Down To Earth
Thursday, August 26, 1999
Kurt is from California and his wife, Rosemarie, is from New York. Kurt did the grind, working his way up through the kitchen ranks while putting himself through college. Once bitten by the restaurant bug, he struck out to work in the better houses in San Francisco and Manhattan to get the experience, eventually charting a course back to the West Coast.
What started with reading a newspaper ad in New York culminated in purchasing the former Melac's place in Pacific Grove. "We were really eager, and it seemed perfect at the moment," Kurt relates. "We thought, 'great,' we'll come in and not disrupt the image and still do fine dining cuisine." Rosemarie, a high school teacher for 13 years, was ready for change as well, and became the front-of-the-house half of the team when they opened Cypress Grove in May of '98.
The duo was surprised to find that what had worked so well for the Melac's for 10 years wasn't working for them. "We looked around and saw what we thought was a golf mecca, an area that attracted educated, discerning palates from all over the world." What wasn't readily apparent was the unique-unto-itself character of Pacific Grove. While Pebble Beach might rally around fine dining, Butterfly Town is its own kettle of fish.
"We were scared to death," says Kurt, "ready to panic, round up the horses and circle the wagons. But I knew we couldn't just change the menu, bring down the prices and take off the 12-piece place settings. We had to change the concept and bring it to a level that people could accept."
On Saturday, July 17, the Cypress Grove Cafe and Tap Room was born. The Sunday night prior, Kurt tore down the window treatments and papered over the glass. In a day and a half, he had the new menu. His buddy the cabinetmaker showed up, and they built the bar. By the time they were sweeping out the sawdust on Friday night, the barstools had arrived and the neighborhood started filing in for a complimentary beer and a slap on the back. They re-opened on Saturday and they've been busy ever since.
The burgers are awesome (stuffed with your choice of blue cheese, cheddar, red onions, jalapenos) and so is the chili con carne, made with ground chuck, fresh tomatoes and from-scratch beans. It's one of those menus to work your way through, item-by-delicious-sounding-item, with most of them well under $10 a pop. Good beers, well chosen wines. Where fine diners feared to tread, PG now welcomes a by-God neighborhood tavern.