“I’m more excited about this than anything,” says Nate Tilden. That’s saying something from a guy who is currently juggling ownership duties at Olympia Provisions, Clyde Common, Pepe le Moko, Spirit of ’77, the Richmond Bar, and, launching April 1, OP Wurst, a playful hot dog think tank at downtown’s Pine Street Market. But for two years, Tilden—a restaurateur, former cook, and obsessive welder—has been thinking, dreaming, and forging hearth tools for a place that captures his travels to Spain, a love of smoke and flames, and a serious commitment to good booze. Now, Eat Beat has learned, his eighth restaurant has a name and a home: Bar Casa Vale at the corner of SE 9th and Pine Street, opening (if all goes well) in late April or early May. The name references a popular phrase on the streets of Barcelona: “I hear ya.”
The 1,700-square-foot space, now under construction, is snuggled in the back of the 102-year-old building that currently houses popular spots Biwa and Simpatica. Plans include 49 seats inside, divvied amongst two bars and banquettes, with a view into the kitchen’s beating heart: 14 feet of what Tilden calls “big-ass flames and glazed tiles.” That includes an 8-foot custom grill (accessorized with Tilden’s hand-forged tools), a chapa (black steel) griddle, and a “smoker oven” to add the finishing touch. Another 50 seats are slated for outdoors, some of them grouped in a hidden, brick-lined enclave.
The menu is still underway, but the working list blends snacks and ambition, grilled breads and braises (oxtails to beef cheeks), ash-roasted vegetables and Spanish-inspired seafood. “When we spit-balled this place,” says Tilden, “we imagined a wall of booze and a funky, oddball space to make fun, exciting, smoky, local food.” The game plan also envisions the largest sherry collection on the West Coast. Olympia Provisions head salumist Elias Cairo has signed on to make an exclusive, soft-cured sobrassada, a smoky, spicy, spreadable sausage (and the Majorcan cousin to Italian ‘njuda). Also in the mix: a ham station for slicing prized Iberico de Bellota.
How many people does it take to pull off a small but high-energy project? Five in this case. Tilden tapped three partners: Martin Schwartz (a co-owner with Tilden in OP and The Richmond bar), building owner/designer Kenton Wiens, and Clyde wine guy Bryon Adams-Harford. Chef duties will fall to Louis Martinez, currently Clyde Common sous chef and an alum of Paley’s Place and Imperial.
“We wanted real food, not just salumi and nuts,” says Tilden. “That said, I have something called ‘Iberian party nuts’ on the menu. I have no idea what they are at this point. I just know I want them.” That, in a nutshell, sounds like what we can expect at Bar Case Vale.