Branches Wood Fired Chop House, a newly-constructed, 10,500- square-foot destination restaurant, gourmet marketplace and pub from Executive Chef and Proprietor Munther Massarweh and Executive Pastry Chef Debbie Coenen, is set to open on Monday, November 8th, in the heart of Mendocino County and Northern California’s Wine Country at 1180 Airport Park Blvd. in Ukiah.
Specializing in American comfort food, fine meats and a range of house-baked breads and goodies, Branches houses a family-friendly Restaurant, traditional Irish Pub and Sports Bar, Butcher Shop and Bakery with generous portions, affordable prices and outstanding service. Guests may enjoy lunch or dinner seven days a week, stop by for a quick bite, enjoy all-day organic coffee and pastries to go or on-site, or take home everything from premium steaks and handmade pasta to homemade chocolate fudge sauce, wines, rotisserie items, sausage and other specialty foods.
“Opening a true destination restaurant in Ukiah is a dream many years in the making,” said Massarweh. “Our goal is to create the ideal one-stop-shop, a place to eat, drink, gather and celebrate for locals and visitors alike, and become a longtime partner with the local community.” For Massarweh, this project is the latest in a series of successful venues, including his popular Wildfox Restaurant in Novato, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The menu at Branches showcases Massarweh’s commitment to using the freshest ingredients available, and features produce from the plethora of local farmers in bountiful Mendocino County. The Butcher Shop will feature a farmer of the month, local wineries are featured on the wine list, and the restaurant will boast its own chefs’ garden, which will allow the culinary team to pluck herbs and vegetables for true farm-to-table freshness.
Just inside the main entrance of Branches, the Bakery offers delights such as cheese scones, lemon meringue cupcakes and fresh breads, alongside a counter dedicated to the art of coffee and espresso, with eight different roasts, including Chef Munther’s own signature blend. The traditional Butcher Shop offers only the finest, freshest cuts of meat and poultry available, with an emphasis on organic, hormone-free fare. Meat is cut-to-order for both restaurant and retail customers.
The Branches Restaurant lunch and dinner menus will offer a wide array of hearty appetizers, wood-roasted thin crust pizzas, soups, salads, homemade pastas, burgers, sandwiches and main entrees. Dinner guests have the additional option of ordering from a wide selection of hand-cut steaks and chops, which Chef Massarweh ages from 28 to 45 days. The meats are cut intentionally thick to avoid drying out during the cooking process and are seared over mesquite charcoal at nearly 1700 degrees to seal in the juices and produce the most flavor.
The cuisine reflects the Chef’s fondness for American comfort food, boasting appetizers such as the Philly Cheese Steak Spring Roll with prime rib, cheddar cheese, peppers, onions and housemade barbeque sauce ($7.50) or Munther’s Fire Cracker Ahi Tuna Roll, served with sesame soy noodle salad and wasabi mayonnaise ($13.50).
Six different wood-roasted thin crust pizzas, with a choice of a sourdough or organic wheat crust, are offered on the lunch or dinner menu, and include the simple Oven Dried Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil ($9) to the complex Filet Mignon pizza with roasted garlic spread, gorgonzola blue cheese, caramelized shallots and truffled mushrooms ($11.50).
French Onion Soup with fresh garlic and herb croutons and crispy Swiss cheese ($7.50) is one of several soups available daily, along with Smoked Wild Boar Chili with horseradish cream, cheddar cheese and diced onions ($4.50 cup/$6.50 bowl). Salads are amply portioned and include everything from the Classic Caesar with baby Romaine hearts, garlic croutons, Asiago cheese and Caesar dressing ($7 half/$9 full) to the Mesquite Grilled Salmon Cobb Salad with organic baby greens, blue cheese crumbles, cherry tomatoes, bacon, croutons, avocado, egg and homemade Italian herb dressing ($14.50).
The menu of homemade pasta lists hearty favorites such as Extreme Mac & Cheese Gratin with fire roasted Poblano chilies, aged white cheddar and crispy Asiago crust ($10.50), Portobello Mushroom Ravioli with English peas, bacon and light black truffle cream reduction ($11.50), or Angus Beef Rigatoni with caramelized onions, garlic, Crimini mushrooms and Stroganoff-style sauce ($12.50).
Lunch and dinner guests may also select from a range of entrees epitomizing American comfort food. Sample dishes, selected from a long list of standouts, include Mom’s One Pound Meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes, sautéed peas and pearl onions and red wine gravy ($14), Venison Osso Bucco with caramelized leek mashed potatoes, carrots and tart dried cherry demi glaze ($16) and Pan Roasted Hawaiian Walu with oven-dried tomato risotto, Maui onion and avocado salsa ($27).
At dinner guests are invited to order one of Branches’ signature, hand-cut steaks or chops, such as Rotisserie Roasted Prime Rib of Beef (10 oz. $22/14 oz. $29), Filet Mignon with Jack Daniels demi glaze (8 oz. $24/12 oz. $36), Aged New York Steak with cabernet butter (14 oz. $29) or Bone In Rib Eye with horseradish butter (34 oz. $39). All orders include a choice of two side dishes, from Buttermilk & Cheddar Cheese Corn Bread or Organic Wild Rice Pilaf to Cowboy Baked Beans or Maple Glazed Butternut Squash. All sides are available a la carte, as well ($2.50 to $5).
Executive Pastry Chef Debbie Coenen takes the helm at both the restaurant and in-house bakery, which will offer an array of delectable, fresh-baked goods such as peanut butter cupcakes, old-fashioned peanut brittle and chocolate sea salt shortbread. She describes the bakery as a “real homey neighborhood venue, with zero pretension. Think ‘chocolate croissant’ and not ‘pain au chocolat.’”
The bakery will also feature a front lobby window where visitors can peer in, “Willy Wonka” style, at all of the wonderful treats being baked – from mounds of biscotti and Italian nougat to plump, fresh-from- the-oven muffins. Coenen is also excited about using local produce such as the fresh pears for which Mendocino County is known, and the local organic walnuts she uses in her handmade butter walnut ice cream, one of the many flavors she’ll make for the restaurant and also sell by the pint in the bakery.
Chef Coenen’s plated dessert selection offers a tempting array of comfort-foods, including her signature Baked Alaska, with sour cream pound cake, housemade butterscotch ice cream, hot fudge and butterscotch sauces and toasted meringue, flamed table-side with Bacardi 151 rum (serves one for $9/two for $18).
Created in collaboration between Massarweh and restaurant interior designer Rod Rossi, the Restaurant itself offers visitors a warm, inviting dining environment. The large main dining room is divided into two sections, the larger of which has a cozy, lodge-like feel, featuring a soaring wood-beamed ceiling accented with rustic light fixtures. Seating for 105 comes via warm cherry wood tables and chairs and booth seating at each end of the room. The booths reflect the restaurant’s name, with a lyrical leaf pattern in the upholstery and fused glass divider panels with a branch motif. The color scheme of fabrics and carpets boasts rich tones of chocolate and beige, with accents of scarlet to represent the flames that flavor dishes emerging from the grill and pizza oven, both of which are visible to diners via the expansive open kitchen.
The Restaurant’s second dining room seats 64 and boasts a high vaulted timber ceiling, large-scale planters brimming with greenery and French doors opening into the main dining room. A huge stone fireplace along the west wall adds a rustic touch and will be used to roast succulent game meats such as wild boar for the signature Chefs’ Table experience, which may be enjoyed by up to 15 guests per night and includes a tailor-made menu by Massarweh.
In the restaurant’s bar natural tree branches arch towards the ceiling, creating a warm, forest-like
atmosphere that plays off the Restaurant’s name. The bar itself is convivial, with its classic American columns, beveled mirrors and wooden crown molding and an elevated settee and stools that invite conversation. The bar also offers a dramatic view into the restaurant’s impressive wine cellar, overseen by owner and keen oenophile Massarweh.
Also part of the new property is an Irish pub, created by Chef Massarweh’s wife, Deirdre Massarweh, which promises to keep Ukiah sports fans happy with flat screen TVs showing the latest games on 11 live sports feeds, including the NFL’s Sunday Ticket. The traditional pub decor features seating for 88 people, solid wood tables and bar stools, comfortable leather lounge chairs and an inviting corner stone fireplace. On the non-traditional front is the pub’s unique lighting, which includes chandeliers made using repurposed wine barrels and hand-blown glass made from green, recycled beer bottles.
BONUS!! As part of its commitment to the neighboring agricultural community, Branches not only supports local growers and farmers, but will charge no corkage fee for wines brought in by guests from Mendocino County wineries.
Branches Restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Bakery opens at 7 a.m. daily, and the Pub is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wi-fi Internet access is complimentary for all guests. For additional information please visit www.branchesrestaurant.com or call 707-468-5400.
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