Edible Monterey Bay

EDIBLE COMMUNITY

Seaside Rising

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK C. ANDERSON

The team at Other Brother Beer Co.

A youthquake of new food and drink businesses reinvigorates Monterey’s often overlooked neighbor


It doesn’t get much more Seaside than Dave Pacheco. He’s lived in the city for all of his 66 years. He swims at the city pool. He walks the city’s blocks for additional cardio—at 6’5” he’s hard to miss—and served as its parks and recreation chief basically forever, connecting hundreds of young Seasiders to sports and other resources. He’s currently a city councilman and mayor pro tem, knocking on doors and visiting voters at a clip that would make Bernie blush.

The point is: When it comes to Seaside, he’s seen it all, at least until a mild evening last October.

It was Oct. 19 when Other Brother Beer Co. opened and a full-on scene exploded. Upwards of 250 people of different ages and backgrounds turned up for a taste of the first craft beer commercially brewed in the city, and creative snacks from in-house operation Ad Astra Bread Co. They basked in the airy beer garden-style space dotted with picnic tables and booths, all bordered by roll-up garage doors, soothing yellow walls, the windowed Ad Astra kitchen, a bar with 25 shiny taps and a gleaming production space, where brewer Kevin Brown toured interested parties. They sipped on Super Custom Kentucky Common, Bucket Brown Ale and smooth Builder’s Oatmeal Stout while grazing on fresh pretzels, garlicky delicata squash and “Spudboy” flatbreads with potato, thyme and olive oil.

Yes, the flood of fans was thirsty after delays pushed back the opening multiple months, but this was more than pent-up demand. This was a social happening that drew from across the area in ways longtime locals like Pacheco had never experienced.

“That was amazing. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen something like that over here,” he said afterwards. “It was a powerful statement about Seaside and the transition it’s been making over the past decade. It was a whole new generation having fun in a community where they didn’t hang out in the past.”

The youthful energy Pacheco picked up is a reflection of the staff and leadership at OBBC, which ranges from 22–35, and—like 32-year-old co-founder Evan Loewy—often cite skateboarding as a key part of their chemistry.

“It’s a huge impact on how we approach something—you try a move a thousand times before you land it,” says Loewy, who was part of a core who assembled much of the brewery by hand. “[Skating] has always been a DIY industry, and that’s ingrained in how we were with this.”

Ad Astra exec chef/skateboard enthusiast Ron Mendoza has worked in world-class kitchens like Michelin-starred Aubergine, earning James Beard accolades along the way. But he seems more at home doing what he calls “good ingredients in simple things that can be held in one hand with a beer in the other.”

“We’re enjoyable and accessible,” Mendoza says. “What I like most is people returning four times a week. It’s communal.”

POWER OF 10

While the Other Brother-Ad Astra opening was the biggest in municipal memory, it is only one part of the new and promising projects happening citywide, many of them focused on made-over Broadway Avenue/ Obama Way where the brewery is now an anchor. As part of a $7 million project, Broadway had its sidewalks widened and framed with new foliage, bike lanes and bike racks added and benches snuggled along the more verdant but still scrappy main street.

The city’s Community Development Director Gloria Stearns spearheads the renewal.

“We call it setting the table, make conditions hospitable for business,” she says, citing assistance in waiving permit fees, offering free small business consulting, communicating with police on business concerns and cultivating events like Car Week’s massive Exotics on Broadway. “We believe in place-making, [creating] a sense of fun coming down here.”

Her goals for downtown can sound ambitious, but she is bullish on meeting them, and even advocates new roof spaces for hanging out and looking at the ocean.

“We believe in the power of 10,” she says. “Why do you like downtown? There should be at least 10 reasons, then you have a successful downtown. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but it’s getting closer.”

Upscale butcher-deli The Meatery—located on the other side of Fremont Boulevard—was one of the first new food businesses to set up shop two years ago, joining longtime local favorite Acme Coffee Roasting. The Meatery just got a new executive chef in Bernardus alum Bryce Hansen, who’s eager to build out industry nights, small-bite options and pop-ups like January’s “Warm Buns, Cold Beer.”

“I like different ways for people to get to know us a little bit,” he says. “No reservations, just a place to mix it up in a free-flowing environment.”

“We believe in the power of 10,” she says. “Why do you like downtown? There should be at least 10 reasons, then you have a successful downtown. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but it’s getting closer.”

Chef Ron Mendoza is in his element at Ad Astra Bread Co. and (above) lemon curd and blueberry pancakes at The Butter House

The popular taqueria Las Cazuelas debuted in January across from OBBC. Down Broadway there are plans in the works for a yet-unnamed, vegetarian-driven Mediterranean restaurant occupying 766 and 768. The point man there is Heydar Movahedi of Hedi’s Shoes. Its promising design elements include a retractable front wall with sidewalk seating. The hopeful opening target is early fall. A couple doors down, The Oven has 30-something pizza guru David Rodriguez at the helm, as he has been since 2018. Next door to him, The Hem Nutrition opened in mid- December, serving fun and forward-thinking drinks like frosted animal cookie shakes, Wonder Woman pomegranate-strawberry-watermelon tea and pumpkin-spiced protein coffee.

“The street is attracting a lot of good spots in a short amount of time,” says Rodriguez, who carries Other Brother on tap and frequents The Hem. “The businesses are helping each other attract new clientele, [including] natives who haven’t been on Broadway in a while. I hear them sound blown away at everything that has popped up.”

The Hem’s owner operator Asia Smith, 29, who was born and raised in Seaside, echoes that.

“I’ve been present for a lot of stages of this city,” she says. “It’s beautiful seeing the community come together and see friends start supporting local businesses and see everybody be excited about the growth.”

Two doors from The Hem, Urbn Leaf introduced a gorgeous and gallery-like recreational marijuana dispensary in June. Up at the City Center near Other Brother, new THC/CBD spot MedMen also faces Broadway, and looks directly at Other Brother.

Meanwhile—new scene, same city—The Reef recently debuted its own expansive and aesthetically pleasing dispensary across town at 1900 Fremont. The most prominent neighborhood improvement piece, a huge stylized mural of a humpback by local artists Lisa Haas, Maryia Hryharenka and Hanif Wondir, came in June. The Reef’s most flavorful play, though—besides the Coda Fruit Notes strawberry-rhubarb gummies— is plans for a cannabis restaurant.

General Manager Michael Holly envisions building on the Cheerslike atmosphere of the dispensary with a range of flavored popcorn, various paninis and more for what is tentatively called High Tide Café.

“We’re thinking munchie foods that go with the cannabis lifestyle,” he says. “We want to take the dispensary to a whole other level with a fun and friendly type of experience.”

Asia Smith at The Hem.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Back on Broadway, Counterpoint Coffee has quickly amassed a loyal following drawn to the passions of 31-year-old, owner-operator Max Georis since opening on New Year’s Eve 2018.

“I love vinyl, so there are vinyl records that we play throughout the day, and I love great coffee, so there’s great coffee,” he tells visitors, not adding that he makes and serves a lot of it. “I like to drink beer, so we put in craft beer taps. I guess you can say at no point is anything faked because I’ve created a room full of my interests.”

Those elements reinforce an overall design that is hip without being overwrought. Near the vintage vinyl, ranging from Stan Getz to Wu Tang to Simon and Garfunkel, stands a bare particle board bookshelf with titles like Chefs Eat Melts Too and How to Swear. Next to that is a chess board and a crowd-curated shrine of sorts with Buddha, paintings and a skate deck. Pastries from his family’s restaurants and a nice depth of wines and trendy canned drinks round things out, while the most dramatic component hides behind a closed door: Georis’ industrygrade mixing and mastering music studio, where he just completed an 18-month composition project, can be booked by appointment. (Only serious musicians need apply.)

Kitty-corner from Counterpoint, Max’s brother Klaus Georis, 29, hopes to conjure his own stylish Seaside spot via “affordable fine dining” destination Maligne, target date mid-summer 2020. Maligne is the feminine of malin, which in French means clever and mischievous. “When I was a little kid, I was called malin all the time because I was always getting into things I shouldn’t,” Klaus says. “And feminine suits the almost delicate style of cooking I like to do.”

That includes wood-fired goodies roasted at the center of the space, which will enjoy a display kitchen along one wall and a lot of raw and seafood elements—oysters, prawn cocktails, whole-roasted fish finished with oyster Béarnaise—to complement a pantry of fermented foods.

While the complete gutting of the building is ongoing, Klaus has been fine tuning his skills as sous chef for Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn’s 100% pescatarian Bar Crenn in San Francisco—and his paying close attention to the culture created by Crenn and company. In Seaside he’s loving how helpful the city has been in planning and permitting as much as the new buzz on Broadway.

“I’m seeing a lot of people who are looking to come here and open and believe in Seaside,” he says. “Remembering what the street used to look like and where it’s heading is powerful.”

Monterey Bay eaters may recognize the Georis name from their family’s celebrated restaurants in Carmel; their dad Walter and uncle Gaston created Casanova and La Bicyclette. That adds a symbolic and poetic quality to the ongoing shift: The next generation of tastemakers is figuratively and literally choosing Seaside as its launchpad over places like Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Clockwise from top left: pizza from Ad Astra, Max Georis at Counterpoint Coffee, sushi from Ichi-Riki and Klaus Georis in front of the restaurant he is building on Broadway.

BEYOND BROADWAY

Continuing west, another new piece is among the most intriguing, albeit with a different angle than the youth movement.

Darryl Choates is old-school Seaside, having served as a polarizing councilman for 16 years, directing the Monterey Bay Blues Festival for a quarter century and operating Ord Market even longer. He hopes to open Deja Blue in the former Dunes by the time this publishes, though that seems ambitious. The place will feature a Champagne bar, a wine bar, a daiquiri bar, a basic 15-item pub menu and a 10% discount for date night. Entertainment will include live music booked by jazz mind Leon Joyce (and supported by the house band) and live comedy. “We want couples to come out and enjoy live music, comedy and dinner,” he says. “The vision for Seaside has been going on for a number of years and it’s gotten to the point where it’s a good investment to be here.”

While Broadway has served as the epicenter of Seaside’s evolution, the city enjoys another surprising hub: a funky strip mall complex called University Plaza. To be fair, it’s stocked with some classic stars, including some of the best Thai food and affordable sushi and Mexican and German fare in Monterey County (see sidebar, p. 35), but the recent influx of youthful energy has been prodigious.

Hexbox Fitness + Crossfit, which debuted in May, has been an immediate hit. Relocated and dramatically expanded Sanctuary Climbing Gym, opening as this goes to press, has all sorts of smart design plans for its 10,000 square feet. One new place there is 2019’s breakout “pinhead” heaven, Lynn’s Arcade: A Pinball Parlor and Can Slangery. (The cans being slung are curated craft beer.) It’s a wonderland of 20 hard-to-find machines like Family Guy, The Big Lebowski, 2001 and Jurassic Park; enthusiastic league nights; and BYO food to pair with beers from small outfits like Moonraker and Evil Twin, plus kombuchas, sodas and waters.

Susan and Ben Mosqueda, owners of The Butter House

The epicurean belle of University Plaza, though, graces the other side of the parking lot: The Butter House, yet another fresh recent development that opened in August with youthful local owners, restaurant pros Susan and Ben Mosqueda.

Gone are the greasy but somehow charming things that made the Nifty 50s Diner classic blue-collar fare: patchy booth fabrics, iffy kitchen cleanliness, and outdated carpets, paint and countertops.

In have come a simple and smart design, stylish counters, clean lines, fresh paint, nice finishing details and crave-able comfort food spiked with Polynesian-Filipino fun—loco moco in a lake of gravy, pork belly and eggs, fried chicken sandwiches, spectacular lemon curd pancakes and butter-fried rice with bacon, sausage and Spam.

Full houses are common. Even more ubiquitous is the presence of Seaside old guard who made Nifty 50s their go-to years ago. Community organizer Helen Rucker and mayor Ian Oglesby still come in to share a table so frequently the Mosquedas dedicated buttons on their register for what they order. Another regular is Pacheco.

“Butter House and all the family-friendly new businesses give Seaside that much more connectivity,” he says. “I love it when people come back for the first time in a while and are amazed with the changes.”

New urban furniture, wider sidewalks, bike lanes and fresh foliage have made Seaside more inviting.

OLD SCHOOL RULES

Seaside is alive with new arrivals. But its time-honored standbys are still awesome. The city has delivered the densest concentration of international cuisine on the Monterey Bay for years. Case in point: While Broadway Avenue experiences a rebirth, the Japanese restaurant at its intersection with Del Monte Boulevard hasn’t changed much at all. The funky and outdated exterior belies its status as a community treasure—on any given night celebrated chefs, including the likes of Cachagua General Store’s Mike Jones and Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Cy Yontz—patronize this place.

It’s not the only timeless spot on this list, which leans global in flavor profile but also includes some vintage favorites that are decidedly American, and 100% Seaside. Here are some of our picks:

Acme Coffee 485 Palm Ave., Ste. B This place gets an A+ for all its Fs: family owned, fair trade, fresh, flavorful. The converted mechanic’s garage is completely adored by locals.

Baan Thai 1760 Fremont Blvd., Ste. F1 Frequently voted the best Thai restaurant in the county, its humble and hidden strip-mall location is a mecca for curries and soups.

Baldemiro’s 2008 Fremont Blvd. Keeping with the community institution theme, this place is a pillar for many, thanks to sweet service, rolled tacos and a generous menu, in terms of options and burrito size.

The Breakfast Club 1130 Fremont Blvd., Ste. 201 If this place closed, Seaside might collapse. Here the formula is heaping plates, creative takes on classics, incredible service and a true family feel.

Ferdi’s 740 Broadway Ave. The decor is dusty, the team can be grumpy, but it’s all worth it for the lunch-only items like the blackened chicken sandwich, robust gumbo and other Creole-style specialties like the spicy Big Easy burger.

Gusto Handcrafted Pizza and Pasta 1901 Fremont Blvd. Not exactly old-school Seaside, but such a popular place—thanks to Northern Italianstyle pizza and from-scratch lasagna—that it feels like it’s been there forever.

Ichi-Riki 1603 Del Monte Blvd. The best case scenario is to sit at the sushi bar and let the chef take care of you. This is a complete Japanese cuisine powerhouse hiding in plain sight.

Mal’s Market 1264 Noche Buena St. A humble neighborhood market with an earnest sandwich menu that features rustic breakfast sandwiches and over-the-top lunchers like the Bomber and the Philly cheese with secret-recipe jalapeño sauce.

Mi Tierra 1000 Broadway Ave. This one is younger than the rest on this list, but feels like it’s been here forever, bringing spit-roasted al pastor and crispy lengua to die-hard fans in a supermercado setting.

Papa Chevo’s University Plaza, 1760 Fremont Blvd., Ste. A2 From the same family that brought Seaside Baldemiro’s, the best place for a chile relleno or breakfast burrito in a homemade flour tortilla.

Stammtisch 1204 Echo Ave. This place is a trip. The husband-wife team behind it is 100% into Germanity, from the costumes to the menu to the heritage. Turtle Bay Taqueria 1301 Fremont Blvd. This is unique for its pan-Yucatan sensibility for inventive “tostacos” with seasoned calamari and sustainable sand dabs with super-powered house hot salsas.

La Tortuga Torteria 1257 Fremont Blvd. Like so many of these spots, it’s unfeasible to imagine Seaside without it. The grilled sandwiches are the namesake specialty, but the menu runs far and wide while staying uber-authentic and affordable.

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