Space – Roger, the NASA Ames-inspired Mountain View hotel restaurant
It’s a restaurant, an art gallery, a history museum and a playground — all rolled into one property inspired by NASA Ames.
Mountain View’s Ameswell Hotel opened this summer on an 10-acre Moffett Boulevard parcel just across Highway 101 from the famed airfield and research center with a history dating to 1933. Roger, the main restaurant, takes its name from the military phonetic alphabet of that era, as in Roger for message received.
The owners and designers could have very easily veered off course and turned the Ameswell into a kitschy Disneyesque attraction or a West Coast version of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Instead, it’s a thoughtful and fascinating collection of architectural touches, art installations and Moffett Field memories.
Add a touch of high-tech whimsy in the form of two robots that help bus tables, and Roger becomes a dining destination.
Here’s what we found:
THE LOOK: The first conversation piece — and Instagram hot spot — appears straight ahead as you walk in the front door. Artist Chui Hyun Ahn uses LED lights, fiberglass and mirrors to make us ponder “Perception + Reality.” At the front desk, check out the “A” Ameswell logo in the shape of Hangar One, the structure built to house the Navy’s USS Macon airship. Nearby is artist Chris Doyle’s multi-channel video exploration of “Progress + Destruction.”
Throughout the ground floor, unfinished ceilings are softened by angular “clouds,” panels constructed with reclaimed wood. The shape of the main bar and a nearby table mimics that of an airplane wing. Couches the color of the wild blue yonder offer lounge seating. And the massive roll-up garage doors give the entire restaurant the feel of a spacious hangar. Credit the design team from (BA)MO of San Francisco for the conceptualization.
Outdoors, there are fire pits, cornhole and other games and a converted Airstream trailer that dispenses food and beverages.
THE LIBRARY: If we geeked out in the Ames Library, you can bet the aerospace, aviation and engineering crowd will. A test pilot’s helmet, aeronautical instruments and models of dirigibles share shelf space with framed photos of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart and books on the earliest fliers from the aviation world. A celebratory program from Moffett Field’s 1958 silver anniversary proudly boasts: “From lighter than air to faster than sound.”
THE FOOD: Shareable Cal-Mediterranean plates dominate the menu by executive chef Christian McCallion, formerly of Larkspur Restaurant. Start with Toasted Sourdough from the Baker & the Wife with whipped feta and vegetables ($8) or a flatbread like the Prosciutto Di Parma ($19), topped with n’duja and marinated tomato.
Mains include a Roasted Salmon ($23) with saffron and sweet pepper, Pan-Fried Shrimp ($27) with garlicky gigante beans and an array of salads, sandwiches and burgers. Supplement with one of the creative vegetable sides. The Moroccan Corn Ribs ($9), a riff on elote made with feta, pickled red onion and sumac, are a hit with diners. And save room for dulce le leche-filled Cinnamon Doughnuts ($9).
Brunch will be added soon. McCallion is thinking Pesto Scrambled Eggs with Pecorino, Bruleed Dutch Baby and a Braised Lamb Shakshuka.
THE DRINKS: The Moffett Mule leads the lineup of specialty cocktails (all $15). There’s also a bourbon-based Attitude Indicator, a fiery Tierra Madre and a curated list of craft brews and wines on tap.
DON’T MISS: The Flank + Fries ($32) brings tender slices of bavette steak, the exterior coated with a coffee-pepper rub and then seared for a crusty contrast, plus salt-roasted fries, salad greens and thyme aioli. For an extra kick, ask for a side of the aleppo mayo for dipping.
GOOD TO KNOW: The QR codes you’ve been using for reading menus take the place of the wait staff at Roger. As soon as you sit down, your order can be winging its way to the kitchen. You’ll still get plenty of service, but this gives you control over the pacing of your meal. However, that means you shouldn’t order everything at once unless you really want your appetizer, entree and dessert all delivered at the same time.
PERFECT FOR … Getting together with your work team after months of seeing each other only on Zoom. Or family night with games of cornhole near the fire pits (after the kids check out the robots).
DETAILS: The Roger bar is open from 5 p.m. to midnight daily, and the restaurant serves dinner indoors and outdoors from 6 to 10 p.m. at 800 Moffett Blvd., Mountain View. 650-744-1030; www.rogerbarandrestaurant.com