Eureka Restaurant Owner Christine Silver
By Sue Ralston
Silver SpoonsJanuary 2016
Story by Sue Ralston
Photos by Denise McKenzie
When Christine Silver, former owner of popular Redding eatery Tapas Downtown, closed up and relocated to Humboldt County two years ago, it wasn’t because she was done with the restaurant business. It was because she found love. And the man she fell in love with lived three hours away.
Fast forward and she’s opened not one, but two restaurants in Eureka. Her first venture, up and running for more than a year, is a casual place called Humboldt Soup Company and Café, serving lunch and early dinner. With the chillier coastal weather, soup is always a popular choice, but that’s not all that’s on offer. People come for the sandwiches and signature dishes such as savory hand pies, quiches and “local bowls.” Each day, the offerings include clam chowder, then she builds the rest of her menu around what’s fresh, shopping at the farmers’ market as often as possible.
“I check out what the farmers have and I load up,” says Silver. “It’s such a dream for me to have access to all of this fresh produce.” Her soups might be coconut chicken curry, tarragon asparagus or tomato basil. As an extra convenience, the soup restaurant has a drive-thru window.
Her passion for healthy food began long before her days as a chef, but came to the forefront when she was raising her four children.
“Having my first child at a young age, I was mainly focused on taking care of and supporting them, but I’ve always paid attention to making sure they ate healthfully,” she says.
Silver, who met her partner, Bill McKenzie, four-and-a-half years ago, knew after a couple of years of dating that the time was right to relocate to his hometown of McKinleyville, north of Eureka. He works as a controller for a local company, and enjoys being involved with and supporting her in her business ventures. “He likes to brag that he went to Redding and stole their best chef away,” Silver laughs.
McKenzie and Silver had been living parallel lives before they even met, working hard and raising their kids as single parents. “Now that our kids are grown, we’ve come together and it’s just the right time,” says Silver. As a native of Humboldt County, McKenzie knows all the best places to hike and the best beaches. “We have a little boat; we do some crabbing and some fishing. He dives for abalone,” she says.
No stranger to hard work, Silver starts her day at 5am and usually finishes around 11pm. Her passion for creating and sharing food with others energizes her, she says. That contagious love of food provided her with an unexpected opportunity last summer. Seemingly out of nowhere, she got a call asking if she was the one planning a new restaurant at 6th and E Streets in Eureka. It was a representativescouting locations to shoot a major film in Humboldt County starring Kirsten Dunst. They wanted to use her new restaurant for a scene. The next day, she met with them to discuss the possibility, and after another meeting, she asked them, “Who’s feeding your crew while you’re in town?” They discussed food, she provided her resume and she was hired as a test to serve the office staff three meals. As a result, she was booked as the on-set caterer for the crew of 60 while they shot in remote locations around the county. The story required filming at night, so Silver would meet the crew in the woods in the evening hours, healthy and delicious food in hand. “The best thing about this was it provided me with some needed financial resources as I was getting set to open my second restaurant,” says Silver. “That, and it felt like a validation of my career choice to nourish and feed people.”
About that second restaurant: Loyal Tapas Downtown customers will see hints of it at the new spot, called Sixth & E Neighborhood Eatery, in downtown Eureka. There, Silver focuses on delicious interpretations of classic Mediterranean food: Olive chicken over soft polenta; marinated and grilled grass-fed steak with provolone, grilled peppers, onions and chipotle aioli and of course, some comfort food such as hamburgers, pasta and fish and chips. The restaurant includes a bar.
A former Tapas regular, Bill Kempley, missed Tapas so much that he made a trip to Eureka to visit Silver and her new restaurants. “We made Tapas a regular hangout for about four years,” he says. “Everything they had on the menu was outstanding.” Kempley was pleased to find a former server, Meegan Hutcheson, had been hired to help get 6th & E open and to be the dining room manager. “You can’t go just anywhere and find such great staff,” Kempley says.
Silver sums up her unflagging commitment to the restaurant business this way: “As long as you all keep letting us do the cooking, I will continue to source the best and most delicious ingredients around.”
Humboldt Soup Company & Café
1019 Myrtle Ave., Eureka
Sixth and E Neighborhood Eatery
603 E St., Eureka (707) 445-8783