Business & Real Estate

Familiar brunch spot Brian's Restaurant reopens as Bell Tower under new owner

Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Brian Whitlock, left, proprietor of Brian’s Restaurant, stayed on as general manager after selling the business to Danny Shafazand, right, last month. The Rancho Shopping Center breakfast and lunch spot reopened as the Bell Tower Cafe June 1 with the same staff and menu.

The sign on the door has changed at the brunch spot long known as Brian’s Restaurant in Los Altos’ Rancho Shopping Center. But the restaurant, now known as the Bell Tower Cafe, continues to serve the same food, from the same people, this week.

New owner Danny Shafazand rehired every employee at the restaurant when he purchased the business, including a cook who’d been there 30 years and Brian Whitlock himself, who first went into the Los Altos breakfast business with his wife in 1977. He now serves as general manager.

Forty years later, Whitlock said, they concluded they’d been in charge for long enough. They had come to love the Rancho location, which they moved to 11 years ago from downtown Los Altos.

“Moving down here was the best thing we could have done,” he said.

Shafazand, who runs another Bell Tower breakfast place in downtown Saratoga, said he had been looking for a second location for a year and a half when he stumbled across a strangely familiar anonymous listing.

“I clicked on a sample pic and said, ‘That’s Brian’s!’” Shafazand said.

He already knew and liked the food at Brian’s, so he got in touch with the Whitlocks and started visiting regularly to observe the business. A few months later, they had worked out a deal.

Adding to the menu

The restaurant’s name had to change for legal reasons related to transferring the business, but Shafazand has preserved the menu that so many regular customers told him they loved. He’s planning to add to it, based on experience at his other restaurant.

“We’re not taking away, we’re going to add to it,” Shafazand said of the transformed Brian’s Restaurant. “We’re keeping the Brian’s Special – that’s my favorite thing to eat now.”

He was drawn to the local, family-run aspects of the business, which echoed part of what he loved about his brunch place in Saratoga.

“Brian’s is bigger, with a bigger kitchen, but there are similarities,” Shafazand said. “You’re on a first-name basis with people who come in to eat every day.”

A substantial interior remodel will be underway this month while the restaurant remains open. Shafazand said it preserves the rustic brick and wood aesthetic, but through a modern lens – reclaimed wood, caged Edison bulbs suspended from the ceiling and expanded outdoor seating with canopy shade. The big booths are getting a face-lift, and Shafazand is adding a sound system and TVs.

For more information, call 941-0680.

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