When Arcadia's Cave & Ives Portico Grill shuttered in April, it didn't take long for a new project, called The Attic, to take the place of the two-year-old Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from owners and brothers Cary and Ivan Morrow (Sacks Art of Sandwicherie) -- in fact, it took one day.
That's because the Morrows aren't really gone and, in a sense, neither is Cave & Ives. And despite The Attic's attempts to keep a low profile over the past few months, talk of its killer burger, premium draft beer list, and events like an all-you-can-eat crab boil and upcoming pig roast have made it the worst-kept secret in Arcadia.
Blame it on Attic manager and bartender Ryan Nishijima.
Nishijima, who worked as a bartender and manager at Cave & Ives for nearly as long as it was open, tells me when the Morrows said they would be shuttering the restaurant, he proposed another idea: Don't.
"I think they had just had enough of it [Cave & Ives]," he says. "They have families, they have to run Sacks, it was a lot of stress. But I didn't want it to close. So I came up with a plan for a new place and they agreed."
Nishijima's idea was to change Cave & Ives into a kind of upscale lounge. The Morrows still own it, and Ivan is still vested in the food, but The Attic is really Nishijima's show to run.
And Nishijima tells me there's still a lot to do before his Attic "officially" announces itself -- probably within the next two to three weeks. He's still working with Ivan on developing the menu, which, along with the pizza, salads, and some of the starters from Cave & Ives, will include more small plates and shareable dishes. The Attic's now-famous burger, The Ivan, naturally will be on the menu as well.
"Ivan's burger was at Cave & Ives, too," Nishijima explains, "but no one ever made a big deal out of it. When the guy from Burger Guide ranked it as one of the best burgers in the world, that's when it started getting popular."
It is pretty much perfect. Nishijima tells me that's mostly because of the signature meat grind they use for the patty and a bun (made locally, but he won't say where) made specifically for the restaurant.
Another goal of Nishijima's is to be recognized as being a spot for top-notch, hard-to-find craft beers (a blackboard listing of over 20 draft varieties changes regularly). And he's currently in the process of obtaining a liquor license for alcohol so that he can add cocktails to the menu.
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As for the interior, Nishijima tells me he's planning on adding TVs before football season starts (he'll start opening The Attic on Sundays, too) as well as adding to the music decor he says customers have donated items for. He's also considering having The Attic stay up late, possibly on weekends, and maybe with the help of a food truck.
Asked if he's afraid The Attic will fail, Nishijima simply says, "It can't." And although he's nervous, he tells me he takes it one day at a time, one project at a time, and that seems to help.