After intermittent openings and closings during the pandemic, Oakland Nido restaurant will reopen for good, this time with a new look and a food partner and bar focused on one thing: agave. Nido returns on May 27 as Odin, a mezcal and tequila-focused bar, with Devin González of Tacos El Precioso at the helm in the kitchen.
It wasn’t something Nido owners Sylvia and Cory McCollow originally planned for the space; after the first stop, the couple decided to focus on their other restaurant Nido’s Backyard a few blocks away, moving menu items from the original restaurant to the new open-air space. But when they briefly reopened the smaller spot — or, Little Nido, as Cory affectionately calls it — the couple found the two restaurants were competing with each other, especially with similar menus and at a time when restaurants aren’t Were not open inside and most customers said they felt safer eating outside.
“We were there, presented with this [feeling of], ‘Now what are we going to do?’ “recalls Sylvia. “We just decided that we were going to try something that we had been talking about for a long time, which was to open a mezcaleria here in town.” The duo have tried offering mezcal pairings and tastings in the garden before, but it never stuck. “It made sense to rename the space and align ourselves with Devin,” says Sylvia.
For much of the pandemic, as the McCollows focused on Nido’s Backyard, they allowed other businesses, such as Pie Society, to use their kitchen. This led the couple to consider letting another person take care of cooking duties at Odin’s, eventually passing the reins to González, whom they got to know through events and his Cafe Con Pan and Tacos El Precioso pop-ups. . “We just saw how uplifting that was for someone who otherwise couldn’t get a permit and open a restaurant or bakery anytime, let alone during COVID, and thought, ‘Hey well, how can we let someone else shine? ” said Cory. The McCollows were busy in the backyard and rather than divide and conquer, they took a different direction. This turned into a conversation with González, and the couple felt that his food best matched the mezcaleria they had in mind.
Fans of little Nido might not recognize the restaurant; it got a facelift thanks to designer Jon de la Cruz, who outfitted the space in darker colors and added a shiny onyx bar to anchor the room and stand out from the dark interior. “John calls it mezcal church,” Cory says, and the description certainly fits, from the pews used as seats to the reception stand out front, to the wall of mezcals and tequilas behind the bar. Works by Oaxacan artists hang on the walls and tables are combined with superb wooden chairs in the shape of hands.
Great care has been taken to curate the bar program, which doesn’t offer much beyond mezcal and tequila – but goes deep into both options. There will be mezcal and tequila-based cocktails, but the McCollows tapped Hugo Gonzalez, who worked in the mezcal industry for several years, to create a collection of bottles perfect for flights and learning. spirit. Gonzalez has led backyard tastings, and the mezcal and tequila selection creates a fuller, richer bar — and one that sparks conversations about mezcal production itself. “Creators, their stories and the impact of what it means to support this creator versus this one, the curatorial aspect, there are so many layers,” says Sylvia. “Our hope is to be able to have events where we have speakers talking about the beautiful things about agave, but also the not-so-beautiful things, and having the space to have those conversations is really exciting for us.”
In the kitchen, Devin Gonzalez (no relation to Hugo) and his team Tacos El Precioso have created a menu that is 60% plant-based, but will go well with Odin’s drinks. “Essentially, we really showcase the best of California seasonality with Mexican influences,” Gonzalez says. The menu will rotate seasonally, with different types of tacos, salads, ceviches and desserts. “So you have the different flavors from the different distillations of mezcal, mixed with the high acidity, fatness, richness and brightness of all of our foods,” Gonzalez says.
For the opening menu, Gonzalez will offer dishes such as ceviche de champiñónes made with trumpet mushrooms, a smoked salmon tostada and two tacos, one made with morita sofrito and the other made with charred yam. Gonzalez also highlighted tabla de carne, a kind of meat board that will include carne seca — beef jerky rubbed with citrus fruits, chili peppers and sea salt, and dehydrated internally — as well as carnitas ríete, pickles and corn tostadas. There will also be a cheese platter, or tabla de Quesos Salazar, featuring cheesemaker Queso Salazar. This platter will include a fresco of queso marinated in salsa macha, quesillo, Oaxacan-style cheese, plus others including local honey, spiced almonds and pickles. The menu will also feature three types of desserts, including two vegan offerings, such as Budín de Chocolate, a dark chocolate pudding spiced with cinnamon, cayenne pepper and chili peppers, which Gonzalez calls a “mole-inspired pudding.”
Gonzalez has been running Tacos El Precioso for nearly five years, working as a pop-up and restaurant business, but never imagined he would run a real restaurant again. He recounted climbing the ranks of free dishes in exchange for cooking classes, working farmers’ markets, supper clubs and more. “What’s fascinating is that I’ve learned to never say never,” Gonzalez says. “I always said to myself, I never wanted to own a restaurant again, I never wanted to run a restaurant again…for me, I feel like it’s almost like coming home.
Odin (444 Oak Street, Oakland) debuts Friday, May 27 and will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.