Canelé, the cozy restaurant that has defined Atwater Village's neighborhood dining scene for more than a decade, is closing. Chef and co-owner Corina Weibel will continue serving her rustic, market-driven California-French dishes until the end of March or early April, then will pack up her knife kit, as it were, and go.
Weibel, who cooked at Campanile and Lucques before opening Canelé with business partner Jane Choi in 2006, says rents are rising in the neighborhood and when her lease was up she decided it was time to move on.
"It's a changing business," said Weibel on a recent night from Canelé's equally cozy open kitchen, where she was shaping loaves of bread. "I want to recharge and regroup and figure out what the next thing is."
Corina Weibel is selling to two veterans of Gjelina, David Wilcox and Guy Tabibian, who plan to open the doors to their first restaurant in the space by this summer. The name of both that restaurant and the duo's larger farm and dining project is Journeymen, which Wilcox described as "very vegetable-driven, very progressive, very community-based."
Journeymen will open "as fast as possible, hopefully before summer," said Wilcox. "We'll put a coat of paint on it; I love that space," he said of Canelé.
"It'll be an anchor in this neighborhood," Weibel said of Journeymen, and if you're sensing a kind of mutual admiration society, you would not be wrong; both Weibel and Wilcox echoed each other's concerns that the restaurant remain a neighborhood-focused, locally owned, farmers market and farm-driven place.
After closing Canelé, Weibel will be heading to Switzerland — where she was once a commodities trader, of all things — as part of a much-needed, two-month vacation. It will be, unsurprisingly, a cook's vacation, and thus likely include cooking school in Italy and Ireland. In the time before Canelé closes ("for some reason I feel we'll be here until tax day"), Friends Cook, in which visiting chefs and other folks take over the kitchen on Tuesday nights, will continue.
Also continuing will be the plates of salt-roasted branzino and pissaladiere, as well as the basket of tiny canelés that is offered, like mignardises, upon your departure. Not a bad farewell.