As the Tracy downtown area continues to rejuvenate, executive chef Kevin Fahey brings his personal creations to the lifelong dream of having his own restaurant with Bistro 135 located in the remodeled former Tracy Press Building on 10th Street.
Fahey, a graduate of the esteemed Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, just opened his restaurant in April and it already has been a hit to those seeking upscale dining in the city of 85,000.
Fahey told 209 Magazine that when he was in high school and fellow students were looking at going to colleges, he was seeking out culinary academies. After a tour in the US Air Force, he applied to, and was accepted by, Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. After graduation he was recruited by the distinguished Brix Restaurant in Napa where he spent a few years before moving to New Hampshire to assist a fellow culinary school graduate opening his own restaurant.
When he returned to the area after 18 months, he pursued his dream of his own establishment.
“It was a very fast, overnight idea to do this,” said Fahey, adding that a family friend told him of the Tracy Press Building renovation and its desire to house a “white tablecloth” restaurant.
“I put things together with some investors and got moving.”
Fahey wanted to take advantage of the building’s eminence in the city and to be part of the community, incorporating Old Tracy with the restaurant’s atmosphere. There’s an open kitchen and front bar that he said enhances the restaurant’s welcoming feel to patrons and the walls are adorned with historic photos of Tracy.
For his first venture, the San Joaquin County native created his own fluctuating menu that features family-taught recipes – that he credits his grandmother with teaching him – and has added a few of his own creations that he mastered over the years.
Fahey’s signature dishes include a bacon, jalapeño mac n’ cheese or spicy chicken tacos as appetizers and entrees of a red wine marinated skirt steak, butter squash gnocchi, or any of their pasta dishes.
“It’s good food people will know,” Fahey said. “You won’t have to go on Google to type in what it is when you read it off the menu.”
“If you eat pasta, it’s a good choice,” said restaurant general manager Heather Foley. “The pasta is fresh and rolled out new every day.”
The gnocchi is hand rolled and mixed with half butternut squash and potato to make it unique.
“Adding the smoked chicken creates a new dimension,” Foley said. “There’s the sweetness of candied almonds and squash combined with the flavor of the smoked chicken. It adds a lot of depth.”
Fahey said he can still remember his grandmother teaching him how to make pasta in the family kitchen when he was three years old. His grandmother had a large garden and lived on property with acres of fruit trees so freshness was always incorporated in her dishes.
“The only things we don’t scratch make is our French fries, ice cream, and bread,” Fahey said. “Even our ketchup, mustard, aioli, and vinaigrettes are made in-house.”
Bistro 135 features a strawberry salad with butter lettuce, almonds, shallots, feta and of course strawberries topped with a strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette.
“Strawberries are one of the best fruits grown around here,” said Fahey. “The salad features the strawberries in a number of different ways; sliced raw on top down to the vinaigrette.”
Fahey described all the selections on his menus as “simple but good.” Each item is made to order getting personal attention by Fahey as he prepares the fare.
“Simplicity is one of the hardest things to do,” Fahey said. “I learned to make something taste so good with very few ingredients, (it) isn’t easy.”
Bistro 135 also has a full bar including a selection of wines by the bottle or glass, in addition to a full range of cocktails, including a daily “Chef’s Choice” added with Fahey’s statement of “I’m a bourbon type of guy.” The bar also features eight rotating craft beers on tap.
“We like to feature what’s not around here or bring something new to the area.” Fahey said, pointing out current taps of Founders from Michigan and Rogue from Oregon.
“With eight taps we can use smaller kegs which allow us to rotate often,” Foley said.Bistro 135
135 W. 10th St.
Tracy, CA 95360
Monday-Thursday: 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.