A New Avenue: Ave on the Mile
by JAMIE MENAKER | Photos by MATTHEW JAMES
We usually try to give restaurants some time to get their feet on the ground and work out the kinks, so to speak, before we send our editors to dine at and review San Joaquin’s newest eateries. Open just a few short months, the buzz has been so loud for Stockton restaurant and lounge Ave on the Mile, we simply couldn’t wait any longer to get the scoop. Luckily, owner Kevin Hernandez felt the same way.
Located on Pacific Avenue, the opening of Ave is a welcome addition to the revitalization of the Miracle Mile, marked at its start by Stockton landmark University of the Pacific. For Hernandez, Ave is the culmination of years of travel to restaurants, clubs, and lounges in locations like Chicago, New York, Miami, and Las Vegas, drawing elements from each that he felt would work in Stockton. “I always thought, I would love to do something like this for Stockton. What would be a good fit?” After a childhood spent living only blocks from where the restaurant sits today, and a college education from Pacific, Hernandez knew the Miracle Mile was the spot.
“I always knew in the back of my mind,” he says. “I was raised on Sonoma Street, right off the Mile. Our generation and the kids coming to the Mile today don’t know what it was all about back then, how bustling and classy it was.”
So far, Ave has been just that: bustling and classy. Since the restaurant’s opening, the dining room and patio have been filled every evening with diners enjoying the new flavors and energy in Stockton. The menu caters to the recent trend of tapas-style dining, or small plates, and the flavors are inspired and unique. We love the ahi sashimi with ponzu oil, sesame seeds, and wontons. Another standout is the crostini plate of choose-your-own-topping baguette toasts—we chose the goat cheese with fig compote and honey; green apple with bacon and blue cheese; and bay shrimp with avocado and tomato. Be sure to also try Ave’s twist on a classic: capers added to a tomato, pesto, and mozzarella caprese salad. Dessert standouts include rum flambéed bananas served à la mode, and a rich chocolate brandy torte with berry and marshmallow garnishes.
Hernandez is quick to give the credit to his culinary staff, led by Executive Chef Nathan Kutch. “The whole kitchen as a team are young, vibrant, culinary creators,” he says. “I gave them the initial idea, and they’ve not only run with it, they’ve sprinted.”
Hernandez’s managerial team also deserves recognition for Ave’s success. “The three of us each bring our own talents to the table. Kurstie Sur has the accounting know-how, Jason Laurenti has the corporate restaurant and engineering background, and I’m the people person, all about the marketing and the ambiance. Jason drew up the interior of the restaurant, engineered where everything should go, and I literally took the colored pencils and started playing with color and design.”
The result is a chic space filled with natural hues: black leather couches, smooth mahogany wood and stone, white flowing curtains, and a cracked glass-top bar. Seating comes in the form of both indoor and outdoor bistro-style tables, bar stools, and couch seating. On the weekends, as the dining crowd is winding down, Ave transforms into an ultra lounge with New York loft-style music, anything from Sinatra to Beyonce, and optional bottle service, the perfect venue for celebrating a special occasion or hitting the town.
Hernandez is already taking Ave past the conventions of a typical eatery, hosting red carpet events and pairing up with local businesses. At Ave’s first major event, celebrating the release of the Sex and the City 2 movie, Hernandez invited friend Angela McShane to host a jewelry trunk show. The evening of our interview with Hernandez, he’s hosting an event for neighboring Bikram Yoga Stockton to celebrate their devoted yogis.
"Everyone in the community should take the credit for Ave, for their overwhelming support. New Pacific President Pamela Eibeck has said, 'This is our home, this is our little mile.' The business owners on the Mile have all come and shaken our hands. I've received a lot of thank yous, for believing in Stockton, for choosing this location. We're all here to support each other."
Ave on the Mile, 2333 N. Pacific Ave., Stockton, (209) 462-5AVE, www.aveonthemile.com