As part of its new face lift, mega five-and-dimer J. J. Newberry has contracted with Tavola Calda Diner to run its Santa Monica snack bar. The diner will have the look and feel of a five-and-dime-store snack bar complete with neon lights and juke boxes. But in addition to the standard dime-store food (hamburgers and hot dogs and egg salad sandwiches), the menu is being updated to include pizza, pasta and vegetarian dishes, along with espresso, cappuccino, beer and wine. The diner is scheduled to open in June.
RUTH'S CRISP STEAK HOUSE?: The popular Beverly Hills branch of the 120-seat Ruth's Chris Steak House has closed because of a fire. Owner Paul Fleming says he expects to reopen his steak house soon, but not necessarily at the same location. He is also currently negotiating for another branch in Palm Springs.
ON THE HORIZON: Rock star Mick Fleetwood has yet to reopen his West Hollywood blues and supper club, Fleetwood's. It opened briefly in February and closed after a few weeks. The reason: No liquor license. It seems blues music doesn't go down as easily in a dry room. Fleetwood and his partners had hoped to reopen in mid-May, but are now hoping for a mid-to-late June date. . . .
Meanwhile, restaurant designer Pat Kuleto and restaurateur Bill McCormick plan a mid-July opening for their first-ever joint project, McCormick & Kuleto's, on the site of the old Maxwell's Plum in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square. Kuleto is responsible for the look of the Red Car Grill and Carnegie Deli in Los Angeles, and San Francisco's Fog City Diner, Postrio and Splendido's. McCormick and his restaurant group, known for their fish, own several places in the Pacific Northwest and two McCormick & Schmick's, in Irvine and San Diego. According to Kuleto, "The restaurant will have the look of what the Port Captain's Office looked like in the 1920s--a place with wonderful food, a warm inviting atmosphere, a place that will make people feel great. Every seat in the house will have a spectacular view." The 300-seat restaurant will offer 36 kinds of fresh fish daily plus a Crab Cake Lounge serving such things as seafood pizzas, chowders, crab cakes.
CHANGES: Pastry chef David Berg (formerly with Citrus and L'Orangerie) is now in charge of desserts at Fleur de Vin in Pasadena. . . . Swiss-born Jacob Stark, who specializes in kosher, classic French, Italian and California cuisines, has been named executive chef at the Oaks on the Plaza at Pasadena's Doubletree Hotel.