Fire, Oak & Barley shutters in Palo Alto | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

Peninsula Foodist

By Elena Kadvany

E-mail Elena Kadvany

About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

View all posts from Elena Kadvany

Fire, Oak & Barley shutters in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2016
With about eight months of business under its belt, Fire, Oak & Barley closed its doors at 341 California Ave. this weekend.

Family-owned Bay Area bakery company Le Boulanger opened the "fine fast-casual" restaurant in Palo Alto last August in an effort to expand its reach beyond bakery, breakfast and lunch to dinner and new customers, owner Dan Brunello said last year.

Dan's son Jeff, Le Boulanger's senior vice president, did not immediately return a request for comment. The restaurant’s windows have been completely covered with white paper, and a short message posted on the front door:

"Fire, Oak & Barley has closed as of Sunday April 17th. We want to thank all of our loyal patrons and the surrounding community for your support and patronage.

"We look forward to supporting the new operators who will be taking over this space."

After the Brunellos took over the California Avenue space in 2014, they completely rebuilt what previously housed a florist and consignment store into a 158-seat dining room with a full kitchen and even a wood-burning pizza oven imported from Italy. They added a small patio outside in the front of the restaurant, complete with ceiling heaters and a double-sided fireplace.

Fire, Oak & Barley served casual lunch and dinner fare, from pizzas and burgers to salads and sandwiches, plus local beer and wine.

There are 18 Le Boulanger locations throughout the Bay Area -- including nearby in Menlo Park, Mountain View and Los Altos -- as well as a robust wholesale division. The Brunellos said last year that the Palo Alto restaurant would likely be the first of multiple Fire, Oak & Barley outposts they would open throughout the Bay Area.

No word yet on what will be moving into the space yet; stay tuned.

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 18, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Sorry to hear that it didn't work out.

Speaking not to the Fire-Oak-Barley venture but to the parent firm Le Boulanger, I was a loyal fan of that Bay-Area chain for many (15?) years, and referred other people to it.

Less so lately, for a few reasons, roughly simultaneous, in recent years. A couple of which may just be restaurant-industry-wide issues. One was not: when I checked ingredients lists, this bakery chain was persisting in using commodity hydrogenated fats (the kind with "trans-" bond fatty acids, which don't occur in natural food sources to speak of) in its sweet pastries. This was not 1965, but the 20teens, and might even still be true. And it's not some niche or fad dietary concern: those synthetically hardened fats have been medically criticized since the 1950s, and officially "on the way out" from US food products since the 1990s. Several other regiona fresh bread and pastry bakeries have managed without them for many years.

The other reasons concerned customer relations and competition. Formerly, Le Boulanger had a particularly appealing affinity program; regular customers earned credits on things like sandwiches, and could redeem them for freebies, every so many. Offering double points one day a week was just enough incentive for me to choose Boulanger more often. But all that changed, and the firm now sends email promotions just like many other businesses (and with short notice -- no more predictable double-points day.)

The other factor was that in my usual stomping ground of downtown Mountain View, three more restaurants opened in the last year or two with attractive sandwich menus, so there's simple competition where earlier, Boulanger was the dominant sandwich purveyor in that neighborhood.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by perks not needed if food is good!, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Apr 18, 2016 at 4:43 pm

why do you people always need perks, isn't good food enough ?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Tried it, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Apr 18, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Tried this place twice.

Not bad, but not distinctive in any way either. So not surprised at this news.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 18, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I tried it once and nothing was compelling me to visit the restaurant again. It seemed too expensive for a place where you need to order your food at the counter. It was just okay, and that was probably the problem.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Apr 18, 2016 at 7:02 pm

I never tried this short-lived pizza joint, but then again, I considered the bread at Le Boulanger to be utterly forgettable.

And that's what pizza essentially is: it's bread dough with some toppings. Mediocre pizza dough will always equate to mediocre pizza. There was no way in hell that I was going to be one of their early guinea pigs despite the fact that pizza is a pretty inexpensive dish. I just had no interest in their bread to begin with.

I don't buy Le Boulanger bread myself, but periodically someone at work brings in their stuff thinking that it is "good." It's not.

Same thing with sandwiches. Put a bunch of stuff between two slices of mediocre bread and what do you get? A forgettable sandwich.

Best of luck to the family that owns Le Boulanger though.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Julian, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2016 at 9:20 am

That's very disappointing. Their salmon sandwich was a treat, I guessed the subtle flavor came from the wood fired oven. Same goes for the burger, which was better than what you can get at the place next door (granted, just the one choice, vs. 200 choices). Will definitely miss them.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by juror, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2016 at 10:35 am

I know what would have saved them...remove more parking!


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Suprise, a resident of College Terrace,
on Apr 19, 2016 at 2:26 pm

I am sorry for the wasted invested and time. Although the food was OK mostly, they could have done much better imo. The name didn't catch up with the menu, one expects a great selection of wine/whisky/beer based on that name.

And I would like to point out this is not a surprise. In the last few year, several pizza stores on Cal ave. Which was probably driven by the success of other existing pizza parlors/restaurant. Now they are closing one by one (e.g. pizza studio a few months back). Which one will be next, who knows. I just think they should do their homework and do feasibility studies before opening a store. Hopefully, the next people will do better.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Former Southgate Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 19, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I know the landlord well. I told him only a month after the place opened they had too much floor area in too expensive a location for a casual restaurant. There were 158 seats in that place - 3-4x what they needed on any but the most busy of times. Prices were a little high, but food quality was better than good. I am saddened, but not surprised. Or this may just be Le Boulanger being flaky - they are closing lots of restaurants for various reasons, and this just may be caught up in the noise....

Either way, a loss.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Former Southgate Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 19, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I know the landlord well. I told him only a month after the place opened they had too much floor area in too expensive a location for a casual restaurant. There were 158 seats in that place - 3-4x what they needed on any but the most busy of times. Prices were a little high, but food quality was better than good. I am saddened, but not surprised. Or this may just be Le Boulanger being flaky - they are closing lots of restaurants for various reasons, and this just may be caught up in the noise....

Either way, a loss.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Len, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 5, 2016 at 8:43 pm

LOVED this place. Their Chicken Pesto Pizza outclassed pretty much any other pizza joint in the area, including long-time stalwart Amici's. Also liked the decor/ambience/vibe of the restaurant itself, and the serving staff was laid-back, attentive, and pleasant.

Very sure the concept could've worked, if only it had been 'right-sized'. A 60 to 80-seat restaurant or so would've been a good balance between the kind of business such a place would attract, and the sky-high business rents of the Silicon Valley.

Hope they try again with a smaller-format, and keep the wood-fired ovens!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Steve, a resident of Stanford,
on May 11, 2016 at 8:40 am

I liked this restaurant and was sad when it closed. I always thought they would close because the traffic didn't seem to match the millions of dollars they put into the remodel.

In my opinion, the fatal mistake was marketing: the decision not to brand it under Le Boulanger. For example, call it "Fire, Oak & Barley by Le Boulanger." LB is a healthy (local) brand, many people are familiar with it, attracted to it. People didn't know what to make of this Fire Oak place.

They executed great (the food, pricing, remodel) but should've marketed it so that people were familiar with it.



Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:

Follow this blogger (Receive an email when blogger makes a new post)

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

What Are Your Gifts that Must Be Shared?
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,370 views

Fu Lam Mum shutters temporarily in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 321 views

 

2017 guide to summer camps

Looking for something for the kids to do this summer, learn something new and have fun? The 2017 Summer Camp Guide features local camps for all ages and interests.

Find Camps Here