Names and jobs: Earl Olson, general manager; Shaun King, former chef
What they said then:
In January 2010, The Tribune featured Mo/Tav — the new identity assumed by Mother’s Tavern restaurant and bar in San Luis Obispo.
Established in 1994, it was taken over in 2009 by Ash Management, a local company that owns other downtown properties. Then-chef Shaun King and the team began developing a new concept and menu.
“San Luis has never had a burger brasserie,” said King, “so I said, ‘Let’s be the ultimate burger place.’ We get the Angus beef from Hearst Ranch.”
The restaurant also began using free-range chicken and turkey, along with a variety of locally produced ingredients.
What they say now:
The new Mo/Tav concept is drawing diners — local and tourists — from all ages, general manager Earl Olson said.
“It continues to grow,” Olson said. “It’s a broad-based clientele. It’s pretty much all over the board, which is what we’re going for.”
He declined to offer specific sales figures, but said 2010 was up from the year before. So far, 2011 revenues are even higher.
King left soon after the new format and menu were completed. Mo/Tav’s kitchen has been run by Chef George Spratt for the past 10 months.
The restaurant and bar employ 46 people, mostly part time.
King now cooks at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, where he enjoys serving celebrities and at private wine events.
“When your heart’s in fine dining, it’s hard to cook hamburgers all day long,” said King, who once worked with Chef Rick Moonen at RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Still, King’s upbeat about the changes at Mo/Tav.
“Mother’s Tavern needed to be reinvented a bit,” he said. “People realized it was a great night spot, but it didn’t really have an identity as a restaurant. If your demographic wants hamburgers, that’s what you should give them.”
The menu before consisted of mostly higher-priced entrées made from a “hodgepodge of ingredients” that were largely prepackaged.
Now most of its menu items are less than $12, Olson said.
The lower prices may have helped it boost sales at a time when many more expensive restaurants saw a drop in dining.
Mo/Tav’s downstairs retains much of its original look, including its signature woodworking. But the upstairs was reorganized to create a lounge area in place of sit-down dining.
There it offers bottle service for large groups, Olson said, a service that has attracted students, young professionals and even bachelor and bachelorette parties.
— Raven J. Railey