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All the News that's Fit to Eat

Henry's Burgers closes; Fairmont San Francisco's executive chef comes to Hamilton; and the latest Fresh Choice rumor.

The closure of has created another vacancy at beleaguered Square Shopping Center on Novato Boulevard. Henry's owner Teddy Attell said lease negotiations with the landlord did not work out and the burger joint closed about two weeks ago.

In parting, he had some severe criticism regarding the number of vacancies and the very large hole left in the shopping center when DeLano’s Market closed in August 2009. A CVS store anchors the shabby-looking center that serves the city's western neighborhoods.

Attell said that while he had a loyal customer base from the surrounding neighborhood families, that it was a struggle to grow that base with customers from greater Novato.

“There is no large tenant to draw people up there,” Attell said. “I still meet people who never heard of us — that’s very frustrating.”

He added that something special was needed for the shopping center and suggested that a Smart & Final store might be a good fit.

A call to the leasing agent Horizon Properties was not returned but a Notice of Eviction was taped to the shop’s window and it appeared that some but not all  of the furnishings and fixtures had been removed from the space.

Attell is looking for a new location and said he is even considering burger truck because it would come without a landlord.  He asked Novato Patch to pass along a message to his customers and thank everyone who supported Henry’s Burgers for 20-plus years.

Fairmont  Executive Chef at Hamilton

has played host to some amazing chefs at its in Novato. Demonstrations and classes are open to the public and benefit the program, which helps its students to transition from homelessness with training in the culinary arts.

This month Executive Chef J.W. Foster of the Fairmont San Francisco will have a demonstration of a spring menu. Foster is a devotee of locavore cooking (using locally grown ingredients) and will focus on seasonal ideas.

The three-course menu includes: barbecued quail with a tamarind-honey glaze, salmon carpaccio and chèvre cheesecake.

I’ve been to several of these demonstrations and it’s kind of like being in the audience of a cooking show with lots of laughs and plenty of tasting.

The cost is $49 per person and does not include wine. Wine is available for separate purchase by the glass. For more information and to sign-up online, visit the Homeward Bound website.

Fresh Choice Rumor Debunked

One of the best parts of our job at Novato Patch is running down a rumor to see if it’s true or false.  It’s a little bit like a journalistic scavenger hunt.

The latest rumor to hit the foodie circuit was that Sally Tomatoes, the Rohnert Park restaurant and catering company, was moving into the spot at Vintage Oaks that was formerly held by.

It was plausible. The source said the owner of Sally Tomatoes had been on Craigslist looking for kitchen help. The Fresh Choice location would suit the Sally Tomatoes cafeteria-style format and Novato is part of the company’s extensive catering territory, according to the Sally Tomatoes website.

This is a long build-up but a quick call was made to co-owner Gerard Giudice who was quite amused.  He “emphatically” denies the rumor. But he understood how it came about.

Guidice was helping his good friend Michael Dormer with the opening of his restaurant, . The two go way back to when they were waiters together and Guidice helped with designing the menu for Muscio’s, working the test kitchens and hiring the kitchen manager on Craigslist.

Guidice is a Novato High grad (‘80), so he doesn’t completely rule out a scenario that someday might bring him back to the area.  

If you’re ever at Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, check out the Sally Tomatoes café and event center and see why it would have been a good fit for Novato. Or you can read this review from the Rohnert Park Patch.

Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Roger Good question. At what point is a city overwhelmed by the need to provide services and a lack of property and sales tax revenue to meet the need? Here is a link to the 2011-2012 budget. http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=1619 We are there now. Our city had to increase sales tax through measure F and still operates at a structural deficit of approximately $4.5 million dollars. We are being told that there will continue to be more cuts to services due to a lack of revenue. We must reconsider our tax and fee structure if we are to maintain infrastructure and services with the current budget. This does not include the added debt created by building more housing without a tax base that further burdens our schools whose budgets are all ready broken at the state level. Increasing the number of students is not sufficient when you're per pupil funding is $8300 per student per day compared to southern Marin districts where funding is $15,000 per pupil per day. The sites that were designated for affordable housing during the last housing element cycle are opportunities not mandates. If they were mandates then Ross would be forced to build the housing they designated for the Marin Art and Garden Center. The state requires zoning but does not compel property owners or municipalities to build. Novato continues to be a leader in the fight against homelessness by carrying 30% or more of the affordable housing in Marin.
Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:27 PM
continued The Square was specifically not on that list because many other sites in the same area were. To do an end run around the Ad Hoc committee and the last housing element by now building at the Square is deceptive. What is clear is that the owner of the Square is not leasing out or taking care of the property. Another approach to the housing problem would be to mandate a percentage of Workforce or Below Market Rate housing into any new residential projects along with a fee for commercial development that incorporates housing to accommodate extremely low income workers such as at Hannah Ranch. Both these plans would include revenue from property taxes to support the city and the neighborhoods in which they are built.
Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I believe CVS has an 11 year lease but I don't know when it ends. If neighbors want to have input we need to let Mr. Chang know and the council know. I believe the site is all ready designated for retail/commercial. Do you know if it also has the mixed use designation required to incorporate housing into the mix?
Michael Reyff April 09, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Roger: My point is that the AH mandates are blatantely unconstitutional and that local communities should decide what use they zone their communities. Not some elitist utopian bueraucrat from the Kremlin, excuse me, I meant Sacramento to decide how our communities are to evolve. BTW - a major reason why housing is not affordable is the blatant intervention by government imposing outrageous fees, design mandates and other extracuricular impositions that explode the cost of housing by $10,000s per unit. I completed a small in-law unit on my Novato property less than two years ago so that my elderly father-inlaw could live with us and the estimated excess cost due to ludicrous fees and code conformities was in excess of $36,000. This excess represented approximately 30% of the cost of unit. Did I or City of Novato get credit for affordable housing for the elderly - NO! Did I have to waste money on rediculous fees and demolition of an existing structure because "setback rules" - YES The bottom line is that the affordable housing mandates are a fraud being imposed by a group of corrupt elitist politician/bureacrats who are prostutiing themselves to desperate greedy developers who have lobbied for the tax credits, government subsidized rent payments and lender incentives. What a bleeping sham! Also BTW what is being done to provide quality jobs locally or statewide so that people can earn money to afford housing? Bernanke & Co can't conitnue to print money forever?
Eleanor Sluis April 09, 2012 at 02:04 AM
See article from the Wall Street Journal, April 6, “California Declares War on Suburbia.” My take on this: One part is about issues of transportation costs, for which people will be on the hook to pay for those who will live in future high-rise condominiums and apartments near highways and train tracks. In addition to not having enough money for buses and trains due to a lack of funds causes even more cars to be on the roads causing an increase in traffic congestion and more pollutants in the air causing more expensive health remedies and social problems. Policy planners and city/county governments need to be trusted to solve the problem of building, which fits into local visions and general plans. ABAG and the state need to back off on forcing the public to pay and accept more buildings not in compliance with current plans. This means more local control and education funding not less. Please contact your city council on what you think is necessary to do to change the state’s mandates. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577323353434618474.html? mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion?

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