New Tap & Vine chef steps up to the plate
Two nights after opening Tap & Vine, owners Addison and Kaitlyn Brown had one of the most difficult moments of their restaurant careers. The place was jumping with new customers excited to check out the renovated post office sorting room in Downtown Auburn. It had been under construction for a year and a half and anticipation was high. There was a buzz of delight in the air, and orders were flying in and out of the kitchen as fast as the wait staff could race with them. Drinks were flowing like laughter.
And then everything came to a screeching halt when the chef had a medical emergency.
"It's not a moment I like to remember," Addison said, "but it was an education in how we want to run our business."
It had been a busy two years for the Browns. The couple, who met while working in a restaurant in San Diego, got married, moved to Auburn, began renovating their dream restaurant and had a beautiful baby girl named Amelia.
They chose Auburn as their ideal location because they wanted to offer something unique here -- a restaurant and small brewery that caters to a variety of tastes and wallets.
"We wanted it to be the kind of place where you could get tacos and a beer for under $20 or you could order a $120 bottle of wine with your meal," Addison said.
But when you go to Tap & Vine, he said, be prepared to settle in and enjoy the conversation and ambiance for at least an hour because it's not fast food. It's a whole dining experience.
As part of that experience, Addison visits each table personally to ensure that the service and food are beyond expectations, and sometimes his baby girl visits tables with him.
"People love her," Addison said. "She should be a part of it, too. We'd much rather have her here with us than with a babysitter."
Another part of the experience is that the Browns are going to be honest with everyone, including their employees and their customers. It's a philosophy that served them well on the night they don't like to remember.
"I knew I had to take in on the chin," Addison said.
He walked into the dining area, got everyone's attention and explained the situation. They couldn't serve any more meals without a chef, he said. It wasn't fair to his employees who were working so hard to keep up with demand.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," Addison said. "I thought I might get beat up."
Instead, the hungry crowd gave him a standing ovation.
"I still get chills thinking about it," he said. "That was the moment I knew Auburn was going to support us."
Now the Browns have hired a new chef: Darren Thompson, originally of Auburn.
Chef Darren most recently was chef at Cibo 7 in Roseville. He's happy to be back in his hometown working for restaurateurs who encourage him to experiment with new menu items. After just two weeks, he's already whipped up a few new savory dishes:
Short ribs, slow-cooked for 72 hours, over curry cauliflower and cous cous.
Baked toma cheese with pancetta and strawberries
Salmon over rice with thinly sliced squash, tomatoes and a hint of lemon
Shishito peppers with goat cheese and bacon
But if you're one of the dedicated customers who's been raving about the flash fried brussels sprouts with pancetta, shallots and prickly pear balsamic reduction, don't fear. They are not going away.
And you'll still be able to wash them down with a ruby red cocktail: grapefruit vodka, champagne and fresh grapefruit juice.
The Browns try to keep everything fresh and as seasonal as possible, and that doesn't end at the food and drinks. It includes the atmosphere. The restaurant layout and decor was designed by Kaitlyn, with help from family.
It's very modern with concrete floors, gray brick pillars and black booths surrounded by riverine tile. In the back of the restaurant, a private party room is sectioned off by floor-to-ceiling hanging wooden doors.
It's the kind of scene restaurant-goers might find "down the hill," but now the Roseville crowd is traveling to Auburn for it's new dining experience.
If you're more of an fresh air diner, there's a large outdoor patio as well. Be careful, though. Once you're there, you'll want to lounge for a while, maybe have a glass of wine or a stout created by local brewer and UPS driver, George Dunham.
"Our goal was to give people a place to sit and talk with family and friends," Addison said. "Take a chill pill, have a cocktail."
Tap & Vine is located at 907 Lincoln Way. For more information, visit Tap & Vine's website.