John Gardner remembers when he was a little boy going to the Golden Corral in Turlock with his grandfather.
The restaurant was across from the home where his grandfather lived; they also frequented the movie theater and the McDonald’s in the area.
Gardner, along with partners Frank and Annette Lemos, has taken over the building, which housed Sweetriver Saloon after Golden Corral closed. And what he plans to open there in just a few weeks is about as far from the chain buffet as possible. Gardner and general manager Melissa Gomes described Table 26 as a unique, farm-to-table restaurant that will take advantage of all the bounty of our agricultural area.
Gardner described the dishes he plans as traditional, but with a twist. For instance, the restaurant will serve macaroni and cheese, but with locally made cheddar. And there will be a variation of PB&J on the menu, but there won’t be any Jif or Welch’s involved. “We don’t grow any peanuts around here, but we grow a lot of almonds,” Gardner said. “A LOT of almonds.”
Table 26 – the name comes from the farm-to-table idea and the restaurant’s address, 2600 Geer Road – will offer seafood only from the Pacific Ocean and, eventually, pasta made from scratch.
“We have the greatest resources,” he said. One of the first things he did was to get rid of the restaurant’s freezer, thus ensuring everything will be fresh. He showed me a coffee grinder that will be used for peppercorns and a nut processor that will produce the almond butter.
The highlight of the kitchen is a wood stove that also is fed by gas.
“This is my homage to Early Dawn,” Gardner said, adding that he grew up going to the longtime Kansas Avenue steakhouse in Modesto.
The local focus doesn’t stop at the food. Gardner said the restaurant will feature beer and liquor from crafters such as Dust Bowl and Sandude, both in Turlock. Of 10 beers on tap, eight will be from California. One hails from Oregon, where the brewery that produces it does everything from raising the barley to brewing the beer.
“And Coors Light,” Gardner said. There is something to be said for appealing to the masses: Not everyone likes a craft beer.
The wine list also will have a California bent, though Gardner said there is more leeway in wines. “We’ll have 50 bottles on display,” he said. Those will include imports as well as the locals. The restaurant will have a lounge area and an outdoor patio – work on the fireplace was underway when I visited last week.
It’s an exciting idea, and Gardner hopes to build on the success other Turlock restaurants have had recently focusing on what’s available in the area. He is hiring a crew of roughly 40, which include some veterans from the Sweetriver days.
“I’ll be the chef, and we’ll have a sous chef and other cooks,” he said. “It’s a lot of young, energetic folks.”
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT –
Mexican fast-food chain Del Taco, which has several locations in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, is jumping on the be-healthier bandwagon.
According to a news release I got last week, Del Taco has teamed with poultry producer Jennie-O to develop “a lean, seasoned ground turkey recipe, using a proprietary blend of spices.” The result: a turkey taco weighing in at 150 calories.
It’s not often you consider “taco” and “healthy food” in the same sentence, but Del Taco seems set on doing just that.
“When our guests want to cut fat, they shouldn’t have to cut tacos,” John Cappasola, executive vice president and chief brand officer with Del Taco LLC, said in the news release. “The availability of our delicious turkey options strengthens our commitment to providing high-quality menu items at a great value without sacrificing taste.”
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