co-founders David Bernahl and Rob Weakley, and finding the place open at every door, entered to find a different place than the demolished interior I'd seen on my last visit, and no sight of Bernahl, Weakley, or even Hattie, the longtime resident and longer-time haunter of the property. (That's "her" room, newly remade, above.)
When the CLM principals did arrive, there was talk of ghosts, though little of the lady who legendarily likes to pull on server ponytails and sneak salt into water glasses. Talk instead centered on more recent ghosts, like the departed GM and close friend Gary Obligacion, who took Restaurant 1833 chef-to-be Tim Mosblech with him—and Mosblech’s replacement, Jon Mathieson, who bailed after CLM poured days into insuring that his family felt the area and opportunity a good fit only to see his wife melt down at Monterey Airport and say she’s staying in D.C.
These events have inspired a new patience in CLM that wasn't necessarily there before. Remember, these are the the 15-projects-at-once Cannery Row Brewing Company crazies, the pull-off-Pebble-Beach-Food-&-Wine-in-a-few-months players, the “if-Bernal-has-the-dream-Weakley-can-service-the-nightmare” ninjas.
But in searching for their third chef, they can't afford to do anything but get it right, as they acknowledge readily. And in opening months after the original target dates, anything less than a space shuttle-scale launch would be dangerously anticlimactic.
Obligacion, now in Aspen, Colo., working as a consultant to the Sebastian Vail’s GM Mike Oprish, who employed G.O. when they were both at Bernardus. is happy to hear about the new pace.
“I’m proud of them,” he says. “What they’re doing with 1833 is making sure the pieces are in place, not rushing to get the doors open, which is something we couldn’t do a year ago. We were all moving too quickly. They’re at a place where they can assess and take stock.”
As I took stock of the progress, detailed in the series of photos below, talk shifted from ghosts of the recent past to the potential of the immediate future—including new rock star GM Tobias Peach's absinthe cart, which will have customers seeing spirits—and an opening date that is no apparition: April 15.
An antique door announces the rustic-historic-hip appeal of the place from the curb closest to the top of Alvarado.
The old musty john is just one of the spots to see a mighty makeover, with this communal sink and three unisex single toilets replacing the single-stall, single gender loos.
A cutaway in the wall by the water closets is one peek at the history on which 1833 hinges much of its mood—the first being the name 1833 itself, a nod to the year the building was erected.
In the bar area, the old (and slightly awkward) pizza oven area is now a prime table to park it with a see-and-be-seen party of people.
The apothecary-style feel is coming together behind the bar.
The CLM team has been scouring antique warehouses, garage sales, estate auctions, you name it, to assemble period pieces—books, couches and tinctures and powders and bottles and such—designed to ramp up the period feel.
Here's a peek at the bar from the entryway.
And a peek at the entryway from the bar. This will ultimately deploy metal framing and big red velvet curtains to amplify an intended transportative effect.
The embedded illumination of the onyx bar gives the gorgeous piece a glow to make Hattie proud.
The largest room in the place looks like it's ready for dinner already.
The kitchen has undergone the most radical transformation of any space. Everything—including this walk-in—is brand new and built to handle 200 diners. Contractors had to four feet deep in spots to update plumbing, run electrical and clean out a grease trap spookier than any resident spirit.
The kitchen now extends nearly the length of the bottom floor. This picture is taken pointing towards Colton Hall and the police station.
Magnifying glasses will pair with candles, projecting their flicker and establishing an ambiance perhaps most potent in the library lounge area.
Peach and his right hand man William Townsend are tinkering with lounge alignments.
The space will feature cocktails and small bites.
At one point Weakley joked that it was the period light bulbs that put them over budget. Either that or the historic archeologists they were required to hire to watch their patio work, or the plumbing upgrades, or the ADA elements, or the receipts lost to delay, or...
The parking lot, once a war zone, now looks ready to get packed. Where 200-plus are going to park is a different dilemma.
As they have with Cannery Row Brewing Company, CLM has featured firepits prominently. The hedge-rimmed "secret garden," like the lounge, will serve cocktails and small plates. Seventy-two lights will provide atmosphere.
The dining platform beneath the big redwood will also double as a venue for parties, even weddings.
Upstairs will no longer be the domain of private parties. One room, the "Governor's room," will feature portraits of California leaders, including heads of state from the building's early days, when California was divided between Alta and Baja and Monterey was a capital.
The newly swanked upstairs bar looks ideal for a group of eight or so to kick back and sip up.
Here's the a core sample of the 1833 crew, from left to right: Assistant GM William Townsend, GM Tobias Peach, co-owner Rob Weakley and co-owner David Bernahl. Peach calls this balcony above the bar his favorite room in the place (in a tie with the Gallatin's Room, a eight-person private room where he looks forward to special menus—including a whole roasted pig—where a boars head and old Gallatin's menus and recipes already adorn the walls).
When April arrives, perhaps the best thing to toast the opening with will be a new Peach creation called a "Seaside Shub."
"I’m taking cactus fruit and oven drying it slightly then putting it in dry sugar for a few days," he says. "To make it we put a few pieces of dried cactus fruit at the bottom of a champagne glass with a dash of Ransom Old Tom Gin—before service so the fruit absorbs the gin.
"When the drink is ordered we put a dash of St. Germaine elderflower syrup and fill the rest with a clean crisp local sparkling wine. Cactus fruit floats around and you chew it as you take sips…"