Bringing the farm to the table in King City
By Camilla M. Mann
Photography by Patrice Ward
One of our area’s newest restaurants dedicated to local sourcing and love in the kitchen just arrived in King City. It’s called The Cork & Plough.
Chef Travis Childers and his wife and co-proprietor, Anna, opened the farm-to-table-style restaurant and wine and cocktail bar on Valentine’s Day, and since then have turned to local vintners, farmers and ranchers to source their wines, fruits, vegetables and meats.
In fact, although executive chef Travis’ name doesn’t appear on his menus at all, he proudly acknowledges his producers. For example, a recent menu touts that the eggs come from Bounty of the Valley Farms, Greenfield; produce from Flora’s Farm in Greenfield; and ice cream from La Michoacana, King City.
The Childers only became an official part of the community in January, when they moved down from Travis’ native Seattle. But his parents had relocated to the area five years ago—his mother, Susan, is CEO of King City’s Mee Memorial Hospital and his father, Ron, is president of the King City Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture— and over time they fell in love with the area and the friendliness of its residents. They also noticed a lack of restaurants making the most of what local wineries and farms have to offer.
“That’s a big part of why we opened up here,” Travis says. “We really saw an opportunity that wasn’t being taken advantage of.”
Travis has been cooking since he was old enough to hold a spatula and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Ariz. Since then, he has worked in kitchens from Anchorage to the Hamptons, including stints in Napa and Las Vegas. Immediately before moving to King City, he was the culinary manager for Belle Epicurean, a high-end French bakery, café and catering group.
At The Cork & Plough, he executes French favorites such as Steak au Poivre and Roasted Mushroom Toasts in all their traditional glory, but he plays with the American classics to come up with new takes of his own.
For the fried chicken with watermelon that was on the seasonal menu in August, for example, he gave the traditional southern dish a Latin spin using dried garbanzo beans in the coating for the chicken and by serving the watermelon pickled in a salad that also contained cilantro, sheep’s cheese and lime.
Likewise, his shrimp and grits featured shrimp served over fried polenta and pork sausage, and his Halibut Succotash was flavored with orange and cumin and served with chimichurri sauce.
“I want to give diners something they maybe haven’t seen in a while, but with a twist,” Travis says.
Still, the restaurant, which has a modern, airy feel, is unstuffy and unpretentious, and offers its share of simpler fare, such as burgers, sandwiches and a Ploughman’s Platter—a traditional English plate of cheese, bread and, in The Cork & Plough’s case, housemade pickles. And diners from more populous parts of the area, such as the Monterey Peninsula and Santa Cruz, will find the price points attractive.
Heading up the front of the house, Anna (who just married Travis in April) brings nearly a decade of service experience and a passion for wines. She is working towards her sommelier certification and has carefully curated the wine menu to represent Central Coast vineyards.
All wines are sold not only by the glass or bottle, but also by the flight and 2-ounce tasting size, allowing diners looking for a bottle to try several wines before making their choice.
The restaurant also boasts a robust craft cocktail program and an impressively stocked bar. The juices are freshly pressed, and Travis encourages his bartenders to experiment with new combinations and flavors.
When I visited, the barman was serving cocktails flavored with homemade lavender syrup and a collection of housemade bitters to customize the offerings. Patrons lingered at the modern chalkboardcovered bar, creating conversation-inspiring sketches.
Locals—including winemakers and farmers whose products the Childers serve—have embraced The Cork & Plough and welcomed the restaurateurs to the community. Chef Childers also fosters a small town vibe by getting to know his repeat diners.
“When [the staff ] sees a regular customer, I want that customer’s favorite drink ready for him just as he sits at the bar. I want them greeted by name,” he says.
Almost as if on cue, I glance up to see Anna embracing a woman warmly. “She works at the King City branch of Hartnell College, and they come in all the time,” Travis says as he waves to the couple.
Still, Travis says, “Our biggest challenge is getting people to understand that this kind of food is happening here.”
The Cork & Plough is, admittedly, a drive from the larger cities of our region. But it could combine well with a wine tasting trip to the southern end of River Road or to wineries further south, or sightseeing at the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum in King City or the Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon.
And for those who live or work in the King City area or are passing by on Route 101, it’s a convenient as well as worthy stop.
Camilla M. Mann is a freelance writer, photographer and foodie blogger based in Seaside.
The Cork & Plough
200 Broadway St., King City • 831.386.9491
EXPLORE: For more information on the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum in King City or the Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon, go to www.mcarlm.org and www.missionsanantonio.net, respectively. For more on South Monterey County wineries, see www.montereywines.org.