News

Tim Talk: Bringing great burgers to downtown Pleasanton

When Todd Utikal and his wife celebrated life milestones at Skip Hinsley's Girasole restaurant, he never imagined that years later they would be business partners in downtown Pleasanton's newest restaurant.

They are scheduled to open SideTrack Bar + Grill later this month and will be participating in the Pleasanton Downtown Association's Brew Crawl next Saturday (Oct. 27). It's a total rebuild of the former Joy restaurant at 30 West Angela St.

Skip operated Girasole for many years in the strip shopping center at Santa Rita Road and West Las Positas Boulevard. He also owned a catering business.

Todd and his wife went to Girasole on their first date and also went there the night they learned the gender of their first daughter. Todd said he knew of Skip through Rotary and other community activities, but they had never met.

When he planned to open a restaurant, he promised his wife he would find an experienced restaurateur as a partner. Todd reached out to Skip with a Facebook message as Skip was headed to his new home in Tucson. They talked, and, after a few half-day meetings, Todd convinced Skip, 72, to get back into the business.

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They started by nailing down the lease with landlord Larry McColm, who was trying to win city approval for a three-story building with two floors of apartments over the restaurant. McColm eventually abandoned those plans and moved ahead with the "remodel." While that was going on, Todd raised money from local investors and obtained a small business loan. By the time they open this month, they estimate about $1.5 million will have been invested in the building.

Both were educated in different fields -- Skip is a licensed lawyer and also holds an MBA from Dartmouth. Todd graduated with an accounting major. Instead of practicing accounting, he got into the cruise industry (he still has a small business booking tours for longtime clients) and became the youngest assistant cruise director for a major line. Skip joined "Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi" for a short-term project and 11 years later he was running four restaurants.

What they share is they love making people happy, and that's their bottom line at SideTrack. The name and theme are based on the former Trans-Continental Railroad line located next to the restaurant.

Their goal is a family-friendly establishment with great hamburgers where dad can get a craft brew or a cocktail and mom has a wide choice of wines. Working with Skip's longtime chef Bert Ortiz, they spent a couple of weeks taste-testing burger blends on a gas grill set up in Todd's backyard. The menu includes seven beef burgers plus a black bean veggie burger and a portobella mushroom burger.

In addition to the burgers, there will be a variety of small plates and entrees, including a few favorites from Girasole. That includes Scoozi, the garlic-laden cheese-stuffed buns as well as Absolut Prawns and Spinach for Veronica. It will reflect cultural diversity with dishes such as the Sonoran Street Taco Trio, Thai Chili Chicken Wings and Oaxaca Nachos.

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When they open, the menu will be the same for lunch and dinner. In addition to the burgers and entree salads, they will offer deli-style sandwiches including two corned beef sandwiches with beef procured from a small San Francisco firm. Located next to the Saturday Farmers' Market, they will expand into a weekend brunch and then broaden the dinner menu with prime rib and other hearty entrees.

The restaurant seats about 140 with 55 seats on the two patios, one facing West Angela and the other facing the parking lot. The patios are equipped with gas heaters, so they should be usable year-round. There will be a few big screens for the ball games, but they emphasize that this is not a sports bar. This month, they've been busy hiring staff -- some are familiar to Skip from his prior ventures.

Handling the chef duties will be Victor Escamilla, an Amador Valley High grad. He's started cooking in downtown Pleasanton and has worked at Piatti's in Danville, the Blackhawk Grille and the Pleasanton Hotel.

When the first customer is seated, it will mark the end of three years of work and 13 months of construction and the start of making people happy. Fittingly, an empty eyesore will be reborn as another downtown restaurant.

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at PleasantonWeekly.com.

Follow PleasantonWeekly.com and the Pleasanton Weekly on Twitter @pleasantonnews, Facebook and on Instagram @pleasantonweekly for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Tim Talk: Bringing great burgers to downtown Pleasanton

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 10:07 am

When Todd Utikal and his wife celebrated life milestones at Skip Hinsley's Girasole restaurant, he never imagined that years later they would be business partners in downtown Pleasanton's newest restaurant.

They are scheduled to open SideTrack Bar + Grill later this month and will be participating in the Pleasanton Downtown Association's Brew Crawl next Saturday (Oct. 27). It's a total rebuild of the former Joy restaurant at 30 West Angela St.

Skip operated Girasole for many years in the strip shopping center at Santa Rita Road and West Las Positas Boulevard. He also owned a catering business.

Todd and his wife went to Girasole on their first date and also went there the night they learned the gender of their first daughter. Todd said he knew of Skip through Rotary and other community activities, but they had never met.

When he planned to open a restaurant, he promised his wife he would find an experienced restaurateur as a partner. Todd reached out to Skip with a Facebook message as Skip was headed to his new home in Tucson. They talked, and, after a few half-day meetings, Todd convinced Skip, 72, to get back into the business.

They started by nailing down the lease with landlord Larry McColm, who was trying to win city approval for a three-story building with two floors of apartments over the restaurant. McColm eventually abandoned those plans and moved ahead with the "remodel." While that was going on, Todd raised money from local investors and obtained a small business loan. By the time they open this month, they estimate about $1.5 million will have been invested in the building.

Both were educated in different fields -- Skip is a licensed lawyer and also holds an MBA from Dartmouth. Todd graduated with an accounting major. Instead of practicing accounting, he got into the cruise industry (he still has a small business booking tours for longtime clients) and became the youngest assistant cruise director for a major line. Skip joined "Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi" for a short-term project and 11 years later he was running four restaurants.

What they share is they love making people happy, and that's their bottom line at SideTrack. The name and theme are based on the former Trans-Continental Railroad line located next to the restaurant.

Their goal is a family-friendly establishment with great hamburgers where dad can get a craft brew or a cocktail and mom has a wide choice of wines. Working with Skip's longtime chef Bert Ortiz, they spent a couple of weeks taste-testing burger blends on a gas grill set up in Todd's backyard. The menu includes seven beef burgers plus a black bean veggie burger and a portobella mushroom burger.

In addition to the burgers, there will be a variety of small plates and entrees, including a few favorites from Girasole. That includes Scoozi, the garlic-laden cheese-stuffed buns as well as Absolut Prawns and Spinach for Veronica. It will reflect cultural diversity with dishes such as the Sonoran Street Taco Trio, Thai Chili Chicken Wings and Oaxaca Nachos.

When they open, the menu will be the same for lunch and dinner. In addition to the burgers and entree salads, they will offer deli-style sandwiches including two corned beef sandwiches with beef procured from a small San Francisco firm. Located next to the Saturday Farmers' Market, they will expand into a weekend brunch and then broaden the dinner menu with prime rib and other hearty entrees.

The restaurant seats about 140 with 55 seats on the two patios, one facing West Angela and the other facing the parking lot. The patios are equipped with gas heaters, so they should be usable year-round. There will be a few big screens for the ball games, but they emphasize that this is not a sports bar. This month, they've been busy hiring staff -- some are familiar to Skip from his prior ventures.

Handling the chef duties will be Victor Escamilla, an Amador Valley High grad. He's started cooking in downtown Pleasanton and has worked at Piatti's in Danville, the Blackhawk Grille and the Pleasanton Hotel.

When the first customer is seated, it will mark the end of three years of work and 13 months of construction and the start of making people happy. Fittingly, an empty eyesore will be reborn as another downtown restaurant.

Comments

Bill
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 4:17 pm
Bill, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2018 at 4:17 pm
18 people like this

Congratulations Todd and Skip on this new and exciting adventure! And bringing back the Scoozi!
We needed one more watering hole downtown with cocktails and a friendly place you can bring the family. Best of Luck!
B.


nadiabreiz@gmail.com
Livermore
on Oct 18, 2018 at 4:27 pm
nadiabreiz@gmail.com, Livermore
on Oct 18, 2018 at 4:27 pm
1 person likes this

Congratulations, Skip! You've always been a hard worker and dedicated to your industry. I have no doubt this will be a success and can't wait to give it a try!


Dick
Golden Eagle
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:14 pm
Dick, Golden Eagle
on Oct 18, 2018 at 7:14 pm
Like this comment

Congratulations Todd and Skip looking forward to some great meals, this is very exciting, may the Force be with you.


Steve Conner
another community
on Oct 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm
Steve Conner, another community
on Oct 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm
3 people like this

Congratulations Todd!! Sachi and I wish you the best. We know you will be a smashing success.


Larry Annis
Vintage Hills
on Oct 19, 2018 at 9:29 am
Larry Annis, Vintage Hills
on Oct 19, 2018 at 9:29 am
3 people like this

Best of success to 2 guys who have always done things the right way!


Gary Dinman
San Ramon
on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:18 am
Gary Dinman, San Ramon
on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:18 am
1 person likes this

Hey Skip,

Good to have you back. Glad to see your Scozzi is coming back. If you also bring back your Chicken Gorgi all will be right with the world (<:


Joe Crosslin
Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:57 am
Joe Crosslin, Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 19, 2018 at 10:57 am
1 person likes this

Good luck on your restaurant, I'm looking forward to enjoying a corned beef sandwich.


Alice Jones
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2018 at 11:31 am
Alice Jones, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2018 at 11:31 am
Like this comment

Looking forward to the new restaurant!welcome back to Pleasanton, Skip!


Dave
Stoneridge
on Oct 19, 2018 at 11:35 am
Dave, Stoneridge
on Oct 19, 2018 at 11:35 am
2 people like this

Must have some Scozzi !


Sean
Dublin
on Oct 19, 2018 at 4:42 pm
Sean, Dublin
on Oct 19, 2018 at 4:42 pm
Like this comment

I remember first meeting Skip at the Dublin Frankie Johnnie & Luigi's grand opening, when he pulled up in his yellow Rolls Royce Corniche convertible, which was quite a grand entrance for the little town at the time:) Wishing for much success for the new endeavor!


Rob
Downtown
on Oct 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm
Rob, Downtown
on Oct 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm
Like this comment

YES! Scuzzi and Chicken Gorgi. We miss Girasole.


Jason Escamilla
San Ramon
on Oct 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm
Jason Escamilla, San Ramon
on Oct 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm
3 people like this

Can’t wait!! My mouth is already watering!!


Tobias Brink
Livermore
on Oct 20, 2018 at 3:29 pm
Tobias Brink, Livermore
on Oct 20, 2018 at 3:29 pm
Like this comment

Skip. Congrats. Guess you will need someone to harvest the Scoozi:)


Love SideTrack
Birdland
on Oct 21, 2018 at 12:47 pm
Love SideTrack, Birdland
on Oct 21, 2018 at 12:47 pm
3 people like this

Congratulations Todd and Skip! I am a mom, sure hope it's ok that I enjoy a beer there as well as the dads, hahaha.


Tracie
Parkside
on Oct 21, 2018 at 1:06 pm
Tracie , Parkside
on Oct 21, 2018 at 1:06 pm
Like this comment

Amazing job Utikals!! Can’t wait for opening! Congrats!


Robert Adam
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2018 at 11:24 am
Robert Adam, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2018 at 11:24 am
Like this comment

Fantastic!


Steve
Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 24, 2018 at 11:16 am
Steve, Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 24, 2018 at 11:16 am
Like this comment

Uptown on Main Street also just opened, with very good burgers and craft brews.


Michael Austin
Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 24, 2018 at 7:33 pm
Michael Austin, Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 24, 2018 at 7:33 pm
1 person likes this

I wish a German eatery would open in Pleasanton!
I have not had a tasty Krautburger in thirty years!


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