Two Birds One Stone, the yakitori restaurant from chef Douglas Keane (Cyrus) and LA chef Sang Yoon (Lukshon, Father’s Office), opened in 2016. It was a departure from typical wine country fare, instead offering Asian flavors in a slick space. Now the restaurant has switched gears, reemerging as a smoked meat hub called Roadhouse 29 tomorrow, January 30.
Before becoming Two Birds One Stone, the 4,000-square-foot historic space was Silverado Brewing Company, a brewpub with largely unremarkable bar food, TVs, and Trivia Night. Keane and business partner Nick Peyton are behind the changes (Yoon is focusing on his LA projects), which are something of a return to the location’s casual roots, albeit with a highly improved menu.
Under Michelin-pedigreed Keane’s guidance, the kitchen will offer a selection of meats from local producers that have been smoked over staves from Freemark Abbey winery’s cabernet barrels (the restaurant is on the winery’s property). Beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and tri tip sold by the pound, hot smoked salmon, a burger (with an option for a meatless Impossible Burger patty), and whole fried chicken that’s been brined in kimchi for 48 hours will headline the new menu offerings.
“I’m a little bit over ‘chef-driven’ restaurants right now,” says Keane. “No one needs to know how we made [the food] unless they really want to. There’s a lot of thought that goes into the smoking of our meat, but the main thing is, is it tender and does it taste good?”
Beyond his desire to create an approachable restaurant in upscale wine country (including a kids menu from which the five-and-under set eat free), the impetus for the change also includes staffing, Keane says. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the Napa food scene (or the broader Bay Area’s food scene) now knows that finding workers is an increasing problem, particularly in areas like St. Helena where there is very little housing. Popular restaurants like Terra, Cindy’s Backstreet Ktichen, Fremont Diner, and others have closed citing staffing issues as part of their decisions to cease operations. Now, the remaining restaurants must consider more efficient concepts and service styles: Roadhouse 29 will be counter service at lunch, with full-service at night.
“We were no different [than those restaurants] and I didn’t want to go out of business at some point because we didn’t address it,” says Keane. “So how do we address the staffing issue, respect the space, develop a concept with a really efficient crew, and put out a really good product that’s not chef-driven or ego-driven?”
As part of that plan, Keane and Peyton have instituted a no-tipping policy in order to pay a living wage to all employees, starting at $20-25 from front- to back-of-the-house. It’s a move that Bay Area restaurateurs like Camino and Atelier Crenn have been working toward with mixed success. Keane and Peyton are bolstering their model even further with a profit sharing bonus for employees, taking 18 percent of profits above a set daily revenue threshold that is then distributed depending on time worked (from full-time to quarter-time) from dishwashers to servers. It’s one way to pay more and provide employees an investment in the time they spend at the restaurant.
“We’re definitely the canary in the coal mine,” says Keane, laughing. “So if the canary lives for a year then, yeah, people will be like ‘look at those guys!’ I’m happy to be the first to try this.”
As for the menu, there are just a few glimpses of the Two Birds One Stone, including a kale salad with crispy rice and black garlic dressing, and wagyu brisket. Otherwise, it’s all about comfort food like mac n cheese with gouda, cheddar, and crispy shallots, and spicy chips with pimento cheese.
In a move decidedly not driven by fine-dining self-importance, the barbecue comes with King’s Hawaiian rolls, and the burger is topped with American cheese. Sure, the burger itself still boasts excellent locally-sourced bacon and homemade ranch, but as Keane found himself going deep on which cheese to use, and what might melt best, someone suggested “Why not just use American?” It made it to the menu.
“As a chef you get caught up in your shit and you don’t want to do stuff like that,” said Keane. “And that’s what people want. I’m happy to do it.”
Starting Wednesday, January 30, Roadhouse 29 will open six days a week (closed Tuesdays) from 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. Starting in March, expect live music on Fridays and rotating dinner specials each night.