HAYWARD

You won't find a white tablecloth at downtown's new French restaurant when it opens Saturday. Bijou Restaurant and Bar is not that kind of place.

The kitchen certainly will serve the type of stuff that usually goes with such an accessory, with Parisian chef Christian Nam-Hee doling out dishes such as pan-seared foie gras and porkchop a l'orange. Make no mistake, it's definitely an upscale joint.

But owner Benjamin Young made it clear: No white tablecloths.

"They're too stiff," he said. "There's a stiffness that often goes along with fine dining, and there's a time and a place for that. But we're avoiding it here."

Young paid special attention to the design of the dark wood tables to make sure they were "nice enough" to eschew the need for cloth covering, and set them in cozy booths or flanked them with leather-padded chairs.

It's all part of a vision for Bijou to be a classy yet comfortable spot that people will return to week after week for French food with a California "fresh and local" aesthetic, at "very accessible" prices, Young said.

The restaurant is at 1036 B St., across the street from a nearly completed theater complex.

Young picked the location after scouting a couple of other potential sites, all in Hayward.

"It just seemed like the right place," he said. "I felt that there was a real desire to have something like this in Hayward."


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Young and co-owner Philip Chan are joined in their excitement by city officials, who are confident the restaurant will help rejuvenate downtown.

"With that combination of the theater and Bijou coming in, I've been getting a lot more phone calls, mostly from restaurant-focused businesses," project manager Gloria Ortega said. "People are going to be coming down for the theater, and looking for a place to go before and after the movies."

The site neighboring Buffalo Bill's Brew Pub is considered a key location, and Young agreed that with that kind of high visibility, it should serve as a catalyst to more investment in the area.

"If we do well, we will definitely spark interest for other restaurants to open," he said. "Restaurants, even more than retail, bring people downtown."

Young said College Avenue in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood serves as an example of that.

"Nothing but restaurants up and down the block," he said. "You need retail, don't get me wrong. But restaurants are what will get people to go out and see what else is around."

Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at ekurhi@bayareanewsgroup.com.