June 5, 2018 – A sophisticated new fine dining restaurant called Alderwood is set to open in downtown Santa Cruz this fall. It is the creation of executive chef Jeffrey Wall—who was the opening chef at Atlanta’s top-rated Kimball House and Denver’s trendy Hearth & Dram.
Wall moved to Santa Cruz in February to begin work on the new project, under construction at 155 Walnut St. at the corner of Cedar St. in the building that formerly housed Erik’s Deli.
“It’s going to be a coastal steakhouse and oyster bar with French influences,” says Wall. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and make great use of the bounty of this area.”
Alderwood—designed by Atlanta’s Square Feet Studio—will include 79 seats in three separate areas: a bar, dining room and chef’s counter facing the open kitchen. The pared-down design uses the blues and grays of the sea and plenty of blond wood, making the most of the natural light coming from a wall of windows facing the street. They plan to use locally-crafted tableware and cutlery.
“I really wanted to open an oyster bar because it’s so conducive to hanging out before dinner,” says Wall, explaining that he was trained in French cuisine but finds it hard to pin down his cooking style.
“Expressive, made-from-scratch, working with farmers, menu changing daily—I love to improvise and make up dishes in the moment,” are the words he uses.
But a big part of the menu will focus on steaks, hence a wood-fired grill behind the chef’s counter and the name Alderwood.
“Alder is used when smoke is needed, but not required to take center stage,” he explains. “The flavor is clean and uncloying, it’s like the onion of smoke because it blends with nearly anything.”
The restaurant will go beyond the usual cuts and sizes of USDA prime steaks to include plenty of options, like grass fed beef, domestic Wagyu and Angus, and Japanese meats.
Another dish we hope to see on the menu is a vegan tomato salad that Wall described making at Kimball House. “I always want to have a fresh idea, so I wasn’t going to do the typical tomato salad with mozzarella cheese that everyone makes,” he says.
Instead his tomato salad combined tart tomatoes, three different types of vine-ripened sweet tomatillos, ground cherries, preserved lime peel, pickled coriander, cilantro and a colorful assortment of six more homegrown herbs.
The precise menu for Alderwood has not yet been set and Wall says it probably won’t exist until the week before opening, when he sees what products he has to work with.
The 32-year-old chef—who is also an accomplished photographer and food stylist (see www.chefjeffreywall.com)—is teaming up on the restaurant with a Santa Cruz partner, who lives nearby but prefers to remain out of the spotlight.
Wall grew up in Iowa, with fond memories of cooking steaks on the barbecue with his dad, and started out working in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant as a teenager.
“I just loved everything about it,” he says. ”The team work, the heat, the pressure and having money in high school!”
After a brief stint at the famed Johnson and Wales culinary school, Wall dropped out and moved to Atlanta with the goal of working at the elegant French restaurant Joël Antunes and getting hands-on training.
Methodically, he worked his way up the ladder of responsibilities in the kitchen and was tapped to open La Fourchette in Atlanta at age 24.
A year later he opened Kimball House—a farm-to-table restaurant that includes a ¼ acre chef’s garden out back and legions of farmer suppliers.
Alderwood will be the fifth restaurant opening for Wall, but his first as partner.
“I’m not a job hopper,” he says. “We’re trying to create something that’s going to be part of the community for a long time.”
They are aiming for an October opening.
Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.