How do you celebrate 10 years of restaurant operations after making it through a recession that showed so many businesses no mercy?
If you’re chef Wes Kendrick, you give back.
Kendrick, whose off-Strip Table 34 restaurant didn’t go for the common strategy of scrimping to cut corners as a means to survive, focused on quality during the tough times. The strategy paid off with customer loyalty and a bundle of positive reviews on Zagat, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Kendrick was recognized by Best Chefs America two straight years.
The notoriety persuaded him and his sister, Laurie, the general manager of the restaurant, to assemble a 10th anniversary prix fixe menu of three courses, selling for $39. The restaurant is donating $5 of each check to charitable causes in Southern Nevada. In June, proceeds are going to Opportunity Village. In future months, the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Three Square Food Bank will be assisted.
The three-course menu includes a variety of soups and salads, and entree choices include layered eggplant with peppers, mushrooms, squash, provolone and marinara; linguini with chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a garlic cream sauce; lobster macaroni and cheese with fusilloni, asparagus and white cheddar; seared Scottish salmon with cauliflower puree and lemon-dill butter; a grilled pork chop with chipotle potato puree, asparagus and hard-cider glaze; baby back pork ribs with sweet molasses glaze, Cajun fries and slaw; and seared sea scallops with sauteed spinach, potato puree and orange glaze. The third course is a wide-open dessert menu.
Table 34’s 10-year anniversary almost didn’t come to be.
Kendrick was happily settled in Redlands, Calif., where he learned his trade from experienced chefs.
“It’s the kind of industry that I just sort of fell into,” he said. “It’s really the only work I’ve ever done seriously and I got started right out of high school, learning from the best chefs I could find in the area.”
He learned from an elite catering chef who took him under his wing and became an executive chef at 24 at Joe Greensleeves in Southern California.
Eventually, he moved to Las Vegas in 1999 to help open the Wild Sage Cafe at the Warm Springs Road location that is now home to Table 34. At the time, his sister was working with Wolfgang Puck, opening Spago but when he got the opportunity to open his own place, he jumped at it.
Eventually, the corporation holding Wild Sage was dissolved, but landlords of the office complex convinced him that his type of restaurant was exactly what the area needed.
“I was just about to take a job at Mandalay Bay,” Kendrick said. “But I thought about it and decided to give this a try.”
Kendrick and his sister named it Table 34, for a table at the back end of the 200-seat restaurant.
Now, Kendrick has no regrets.
“It’s challenging, but we’ve been very fortunate,” Kendrick said. “The community has supported us very well. The people of Las Vegas are really incredible. They’ve been fond of us and we’ve been fond of them. Ten years later, here we are.”
Kendrick acknowledged the recession years were the toughest.
“We had some lean times, I’m not going to lie,” Kendrick said. “As with any business, things got a little thin for a long time. We focused on quality and consistency. We just said the markets and the economy aren’t going to determine what we’re going to do here and if that doesn’t work, we knew in our hearts that we did everything we could.”
Today, the Table 34 staff consists of about 20 employees spread over afternoon and evening shifts, six days a week. The restaurant serves lunch, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to closing.
Kendrick considers Table 34 to be an American cafe but admits to French and Italian influences.
Kendrick specializes in a variety of meat choices — high-end steaks, seafood and wild game. But he’s also changing that up with the introduction of a new vegan menu.
“I play around with a lot of cool items from time to time,” Kendrick said. “We’ve actually got a great response whenever we’ve had frog’s legs. People are just amazed that there’s still a place that does frog’s legs.”
The restaurant has a steady lunch crowd from nearby office buildings.
“We’re practically the lunch room for Aristocrat (Technologies) and Nevada State Bank,” Kendrick said. “Their executives come over often or we serve their clients and guests.”
The lunch menu includes a number of entree salads, homemade pizzas and pastas and burgers, catering to the businessman on the go.
“As much as possible, I do just about everything from scratch here,” he said.
Kendrick has a new product he recently introduced — homemade pickles. He’s now making and marketing Sweet Patty’s Pickles, named for his wife.
The restaurant also has a loyal customers that come into town twice or three times a year that make their way off the Strip for a meal.
“We’ve got this wonderful German family that comes in twice a year,” he said. “They found out about us through Best Chefs America.”
Best Chefs is a 3-year-old peer-nominated honor so the selections holds a special place for him.
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.