Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Devin Aloise and Alex Anderman prepare for their new restaurant Block 34 to open in downtown San Mateo. The restaurant is full of repurposed materials including wood from recycled fences that line the bar.
A new restaurant is opening in downtown San Mateo and the owner says he plans on enticing customers with traditional American comfort food with a local rustic twist.
The doors to Block 34 are still closed but, in the coming weeks, the owners of this Fourth Avenue restaurant will invite the public to enjoy seasonal dinner menus, desserts, a raw bar fresh with seafood and one day, stay until 2 a.m., said Alex Anderman.
Anderman started the restaurant with his wife Marci, their friend Devin Aloise and executive chef Rick Richardson.
“It’s very modern and rustic at the same time. And so the food that we’re trying to do, we’re not trying to do really high-end food, we’re trying to do food that’s accessible to people. We’d rather people come more often than just once a year,” Anderman said.
The restaurant is slated to open to a close-knit few starting July 9, then a soft opening to the 600 people who signed up on Facebook the following week and finally to the public at large around July 22, Anderman said.
Anderman said they’ve spent about a year preparing for the opening and took over the old Pasta Primavera site at 34 E. Fourth Ave. in January. After gutting the inside, architects and design crews were brought in to refurbish the interior into a modern rustic dining area ornate with reclaimed wood.
The bar top is galvanized steel and many of the shelves are fabricated out of copper pipe to give it an industrial recycled look, Anderman said. But when you look into the kitchen, it’s extravagant with top-notch equipment including Anderman’s favorite high-end ice cream maker.
Anderman said he’s a pastry buff and studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York before moving to Foster City.
The name Block 34 serves as a perfect fit not only because it’s the restaurant’s address, but because his classes were taught in blocks one through 19. A chef was considered an expert when they were between blocks 20 to 33 and, when you got to block 34, that’s when you’re ready to open a restaurant, Anderman said.
There are 34 subtle references to the number and customers are encouraged if they pinpoint them all, they’ll win something. Anderman’s only hint is they incorporated the number into the dimensions of the repurposed wood wall.
Anderman said seeing their first restaurant come together has been thrilling and loves talking about food with chef Richardson. A sneak peak of their menu includes baked clams casino, bacon piquillio pepper and anchovy butter, double onion soup gratinee, creamy truffled onion velouté, leeks and gruyere, bacon crusted sea scallops and Anderman’s county fair inspired funnel cake ice cream sundae.
The restaurant is aiming to keep their meals as local as possible and although lobster and some other raw bar products can’t be sourced nearby, they’re negotiating to eventually work with two small farms that would grow produce for Block 34, Anderman said.
“Every day after that thing was picked, the flavor goes down each day. So to be able to find things closer to where you live, you’re really able to exploit the freshness and flavors of those products,” Anderman said. “Sometimes I’m disappointed when I go out to restaurants because I like food done in a simplistic form, where you let the food speak for itself. And a lot of times you go out to a restaurant and the food is just lacking flavor.”
Anderman is soon able to tinker with Block 34’s menu but, as the opening date approaches, said it’s been surprisingly difficult to find qualified culinary staff.
They’re considering signing a contract with San Mateo County to participate in their job assistance program whereby one could start in the dish area and work their way to a career in the restaurant industry, Anderman said.
When it comes to a restaurant, Anderman said his model is fairly simple. If you take care of the employees first, they provide excellent customer service and more people are enticed to patronize a business and ultimately make it successful, Anderman said.
They’re all about streamlining and servers will be taking orders on iPads so while they’re explaining the menu, a customer’s drink can be delivered before the waiter walks away, Anderman said.
The bar is also slated to have 10 beers and 24 wines on tap, an unusual but growing trend.
“We’re all about this recycle and reuse theme. And the wine on tap, think about it, they’re not using cases, they’re not using bottles or corks or the foil for it to go in or the labels. So it’s a very green type of a product. And we’ve been watching for a couple years and it looks like every year the amount of wine you can get on tap doubles every two years or so. So we see it as that the industry is going to go that way,” Anderman said.
There will be other wines to chose from and eventually they’d like to start barrel aging their own cocktails or infusing vodka with flavors, Anderman said.
Another future model they want to explore is keeping the restaurant open until 2 a.m., Anderman said. After seeing how popular late-night restaurants were in New York and running it by friends who were thrilled at the idea, Anderman said there could be a market to make Block 34 a late-night hangout.
“It’s a neighborhood place that has great service and makes people feel very comfortable when they come in,” Anderman said. “It’s going to be great service, great food and great drinks.”
For more information visit block34.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106