OAKLAND -- After a decade, the Montclair Bistro -- a fixture in Montclair Village -- will close this fall and reopen as a new restaurant.
Henry Vortriede, the owner and chef of the restaurant, said he decided not to renew his lease and has sold the restaurant to the husband-and-wife chefs Joe Schnell and Tracey Belock, of Montclair. The final dinner at Montclair Bistro will be on Aug. 25, but the restaurant will stay open until mid- to late September.
The couple plans to remodel the restaurant and reopen it as Chowhaus.
"I've very much enjoyed serving the community for the past 10 years. We've developed so many friendships, developed our cooking style, produced great wine dinners and events; and a large part of me doesn't want to go. The 10-year mark sneaked up on me, and I made the decision not to be tied down for another extended period," said Vortriede in a letter announcing his decision.
"It was always in the back of my mind to open my own restaurant," Vortriede said.
When he first saw the restaurant, which was then Gary's Bar and Grill, he knew he had found the place. Vortriede and his wife, Kathleen, put their plans to remodel their house on hold and opened Montclair Bistro.
Vortriede knew by the age of 15 that he would be a chef, although he planned on a career in architecture. Growing up in a family of eight in Detroit, Vortriede was given five cents for each hot meal he prepared and three cents for each cold meal.
Montclair Bistro serves upscale California cuisine, fusing fresh ingredients in new ways accenting Vortriede's Cordon Bleu training, creating such delicacies as the confit duck and wild mushroom quesadilla, and the pacific salmon and halibut wellington. Vortriede is known for his special dinners with wine pairings and his lobster specials.
"We are not excited about them (Montclair Bistro) closing. We don't know what will be next," said Bruce Barnes, who has been coming to Montclair Bistro every couple of months with his wife, Sherri, and their family, for the past eight years. "The atmosphere, the service and the food are great."
"The staff and I are committed to bringing the food and service to a higher level in the final month. I want the service to be perfect. I want the staff to be proud of their last days here," Vortriede said.
The news about Montclair Bistro follows the closure of another well-known Montclair Village restaurant -- the Silver Palace Restaurant & Bar, which ended a 28-year run on July 15. It was sold to the owners of Camber, the Uptown establishment that serves Southeast Asian cuisine on Telegraph Avenue. Camber Montclair is scheduled to open Sept. 1.
Meanwhile, Chowhaus will opening this fall after a remodel transforms the restaurant into a light-filled, family-friendly tavern.
"We want to offer great cuisine in a casual atmosphere," Belock said.
The new establishment will feature locally sourced farm-to-fork cuisine and will feature roasted coffee and a cafe-style breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner, said Belock, who was a chef at Tribune Tavern.
Meanwhile, Vortriede isn't thinking about the future beyond the restaurant.
"I want to concentrate on making Montclair Bistro great," he said. "Then I will close and take a break before I move on.
"It was delightful to work in Montclair," Vortriede said. "I have nothing but great memories.
"I won't miss being the plumber and the accountant, but I will miss the cooking."
Montclair Bistro's closing and reopening as Chowhaus heralds a culinary tidal wave, Ginny Prior opines. See her column on Page A3.