Town Crier: Montclair Bistro’s closing heralds culinary tidal wave

MONTCLARION: August 15, 2014

In late July, I wrote about a culinary wave headed for Montclair. Make that a tidal wave.

Montclair Bistro is the latest restaurant to change hands in Montclair Village, with owner Henry Vortriede turning over the keys to husband-and-wife chefs Joe Schnell and Tracey Belock in early September. The Montclair couple met while working at the celebrated San Francisco restaurant Farallon, and they’ve been looking for a place of their own.
 The Montclair Bistro is tailor-made — with its Stolte-designed European architecture and proximity to the couples’ home of eight years — and Thornhill Elementary — where their three children will attend school in the fall.
It’ll be great. It’s going to be a family place,” Tracey says.
Joe adds that the name of the restaurant — Chowhaus — will reflect both the food and their German roots: “Tavern-style with a homey, casual feel.”
Along with the menu, big changes are planned for the interior of the storybook building that’s been a fixture in Montclair since 1948. Chowhaus will have an open kitchen, skylights to bring in more light and expanded indoor and outdoor bar areas. When remodeling is complete, sometime in late fall, Chowhaus will be open all day to serve specialty coffee and light breakfast, lunch, afternoon small bites and farm-to-table-style dinners.
Meanwhile, Montclair Village will miss Vortriede and his wife, Kathleen, who have given so much to the community over the past 10 years of Montclair Bistro’s operation. They’ll take some much-deserved time together and hopefully do some skiing this winter. I’m also betting Henry will be back in the kitchen — serving meals to his many devotees — in the not-too-distant future.
Foodie alert: Oakland celebrity chef Tanya Holland debuts her new Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook Sept. 9. She’ll also make her famous jerk baby back ribs as the featured chef at Sunset Magazine’s “Savor the Central Coast” event on Sept. 25-28. If you love good food and wine in a beautiful Central Coast setting, this is a place where you can try more than 200 wines and taste food from some 30 great chefs. Here’s the website:

Animal tales: Here’s a feel-good story about our own hills community — donating some $3,000 to help two neighbors find their missing dog.

Suzanne Estep and Melissa Sackett have been looking for Tucker since June 27, when fireworks scared him and he jumped his backyard fence. Faced with mounting bills for fliers, a dog tracker, two animal communicators and a phone service called Find Toto, they put out a plea on the fundraising site Go Fund Me.

“We’re really amazed and grateful for the community support,” Melissa says. “We’ve been getting calls from strangers saying they are out looking for Tucker.”

If you see this black Australian Kelpie with a white chest stripe and a bit of white under his chin, please call Suzanne and Melissa at 510-381-7282.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: