Don’t blink because as changes hands on Friday it will be a fast turnaround. Breakfast regulars may see new signage up by Saturday morning announcing the opening of Left Coast Depot, under the ownership of former chef Mike Garcia.
Garcia, who was a partner with Sharam Bijan and founding chef of both the Toast in Mill Valley and Novato, said having his own restaurant has always been his dream and the Golden Egg location had been on his radar for some time.
“It’s three blocks away from my house and it’s a good size,” Garcia said.
While he looked at other spots in Novato, Garcia said he told Mayor Denise Athas that he wanted to own that particular site and she told Garcia not to wait and to approach the owner, Surinder “Pal” Sroa, about purchasing the popular breakfast house.
“I gave him a proposal and six weeks later, here I am,” Garcia added with a laugh. “But I had this feeling if I don’t do it now that I’d be kicking myself for a while.”
But to do the job the way he wants to, Garcia has left the Toast operations and his outside catering. “I need to put everything I’ve got into this,” Garcia said. “This will bring me back to a foundation and concentrate to make that foreseen dream.”
Garcia said he’s already been observing in the Golden Egg kitchen prior to the sale and plans to roll right into the new menu the next day.
“I’ve been seeing what the kitchen does with an eye and feel for the operation,” Garcia said. “It’s difficult to do changes without knowing everything.”
Using Golden Egg's menu as a base, he plans to keep what is popular and bring his own flair to new items. That includes what the menu is well known for — 101 varieties of omelets.
“I’ll have my version of hollandaise and benedicts and I have my niche of how I like to do soups and salads,” Garcia said.
For Garcia, creativity with the menu is a key factor for his kitchen. “I’ll be building up a repertoire of new menu items — it’s what I do — I’ve got to spice it up,” Garcia said.
He expects that by November the finalized menu, including a dinner service, should be in place with what Garcia calls “approachable comfort food.”
Garcia said he’s excited by the new restaurant and has been staying up late thinking up ideas. So far plans include a Wednesday farmer’s market special. “I’m going to stay with local suppliers, especially since the farmer’s market is on my doorstep on Tuesday nights."
He would also like to offer food pairings with microbreweries. “There are small microbreweries that only do 50 to 60 cases a year,” Garcia said. “They are small guys that want to get their name out there.”
As Novato residents with two young children, Garcia and his wife, Nicole, see an advantage in the downtown location with a clientele of regulars that he compares to the family-centered style of the Toast in Mill Valley.
“I like getting to know people and their families. Being part of the community — it’s a big plus,” Garcia added.
Longtime customers and fans of Toast Mill Valley, James and Susie Powell of Novato are also partnering on this new venture and Garcia gives them and his wife lots of credit for helping make the dream come true.
As for the name Left Coast Depot, Garcia said it brings to mind all of the things representing the California lifestyle — hot rods, guitars, surfing and skiing. He said the depot part of the name is a nod to the historical train stations of Novato.
From the downtown business community, usually the first to know when changes are happening, Garcia said he’s already receiving a warm reception and support. Perhaps they are hoping for a draw to downtown that matches the 4,200-4,600 diners Garcia said are served weekly at Novato Toast.
With his experience of co-authoring a cookbook and working at restaurants like the Farallon, Palace Hotel, Hawthorne Lane and Toast restaurants, Garcia has boiled down his concept.
“For me it’s about approachable food and flavors, good prices and good portions,” said Garcia.