After fire, eatery gets 2nd shot at opening

RIPON -- Four months after fire destroyed it, the Canal Street Grille is rebuilt and about to open.

Co-owner Marcie Bonner said there was never any question.

"We had been looking forward to opening and we were so close, and then we just had to wait a little longer," Bonner said. "It was sad, but we were so grateful because it could have been so much worse -- someone could have gotten hurt."

No one was working in the early morning hours of May 10 when something in the attic of the still-under-construction restaurant caught fire. Officials have ruled out accidental causes and are investigat- ing the blaze as arson, said Deputy Fire Marshal Joel Castro of the Ripon Consolidated Fire Protection District.

A police officer saw smoke pour from the eves about 12:30 a.m. and called fire crews. By the time they were done fighting the fire, the metal roof had melted in, the stone exterior was smoke-stained and the only thing salvageable was the concrete floor.

It's nicked here and there, and Bonner accepts them as battle scars. "I think it adds character. It's part of the history of the Canal Street Grille."

She said she and her husband, restaurateur Steve Bonner, had talked about opening a restaurant since moving to Ripon from Seattle eight years ago. They joined business part- ner Lee DelDon and decided what Ripon was lacking was a lunch and dinner spot serving steak, pork and veal chops, seafood, ribs, pasta, sandwiches and burgers.

Opening day a moving target

The restaurant seats about 200 people and includes a private dining room and a bar where the fire is chronicled in framed newspaper articles and a picture of the firefighters working the blaze.

"It's a phoenix rising from the ashes," said DelDon's mother, Sandy DelDon, comparing the restaurant to the mythical bird that rises from its ashes. "We should have changed the name to 'Phoenix.' "

Opening day was a moving target late last week as the restaurant's 70-person staff went through training and landscapers worked outside. They have to meet a city requirement to finish landscaping a median before opening, Steve Bonner said. He said he expects the work to be done by early this week, at which point the restaurant will hold what he described as a "soft opening" with the doors open, the kitchen running and little fanfare.

The restaurant is at 1225 Canal Blvd., just west of Highway 99. For more information, call 599-4646.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 599-8760.