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By Elena Kadvany

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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as online editor. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in journalism. Though my...  (More)

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Forest on First, a farm-to-table 'play' cafe, is on its way to Los Altos

Uploaded: Jan 17, 2014
Forest on First is every parents' fantasy.

At this incoming Los Altos café, parents can nosh on dishes like dutch pancakes with blueberries and housemade butter, seared Brussel sprouts salad with mustard lemon vinaigrette or a herb-rubbed skirt steak sandwich – all organic, locally sourced and made from scratch by an accomplished chef, of course – while their children play within sight in a custom-made "treehouse" play structure made out of hand-crafted redwood and eucalyptus.

Thanks to Mary and Brian Heffernan, Los Altos residents who also own a similar restaurant down the street called Bumble, this fantasy will become a reality on Feb. 12.

"I opened Bumble two-and-a-half years ago, looking for a place where we could serve higher-end farm-to-table food without being shying away from welcoming kids," said Mary Heffernan. "We built Bumble with a play room, sand box … it's a kid-friendly venue where moms and dads can come with their kids."

Forest on First is the same concept, but will be more casual than Bumble, Heffernan said. The restaurant at 129 First St. will also have an expanded menu with seven flavors of fresh-pressed juice, smoothies, Four Barrel coffee and grab-and-go items like protein salads in jars or roasted chicken with vegetable sides on top of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. A kids menu will include items like French toast fingers and grilled cheese with homemade ketchup.

Tyler Morris, former sous chef at Michelin-ranked Osteria Coppa in San Mateo, will serve as Forest on First's executive chef. Here's his opening menu preview, with tantalizing photos.

The perimeter of Forest on First's open-space plan will be the main event for kids: the built-in "treehouse" created by San Francisco play structure designer Barbara Butler.

"There are no primary colors," Heffernan said of the play structure. "Everything is very woodsy; there's natural rock and rope with hints of forest green everywhere." (Forestry is an interior design theme; hence the café's name. Get a better idea from these Facebook photos posted this week.)

"The idea is: You're sitting eating with a friend and you can see where your children are the whole time and still be able to supervise them," she added.

Though Forest on First and Bumble's target audience is clearly families "who appreciate paying for good food and good service," the menu sounds good enough for anyone who's into good food (though at a higher price point, to be sure).

The restaurant will be open for breakfast and lunch and offering take-home dinners daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Heffernan and her husband are the two H's behind Los Altos-based The H&H Company, which operates many local businesses from the couples' original tutoring business in Menlo Park to a kids' playspace, game hangout for local teens, vintage hobby shop, D.I.Y. design studio and botany store in Los Altos.

Currently under construction is another H&H food-play combination concept, The Alley, slated to open in downtown Los Altos this summer.

"The restaurant will be three floors with the first being a mixologist-inspired full bar for adults, a modern industrial dining room on the second and a couple of bowling lanes, a karaoke stage and a climbing wall for all ages on the third," said Dyana Lovold, H&H's marketing director.

The company snagged acclaimed chef Marty Cattaneo to head The Alley's kitchen. The Menlo Park native has worked at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area, including David Kinch's Manresa in Los Gatos.

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