Redwood Café in Oakdale has been open now for over a year and Lead Bartender Peter Papaioannou wants to save everyone a trip to San Francisco by serving up a craft cocktail like no other. The new restaurant, bar, and event venue is located at 160 N. Third Ave., in Oakdale offering a big city vibe without losing that small town charm.
The restaurant in Oakdale is a sister property with Redwood Café in Modesto, bringing a partnership between Bob Campana and John and Ann Maddox together to offer people in the 209 more delicious food and tasty cocktails.
For approximately 32 years, Papaioannou has been in the restaurant industry in a variety of positions from the back of the house to the front and all the way around. And one of his most favorite positions has always been bartender.
“My parents had restaurants all my life,” said Papaioannou. “I can remember when I was like 5, running around the coffee shop. They opened up a place in Antioch just as I started high school and I started off in the kitchen there and became the cook. I have been a banquet captain, head waiter, manager, owned my own taqueria at one point. I have done everything. I know the industry well in the front and back.”
He moved to San Francisco and got a job at John’s Grill and when he turned 21, he became the banquet bartender. That was his first taste of bartending and he has been enjoying it ever since.
“I like it,” expressed Papaioannou about bartending. “The bartenders have the best job because you interact with everybody. You are the face of the restaurant.”
With creative freedom at Redwood, Papaioannou has created secret cocktails utilizing his cooking background conceiving some exquisite libations like the Beach Cue. He created the vodka gimlet with muddled cucumbers and basil that was taste tested and approved by his wife. This customer favorite was a hit during the summer and still has patrons asking for it.
He noted, “I still have people come in and order it all the time. I always have those ingredients so it is always fresh. It is tasty and a little sneaky.”
Bourbon and Ryes continues to be a drink trend with establishments adding a little smoky flavor to some classics like the old fashioned. At Redwood they offer a few different old fashioneds including a smoky one with Dickel Rye whiskey, walnut bitters, and a grapefruit peel. They do a baked maple old fashioned with Four Roses Bourbon that is garnished with candied bacon. Yes, this drink comes with bacon and it is not a Bloody Mary. The flavor blend as you take a bite of the crisp, savory bacon and then a sip of the old fashioned is truly delightful.
The winter cocktail menu is out and it has some customer favorites like the Gin Bath, Twitterer, Flor de Amor, and 8 Seconds.
The Gin Bath is served in a giant wine glass with Grey Whale Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, grapefruit, Juniper berries, fresh cucumbers, and fresh rosemary.
Their twist on a margarita is the Flor de Amor that comes with Cimmaron Tequila, St. Germain Elderflower, fresh strawberry, agave nectar, and lime juice that is not only pretty but also tasty.
Paying homage to being in Oakdale, the Cowboy Capital of the World where bull riding is a favorite pastime, they offer guests an 8 Seconds Manhattan that is a ‘fan’ favorite served with Rittenhouse Rye, Rosso Vermouth, Meletti Amaro, and Australian Aromatic Bitters making this version smooth and yummy.
“Come here and try our cocktails,” remarked Papaioannou. “We make our own juice here. It makes the drinks smoother. No one really does this. They use fresh juice and this is one step ahead. It is acid balanced. If we don’t have it then we can probably make it.”
They host different events like the ‘Meet the Brewer’ held last month in the courtyard where guests met Matt with Oakdale’s Dying Breed and had some brews paired with some light bites. They also have wine tastings featuring certain varietals.
They are a full bar with a nice selection of wines, a few beers on tap and a number of craft cocktails. The bar is a large open space where they also serve the full menu. They are open Tuesday through Saturday at 4 p.m. and the kitchen opens at 5 p.m.
For more information, you can visit their new website, redwoodcafeoakdale.com.
“I think I learned a lot from a lot of people, cooks and everything that I just have 30 years of experience and I know what works and what I like and how to modify things,” Papaioannou summarized. “I try to make sure my drinks are balanced and tasty. It is a really fun environment.”