When super chef Thomas Keller announced he was opening a casual family restaurant in July down the street from his much-venerated French Laundry in Napa Valley, he said it was only temporary, until he unveiled a more permanent restaurant next year. He had something in mind for the space, which he bought in March, but he wouldn't say what it was.
It's going to be a burger joint, says the Los Angeles Times in its Wednesday food section. Last week, Keller would only say that he and his partners are still deciding between two ideas. "I am excited about the burger idea, but we're still trying to figure out what would work best," Keller clarified today.
What's opening in July is called Ad Hoc, which is Latin for "this purpose." Like an ad hoc committee, it is created for a single purpose, in this case to hold down the fort until the plans and designs for the real restaurant are done.
"We are also thinking, what if Ad Hoc turns out to be a great success?" he said. "We might not want to change."
The Times' writer seemed aghast at the idea of Keller doing burgers. "Say It Isn't So, Tom" read the headline. But I like the idea. I remember a burger specialist in Los Angeles in the 1970s, I forget the name, that caused a stir by offering Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard and Château Lafite-Rothschild on its wine-by-the-glass list. It had a lovely patio, as I recall, and hand-made, thick, juicy burgers. Lafite and burger. A great way to while away a mealtime.
Keller was inspired by In-N-Out Burger, the burgeoning fast-food chain that, he says, "does one thing and does it well." How different that is from Keller's other restaurants, especially French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York, which specialize in intricate menus of 10, 15 or 20 courses.
If he does go a burger route, he won't be the first star chef named Keller to get into the burger business. Hubert Keller, no relation, who has Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and Las Vegas, also has Burger Bar in Mandalay Place, the shopping mall that connects the Mandalay Bay Resort with the Luxor in Las Vegas. Styled after a 1950s diner, it offers a long menu of burger variations, including a wonderful lamb burger.
For my cholesterol's sake, I hope Thomas Keller plans to offer buffalo burgers and turkey burgers. And a nice glass of Zin.
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — June 8, 2006 3:11pm ET
David Niederauer — June 8, 2006 4:15pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — June 8, 2006 4:16pm ET
John Danby — Napa — June 9, 2006 10:33am ET
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