Kyle Anderson, executive chef/owner and Rose Grabow, general manager of Slow./Photos: Sarah Henry.
Kyle Anderson, executive chef/owner, and Rose Grabow, general manager, of Slow. Photos: Sarah Henry

Kyle Anderson opened his first restaurant, Slow, nine months ago. The skinny slip of an eatery resides in an emerging food corridor on University Avenue, home to Chocolatier Blue, eVe Restaurant, OctoberFeast Bakery and New Amsterdam Coffeeshop. (Anderson is an alum of acclaimed eatery Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, as are the owners of eVe, and Christopher Blue, who owns the gourmet chocolate shop next door.)

While Anderson comes from a fine-dining culinary background, the food he serves at Slow is simple, rustic comfort fare, albeit with high-quality, mostly organic, ingredients and thoughtful taste pairings like free-range chicken salad with golden raisin, toasted almond, and sorrel, or potato salad with radish, apple, caraway seed and whole grain mustard vinaigrette. All made from scratch and dished up fast at affordable prices.

He draws on culinary techniques from his high-end restaurant days. He’s not averse to seasoning with salt. And he’s a slave to flavor: balancing acidity and sweetness in the kitchen, he says, is key to good cooking. Slow has quickly developed a loyal lunch-time following (including this writer and a certain city councilmember who can be spotted there regularly). Lines out the door are the norm and some local office workers come in every day for the same order. Dinner service is catching on too, albeit more, well, slowly.

The restaurant features an open kitchen, but the face of the place is Anderson’s partner in work and life, Rose Grabow, who hails from Omaha, as does the chef. The two live within a couple of blocks of Slow.  I caught up with Anderson, 28, earlier this week before the restaurant opened to see how his “baby” is doing.

How’s business?

We’ve been busy since we opened our doors. To date we’ve done the bulk of our business at lunch. We’re hoping that dinner picks up once our liquor license is approved and more people know about our patio out back, which is at its best when the weather is warm and the roses are in bloom.

The winter was slow, and went on longer than I expected — March was something — and things got a little tense then. As a new restaurant owner you get a bit on edge when the slow season lasts longer than expected. People here seem to hibernate during the rainy season. But now the weather has come good we’ve bounced back and are doing even better than we were before the weather was bad.

What do you like about living and working here?

The access to and affordability of excellent produce; we source most of our fruits and vegetables from Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market. I like the climate [last March excepted] and the outdoors, so when I get time off I enjoy going up to Tilden Park or out to the ocean.

Berkeley has a reputation as a food town. Given that, any surprises on that front?

A couple: restaurants seem to be afraid to use salt; I notice a distinct lack of seasoning in some of the places we’ve eaten in. As for customers, we came here anticipating a certain level of sophistication around food, and people are certainly up to speed on the local, seasonal, organic end of things. But every day we’re asked to explain culinary terms, such as crudité or confit, which we’re willing to do, I just wasn’t expecting that.

Have you run into any cultural differences in California?

People here want to know your business, both at work and personally. We’re not used to that since we’re from Nebraska. It can feel a bit aggressive. But we’ve gotten used to it and are finding it easier to open up and share our story. Customers here certainly have opinions and aren’t afraid to express them. We have a diverse crowd walking through the door, which I like. We also see the unexpected on a regular basis: this week we had a table of six deaf people for dinner. It keeps things interesting.

Any challenges?

I’m realizing I can’t please everyone. I change up the menu every three months or so. If I change it more often, people complain that something they ate recently is no longer available. But some people would like to see us mix it up more. So it’s a question of striking a balance. I can’t take the Caprese off the menu, for instance, because it’s our most popular sandwich. (Since you ask, vine-ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella, baby arugula and truffle aioli on Acme wheat levain.)

Where have you eaten around town that you’ve enjoyed?

Kirala — the sushi bar is so fresh and the atmosphere is great. Café Rouge for charcuterie; we’re big charcuterie fans. Sea Salt does a good Dungeness Crab Cake Benedict at brunch and a trout BLT.

What are you cooking up next?

We’re looking for a space where we could open up a dining room and have a fully equipped kitchen where we prepped all the food for a few, smaller restaurants, like the one we have now. We’d like to have a franchise, and we’re interested in a location where we can attract college students. We think our price point is good for that crowd. I’d also like to try some different things at dinner: I’m thinking small plates, a pig roast, or a clam bake. I want to introduce a bit more science to the evening service without scaring anyone off.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

Related:
New restaurant Slow opens in emerging foodie ghetto [08.12.10]
Berkeley Bites: Christopher and Veronica Laramie, eVe Restaurant [07.16.10]

Join the Conversation

54 Comments

  1. This place is the best- consistently terrific food at amazingly reasonable prices, and despite their name, served quick enough for someone with lunch time constraints.  To sit out in the rose garden eating their delectable goodness. It doesn’t get any better.  Thanks Slow!

  2. Because of you, I’m going to complain to SLOW that they have too many vegan dishes and should go back to the original.

  3. A restaurant has a right to make whatever dishes it wants.  The market will determine its success.

  4. People like Vlad give vegans a bad name.  Being vegan is a dietary choice, and one that greatly limits your options.  Most vegans understand that they put themselves in that position, and appreciate any restaurant that will offer vegan options or modify their offerings to accommodate their diet choice.  But some vegans seem to think that their dietary choice is the only right choice and that the world owes them something for their commitment to boring food.  Move to a third world country and try pushing your elitist vegan nonsense on them.  You will either starve to death or discover that most people survive by eating every possible part of an animal.  Meanwhile, the rest of us will eat at Slow and enjoy the hell out of that pulled pork sandwich. 

  5. I am generally turned off by ALL comments, but I have to say your rant was AWESOME and a breath of fresh air! If only it would fit on a bumper sticker….. 😉 

  6. I love this restaurant! It opened near one of the offices I work out of and I have been their regularly for the past few months. Not only is the food excellent, but the staff is super friendly and the outdoor seating in the back is great on a sunny day. I agree that they have limited vegan options, but they have great vegetarian options and since there are so many other vegan friendly options in the neighborhood, I say they shouldn’t feel they need to please everyone.

    Keep making great food, and thanks!

  7. Folks, I was out of wi-fi range this weekend, and thus unable to monitor the comments coming in on my Friday food post, as I usually do. I thank Tracey for reminding people to keep a civil tone and stay on topic. I’ve written more than 60 of these food profiles to date and while I enjoy a lively comment thread as much as anyone, I would like to encourage people to really think through what they write before they press the post button.

    Personal attacks (of the people profiled or the folks who chime in below) do a disservice to all of us. Likewise, straying from the subject matter at hand. Catching errors, constructive criticism, differences of opinion — all good.
    Rudeness, bullying, unkindness — not so much, peeps. Let’s keep the unwanted playground behavior off the site.

  8. Axel, no pass allowed, though you’re kind to offer one. My goof: I was thinking of Anderson’s stint in Chicago when I posed that question, which I will now fix, so I don’t look like an ignorant Australian. I do indeed know that Nebraska is not the mid-West.

  9. Axel, no pass allowed, though you’re kind to offer one. My goof: I was thinking of Anderson’s stint in Chicago when I posed that question, which I will now fix, so I don’t look like an ignorant Australian. I do indeed know that Nebraska is not the mid-West.

  10. Good lord, what obliviousness. No it is not discrimination, it is a legitimate business choice.  No one goes around complaining that Cafe Gratitude is discriminating against meat eaters, do they?  And why would they?

    I have vegan family members, so it’s not like I don’t get it.  But there are many restaurants here for vegans.  This may not be one.  Nor is the Mc’D’s across the street.  Or the Brazilian restaurant up the street. So what? There are many kinds of food in the world, and not all are vegan.

    If you want more vegan restaurants, then open one instead of carping about the business decision someone else makes with their time and their money. 

    I’m done with this topic now.

  11. If it was illegal for a restaurant to not offer sufficient vegan options, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Popeye’s, Long John Silver’s, Jack in the Box, and virtually every other fast food restaurant on Planet Earth would have been shut down by now.

  12. Not serving vegan food is a form of discrimination, not only against a minority group, but particularly against those with specific medical conditions (ie severe food allergies).  I have to do some research, but this would likely actually be a case for ADA reasonable accommodations.  In other words, this isn’t only a matter of just bad PR – it’s a matter of illegal discrimination.

    I actually have never looked into the ADA under the allergy issue until today but cursory research seems to confirm my initial thoughts — severe allergies are apparently considered disabilities under the ADA. 

    Now that makes this all quite interesting.

  13. You making a fool of yourself on the internet doesn’t create a “mess” for SLOW at all.
    If anything your misguided comments here have generated far more interest in this story and this business than it otherwise would have gotten.

  14. I wouldn’t say it’s a mess at all.  I don’t think any of this is a negative for them in any way.  I plan on going to check them out based on this article.  

    I truly don’t think it matters if they serve vegan food or not, or if they do from time to time but not always.  Not every restaurant will.  Some restaurants don’t serve any meat – including one of my faves, the estimable Udupi Palace.  People don’t go around complaining that the Udupi doesn’t serve meat.  It does what it does very well.  It’s tasty.  Those who want meat can go elsewhere.  If Slow doesn’t have vegan food and one likes vegan food, one can go elsewhere.  It’s not like Berkeley is exactly a food wasteland for vegans.

  15. Absolutely – they have the right to do so.  Those actions however will have consequences — in this case what could have been great PR for them has successfully been turned into a mess.  Welcome to the real world. 

    By the way, I have noted that they have apparently adjusted their menu, which is fabulous.  Sounds like they are learning from their early mistakes, which is great!

  16. It appears that their menu has indeed been adjusted.  When I stopped at the restaurant awhile back, I was explicitly told that they had nothing available.  It is absolutely their right as an independently owned business to do as they wish – but their decisions will of course have consequences. 

    Obviously I could have re-checked their menu before posting here.  I salute them for doing the right thing in this case!

  17. Any business can sell whatever it likes – there is no obligation to offer everything for everyone. My parents don’t eat meat or dairy (but they are macrobiotic and do eat fish).  When they visit Berkeley there are many, many, many places they can eat and some they cannot.  Big deal – this city still offers tons of choice for the vegan or macrobiotic.  Not every restaurant has to offer every kind of food.

    If you want something different, eat elsewhere or open your own restaurant.

  18. “Success” for people like Vlad is ignoring real problems while driving small, forward-thinking companies out of business because it’s “easy.”

    Thank God/Allah/Buddha that there aren’t more people like him in the world, and that his self-righteous shrieking is so much of a turn-off that he’ll never be able to actually get any followers for his bizarrely misguided cause.

  19. Because change on small scale is easy.  It may not be fair, but it’s effective to focus on easy targets that can drive easy results.  Low hanging fruit in other words. 

  20. Because change on small scale is easy.  It may not be fair, but it’s effective to focus on easy targets that can drive easy results.  Low hanging fruit in other words. 

  21. I’ve been rather attached to Slow since it opened last year. There are plenty of non-meat items on the menu. I’ve lived here since 1955. Vegan issues aside, this is one of the best restaurants to open in Berkeley that I can remember. The sandwiches, soups, deserts, and dinner items are absolutely superb and it didn’t take long to realize that Slow would become a success. Among other things, its another example of the “Trader Joe’s Effect” that has introduced new businesses in our neighborhood that thrive, in spite of retail sluggishness in other areas. Its all about quality, price, and a genuine spirit to deliver something special that everyone can enjoy.

  22.  Do a little Google sleuthing on him and you’ll find out that this is a pattern of behavior for him that goes all the way back to when he was a teenager.

  23. One person writing totally inaccurate comments and attacking a small local business ≠ consumer protest.

    Why not direct your ire at any one of the dozens of mega-companies that are actually doing evil in the world instead of harassing small business owners like Rose & Kyle?

  24. And now your actions have motivated me to buy lunch at Slow every chance I get and tell my friends to do the same.

  25. Let’s simmer down people! I know it’s Friday and people are probably feeling demob happy, but can we stick to the subject of this story rather than lay into one commenter? Please? Thank you!

  26. I didn’t actually think that was possible years ago.  My hypothesis? his real name is George and he has a roommate named Vladislav that he hates.  So he’s on here making inane statements to smear him.

  27. You look like a total jackass.  Not a single person agrees with you. The downside to you being allowed to speak freely is that you look like an imbecile. How does it feel to look so stupid?

  28. Re:

    or face PR messes like this one.  This is the power we have as consumers in this marketplace, right

    No.

  29. That’s not the point.  The whole fuss I’m raising is over the fact that restaurants should have non-animal options on their menu, consistently – or face PR messes like this one.  This is the power we have as consumers in this marketplace, right?

  30. Sure no place is perfect.  However it’s hard to deny the slightly overly-religious tone omni present through many parts of this country.  There is a reason why you cannot find organic healthy food in much of this nation outside the boundaries of the western states. 

  31. When I came in a few weeks ago I was explicitly told that they had nothing vegan available.  They may have changed their menu since, but in a place like Berkeley, that is simply unacceptable.  It’s important to send a powerful message to restaurant owners that failing to provide animal-free options is going to cause noise, LOTS of noise – that you won’t appreciate. 

  32.  Sure!  Actions have consequences – if a restaurant fails to offer vegan/organic/healthy options, customers have the right to post negative reviews about them.  It’s how the market place works — nothing more powerful than consumer protests like this 😉

  33.  “backwards-assed midwest” . ..  I was born in South Dakota, grew up in Chicago from age three weeks old, college in Wisconsin, law school in Minnesota, early short marriage in Nebraska where I practiced law for a few years, then back to MN . . . . .and now I have been on the west coast about ten years, five in California.

    I never met as many backwards-assed ignorant fools in the many Midwestern states I have lived in as I have met since moving to allegedly liberal, hipster Berkeley.  I am steadily amazed by the moronic Californians that assume everyone ‘in the Midwest’ is behind everyone here in hippie, hipster, liberal Berkeley, or, for that matter, the whole bay area.  The whole bay area seems to think they are ahead of everyone everywhere. . . but Caifornians voted for the governator, voted to make gay marriage unconstitutional in CA, enacted Proposition 13 which has choked education and all kinds of public amenities in CA.  When I first moved to CA about five years ago, I was shocked by how shabby most public facilities are:   you backwards-assed liberals let your public facilities become decrepit while you maintain property tax standards that tax properties at the same rates as at the time Prop 13 was passed and multi-millionaires buy and sell massive amounts of real estate in carefully structured deals that, sickeningly, allow the millionaires to keep the lower tax-base and these rich people still partake of all the local public infrastructure without paying their fair share. That’s what you get in backwards-assed hippie Caifornia.

    What kind of ignorant, bckwards-assed Berkeleyite thinks all restaurants have to cater to all allergies?  Huh?  Where I come from, the heartland of america, they still have freedom and constitutional rights and restaurant owners actually can — get ready for this crazy midwestern concept — run the businesses they want to run.

    Growing up in Chicago mostly in the sixties, I went to a farmers market with my dad every Sunday after church. Raising my child in Minneapolis in the eighties and nineties, I went to the Minneapolis farmers market every Sunday. Guess what Berkeley hipsters?  You did not invent farmers markets. I think farmers markets have been around ever since farmers grew more food than they needed to eat themselves  .  . .  so they went to the farmers’ market to sell their stuff.

    And Alice Waters did not invent fine dining. California is one of the breadbaskets of the world, yes, but guess what? So is the Midwest.  I note that Strauss Dairy was the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi   . guess where the first organic dairy in this country was?!! The Midwest. Guess where the first organic farms were? the Midwest.

    Prince is from Minneapolis. The Coen Brothers, filmmakers for those who don’t know, are from Minneapolis. Paul Wellstone, the only U.S. Senator, at the time, to vote against the Iraq war represented Minnesota.  Hubert Humphrey. Walter Mondale. The first rape crisis center in the world?   Minnesota. The first feminist bookstore in the world?  Minneapolis.  Oprah has been based in Chicago most of her career.  I think our current president of the USA considers himself a Chicagoan     . . it’s all coming back to me now . . . and thinking of Obama living near the U. of Chicago reminds me that the U. of Chicago has won more Nobel Prizes than any other university in this country and it is is the backwards-assed Midwest.

    I am so sick of lame-o, backwards-assed Californians dissing ‘the flyer states’, ignorantly assuming everyone in the Midwest is a red-neck conservative. I am reminded of a racist comment my liberal, life-long Democrat father used to say when one of us six kids said something really stupid:  Man, you sure are generous, you are just giving your ignorance away.

    There are backwards-assed people everywhere.

  34.  We love this place and try to go whenever we can.  We appreciate the simply prepared, delicious food that we can watch them prepare and then take to the back and enjoy next to the roses.  Thank you Rose, Kyle and the other person we see in the kitchen!  You’ve added a lovely space to downtown Berkeley.  And affordable, too.

  35.  Great piece. I didn’t realize Slow had such a pretty back patio (love the roses!)–will definitely stop in next time I’m in the neighborhood.

  36. And why the hell can’t I get a steak at Cafe Gratitude?  That place sucks…they should cater to the needs of their clients.

  37. Not every restaurant has to be vegan or even vegetarian. You have the freedom to choose to eating vegan or vegetarian. The restaurant owner and chef has the freedom to serve foods they want to serve. Don’t like a particular restaurant? Then go choose another. You really aren’t the center of the universe here.

  38. There are vegan items on both the lunch and dinner menus, in addition to several other items that could easily be made vegan if you simply asked them to hold the cheese.

    Why on earth would you choose to lie about something like this when it’s so easy to check and see if what you’re saying is true?

  39. I just looked at the lunch and dinner menus on their web site, and it looks like they have some vegan options to me, barring any unlisted ingredients.

    Please try not to make the rest of us vegans looks so whiney and demanding.

  40. “backwards-assed midwest” makes you sound as ignorant as a Grand Wizard of the Klan. I’m sure if you ask, they will give you vegan options. 

  41. They’ve got some great ideas, but why the heck is their menu entirely incompatible with a vegan diet?  This is Berkeley, not freaking Nebraska — and their inability to cater to the dietary needs of their clients makes them look slightly obtuse.   This kind of ignorance to people’s allergies would have been fine in backwards-assed midwest, but out here? Seriously?