Wood & Salt Tavern is set for its soft opening

The soft-open to the public will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

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Photo by Sterling Reed

A new “modern California” cuisine restaurant, Wood & Salt Tavern, is set for its soft-open to the public on Wednesday, Sept.9. in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood, according to a press release from the restaurant.

The full-service restaurant and bar will feature wood-fire grilled meat, fish and seafood, and will also boast handmade pasta crafted daily, in-house. Salads and vegetarian options will also be available as well as shareable plates. There will be a heftier and more global beer and wine list than currently offered at the German restaurant locations of the “German Gastro Management.”

Chef Brian Lavin (Photo by Sterling Reed)

At the helm of Wood & Salt Tavern’s kitchen is Chef Brian Lavin, who has two decades of restaurant experience “and a genuine passion for hospitality,” the press release said. Lavin comes from Baltimore, Maryland, where his restaurant experience started at age 13 as a busboy and dishwasher. After returning from a six-month study abroad program in Rome as a senior at the University of Maryland, Lavin began cooking full time. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Operations Management and worked and lived in Baltimore for over the next decade. Lavin was Chef-Partner at Gnocco, the intimate Italian-inspired restaurant with a “rotating menu of small plates and house-made pasta” in 2016, the press release stated. During his time at Gnocco, Lavin expressed his love of seafood and pasta, something that earned him a spot in Zagat’s first-ever 30 Under 30 National list and numerous local awards, which include “best new restaurant” and “best Mediterranean restaurant” in Baltimore. In order to be closer to this sister, a pastry chef in Beverly Hills, Lavin moved to California in the year 2019.

“Things just fell into place, here…Chef Brian’s restaurant experience is an ideal fit for the menu concept we wanted to create for Wood & Salt Tavern. We’re happy to welcome him to the German Gastro Management family of restaurants and we look forward to seeing what he can do at this, our first non-German eatery,” Bjoern Risse, co-owner of Wood & Salt Tavern, Wirtshaus, and the two Rasselbock locations said.

According to the press release, “Wood & Salt Tavern’s opening menu will stay true to the restaurant’s wood-fired, scratch-made concept,” the press release said. It will play off of Chef Brian Lavin’s culinary strengths. “Dinner menu items will include shareable offerings like crispy fried olives with ‘nduja salami and lemon aioli, Santa Carota beef tartare with smoked egg yolk, Pacific swordfish meatballs (Grist & Toll polenta, puttanesca sauce, pine nuts), chicken liver mousse with date mostarda and Santa Barbara pistachio, or grilled head-on prawns with romesco and charred leek salsa verde.”

Grilled head-on prawns at Wood & Salt Tavern (Photo provided by Wood & Salt Tavern)

The hand-made pasta dishes, like the Tehachapi rye-potato gnocchi, smoked chicken ragu, cavolo nero, Parmigiano, squid ink garganelli with tomato-braised calamari, or ricotta cavatelli with littleneck clams – will be part of the “wood-fired grill” section of the opening menu. The entrées will include grilled whole dorade with a Sicilian-style caponata, Beeler’s Farm bone-in pork chop with cippoline agrodolce and hazelnut picada, or a grilled Mary’s half-chicken with sumac yogurt, grilled summer squash and dukkah. “Hand-crafted sweets might entail fresh ricotta doughnuts with fennel honey and corn ice cream or tiramisu from a family recipe,” the press release said.

Grilled whole dorade at Wood & Salt Tavern (Photo provided by Wood & Salt Tavern)

The beverage menus will be wine-centric according to the press release, the world wine list will complement the food menus and will be offered by the glass and by the bottle in three different price tiers. There will also be six draft beers in rotation and bottled varieties which will be staff picks from international and craft brewers. These will also complement the food menus and restaurant concept.

Approximately 40 diners will be accommodated upon opening, the press release stated, with COVID-19 safety and sanitation measures.

“A covered, yet open-air patio fronting the restaurant, will initially host patrons for dinner service to start, with lunch service launching after a two-week soft opening period, the press release said. Sidewalk seating will also be offered and the rear parking lot will also be used for additional space. Outdoor spaces will all be dog-friendly. The 2,000 square foot restaurant’s capacity will expand to 90 guests inside and out, including bar seating, once indoor seating is permitted.

The design elements at Wood & Salt Tavern are inspired by the restaurant group’s modern German eateries, the press release said. Some of the restaurant’s details are meant to elicit an ambiance that complements the menu and “coastal Southern California location.” The restaurant will feature high ceilings and clean open space with bright colors and Mediterranea tiles accenting the walls and floors.

“With Wood & Salt Tavern, we’re hoping to provide the Bixby Knolls community with a new dining option, something that the neighborhood might need, and would enjoy. It’s fresh fare served in a casual, yet elevated, manner,” added Bülent Yildirim, co-owner of Wood & Salt Tavern, Wirtshaus, and both Rasselbock locations.

Risse and Yildirim are the duo behind “German Gastro Management,” a restaurant group that includes Central Los Angeles German restaurant and beer garden, Wirsthaus and Mar Vista in Long Beach, Rasselbock Kitchen & Beer Garden.

“Risse and Yildirim have known each other for about 30 years, the press release stated. “The pair hails from the city of Hagen, in Western Germany, both attending the same high school and college. While working towards their business degrees in college – Risse with a concentration in marketing, Yildirim with one in finance – they were first introduced to the hospitality industry, both working various jobs at restaurants and bars.”

Risse moved to the United States and travels as a business consultant, where he enjoyed various German-style beer gardens that were popping up in New York. Upon his return to Germany in 2010, he and Yildirim decided they wanted to do something similar in Los Angeles- opening Wirtshaus in July 2011 in Hollywood.

To check out Wood & Salt Tavern’s regularly-changing and seasonal food and drink specials, follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @wood_salt_tavern.

Wood & Salt Tavern is located at 4262 Atlantic Avenue Long Beach, CA 90807. Wood & Salt Tavern’s initial soft-opening hours will be Sunday through Thursday, 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM; Friday and Saturday, 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM (initial opening hours subject to change). Wood & Salt Tavern will eventually be available for private events and catering, in part or in whole.