Comings and Goings

Although I try very hard to keep my articles fresh by basing them on recent personal observations, that isn’t always possible. For instance, my wife and I spent last Christmas in Arizona. We left on the 23rd and did not return until late on Wednesday, Jan. 3. Because I had some personal obligations on Thursday the fourth, I had no time for research and barely enough time to write the post I published on the fifth. Realizing all this, though, I had planned ahead: before heading out for the break I not only researched and wrote my blog post about the Stambaugh-Heller neighborhood (which I published the night before we left), I also walked the length of Redwood Creek (resulting in my post Up a Creek, no Paddle Needed; I wrote that one while I was in Arizona) and spent time riding SamTrans buses for my post Get on the Bus. This last, as I said, I mostly wrote on the day I posted it.

Because what little free time I had last week was spent writing, it wasn’t until Tuesday of this week (the rains prevented me from getting out on Monday) that I was able to resume my perambulations through both Redwood City and San Carlos. Having been gone for almost three full weeks, I was eager and excited to see what changes had occurred—and I was not disappointed. Our many large-scale construction projects continue apace, of course, but what really struck me this week was the number of small businesses that have come and gone.

Perhaps the most impactful small business change was the closing of Pamplemousse, which occurred while I was out of the state. I was informed of the closure by one of my readers, who asked me if I had heard any reason for it. I had not. Naturally I dropped by the store this week—the windows of which are papered over—but my visit yielded no clues. I found only a forlorn “thanks for your business” notice taped to the doors. Fortunately, Anna Schuessler of The Daily Journal dug deeper and wrote an article about the closure. In short, it appears that Kelli Manukyan, Pamplemousse’s proprietor, was simply ready to “hang up her apron” after 24 years of working in the food industry (eleven of which were at Pamplemousse). Contrary to what some suspected, this particular closure does not appear to be the result of a rent increase. But Pamplemousse will definitely be missed, and a great many regulars are going to have to find a new source for coffee, lunches, and delicious baked goods. Fortunately there are a large number of independent vendors of such in Redwood City—plus there are the chains, of course.

Elsewhere on Broadway, much closer to El Camino Real, I was surprised to learn that the former location of Revival Upscale Rescale (a vintage clothing store) is now a workout studio. Rock Salt Pilates claims to “take Pilates into overdrive by fusing the classical practice with cardio, resistance training, light weights, and upbeat music.” If this piques your interest, you’ll find them at 2658 Broadway. And if you do, let us know what you think.

Further down Broadway, just beyond Jefferson Avenue, it appears that Origins Juicery may have not been a good fit for Redwood City. That business, which opened in late April, only lasted about seven months. Fortunately the owners have come up with a new concept, and based on the Yelp reviews (which admittedly can be suspect for a new business) it is starting off very well indeed. “Bubble & Wrap Waffle Co.” serves both sweet and savory items inside cones made from freshly made waffles: fillings include ice cream and frozen yogurt; eggs with bacon, sausage, or steak; BLT with avocado, and even something resembling a Philly Cheese Steak. I have yet to give them a try, but there will be ample opportunity: they are open most days from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (on Friday and Saturday they stay open until 11 p.m.) Note that there appears to be very little in the way of seating, so plan on taking your waffle concoction away with you. You’ll find Bubble & Wrap at 2070 Broadway, just down from Captain’s.

Bubble & Wrap may be our newest eatery, but it won’t hold that position for long. For one, Pasha Mediterranean—who will be occupying the old Howie’s Artisan Pizza restaurant, next door to the downtown Post Office on Jefferson—has “now hiring” signs in the windows, indicating that they’ll likely be opening soon.

In a similar state is Hikari Japanese Restaurant, which should be opening its doors shortly in the old Pasta Pomodoro space (just down from the Starbucks at the corner of El Camino Real and Whipple Avenue). They, too, have a sign in the window indicating that they are hiring for a variety of positions; this, combined with the current state of the restaurant (see the photo, below) says to me that their grand opening is imminent.

Where Broadway curves away from the Caltrain tracks, the old Seasonal Sushi Restaurant is in the process of transforming into Orenchi Ramen, a Japanese restaurant that seems to specialize, as the name implies, in bowls of ramen (Chinese-style wheat noodles) in broth with various meat, fish, or vegetable toppings. The folks bringing us this restaurant currently have three others (in Santa Clara, Los Altos, and San Francisco) so I presume that their Redwood City menu will look something like what is found on their website for their other locations. According to the large signs plastered in their windows, Orenchi plans to open their doors sometime this month. Oh, and they are now hiring, too.

As if Hikari and Orenchi were not enough, consider the old DermaBella Spa space at 921 Main Street (next door to The Striped Pig), which has been sitting empty for something like three years. Late last year contractors began remodeling the space, which will soon reopen as “Ranzan.” Based on the name of the restaurant and the name of the proprietor (Hitoshi Tagawa) I’m guessing that Ranzan will also be serving Japanese cuisine of some sort, along with beer and wine (that, based upon their liquor license application). If true, altogether we’re about to have three new Japanese-style restaurants opening around the same time. Clearly someone decided that Japanese was an underrepresented ethnicity within our burgeoning restaurant scene, and probably saw the success that existing Japanese restaurants Kemuri and Yokohama (among others) are currently enjoying. Me, I seriously question whether we can handle three new ones. You can bet I’ll be watching them with interest, curious to see how things shake out.

Moving on, perhaps one of the biggest changes while I was gone was to the space on Broadway across from the Crouching Tiger Restaurant—the space that used to be home to TechWorld, a personal technology repair shop and retailer. When I left, the building’s shell was largely intact and workers were pouring a new concrete floor. This week? It looks like this:

All I can figure is that the plan all along was to replace the roof, but that it made more sense to rebuild the foundation and floor while the building’s envelope was still intact and able to provide protection from the elements. Either way, although this came as a bit of a shock, I suspect that the rather drastic remodel of this particular building is actually on track and that the new roof will be installed soon.

Two doors down, the retail space at the front of 2621 Broadway (which at one time was the Art Center; today, except for the unfinished retail space, it is an office of the tech company Avast) seems to be advancing slowly, if at all. I believe that the plan is (was?) to turn this into a frozen yogurt place, and for a while contractors were making visible progress on fitting out the space. But from what I can tell by peering through a hole in the opaque window coverings, work has pretty much ground to a halt:

I’ll continue to keep an eye on this one, though; I’ve been hoping that something interesting will get done with this space ever since the Art Center left and the building was remodeled, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the lack of visible progress is just a minor hiccup.

Speaking of places that I’ve been watching and whose visible progress has slowed to a crawl, I expected upon my return to see that our Burger King (on El Camino Real at Hopkins Avenue) was open, or at least close to it. It still has a way to go, though. At first glance I was hard pressed to identify any differences between how it is today and how it was when I left for the break. Upon closer inspection, though, I can see evidence of work going on inside the building. As well, a number of curbs have been poured in preparation for the driveway and parking lot paving:

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the recent rainstorms forced a brief halt to the concrete and asphalt work that has yet to be done. Regardless, I have no worries about this particular project: it’ll get finished up soon.

After only being gone for a little less than three weeks, the number of changes I saw on my most recent outings—not all of which I mentioned above, of course—is striking. And this during a period, I’m guessing, that as a rule might not be all that active: surely the dead of winter must normally be a slow time for the building trades. But demand for office and residential space (and, apparently, restaurant space) is high, and so for the most part Redwood City’s metamorphosis into a modern, vibrant city continues apace. I had a great Christmas, but am glad to be back where I can do what I truly enjoy: wander through Redwood City looking for and reporting on noteworthy changes.


8 thoughts on “Comings and Goings

  1. Thanks for the write-up! It’s great learning new things about the city from you 🙂

    Pampelmousse’s closure was very unexpected and we just had a fantastic cake from them in mid-December. Thanks for all these years!

    Japanese restaurants in RWC had been very generic comparing to San Mateo, PA, or MV. Almost all of them are actually korean/heavily americanized outside of Higuma. Reading about the new incoming authentic Japanese food actually excites me. Hikari will serve yakiniku-style food while Orenchi has long been considered as one of the top Ramen house in the bay area. Unfortunately, they are both part of chains. We will see what Ranzan brings.

    It may be true that the dining scene in RWC can’t fully support authentic albeit ethnic restaurants or menus. Over the years, we’ve been losing many of them. New Kapadokia had very authentic Turkish mezes but could only continue its business after moving to Mission as Tuba. Paradise Kebab was replaced by Zadna, which is still excellent but chooses to have a generic Americanized menu largely devoid of their Jordanian specialties. Arya almost entirely gutted their Persian side. And the new Pasha’s menus, as you noted, had many fillers including pasta, pizza, and burgers in a mediterranean restaurant.

    • Thanks so much for your input! I love to eat out and I’m enjoying learning about food from different cultures, but I am by no means a professional restaurant reviewer and I don’t have the background to comment meaningfully about food from Japan or the Mediterranean, or whatever. I know what I like, but I don’t know if what I am liking is authentic, so I always appreciate perspective from those who seem to know more about the subject than I. Japanese food, in particular, is an area I know little about, so please let us know your thoughts in the event you try any of these new Japanese restaurants.

      Thanks for reading!

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