Bixby Knolls—like other parts of the city, especially Belmont Shore—has been facing an uphill battle when it comes to harnessing new restaurant concepts allowing staples to evolve with the times.
Much loved Levantine food hub Baba Ghanouj—from George Mitri, the man who introduced Long Beach to food from his home country of Lebanon—closed with an abrupt announcement and little clarification after serving the neighborhood for a decade. On the flip side, much newer spaces also didn’t last: Pow Wow Pizza, Maurice Yim’s fusion pizza spot that attracted fans from L.A. to East Long Beach, announced their closure on a Sunday and shut its doors within a week. Tokyo Guild, the Japanese-centric space from Chef Takashi Sada that was originally intended to be a ramen joint amid a saturation of ramen, didn’t even last a year before closing up shop.
Amid the choas, Bjoern Risse, the man behind Bixby Knolls’ popular gastropub Rasselbock, sees an opportunity.
“We moved here four years ago and we love this neighborhood,” Risse said. “There’s people walking, the schools are great, the community is great. But as far food goes, we know what we’re missing. We have great ramen [at HiroNori], great Mexican [at Lola’s], great pizza [at Dutch’s], but we really don’t have great, modern Californian cuisine.”
In that analysis, Risse is spot-on. While many have speculated why great businesses have shuttered, Bixby Knolls is a neighborhood vulnerable to quick saturation if too many similar concepts move in. By the time Tokyo Guild opened, the neighborhood already had three other ramen spaces—and despite the change of name from Ramen Guild to Tokyo Guild, an exhausted patronage stayed away.
This is precisely where Risse wants to build Wood & Salt.
“I’ve had this concept for a long while but frankly, haven’t seen the space it would be appropriate at,” Risse said. “Once Tokyo Guild closed, I thought, ‘Now is my time.’ The space is great, the location is great.”
Risse plans on sticking to the basics given the restaurant’s name. He is constructing an ultra-high-temp wood-fire oven that he’ll use to base most of the protein dishes around, including a few vegan options, cutting that, Risse said, with homemade pastas and “a really heavy amount of shared plates.”
With an 18-seat patio and the currently-in-the-works bid to get a full liquor license, Wood & Salt will be part bistro, part cocktail space, and very streamlined.
“It’s something Bixby Knolls wants and it’s something they need,” Risse said. “Hopefully I can give that to them.”
Risse expects the space to open between May and June of this year.
Wood & Salt will be located at 4262 Atlantic Ave.
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