Best Lil' Porkhouse, the San Rafael barbecue joint owned by former two-time Wimbledon tennis champion Ken Flach, is set to expand to Corte Madera this month into the space occupied by Jewish deli Max's Cafe for 16 years – and briefly by the short-lived La Plancha Bar & Grill.
Reached in the midst of last-minute preparations before a planned Oct. 14 opening, Flach said he's thrilled at the opportunity to expand.
“The San Rafael spot (opened in July 2012) was an opportunity for us to get the food out to the public and find out what the reception was – and it’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Flach said. “This new space has more parking, nice road visibility (along Hwy. 101) and more space.”
Make that a lot more space, as the Corte Madera space has 280 seats, while the San Rafael location has 24 seats. And while the St. Louis native says the kitchen in his Miracle Mile location is barely larger than the one he has at his home in Marin, the big kitchen at 60 Madera Blvd. will allow him to expand the Best Lil’ Porkhouse menu, including tweaks on Max’s classics like matzah ball soup and a reuben sandwich with smoked corned beef. There will also be more sides, salads and vegetarian options, Flach said.
The new Best Lil’ Porkhouse location will also have a full bar (just beer and wine until they secure the proper licensing), as well as occasional live country-western and bluegrass music.
It is the second barbecue restaurant this week to announce plans to open in Corte Madera, though Marin chef Damon Stainbrook is opening Pig in a Pickle in the Town Center Corte Madera in the spring of 2014.
Flach, a four-time Grand Slam tennis tournament winner, a two-time Wimbledon champ and Olympic gold medalist, teamed with Robert Seguso in the 1980s and 1990s to form one of the most successful doubles teams of that era.
He hopes to have that same success with his restaurant business and intends to open multiple locations. Flach says he’s currently in negotiations with the owners of the Alameda South Shores Center to open a Best Lil’ Porkhouse there in July 2014.
As for Max’s and the short-lived La Plancha, Max's owner Greg Boro says that in the last four years of Max's 16-year run in the Corte Madera space, business had dipped considerably, to the point that they decided to transition to La Plancha. Max’s Cafe shut its doors on January 23 and reopened on February 9 as La Plancha Bar and Grill.
But within just a few months, Boro says it became clear that it was not a successful move.
"We had a good run, but there are just to many hipper-looking restaurants out there," Boro says. “We became the old man on the block, literlly and figuratively."
Boro says the remaining Max’s locations throughout the Bay Area are doing just fine and there are no plans to overhaul them.
The 411: Best Lil' Porkhouse opens at 60 Madera Blvd., right at the Hwy. 101 entrance, on Oct. 14.