MANKAS CORNER — It’s been a busy month at rural Mankas Corner in Suisun Valley as workers ready the Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse for its opening Saturday.
“We wanted something Fairfield has not had yet, a higher-end restaurant and steakhouse,” building owner Frank Vezer said as he sat at a table inside the new venture, wine glass in hand.
He described the restaurant as a combination of the Rutherford Grill, Cole’s Chop House and Hurley’s in the Napa Valley.
“It’s not going to be pretentious,” Vezer said. “It’s wine country attire. Sports coats are nice, but they’re not required.”
The space before January was occupied by Vintage Caffe at Mankas Corner. The Vezer family leased the space to that restaurant. When Vintage Caffe closed, the Vezers didn’t want to leave the building empty.
“We wanted to take it in the direction and vision we have,” Vezer said.
And Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse was born. It will have a different look than its predecessor, with such touches as Madagascar wood, slate autumn rose stone and black walnut trim.
Frank Vezer’s wife, Liz Vezer, did the interior decorating, with Castle Rock Construction of Suisun City overseeing the renovations and other local contractors contributing. Frank Vezer said the remodeling will cost about $350,000.
Kevin Johnson is putting together the restaurant operations. Johnson in November 2011 left his post with the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield, where he served as general manager since the hotel opened in 2002.
Johnson said in November that he needed to do something different, though at the time he had no plans. Something different turned out to be working on the Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse venture.
He’s wanted to put together a steakhouse for 30 years, Johnson said.
“I decided it’s now or never,” he said. “I finally had the opportunity and time to make it happen.”
The chef is David Pajarillo, who previously worked at Aqua in Las Vegas and Four Seasons in San Francisco.
Solano County’s General Plan calls for making Suisun Valley an attraction for tourists who will go there to visit wineries and produce stands. Among the strategies is to have certain hubs with restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and other ventures, with Mankas Corner one of the hubs.
The Vezers own several buildings at Mankas Corner. They have a gift shop and deli at the old Pony Express stop, along with wine tasting. Frank Vezer said a goal has been to preserve and enhance the history of Mankas Corner.
He talks enthusiastically about Suisun Valley, which he called “one of the last gems of California.”
The Vezers bought their Suisun Valley ranch in 2000. They run the Vezer Family Vineyard and Blue Victorian winery. A walk of about five miles — one Frank and Liz Vezer will take on a sunny morning — takes them from their ranch home to their various Suisun Valley business ventures.
The Mankas Tapas & Steakhouse adds one more place for them to stop as they make their rounds.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected]