While 2021 is winding down, the local restaurant scene continues to see change as eateries open and close.
In Palo Alto's California Avenue neighborhood, Anatolian Kitchen has closed, to be replaced by a cozy Austrian-themed restaurant slated to open by February. And around the corner, Local Kitchens has opened up shop, offering food from several different restaurants and cuisines. Another outpost is set to open in Mountain View this month.
Anatolian Kitchen is closed, making way for a new concept: By no later than February, restaurateur Dino Tekdemir and team are aiming to reopen as Naschmarkt Palo Alto, a sister restaurant to a successful location in Campbell. The Naschmarkt restaurants are inspired by a popular food market in Vienna.
"Once we open, we want everyone back here," said Tekdemir, who also co-owned Anatolian Kitchen. "I'm doing everything for them to make them happy."
Anatolian Kitchen opened more than a decade ago. The restaurant was led by a family, owned by Tekdemir and his brother, both from Diyarbakir, a Kurdish area in southeastern Turkey. At the Palo Alto restaurant, Tekdemir met the person he would marry, who worked there too. Together, they created a homey atmosphere and Kurdish and Turkish specialties, as recounted in an episode of the restaurant review show "Check, Please! Bay Area."
The show's guests noted dishes like manti (juicy spiced beef dumplings with herbed yogurt sauce), Alexander's Favorite (cubes of bread soaked in butter, served with rotisserie meat, tangy orange tomato sauce and yogurt) and lamb shanks over orzo pasta. They also lauded the team's hospitality, attention and care.
"We're grateful for that time," Tekdemir said of their years dedicated to Anatolian Kitchen.
Now, the team is shifting its focus. Since closing the restaurant at 2323 Birch St., remodeling has been underway to capture the atmosphere of Naschmarkt Restaurant in Campbell, which serves Austrian fare.
"We're going to open a sister restaurant, same cuisine, right here in this location," Tekdemir said.
From the Campbell location, general manager Yalcin Odabasi, chef Carlos Morales and bar manager Salvatore Marotto will be working with the team in Palo Alto.
The menu will include dishes like red cabbage soup, pretzels, sauerkraut, duck pot pie, wiener schnitzel and beef goulash, as well as more than 30 beers from all over Europe, and wines from Germany and Austria.
The ambiance will be warm — "squishy," even, and incorporate red brick walls, Tekdemir said.
"(Naschmarkt) has been very successful. We want to create a brand," Tekdemir said. "Our chef is amazing, our staff is good. It's a beautiful restaurant."
One reason for the change is to manage the labor shortage at a time when 3 out of 4 restaurant operators say recruitment and retention is their toughest challenge.
Tekdemir said it's difficult to find and train new staff, so replicating the existing restaurant's concept will allow the current team to use its skills and work in both locations.
The other reason is to satisfy customers' tastes. "We have the larger community. They are from different areas," Tekdemir said. "I really know what their expectations are, what they're looking for and what is missing in this area. I try to fill up that gap."
Like the Viennese market that is the restaurant's namesake, the menu will reflect regional variety and influences from the broader area.
"If you look at the map, (Austria's) located in the center of Europe," Tekdemir said. "All that region is going to be included."
Tekdemir has been working in the Peninsula restaurant industry for more than a decade. After arriving in the U.S., Tekdemir worked as a janitor, busser, server and manager. After nine years, he pursued opening his own restaurant. In addition to Anatolian Kitchen and Naschmarkt, he owns Nemea Greek Taverna in San Jose.
"Most customers know me, because I've been here a long time," Tekdemir said.
With a laugh, Tekdemir continued, "I want to let them know that — don't worry, something very good is coming. You won't be missing Anatolian Kitchen, because you'll be thankful for me opening Naschmarkt."
Naschmarkt (coming soon), 2323 Birch St., Palo Alto; naschmarkt-restaurant.com
If you've ever craved curry, Reubens and ice cream all at once, you're in luck: Local Kitchens makes it possible to buy all the above and then some from different restaurants in a single order. On Nov. 30, the team opened a new Peninsula location in Palo Alto at the former site of The Counter. A Mountain View location will follow in mid-December.
Led by DoorDash alumni, Local Kitchens bills itself as a "micro food hall" with a focus on local food purveyors. At a Local Kitchens location or on its website, customers can order dishes from a variety of Bay Area restaurants for pickup or delivery, or to eat on-site.
"It's a little bit of a different mix," co-founder and CEO Jon Goldsmith said. "Our goal is to capture the diversity of the Bay Area food scene."
Participating restaurants vary by location. For example, Oren's Hummus is available in Lafayette, but not on the Peninsula (you'll have to go directly to Oren's for their legendary hummus instead). From the Palo Alto Local Kitchens location, the biggest to date, customers can order:
• Curry Up Now: Indian street food
• MIXT: gourmet salads
• Proposition Chicken: sandwiches, salads and entrees
• SAJJ: Mediterranean dishes
• Señor Sisig: Filipino street food
• The Melt: burgers and comfort food
• Humphry Slocombe: ice cream
• Rooster & Rice: Thai chicken and rice
• Wise Sons: Jewish deli classics
From the Mountain View location, in addition to MIXT, Proposition Chicken, Señor Sisig, The Melt, Wise Sons and Humphry Slocombe, customers will also be able to order Israeli street food from Sababa.
Investors are banking on Local Kitchens, which currently has locations in Lafayette, Cupertino and San Jose and has plans to expand to Sacramento, Los Angeles and beyond. The startup raised $25 million in series A funding in June with the support of venture capital firm General Catalyst, which includes the likes of Airbnb, Instacart, Warby Parker and Deliveroo in its portfolio.
Local Kitchens' Peninsula presence isn't entirely new: Proposition Chicken, which was founded in San Francisco, partnered with the team at Local Kitchens — then called Local Food Group — to reach Peninsula customers a year ago as the startup kicked off.
In the Local Food Group arrangement, Proposition Chicken dishes were prepped by the staff at Shiok Singapore Kitchen in Menlo Park, and distributed via third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats. At the time, Ari Feingold and Dennis Lim, the restaurants' respective leaders, were interested in a new model that could support their businesses.
Since then, the Local Food Group has turned into Local Kitchens, with a slightly different model: In its current iteration, dedicated Local Kitchens staff prepares different restaurants' dishes on-site at the Local Kitchens locations.
To fulfill delivery orders, Local Kitchens contracts with DoorDash, a company that's recently faced heat from "Dashers," the city of Chicago and others. Last month, DoorDash agreed to pay $5.3 million to settle allegations of violations of past benefits for San Francisco delivery workers. Last year in Santa Clara County, business leaders pushed for a cap on delivery fees.
The Local Kitchens team believes that convenience and choice will ultimately benefit customers, and they'll also be able to help their restaurant partners with a revenue share agreement.
"We came up with a model we hope is sustainable for them," Goldsmith said. "We were so excited to have an opportunity to help restaurants."
Local Kitchens, 369 California Ave., Palo Alto; (coming soon) 1711 W. El Camino Real Suite B, Mountain View; localkitchens.com
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Sara Hayden writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.