Michelin-starred Chez TJ, as the Mountain View community now knows it, will cease to exist in several years.
The owner of Chez TJ, the city's high-end restaurant serving gourmet tasting dinners in a historic Victorian house on Villa Street, along with neighboring restaurant and brewery Tied House, are moving forward with a joint plan to build a four-story office building at their sites, Chez TJ executive chef Jarad Gallagher said Wednesday. As proposed, the bottom floor of the new building will house a new 3,000 square-foot restaurant on top of several levels of underground parking. Gallagher said he hopes the space will house the next iteration of Chez TJ, though the developer has not yet decided on an operator.
George Aviet opened Chez TJ in 1982 with then-partner and chef Thomas J. McCombie in a Victorian home built in 1894. Gallagher has served as executive chef since 2012, after a series of head chefs cycled through the kitchen, leaving to open their own high-end restaurants in the Bay Area.
Aviet did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gallagher said Aviet eventually plans to retire, and will turn over the new Chez TJ to Gallagher.
Tied House also has deep roots in Mountain View. The microbrewery opened at 954 Villa St. in 1988. If the new restaurant serves beer, it will likely be Tied House brews, though that remains to be worked out, Gallagher said.
Daniel Minkoff of the Minkoff Group, which is developing the project, said Wednesday that his company has not yet decided who will run the new restaurant, but has discussed a vision for the space, a "gastropub" serving modern cuisine, with Chez TJ and Tied House. The desire, Minkoff said, is to have the existing operators involved.
The Minkoff Group also developed the 23andMe headquarters in Mountain View and a new Visa building in Palo Alto.
Details about the new restaurant remain hazy since permits have not yet been approved by the city, but it will serve lunch and dinner and be open seven days a week. For Chez TJ, this would mean shifting away from its longtime fine-dining concept.
Despite this, as Gallagher envisions it, "it's still going to be Chez TJ."
The restaurant has been approaching its limit on the amount of physical space available to continue to "develop and grow," he said. A large-scale development would allow the restaurant to continue to evolve and for Aviet to benefit from tenants who will pay a higher rent in the new building.
"We've kind of maximized for what the square footage allows for us to do," Gallagher said. "The hope is for us to develop the building and put the new retooled, modernized Chez TJ with enough room for us to keep the trend (going)."
Gallagher said he and Aviet are currently looking for a local space, in either downtown Mountain View or Los Altos, to relocate Chez TJ while construction is underway on Villa Street. There, the restaurant's fine-dining "legacy" will continue as its owner and chef figure out what will "be best for the new spot," Gallagher said.
They're also looking into donating the existing Victorian home to a local park where it would be preserved as a historical site, he said. They plan to keep two heritage magnolia trees outside the current restaurant. The trees will become the "focal point" of the entire building, Minkoff said.
They plan to build about 39,000 square feet of office space. There will also be outdoor seating and potentially a roof garden that would grow herbs for the restaurant. (Chez TJ has long grown its own herbs and other produce in a garden next to the restaurant.)
Max Hauser, an Old Mountain View resident, said Aviet, Minkoff and others presented preliminary details about the project at a neighborhood meeting on Monday, May 1. They described the restaurant as "not a replacement for Chez TJ, but informed by the TJ history and at a lower price level, in Aviet's words, an intermediate point between a typical downtown-MV restaurant experience and 'fine dining,'" Hauser wrote in an email Wednesday.
Chez TJ's closure is years out, Gallagher noted, with plenty of steps to take and approvals to secure before moving forward with construction. Minkoff said a series of community meetings for the project will soon kick off, likely in June.
The City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the project at a study session on June 13, according to the city's Community Development Department.