Running a restaurant can be very similar to working on a movie set, observes producer Gale Anne Hurd, who opened Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Town Pasadena six years ago.
After years in the film biz, the Pasadena resident decided to open a restaurant because she wanted “a place I felt comfortable hanging out.”
With Vertical, a stylish wine bar, lounge and restaurant housed upstairs in a historic 1906 brick building, she was aiming for the feel of a neighborhood restaurant in New York or San Francisco.
The movie parallels are unmistakable to Hurd, who functions pretty much as the exec producer of the restaurant, but is better known for shepherding movies such as “Terminator” and “Aliens,” and AMC’s hit zombie skein, “The Walking Dead.” “The chef is like the director, the general manager is the line producer.” Like a film crew, the staff has to be very nimble, and like making a movie, the perception is that it’s glamorous but actually it’s very long hours, stressful and hot.
Executive chef Laurent Quenioux, who recently owned Bistro LQ on Beverly Boulevard, is known for breaking cuisine boundaries with exotic ingredients, but at Vertical, he concentrates on accessible fare like a popular bison burger and grilled cheese nights that benefit from his deep cheese knowledge. Since Pasadena is sometimes pegged as unsophisticated, “I have to respond to what the community is interested in,” Hurd says.
But the 400-strong wine list is both deep and easy to sample, with 70 wines available by the glass. “I really do enjoy the opportunity to try different varietals,” says Hurd, who also developed a taste for single malt whiskies during a recent trip to Scotland.
It’s not easy for restaurants in the current economic climate, so Hurd makes sure the restaurant offers value for diners such as happy hour prices all day Sundays and Quenioux’s take on a traditional Sunday fried chicken dinner with Southern trimmings. Coming up is an Oktoberfest menu with different kinds of bratwurst, including a vegetarian sausage.
“Vegetarian food doesn’t have to be an afterthought,” says Hurd, who makes sure vegetarians can find plenty of options at her bistro.