Tucked away from the bustle of downtown…
…The Cellar sits like a hidden gem on Stone Road amongst its industrial warehouse surroundings. Though the establishment has been there for several years, its ownership recently changed hands. Now, nothing but the name remains the same.
New owners Jenn Heitz, Michael (Mikey) Robertson, and Dave Williams, are all staple figures from Benicia’s downtown scene. Jenn and Mikey have 25+ years’ experience in the restaurant business, both with notable stints at Lucca’s Bar and Grill and various other downtown Benicia establishments. Jenn now wears many hats – primarily handling the management of their new acquisition. Mikey is the head chef whose background includes Le Cordon Bleu education and experience cooking for multiple high-end eateries in San Francisco and beyond. Dave, a hold-over from the previous iteration of The Cellar and with a background pouring for The Chill, handles most front of house duties along with his graphic design work. He also coordinates special events for The Cellar, including their live music offerings.
Together, this team has been working tirelessly to revamp the restaurant, starting with the menu.
While the previous owners embraced the diner atmosphere, catering to warehouse workers’ lunches with sandwiches and the like, The (new) Cellar aims for more of a gastropub vibe. “Mikey’s food is always unique,” says Jenn, “He’s always trying to get people to ‘eat outside the box.’ He’ll go back to old recipes and throw something together that you wouldn’t think would work, but somehow it always does. I don’t know how he does it… he’s just creative like that.” Seasonality is the name of the game, with the goal of offering only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients for Mikey’s creations.
Jenn is also working on developing the bar at The Cellar. With local beer and wine as staples on the menu, she also plans to expand the wine offerings to compliment Mikey’s “eat outside the box” philosophy. Look forward to unconventional pairings from imported wines alongside the list of your favorite Bruehöl beer or Vino Godfather wine.
“We want to do things that downtown isn’t doing,” says Jenn.
With the goal of bringing something different to Benicia’s dining scene, The Cellar periodically offers specially curated tasting menus. These are unique evenings for couples or groups to sit down together and enjoy a 3-course prix fixe meal. The Cellar also offers brunch on Sundays with live acoustic music and bottomless mimosas.
The Cellar is still frequented by many of the old lunch crowd, and there are plans to start offering a box lunch option for neighboring industrial park workers. Catering and private event options are in the works, as well as plans to expand their outdoor seating area.
The Cellar’s somewhat unconventional location helps feed the owners’ creativity. By keeping things new and exciting, the trio hopes to lure people out of the comfort zone of downtown. “We can’t be stagnant,” says Jenn. The reinvention of The Cellar reflects a growing trend of redevelopment or repurposing of industrial spaces statewide (see places like Mare Island, Santa Cruz, etc.). As traditional retail spaces in downtown sectors become increasingly expensive, many businesses are looking for the next hub that will allow them to flourish. “Why not come this way? Who knows what the industrial park is going to become?”
685 Stone Rd.
Benicia, CA 94510