San Rafael artists and art lovers will have a new hangout by early November–Odalisque Cafe on Fourth Street.
The cafe, which will feature Mediterranean-North African cuisine, is nestled between the Marin Jewelers Guild and Art Works Downtown on the 1300 block of Fourth Street. In addition to serving wine and food, the owners Lisa Long and Dwight Bandak and chef Jay Yinger hope to make the cafe a community hub for art and culture.
“We wanted a European-style of a cafe where you might walk in and see Picasso or Renoir talking at one of the back tables. Or at least their modern equivalents,” Yinger said.
And the cafe has no shortage of artistic talent to pull the task off. Long has a background in printmaking, graphic design and theoretical art from an east coast school and Yinger is an architect and painter.
The 2,700-square-foot space features paintings from artists who work in the studios housed throughout the Art Works Downtown building, and Long and Yinger constructed doorways in the restaurant’s brick walls that lead to the neighboring galleries. The exhibitions will rotate, and Long said the cafe will also serve as space for fundraisers and other events that bring more attention to Arts Works Downtown.
“We really want this to be a meeting place for the all the artists and art lovers,” Long said. “When we would participate in Friday Night Art Walks, we would always get people saying ‘We need a place like this in San Rafael.’”
Although this is Long’s first time as a restaurant owner, Yinger’s experience dates back over a decade when he was the partner-chef of Andalou, which closed in San Rafael in 1985. Before that, he worked the kitchen at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.
Yinger drew his inspiration for the menu from the diversity of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The cafe will feature small plates that will range form $7 to $15, and larger entrees between $15 to $22. The beverage list will include local and European wines as well as craft beer.
As a way to help foster a sense of community, there will be no televisions in the restaurant. “We want there to be an exchange of culture and ideas, without being distracting by a TV,” Yinger said.
The couple, who currently live in San Anselmo, first got the idea for Odalisque when the Chinese restaurant left the Fourth Street location vacant three years ago. Long and Yinger got the permit two years after that, and began to remodel the interior. They tore off the plaster on the walls to reveal red brick, and repurposed the wooden floors. “We were literally digging trenches,” Long said. The total demolition lasted three months.
The 40,000-square-foot building has a rich artistic history itself. It served as an opera house in late 1870s, then a vaudeville hall and a silent movie theater until it was transformed in to workforce housing and then artist studios and shops. To capture the spirit of the cafe and the building, Yinger and Long designed the logo, a copy of the Odalisque, or reclining nude, painting by Ingres from the 19th century.
The restaurant will open for dinner from 5p.m. to 11 p.m. in early November. Sign up for their newsletter to get updates.
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