Saturday, August 22, 2009

Open for business

Hi LWT subset of the blog-osphere...and a special hello to the growing handful of friends & family who are very annoyed LWT blog posts have become quite few & far between. In all honesty, micro-blogging on facebook & twitter is just faster & easier these days.

So big news...we opened yesterday! Quite a bit has transpired between yesterday & the most recent blog post. Here's a quick rundown.

*All sorts of contractor & construction drama. Not everything is resolved, but we're definitely done enough to open. Aye yay yay.
*Staff started training a week ago. Working out hitches in a few areas, but everyone definitely seems to be settling in.
*Three things get added to the to-do list every time one comes off. It's maddening, but with Laura's HUGE help...and 80+ hour weeks, we seem to be making progress.

Opening yesterday went basically about as I expected. Not a total train wreck, but definitely not a grand slam the first time out. We had about 50 guests (admittedly MANY friends & family), and for the most part reviews were glowing. A couple of Yelpers already came out with lots of praise, and that feels just great! Food for the most part go
t out on time & there were minimal blunders. And sorry to toot my own horn, but everything coming out of the kitchen is really delicious. I knew it would be, but to see the menu come to life, product be ordered, the kitchen guys put it all in motion, then to actually run it out on a plate, and for it to look professional & taste's pretty great.

Portions are big (maybe bigger than I planned), and prices are reasonable. I'm setting a goal for myself to revisit recipe cards over the course of the next month to make sure prices are where they should be. Keep me honest with that, will ya?!?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An update...and a day in the life

I described LWT to someone today as limping toward the finish line, but also said I was trying to keep my smile. It's a pretty accurate picture of where we are. Finish work is mostly done - painters gone, baseboard installed, most furniture ordered or in process of being ordered - and we're sitting in a holding pattern at the whims of PG&E. As you know, we got somewhat spanked for not having applied for service upgrade early enough. With a little luck and a little "it's good to know people who know people" help, we're currently scheduled to get electricity into the building on July 29. Crossing our fingers that we might get bumped a little earlier on their calendar.

After electricity gets pumped in, a long & linear process begins. In this order - at least as I understand it - get electrical from PG&E, test & get ready for final city electric inspection, get final electric inspection, get gas meter release from city, get new gas meter set from PG&E, test all equipment, get final health inspection, get all remaining final city inspections, die a little inside, finally tell staff we're clear to start practicing, pray staff hasn't already taken other jobs, check calendar & hope it's still Summer, pop out some grey hairs, figure out how to open a restaurant (factoring out construction which awkwardly already got figured out), open the doors.

You're saying, "Tony, so many things to get accomplished in a short period of time. Are you ambitious, optimistic, or out of touch with reality?" A mix of all 3? You're saying "Tony, you committed to a catered off-site picnic for 700 in late September, and a 100+ car show at the building in early September. What if construction runs WAY long?" Time will tell.

That's the update, now for a day in the life.

So I've blogged before that each day is vastly different, though now I add that in some ways they're painfully the same. Today is now exception. It's 1:30pm. Here's a rundown of the day so far.

1. Arrive at the bldg by 8 am. Comcast installation window 8 - noon.
2. No word by 10am, which is when granite for countertops gets delivered.
3. Back way too weak to help delivery driver unload granite. Someone comes by in the nick of time to help.
4. Get official word from comcast that even though we rescheduled from 7/17 to today, it never got entered onto their job calendar.
5. Leave the builder after 3 hours of finding odd work to accomplish at the building that doesn't require an internet connection.
6. Head to Peet's to soak up their wifi for a bit.
7. Enjoy a harsh iced latte (I hate peet's coffee, but their wifi is sweet in my mouf)
8. Pick up one of those new wraps at Jamba Juice. Greens & Grains or something. As previously tweeted - feel free to pass on ever ordering this. You're welcome.
9. Field random calls & get all sorts of work done: resolve comcast install date, tweet about how much comcast sucks, sort out biz card production drama, organize files, email PG&E with an idea to shave off a couple days on gas install lead-time, schedule another photo shoot for photos in the restaurant, invite web guy to lunch because I forgot how to update the website, update the blog (easy...though I never seem to do so). A very random, but productive early afternoon at Peet's. Apologies to the fans of my earlier blog entry about the random shit you experience at a coffee house in the afternoon. Nothing good today.

Up next...Head out for a 2pm meeting with table manufacturer. Pick color & sign order for them to get started. Homeward bound after that to try and continue the productivity.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

delays and change orders...the name of the game

Well, change orders are SO Spring, but since they played such an integral role, I feel compelled to mention them even in the Summer. This season is shaping up to be crazy-making for a myriad of reasons that - I assume - are all to be expected when trying to open your first restaurant.

We were basically on track until about a month ago when I thought "holy crap, shouldn't someone be calling PG&E to line up the electrical service upgrade?" It came on the heels of me having done the same for gas service upgrade. I coordinated with contractors - who
had their fingers squarely up noses - and determined I needed to start the ball rolling. Many questions later, I thought "why the hell am I running this?", and passed it to them. Long story short, PG&E actually came out today to assess field conditions, throw their weight around, and lay down new fees. Good times. Bad news is that their antiquated hierarchy means many more weeks of sitting on our heels until we get power in the building. Getting power means firing up equipment, and getting our act together for the many final inspections nee
ded before we serve food. So, egg on my face for saying early July (2009) was when we'd open. Looking like sometime late August. Burn.

In the meantime, here are a couple photos of recent action. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No turning back now

I planted quite a stake in the ground late this morning in Alviso. As previous photos prove, it's no surprise to anyone that something pretty big is afoot at 5202 N First Street in Alviso. Today, however, I put up my "coming soon" sign. The cat's out of the bag on LWT. It's an exciting and nerve wracking step -- even in light of so many more tangible things we've done on site.

OK, so....check...that's done. In other construction & planning news, there's lots going on. All framing, sheet rocking, plumbing, electrical is complete. Kitchen & bathroom paneling going up soon, flooring prep getting underway, stucco soon, walk-in box & hood being installed very soon. Yikes. Pictures for you very soon. "I had Lunch with Tony, and I can't stop thinking about it." :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In time for next Sunday...

...we found quite an easter egg at the job site. Behind the admittedly GHETTO old stucco facade, the contractors unearthed the original sign from my grandpa's old bar "Tony's" circa early 1940's. It's art deco (I think) font, and painted directly on the planks that used to be the exterior of the building. It was a very interesting day on the job, as everyone was amazed to find it, much less in such good shape. The building has been run by at least 3 others since my grandpa gave up the bar. Pretty wild that the sign was hiding under there the whole time. My dad has an aerial photo from the "Tony's" days that shows the building - with few others surrounding it - and the front sign is visible. The tentative plan is to extract each plank on Monday, then piece the sign together & eventually display it in the new restaurant patio. With this photo, the old aerial photo, and a little description. Pretty exciting!

Friday, April 3, 2009

it's a job site now

Apologies to any blog followers for a dry spell of posts during a really important time. Construction is underway, for shizzle, and it's exciting to see progress. Here are photos of:

*The evolution of the storefront. Today they're going to attack all the old stucco facade to get things ready for its new coat.

*The bathroom remodel. This was taken at least a week ago, and already the bathroom looks nothing like this. The concrete is filled in, the walls separating men/women are up, and door frames are in. I'll get more up here soon.

*The hood which was recently delivered. I have to admit it was scary to see this hulking thing unloaded from the truck and plopped into the dining room. Makes things seem a lot more real, and it's sort of inspiring/taunting me to cook good things.

So that's what's going on. No beef to speak of from any inspectors yet, but time will tell.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Hi team. Chili recipes & Starbucks encounters are entertaining enough, but now time for an update regarding tangible progress. (TOO) Many months have been leading up to what transpired over the course of the last week. Last Thursday we were granted a building permit (a process that was promised in 2 to 3 weeks, but actually took 3 months). Earlier this week, I FINALLY entered into a construction contract with my contractor. Not quite as painful as birthing the business plan, but it ranked for sure. This morning at 9 am we signed a scary number of papers with the loan officer from the bank, and then scurried around town looking for a notary. Weird. Simultaneously, two nice gentlemen - Luis & Omar - began demolishing the bathrooms at the building. Construction is underway, people. The contractor owes me a construction schedule tomorrow, and they're optimistic to get the job done in 8 to 10 weeks. We all know how that goes. I'm conservatively anticipating a July 1 opening. I'm guessing we'll meet somewhere in the middle. So I'm very happy to share this progress, and keep you updated on where we go from here. Enjoy these not so enjoyable photos of the building before Luis & Omar started throwing down this morning.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I dreamed up a chili recipe on Friday the 13th. It started with a base of rendered bacon fat, red onion and ground beef, and included a variety of spices, black beans, brown sugar, ketchup and tomato paste. It was a little too sweet for my taste, but otherwise I impressed myself. I had the last bit for lunch today, and these 4 or 5 days later it's even better than before. The flavors really came together well, and I'm happy with the final product. I've decided to include chili on the LWT know...assuming we ever open.

Monday, February 9, 2009

to whet your appetite...

...and maybe remind myself that this slow, painful & expensive process may actually come to fruition. Here's a smattering of dishes that will likely make it to the menu at LWT.

Beef & Muenster Press
Succulent, shredded beef short ribs, stacked with muenster cheese & melted into sliced sourdough

Roasted Pork Panini
Tender loin of pork with apple chutney, imported swiss, and caramelized onions on focaccia

Exotic Chicken Salad
The best chicken salad, with hints of curry, apples & veggies, served with spring mix on country bread

Provencal Veggie
Roasted red peppers, garlic-seasoned tomatoes and goat cheese on country bread

Asian Chicken Salad
Grilled, citrus-marinated chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens, candied walnuts, and crispy wontons with house-made sesame-ginger vinaigrette

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Bad news on the 'hurry up and open a restaurant' front. We're held up in getting the building permit. The issue lies with Public Works, and us needing to get an appraisal of the building to prove that our renovations total less than 50% of the building's worth. (DUH!!!) Unfortunately, this is a costly and time intensive process. It'll be at least 3 weeks before any of the appraisers I've spoken with can even start on the appraisal, and then it will take then another week or so to complete ours. So tack that extra month onto however long it'll take the city to review & bless this appraisal...and subsequently (and hopefully) finalize the building permit. If any beautiful, talented & witty public works employees or their friends/family are reading this blog & want to help a brother out...please leave a comment. Otherwise, keep your fingers crossed for me. I was antsy, now I'm a few notches above antsy - does anyone have a name for it? Ugh...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

trade shows are weird

Anyone who's attended (or heaven forbid, had to staff) trade shows with any regularity knows they're just a weird little world. Crowded, over-stimulating and exhausting conditions make for tweaked attendees and booth staffers. The world of food trade show-ery is no exception. This week I attended my 3rd consecutive Fancy Food Show - a showcase of new food products and packaging from the mainstream to obscure. Overall, the show is a great opportunity to learn about new products & distributors, though after 4+ hours it's easy to burn out.

*Food celeb sightings: Ina Garten (Contessa, as Laura & I call her), Suzanne Goin (a sort of famous LA chef), Joanne Weir (local host of cooking shows on PBS), Paul Prudhomme (chatting with Narsi David), Tom Douglas (famous Seattle area chef)
*I've been on the hunt for blood orange juice or nectar (to use as a base for salad dressing). I found a couple vendors this time out, including a maker of jarred blood orange concentrate, another maker of straight juice. More often than not, you only find it as fizzy italian bottled soda.
*I connected with the companies that will provide my coffee & my cash register, both of whom I hadn't spoken with in a while
*I ran into a friend from culinary school staffing a booth. Nice to catch up.
*Some really tasty samples of interesting new products.
*My favorite quote of the show: One attendee to another as they sped away from a booth "It's gross!!! It's like 7-11 coffee." Please note, this was NOT in reference to my coffee purveyor.

*Trudging past super slow attendees taking it all in, and many many people who think it's perfectly fine to stop and have a conference right in everyone's path.
*Someone passed gas and I walked right into the middle of the cloud. Annoying anyway, but especially when you're fried after a long day.
*Lots of people shoulder to shoulder walking and talking and eating, which means strangers' food breath right in your face.
*A mix of pushy & up in your grill booth staff, along with others who for whatever reason won't give you the time of day. It reminds me of that line in pretty woman "Hey, I got money to spend here!!!"
*This is a weird one - I think I got it twice from really small companies. I say "Oooh, I like that! How do you distribute your products?" Meaning, do you ship to me directly? (bad!) or Do you use a big distribution company I can order a bunch of different products from? (good!) They reply "Well, we're always open!" What does that mean? Am I to find you a distributor and do your job? How do you ship your stuff?!? It's a simple question. I walk away.

In the end, even if it gets annoying it's always worth attending. It takes me at least 4 hours to walk the show floor. And that's moving at a pretty fast clip & not lingering too long at any one booth. It's a monster of a show! If you're one of those no shame costco sample types, you can clean up here. Samples and takeaways large and small. Booths with dips & sauces accompanied by cut up bread or pretzel sticks. Maybe 25 companies? Chips, juices, coffees, sodas, flatbread sandwiches, desserts, candy, smoked salmon, granola, breads, tea, gelato, coffee, caviar, bbq sauce, soup. You  name it, it's there...for an estimated 24,000 attendees.

Friday, January 9, 2009

the reveal...the logo

I'm very excited to share THE Lunch with Tony logo, as designed by the incomparable Linda D. Upcoming posts will include all sorts of other branding elements. Thanks a million Linda. I love it!