Unicorn restauranteur bringing “Propaganda” gastropub to Emeryville/Oakland Border
Scarlet City Espresso, Commonwealth Micropub and Basic Cafe have all opened up along Adeline Street in the last year. The latest addition to Adeline’s evolving “Restaurant Row” will be by SF’s Unicorn proprietor Kiet Truong. Truong has leased the City Storage corner space at 40th & Adeline with the idea of opening a Gastropub concept named “Propaganda” (hopefully some good news to offset the recently announced loss of Bucci’s Italian restaurant).
Truong opened Unicorn in Berkeley in 2001 (closed in 2007 and reopened in SF) but since has focused on projects in S.F. including Region and Co Nam. For this project he’s decided to return to the East Bay. Truong first looked to Oakland but his familiarity with Emeryville led him to this space. “This whole area is changing. Ten, fifteen years ago it was not the same. I noticed the bike lanes and that’s a good sign that there’s more than just vehicle traffic”. The City Storage space was recently renovated the craftsmanship including original brick and rustic accents are admirable. Included in the renovation was ground floor retail which was a mandatory inclusion as part of Emeryville’s General Plan Guidelines.
Kiet Truong poses in front of the City Storage corner space that he has leased for his latest gastropub project called “Propaganda”.
Most of Truong’s projects have centered around Asian flavors but for Propaganda, he wants to deviate from this and he’s envisioning more California-esque Cuisine. “I want to break away from Asian cuisine for this project but there’s always going to be asian flavors in California Cuisine. California is fusion after all. I’m looking for something simpler for this project. More comfort food and high-end Bar-Bites”. Truong has recruited Executive Chef Andy Nguyen to develop the concept, menu and cocktails for Propaganda. Nguyen has not worked out the details of the menu but Truong teased ideas like a creme brûlée french toast, mac & cheese and gourmet sliders. The less than 1000 square foot space will have a full bar and hopes to have as many at 30 local beers on tap if he can fit them in.
Having a much sought after liquor license Truong explains, is necessary to sustain a business in an increasingly challenging economic climate for restaurants (and one that will distinguish it from nearby Commonwealth that only serve beer & wine). When asked about whether he has any reservations about opening in Emeryville in light of its implementation of the highest minimum wage ordinance in the nation, Truong conceded that he’ll have to operate with a thinner staff to make Propaganda viable. “It’s going to be tougher for bigger restaurants when you have like twenty employees, balancing part-time and full-time staff, hosts, bus boys, dishwashers, multiple managers … we have a small space so I think we’ll be able to make it work.”
Truong conceded that the days of being a passive restaurant operator are over and working 15 hour days are the new norm. In addition to doing operations, owners will have to step in to oversee maintenance, answer phone calls, sweep … filling in wherever possible. Truong noted that the tip-less model is a tough sell if you’re trying to attract top waiting staff who generally dislike it since it means less money in their pocket. Regardless, we’ll have to wait and see what the long-term impacts of the MWO are and which restaurant models will prove sustainable over the long haul.
Propaganda will open with Dinner and Lunch service and are also considering adding weekend brunch. “We want to be available for the neighborhood and plan to open for weekend brunch if the neighborhood can support it. The interior of Propaganda will accommodate 30-35 people and their elevated patio should seat an additional 15 or so. The plumbing at the space is complete and ready for inspection and electrical and signage approval are in the works. If the permitting process goes without too many hiccups, Truong hopes to have Propaganda open this year.