By Vickie Lewis
My first real exposure to Pear Street Bistro (PSB) was early last year, soon after its grand re-opening following a kitchen fire that rendered it closed for nearly 15 months. Although established in Pinole since 2002, it was not a venue that I’d frequented or heard much about. However, after reviewing Pear Street Bistro last year for Contra Costa Marketplace Magazine, it has become one of my favorite local venues. I’ve brought family and friends here on numerous occasions, and each and every person has enjoyed the food, drinks, and dining experience immensely. I was excited for the opportunity to return to PSB for a follow-up review so that I can share with you some of the new and exciting goings on that delight newcomers and keep the regulars coming back for more!
Owner Francisco Flores is the heart of Pear Street Bistro and there is rarely a time that you won’t find him working there, right alongside his staff. Whether tending tables, bartending, or visiting with customers, he makes sure that the business is running smoothly. Francisco’s mother, Irma Palacios, assists at the restaurant most mornings, and his younger brother, Makimin, also works there part-time. PSB has a well-seasoned staff, all of whom are committed to providing excellent customer service. Regular customers delight in being greeted by and served by their favorite wait-staff or bartenders when they visit. The kitchen staff, directed by head chef, Carlos; sous chef, Magdalena; and assistant kitchen manager, Yolanda, work tirelessly to create and prepare fresh and delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts to the delight of PSB diners. Bar manager, Luis, and his team of mixologists, ensures that the bar and lounge patrons are satisfied, and manages the lively crowds that gather there for sports viewing or other social events.
Francisco actively promotes PSB on social media, and frequently sponsors activities and community events to entice new customers to try PSB, and to keep the regulars coming back. One of the recently added featured events is Paint Night, held on the last Tuesday evening of every month starting at 7:00 PM. My guest and I were fortunate to secure the last two open spots in March for this very popular event. The PSB dining room is transformed for the evening into an paint studio where up to 50 guests don aprons and put their talent to work creating the featured painting of the month. All supplies and instruction are included for a nominal cost of only $25 (paid to the host company, “Let’s Paint.”) Participants are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the Taco Tuesday special, or any of the many other wonderful available menu selections. During the event, PSB servers move among the artists, taking orders for drinks or food items to sustain them during their creative endeavors. Paint Night at PSB is a festive event, and each month, the names of two lucky winners are drawn to paint again for free the following month. During the event, the bar/lounge remains open to customers, and dining is available in the overflow dining/banquet room at the back of the restaurant. Reservations for Paint Night are required, so if you’re interested in an upcoming event, please RSVP to Francisco by phone at 510-741-8875, or e-mail Francisco@pearstreetbistro.com.
If Paint Night isn’t your passion, perhaps you’ll enjoy one of PSB’s upcoming May featured events. Join Francisco and his staff for a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Friday, May 5th. A special Cinco de Mayo menu will be available all day (in addition to the usual menu) with specials created by Chef Carlos Pool. From 10 PM to 1:00 AM that evening, guests 21 and over can celebrate Cinco De Mayo with special music and dancing, while enjoying premium drinks and cocktails and appetizers in a festive atmosphere. There will be no cover charge for the event, and guests are requested to “Dress to Impress!”
May’s second featured event will be on May 23rd starting at 6:30 PM, when PSB hosts a five course Whiskey Pairing dinner, featuring Jack Daniels hand-selected whiskeys. Each of the five courses of the evening’s meal will be paired with a Jack Daniels whiskey that best complements the food. Chef Jon from US Foods will prepare the five-course meal, and a local ambassador from Jack Daniels will be present to narrate the event. Reservations for this event are required and the cost is $65 per person. If you enjoy Jack Daniels Whiskey, you won’t want to miss this special dinner. Make your reservations by contacting Francisco at 510-741-8875, or e-mail Francisco@pearstreetbistro.com.
PSB regularly features four different spirits that have been personally hand-selected by Francisco. These include:
• Herradura Double Barrel Reposada, 100% Blue Agave Tequila from Mexico
• Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey from Tennessee
• Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum from Barbados
• Woodford Reserve Personal Selection Bourbon from Kentucky
Each of these hand-selected spirits are bottled exclusively for Pear Street Bistro; they undergo an extra aging process which enhances the richness of the flavors. For only $15, customers can order “The Barrel Flight” which includes a ½ ounce sampling of each of these hand selected drinks. I was treated to a Barrel Flight during my recent dinner visit, an interesting experience for a gal who usually only drinks “foo foo drinks”! Although my taste for the whiskey and bourbon was not very discerning, I did enjoy the rum and tequila! The tequila is served with a Sangrita chaser (house made Bloody Mary mix) which was a good end to the “flight.” For beer connoisseurs, PSB also features a hand-selected draft beer, White Hawk Indian Pale Ale (IPA), made in Mendocino. There’s really something for everyone at PSB’s bar and lounge, which offers an extensive menu of cocktails, wines and beers. My guests and I can attest that cocktails served here are very good—perhaps even bordering on being a little too strong! Some of the drinks may seem a bit pricey, but you won’t be disappointed with the quality. Each day, there is a $6 featured drink of the day, and PSB also features Happy Hour 7 days a week (excluding holidays) from 3 PM – 7 PM during which guests can order specially priced drinks and appetizers.
Pear Street Bistro’s dining options also offer something for everyone. The eclectic menu selections represent primarily European, Asian, and American cuisine. On each visit, your dining selection can transport you to a different part of the world, if you so choose. American favorites available include Burgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Roasted Chicken, and Steak. Asian-inspired favorites include the Thai Coconut Curry Linguine, Teriyaki Chicken, or the Asian Chop Chop Salad. If you favor European cuisine, try the Risotto, Fish and Chips, Tuscan Quinoa Veggie Salad, or the Basa de Medellin. And if you enjoy southern cooking, you’ll want to try the Bistro Jambalaya, Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles, or the Cajun Crusted Catfish. Vegetarian selections are also available, as is a special children’s menu.
To supplement the regular menus, regular daily specials are also available—one for every day of the week–and there is usually at least one other additional featured daily special. Popular regular specials include Taco Tuesdays, featuring a different taco recipe each week; and 1/2-pound Prime Rib with all the “fixin’s” served every Wednesday. On a recent dinner visit to PSB, my server, Grae, recommended the featured daily special–Parmesan and Gorgonzola crusted Salmon, served with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted tomatoes and sautéed spinach. This was the best salmon I’ve eaten in a very long time! The presentation was beautiful, and the cheeses baked on top of the salmon formed a golden-brown crust that tasted superb. That same evening, my guest ordered the Thursday Meat Loaf special, which was served atop garlic mashed potatoes and topped with gravy and a mound of onion straws. The meat loaf was moist, tender, and delicious!
Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday at PSB from 10 AM – 3 PM. The brunch menu has an equally varied menu as the lunch/dinner menus. It features several breakfast items, such as the PSB Omelet, Brioche French Toast, Benedicts, and Steak and Eggs; also available are entrée salads and sandwiches, and several different sides. During last year’s review, I was intrigued to learn that PSB offered $10 Endless Mimosas for brunch, and decided I should try it out! So, on a recent Saturday morning, I stopped in for brunch. Parking was a bit challenging due to the Farmer’s Market occupying the rear parking lot; I’ve heard that Sunday brunch parking is also challenging due to nearby church services. The restaurant and lounge were moderately busy that morning, with a steady flow of customers; I understand that Sunday brunch at PSB tends to be much busier. I was happy to have come on Saturday to enjoy the comfortable, unrushed atmosphere.
I sat at a small table facing the open kitchen, which allowed me to watch the cooks busily preparing the food orders. I looked over the menu, and quickly realized that the price of the Endless Mimosas was no longer $10 (as was published last year), but increased to $13—although this is still a good value! When my server, Erica, asked for my drink order, I ordered a pineapple mimosa from the three flavors available—orange, pineapple, and cranberry—and found it to be delightfully delicious! Erica returned again and again with a pitcher of mimosas, and ensured that my glass was always full. For my brunch entrée, I ordered the Frittata special, which that day featured Ribeye, mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, and gorgonzola cheese. Who could ever pass up something that sounded so delectable?
All PSB brunch entrees are served with a homemade biscuit and homemade strawberry jam, tricolor home fries, and fruit garnish. As I waited for my entrée, I enjoyed my biscuit and jam, and observed that the Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles seemed to be the popular choice of many nearby guests–a hearty dish, to be sure. This entrée is a crisply fried half-chicken, served atop a brown sugar and bacon infused waffle, served with jalapeno butter and warm maple syrup–definitely something to try on a future visit! Although most guests were enjoying mimosas, there were also a few drinking “The Bloody Tito”, PSB’s signature Bloody Mary made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, served in a “bowl” with all the garnishments, including thick slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon! Quite an impressive (and large) drink for Bloody Mary lovers!
My entrée arrived quickly and was beautifully presented. The frittata was served in four triangular overlapping sections, and the home fries were a colorful assortment of brown, red and white potatoes seasoned and cooked to perfection. A small bowl of fresh pineapple, melon and grapes garnished with mint also adorned the plate. The frittata was moist and delicious, with small slices of tender, seasoned ribeye steak mixed in with the gorgonzola cheese and other ingredients. As I finished my meal, Erica presented me with the dessert menu, the same one available for lunch and dinner. On recent visits, my guests and I had tried a number of the selections, including the New York Cheesecake topped with the homemade strawberry preserves, Blood Orange Sorbet, Caramel Gelato, and the “make your own S’mores.” I should have passed on dessert, but decided to try something new that would complement brunch—the Seasonal Fruit Tart. (The 15-minute prep time allowed me time to enjoy one more mimosa!) The tart was served on a plate garnished with caramel syrup, had a perfectly browned crust, and was filled with apples, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, topped with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato. It was divine—warm, and not too sweet, with a light, flaky and delicious crust. Suffice to say that I’ve never tried a PSB dessert that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy (except possibly the Blood Orange Sorbet.) Make sure to save room for dessert when you visit—definitely worth the calories!
There are a lot of good reasons to try out Pear Street Bistro if you haven’t already done so. Stop by after work for Happy Hour, or gather with friends in the lounge to watch a sports event on one of the several televisions behind the bar. Celebrate a special occasion with an elegant dinner, or stop by for a casual lunch or brunch. Come try out your artistic talents on Paint Night, or come to a special event and enjoy drinks, appetizers, music and dancing. Consider reserving the spacious private banquet room at PSB for a private business meeting or seminar, or for a special family celebration. Regardless of when or why you visit, the PSB staff will welcome you and provide you with a great customer experience. And as a special incentive to visit, during the month of May 2017, mention that you read this restaurant review in the Contra Costa Marketplace, and PSB will offer a free appetizer of your choice for parties of four or more.
Pear Street Bistro is licensed by the city of Pinole to host special events, such as the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration, making it possible for locals to enjoy special festivities close to home. Watch for additional events coming up later this year. Be sure to stay informed of upcoming PSB events by subscribing to their weekly newsletter and/or by following them on Facebook or Instagram. If you’re a PSB regular, don’t forget to join the PSB Rewards program to earn loyalty points for each visit, which can be redeemed for rewards. Kudos to Francisco Flores and the PSB staff for creating a delightful, hip, and trendy bistro experience in the heart of Pinole. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to check it out!