After six months closed for a move and remodeling, The Way Back will reopen Tuesday, February 27 on Tennyson Street. This popular but hard-to-find Berkeley bar closed in August at its original home on West 38th Avenue. At the time, owners Chad Michael George, Kade Gianinetti, and Jared Schwartz said they sought a more visible storefront and full kitchen space. They found both in a former Irish pub, Paddy The Yank, at 3963 Tennyson Street.
Now located in the heart of Berkeley’s arts district, The Way Back 2.0 it seems will not be a copy of its previous self. To start, former chefs Samuel Charles and Marcus Eng are out (Charles has since moved to Iowa to start his own restaurant). In their place are chefs from New York’s Maialino, a Danny Meyer restaurant. The Way Back’s new head chef Jon Lavelle just spent seven years in the kitchen at the Roman trattoria in Gramercy Park. He brings with him Michael Calabro, who will serve as The Way Back’s new sous chef.
While Maialino is a pasta and wine staple in New York, Denver’s The Way Back will continue to focus on cocktails, led by George, and a globally inspired, locally sourced menu now under new direction. Lavelle plans to make seasonal vegetables and grain dishes, and he’ll always offer a few handmade pastas.
As for the new digs, Design Platform and Scout Interiors worked together on the buildout, which is a complete transformation of the all-wood and lamp-lit Irish pub before it. Now the walls are black, the tables are honey toned, and the booths are upholstered in hunter green microfiber. Light fixtures range from floral-patterned boxes to dangling bulbs covered in hanging plants. George has said he wanted the space to be more feminine than its predecessor.
For a team that started with a cult following at an out-of-the-way bar, this will be the third business expansion in about a year. They opened American Grind in Avanti last January and Wayward in Riverfront park this past August. An unused space next to Wayward has been transformed twice over the winter for Christmas- and Olympics-themed bar popups. Now whether or not the partners can keep their cachet will largely hinge on this re-opening of their original concept. Starting next week, The Way Back will open for happy hour and dinner Tuesday through Saturday starting at 4 p.m., with a weekend brunch forthcoming.