The term now seems rather quaint and commonplace, as does the cuisine, which is characterized by fresh, seasonal ingredients, Mediterranean or Mexican-style combinations and stylish presentations. There was a time before this foodie revolution when Americans didn't eat what was in season, all past was "spaghetti" and tacos were as "ethnic" as most people would get.
I remember being taken out to dinner on dates to California Cafe. I don't remember the interior but I'm sure the restaurant was trying to achieve a look that would pass for sleek and sophisticated in the late 1980s. I was living in Walnut Creek and think of a place like California Cafe as trying to give the suburbs a taste of what it would be like to dine at Stars in San Francisco or Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Berkeley. Also operating at the time was Spiedini's, spanning the ground floor of an office building on Oakland Boulevard. It had white table cloths and open kitchen, announcing that it was trying to achieve the look of a hip new South of Market eateries -- when South of Market was undergoing its gentrification -- and bring to the suburbs a new urban feel to dining.
A developer hopes to knock down that dark and dusky former temple of fine dining at 1540 North California Boulevard. On this lot next to the Lesher Center for the Arts, and on an adjacent lot that holds the Scotts Valley Bank and a surface parking lot along Bonanza and Locust streets, the developer wants to construct a five-story mixed-use residential and retail project.
The City Council is conducting a preliminary review tonight of the project that would require several land use approvals, including a General Plan Amendment to increase the building height limit from 50 feet to 70 feet and a conditional use permit to allow a multi-family residential development in an area zoned for pedestrian retail.