Iconic Birk’s Restaurant in Santa Clara, a classic steakhouse established in 1989, welcomed in 2017 under new ownership. It is reputed, especially in the hi-tech business community it is located in the midst of, for its mesquite-grilled steaks, chops and seafood and professional service in a brasserie atmosphere of wood-beamed ceilings, brass bar trim and white tablecloths.
“A lot of business deals are made here,” says Beverage Manager Juan Campos, with Birk’s since 2006. “We’re a classic American steakhouse. We focus on the best service in the area and our customers keep coming back.”
Executive Chef Javier Tovar, who started out at Birk’s as a dishwasher in 1990, says that 10 line cooks are kept busy every day serving lunch and dinner to almost 500 guests.
“Our regular customers come a couple times a week. They really enjoy to see the same employees. They know we’re cooking the food the same way. The quality is consistent,” says Tovar. He explains that the menu changes every six months but the signature side dishes of garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach infused with bacon are always on the menu.
“Whatever customers want, we do. Nothing is premade. Everything is fresh and from scratch,” says Tovar.
Campos explains that the cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks like lemonade are handcrafted, using fresh ingredients. For nine consecutive years, Birk’s received Wine Spectator’s Award of excellence for its wine list, which features Santa Cruz Mountain wines.
However, Birk’s is not resting on its 28-year reputation. With the change of ownership to Ali Azad, who purchased Birk’s midyear in 2016, came new energy and new eyes to augment the experience of established management and staff.
“Somebody new can come in and see what could be made even better,” says General Manager Robert Thomas, with Birk’s since 2004. “It was a great move and I’m glad they bought it. They’re foodies. They’re invested in the food and beverage industry, and Birk’s is the crown jewel of their collection.”
A first facility change was to remove an existing oyster bar to create a larger private dining room that can accommodate 50. This year, the patio will be enclosed for outdoor dining.
“You can have the most beautiful restaurant in town, but if you don’t have a loyal, dedicated, knowledgeable staff to run it, then all you have is an empty beautiful restaurant,” says Thomas. “Customers don’t come if there’s nobody here to give an outstanding dining experience, beginning with the hostess who greets them.”
Thomas explains that the entire staff receives ongoing training every Tuesday. Training focuses on etiquette and food and beverage knowledge. It includes working in the kitchen, cooking with the culinary team.
“I just fell in love with this place, the professionalism of the employees. Our servers are very educated about their job,” says Dining Room Manager Saeed Azad, son of the new owner. “They even go to oyster classes to learn how to explain them.”
“We’re all a team. We work together,” says hostess Nikole Dunie, with Birk’s for five months. “We work at the same pace and help each other out. This is the best place I’ve worked in.”
To draw local customers beyond the business community, on Friday night through Sunday night, Birk’s offers three-course Americana menus that include salad, entrée and dessert, with no menu priced over $50. Also, the corkage fee is waived on weekends for customers who prefer to bring their own wine.
“It’s not all about making money all the time. It’s about taking care of our guests,” says Thomas. “If anyone hasn’t tried us out, I’d love for them to come in and ask for me.”
“I feel so blessed to be part of the Birk’s family. We’re excited–me, my father and the new management team,” says Azad. “We want to make sure the quality of service and food gets even better. I’m stoked and excited for the future.”
Birk’s Restaurant, 3955 Freedom Circle, just off Great America Parkway in Santa Clara, is open every night for dinner and for lunch Monday through Friday. For information and reservations, visit www.birksrestaurant.com or call (408) 980-6400.