Everybody Let’s Eat!

Carmichael, CA   |  Story and photos by Jacqueline Fox
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The Patriot: Owner Chris Jarosz and the team at The Patriot are ready and already cooking.
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Dutch Bros: The team at Dutch Bros. keeps things brewing

Carmichael is Enjoying a Foodie Expansion

Carmichael, CA (MPG) - In case you haven’t noticed, Carmichael has slowly but steadily been expanding your options for food and drink over the last year or so, particularly along the Fair Oaks Boulevard corridor, welcoming in as many as half a dozen dining options, some in just the last few weeks, including the long-anticipated opening of The Patriot restaurant, which put one of the last puzzle pieces into place at the 46,000 square-foot Milagro Centre.

While The Patriot is serving only dinner at this point, the 6,000-square-foot restaurant’s owner, Chris Jarosz, said lunch and brunch options should be in full swing by late fall.  The Patriot features an open-air space with wooden sculptures, a wrap-around reclaimed wood bar, a specialty pizza kitchen, a private dining room and patio area.

“We have two kitchens and we are working out a menu for the smaller kitchen that can support the lunch crowd,” Jarosz said. 

The last puzzle piece at Milagro, by the way, also belongs to Jarosz.  He’s leased the remaining retail space at Milagro’s far west end and plans to open a grab-and-go restaurant sometime in the coming months that will offer lighter fare options, such as salads, sandwiches and small bites.

Noah’s Bagels has been operating since June of 2015 at Carmichael Village on Fair Oaks Boulevard and patiently warming up the scene for the complex’s newest tenant, Wing Stop, which opened its doors in July.  Right next door to Wing Stop construction is underway in preparation for the Village’s next and highly anticipated foodie tenant: Jamba Juice, originally set to open in August but, according to developers, currently navigating the county’s multi-faceted and somewhat complicated permitting process.  Not to fear. Jamba is set for opening by October 31.

“We are moving forward and Jamba Juice is coming in as planned, said Brooks Erickson of Carmichael Village, LLC.  “They have been at the county with their permits and going through several iterations, so I’m shifting toward Halloween for the opening.  But they are still on track and coming in.”

As of Sept. 1, there were two other open retail spaces left in the Village complex and, according to Erickson, one is being marketed to another food retailer, although he declined to say which one.  The other space is potentially being eyed by a medical-related service provider, he said, although indications are strong that it too could go to one more retail food outfit.

“Our objective would be for more food in at least one of those spaces,” Erickson said.  “If you look at retail tenancy the action is with retail food.  If you are a resident in Carmichael, you want service, you want food and you want choices and things to do. If we are going to see Carmichael go to the next level, it’s going to be more of the kinds of retail offerings that give locals and visitors alike offerings of experiential places.”

The Manzanita Place complex further east welcomed in Togo’s on New Year’s Eve of 2016. The franchise is owned by Terry Cornwell and family, a Carmichael native who already had a Togo’s store up-and-running in Davis. 

“The company wanted to open one more store in the region in 2016, so we made it in on that deadline and we have been busy since,” said Cornwell.  “We have people who come here almost every day. It’s just been amazing how popular it is. We are very happy to be here.”

Pizza Hut opened its doors right next door to Togo’s in June, and, although the store is a take-away operation only, it is doing brisk business.  Blocks away, six or so employees at Carmichael’s new Dutch Bros. Coffee on Fair Oaks Blvd., which opened its doors in March, are rockin’ out to high-decimal tunes inside the store, shaking smoothies and iced-coffee beverages for a line of cars in the drive-thru 10-deep at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

Further west in the 6700 block of Fair Oaks Blvd. is Wave Fish & Chips, which opened for business July 13.  Founder Daniel Dondov got his back-of-house training as a sushi chef at Blue Nami in Folsom.  He says he had an eye on a space inside the Milagro Centre, but as a first-time restauranteur, he decided on a lower-priced space in a strip mall nearby. 

Dondov scoped the Carmichael area with the thought of opening his own sushi restaurant, but realized the market was saturated with sushi.  Instead, he opted to do fresh fish entrees, and his menu includes traditional fried fresh cod fish and chips, fish tacos, fish burgers and grilled salmon, as well as a good selection of appetizers, including fried crab-stuffed mushrooms, brussel sprouts in a honey and sriracha sauce, a grilled cod fish and spring mix salad and a desert he calls “Dragon Delights,” which is fried banana splits with ice cream.

“Everything is fresh daily here,” says Dondov. “No one is doing fresh, daily fish here in Carmichael. There’s a lot of sushi but not fresh cooked fish meals, so I thought this would be a great addition to the area.”

The explosion of new food and drink retailers have come in as Carmichael enjoys the long-awaited completion of the first of two phases of the county’s roughly $8 million Fair Oaks Boulevard Corridor Plan, funded by a combination of Measure A dollars, developer fees and state and federal transportation funds. Street scape improvements, bike lanes, new tree-lined medians, signal and traffic intersection modifications to mitigate congestion are already in place after what felt like years of red cones and five-mile an hour traffic flow through much of the Fair Oaks Corridor. 

Phase two is set to begin sometime in 2018 and, in addition to more bike lanes, sidewalk and streetscape improvements, and signal and traffic flow modifications, will included a plan for replacement of overhead utilities with underground facilities.

“I think if you are new to Carmichael or have lived here for many years and call it home, you see how dramatically different things are along the Fair Oaks corridor,” said Linda Melody, executive director of the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce.

Also working to bolster existing businesses, as well as the new food retailers setting up shop, is the long-awaited implementation of two of the top objectives of the Carmichael Improvement District (CID): security and street maintenance. In July, CID board members signed management contracts with security and street cleaning service providers to address deep-seeded concerns by business owners about growing homeless encampments, crime and safety issues, as well as illegal dumping, graffiti and trash.  

There’s more good news, according to Melody.  The CID contracts, the expansion of retail food options and the completion of the first phase of the Fair Oaks Boulevard project are contributing to a drop in commercial retail vacancies across the area, which were as high as 23 percent in 2009, but now hovering at roughly 17 percent.  She adds that the celebration plans for Carmichael’s 108th birthday on September 30 will be particularly special, as a result.   

“We are all very excited to see all of these restaurants coming in because the vacancy rates have been so high for so long,” said Melody said.  “We want to see more food businesses and, with the improvements, we are showing other retailers that we are putting the money and the projects into place, which attracts more businesses to our area.  This is what we want here as we celebrate founders’ day. We are going to be 108 in September, so it’s very exciting time in Carmichael right now.”

The Patriot: Owner Chris Jarosz and the team at The Patriot are ready and already cooking.Dutch Bros: The team at Dutch Bros. keeps things brewingTogo’s: John Cornwell, son of the owner of the new franchise with his staff members at the new TogoWing Stop: The staff at Wing Stop are all smiles since their recent opening.Wave Fish and Chips: Owner Daniel Dondov