Acclaimed Bay Area chef Moniz, community leader Senum to open taqueria in Nevada City


From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Two years ago this month, we wrote exclusively that a bakery and brewery called Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. was in the works on lower Commercial Street in Nevada City, helping to create a hip food-lovers hangout near its farmers market. Three Forks just celebrated its first anniversary, and now Wheyward Girl Creamery, Nevada County’s first commercial cheese maker, has opened next door.

Now an authentic Mexican taqueria featuring fresh, local ingredients is going to open in the former location of Pete’s Pizza at 239 Commercial Street in front of the Boardwalk, our magazine has learned. The new restaurant is a partnership of former Nevada City Mayor and community leader Reinette Senum and well-known Bay Area chef and restaurateur Jason Moniz, whose culinary resume includes opening-day chef at well-respected restaurants such as Flora in Oakland, and Tres Agaves and Locavore in San Francisco, Plank at Oakland’s Jack London Square and Barbacoa and Table24 in Orinda.

It’s a small culinary world too: Moniz is the son of Barbara Jenness, an award-winning cheese maker who co-owns Wheyward Girl Creamery with Roberta DesBouillons.

In an interview this weekend, Senum confirmed that she and Moniz had struck a deal with the building’s owner, plan to raise $20,000 in local loans for remodeling and improvements (a plan that worked for Three Forks), and she expects the restaurant to open in October. Jason’s spouse Amber Justis is a marketing executive at famed ad agency BBDO in San Francisco, and the group is brainstorming on details for the taqueria including a name, decor and the like.

The new restaurant will add further vibrancy to lower Commercial Street. Senum has been instrumental as a founder of the Nevada City Farmers Market and the Commerical Street Boardwalk, a hub for the popular First Friday Art Walk. She also is a founder of the Nevada City Farm-to-Table Banquet. We’re glad to see her becoming a business owner in a corner of town that she has helped shape.

Just up the street are other popular Nevada City restaurants, including Matteo’s Public, Friar Tuck’s, Ike’s Quarter Cafe, Sopa Thai and the New Moon Cafe, as well as Treats’ artisan ice cream..

Nevada City’s “food, wine and art” revival

The new restaurant also comes as Nevada City is experiencing a food, wine and art revival: the Spring Street neighborhood is emerging as an arts district, including a new KVMR building and FoxHound Espresso, as we reported in our magazine; local artist LeeAnn Brook is opening an art gallery on Spring Street, joining DANK at the Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center; and a swank cocktail lounge called “Golden Era” is planned for the old Cirino’s building on Broad Street. It will open this fall.

Moniz has been cooking in the Bay Area since the mid-’90s and opened numerous successful restaurants. Though he has opened award-winning high-end restaurants, Mexican food is a passion, and he has traveled extensively in Mexico on culinary journeys.

In Diablo magazine, Moniz described Barbacoa: “A lot of tacos, very simply done, al pastor, onions, cilantro, maybe a little queso, but very simple, very straightforward, like what you would get in Mexico. But what we’re also trying to do is bring some of that Northern California sensibility to it, using higher quality product, a little more seasonal.” The menu at Barbacoa, named one of the Bay Area’s 10 best taco joints, is here.

Fresh Mexican comfort food

The cuisine at the taqueria planned for Nevada City will be similar: Mexican comfort food. All of the items will be reasonably priced — around $10 and under for a meal.

The ingredients, including tomatoes and other veggies, will come from local farms whenever possible. Menu items might include tacos (al pastor or marinated pork, tinga or shredded beef, pollo adobado, camarones, vegetarian), burritos (tinga, pollo adobado, camarones, ranchero), soup de aztec (chicken and red chile soup, topped with cilantro, avocado and tortillas), fresh salads, grilled corn, guacamole, and churros for dessert. Wheyward Girl could make cheese for the restaurant, such as ricotta.

The restaurant also will feature live music. And it will offer “gratitude bowls” like Matteo’s, and place an emphasis on treating workers’ well, a growing trend among successful restaurants.

Chef Moniz and his mother Barbara Jenness’ participation in adding vibrancy to the local food scene reminds us of the period decades ago, when San Francisco artists such as Charles Woods and David Osborn and others relocated to town, invigorating the arts.  They transformed the Miner’s Foundry and helped launch KVMR 89.5FM Community Radio. We are grateful for Reinette’s volunteerism in town and wish her the best of luck in this new venture.

(Photos: Jason Moniz by Diablo magazine; Reinette Senum by Beverly LaFae; street tacos by Barbacoa)

The full article is here.

Jeff Pelline

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

37 thoughts on “Acclaimed Bay Area chef Moniz, community leader Senum to open taqueria in Nevada City”

  1. This article has generated more than 170 “likes” and dozens of comments on Facebook. It will be the “jumping off” point for some interesting features in our magazine’s fall issue. Jason and his mom, Barbara, are real “food” pros, and Reinette has a well-established track record of execution (starting with the Nevada City Farmers Market). The “story behind this story” is that I pulled Reinette aside before the farm-to-table banquet and joked that I was going to be a “life coach.” My advice was for her to channel her talents and energies into entrepreneurism rather than just volunteerism (where I believe she “gives” more than she “gets,” including some undeserved grief). She laughed and the conversation about the taqueria (in the building right behind where we were sitting) began. Another real “lesson” is this story is the benefits of “family” in helping to add vibrancy to our small towns — in this case the mother and son team of Jason (a well-regarded chef and restaurateur from S.F./Oakland) and Barbara (an award-winning cheese maker). There is nothing like “word of mouth” to help grow your community.

    1. In an earlier iteration Nevada City Eats (a Lowell Robinson family creation) had been a burrito bar. I ate there once. When I went to school at Cal in the ’80s, there was a taqueria on each block, not to mention the Mission district. Bring it on! Bring on another S.F. chef. Tyler Florence? Gary Danko? … How about some authentic Nisenan tacos? I think Todd Juvinall would rather have a Dickey’s BBQ, however. He liked the brisket and free “swirl” ice cream machine. LOL.

      1. The people who are taking over Nevada City Eats are very well established in the area. They have a place in South County and have had for a number of years. Their reputation for well prepared and tasty Mexican food is very well known. So let the battle begin !

      2. Speaking of BBQ and “Indians” – Bam Dazy, next to the Indian motorcyle dealer in Auburn, does some decent BBQ.

  2. Well, I don’t think it has to be a “battle.” Perhaps we could have my former colleague Michael Bauer of The Chronicle (who is the restaurant critic) come up and review the Eats’ joint. Michael already has given high praise to Jason’s culinary talents at his various restaurants. And Michael is not easy to please.

    1. We do not need a SF food critic to tell what is good or bad in food. Our residents of Nevada County are the the true judge of the food and have been since I moved here some 30 years ago. Having help start Posh Nosh, I really know who the critics are in this area and it is not some food critic from the Bay Area.

      1. Niel,
        Michael Bauer is the “salt of the earth.” His dad was a butcher in Chicago. Wonderful guy. Watch the video. Thank goodness for the SF people, going back to David Osborn and Charles Woods, who helped revitalize our area. Peter Selaya and I reminisce about how he worked alongside his dad at the same Redwood City steakhouse where I went for my high school prom. Peter has a picture of his dad at the steakhouse in the New Moon. The real problem seems to be the “not invented here” mindset of some long timers, who forget that their own roots are from elsewhere. Or those who carry a personality grudge against people, like the “Hatfields and McCoys.” There’s a bit of a “living in the past” mindset too. I’m pleased that an accomplished chef such as Jason and his wife want to “invest” in our community, just like his mom. And I hope the Mexican food at Nevada City Eats is better the second time around!

  3. Hey Jeff,
    The food will be better. They will have 3 restaurants when this one opens in Nevada City after some remodeling being done in the Union Street facility.

      1. We look forward to checking it out. BTW, when we drop our magazines in downtown Roseville (Blue Line Arts, Monk’s Cellar, etc. ), we like this place (along with our local ones “on the hill”):
        Didn’t know Carmelitas had won a KCRA award, but it’s “old-school” authentic Mexican. Glad that Mexican cuisine is returning to NC, along with all the other good places.

  4. I’m reading some of the comments on Todd Juvinall’s blog about this, including his own, and wondering if his repulsive behavior is “nature” or “nurture.” It must be revolting to call yourself a “longtime local,” knowing you’re in the same subset as Todd.

    1. Oh no. Todd has run another photo of me on his blog under the headline “Is this a FUE sighting”? “A wide path was required for the alleged FUE’s trip(s) to the dinner table.” That marks three photos in the past year or so. He’s obviously obsessed. George Rebane has done the same thing. Commentators on Todd’s blog regularly refer to a Nevada City community leader as “horse face.” Todd proclaims to be a regular at Twin Cities Church. I’m going to email his blog to Pastor Ron Thompson to review this week and ask him if the church condones this kind of aberrant behavior — or how it tries to “help” them. It’s also not hard to imagine why Todd has had some matrimonial problems.

      1. “I had a nice dose of Twin Cities Church this morning,” Todd has written on Rebane’s blog. Let’s see how Pastor Ron responds when he gets a “nice dose” of Sierra Dragon’s Breathe (sic). Intervention could be at hand! LOL.

  5. And Todd drives all the way to Roseville to buy his gas:
    “Gasoline $2.58 in Roseville today.
    Posted by: Todd Juvinall | 23 August 2015 at 08:57 PM”

    1. Someone ought to tell Todd that you can buy gas for less in Yuba City, not Roseville, assuming you want to drive all the way down there to “save” money. LOL.

  6. Congrats and good luck to Reinette! I’m curious, though, why you omitted Friar Tuck’s in your “up the street” reference. It looks like a deliberate omission.

  7. I don’t tend to think of it as much, I guess. I added it for you. They have a good wine list and Manhattans.

  8. The Union has a front page article about the “other” taqueria opening but no mention of hers. Jason Moniz is an acclaimed S.F. chef. The pettiness of small towns, including The Union, is a hoot! Of course, that’s what keeps us small.

    1. Oh come on Jeff ! You know why The Union did not mention the “other” taqueria. Who mentioned it first ? 🙂

      1. Not bad for Jeff, he has more influence on what is printed inThe Union then a member of their board. Kudos !

      2. This article got far more mileage on social media, including NC peeps, than in The Union. Hundreds of “likes,” dozens of “shares” and dozens of “comments.” It was amazing! Also social media is good demographics for a taqueria; just ask an outfit like Chipolte. As for The Union, one of its longtime readers, Todd Juvinall, is asking: “What is carnitas?” on his blog. With readers like that, the “other” taqueria can’t hope for much from its “Union coverage.” We are in the midst of major media “disruption” in our community. The “taco wars” showed that in spades.

  9. BTW, Mike Sherman and Todd Juvinall make a cute pair on Todd’s blog. Their pining for Jeff Ackerman’s return can be heard throughout town. Nope. New world order. ROFLOL.

    1. Instead of hurling illiterate insults on Todd’s blog, Mike and Todd need to hop in Mike’s RV and go help their friend Jeff A. ASAP! Here’s what a longtime Roseburg, Ore., local “Tweeted” to the community last week. Perhaps Mike and Todd can grab some Taco Bell on the way out of town. “The internet is changing how we communicate”:

      Jared Castle ‏@JaredCastle Aug 19
      There’s a bonafide
      #4thEstate bully
      with a bully pulpit:

      Jared Castle ‏@JaredCastle Aug 19
      “I’ve offended a lot of people…I hope to offend many more before I’m done.” #JeffAckerman @romenesko

      Jared Castle ‏@JaredCastle Aug 19
      More you learn about #JeffAckerman the less you’ll like @romenesko @ormark @SteveDuin @otherev @IDS_Sowell

      1. Now I’m “purple hippo boy” on Todd’s blog. A local community leader is “horse face.” Our son is 13 years old, and even he would find this absurd. Hard to believe that Todd Juvinall was a county supervisor. Glad to see the community moving forward. God knows, there was plenty of upside. LOL.

  10. Tres Agave in San Francisco was / is awesome. Lived and worked 1 block from that place and you really needed to be careful with the rest of your evening if you had more than two margaritas. What a great addition to the community. Excited to try it.

  11. Here’s an insight into Mike Sheraman’s views. Mike and Todd are good friends, and both are friends of Jeff Ackerman, the former publisher of The Union whose extreme views are now being exposed at another sister newspaper of Swift. Here’s Mike on Todd’s blog:

    Mike ShermanAugust 25, 2015 at 7:41 PM
    Can I add a my tirade against Nobama? A homosexual football player gets drafted into the NFL, kisses his partner on national TV, and gets a phone call from the President of the United States of America, gushing over how brave he is. Has our President contacted the three Americans that saved dozens from certain death on the French train? His silence speaks volumes. Sorta makes ya want to throw up.


    In fact, Obama called these brave people, as the WSJ reports:

    Mike Sherman is another example of a local longtime ignorant. And he draws $31K a year in public pensions for 20 years of service to the County of Nevada. Lucky us!

      1. Mike and Todd represent a real negative and polarizing segment of our community. They were friends with the former Union publisher, Jeff A., who has since been “transferred” to another small Swift newspaper. Now this group is smaller. But the smaller it gets, the louder it shouts. Thankfully, people are shouting back. What an embarrassment they are to our community.

    1. As a follow-up, sure it’s OK for Mike to draw a generous public pension, according to Transparent California. But it’s rather hypocritical for Mike to then go out and rip on generous public pensions/”big, liberal” government. Wouldn’t a more gracious tone suffice? Like “I earned it but thanks.” It’s not OK for Todd to be delinquent in his property taxes. And it’s hypocritical to be delinquent in your property taxes and rip on “big” government. Don’t we all have to pay our “fair share”? This little band of hard-right political activists in our community lack “self awareness” and is a real drag on the community. Nowadays they are egged on by a fool called “fish,” who actually is David Larsen of Carmichael, whose extreme views are expressed here:
      I hope the FBI is reading Todd’s blog, not just Pastor Ron and Dr. Phil. LOL.

  12. I couldn’t figure out why Pete’s Pizza was closing in Nevada City until I read the article in “The Onion”. I knew that they were doing at least a “decent” business but didn’t realize it was due to the problems on the boardwalk or more specifically the peeps hanging out on it. I get that we are celebrating a new restaurant but shouldn’t we be also mourning the loss of a good one too?

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