Pajaro Street Grill
Thursday, December 23, 1999
For 35 years it was the place where you dropped off your good shirts and trousers and were told you could have them back on Tuesday after 12. Clayton Cleaners did a lot of laundry during that time. And when they finally turned off the machines for good and hung out the "for sale" sign, they probably couldn't figure out why Deamer Dunn got so excited when he saw the addition behind the building. Made from thick cement blocks, it was where the huge cleaning machines were housed.
"Cool year-round," smiles Deamer, "and perfect for a wine cellar."
"You'll see 'Central Coast' cuisine take on its own definition."
--co-owner Deamer Dunn
Deamer and his wife and business partner, Lisa, had devoted plenty of time to thinking about what they wanted by the time they bought the place back in June. Veteran restaurant folk, they first met as co-workers at Tarpy's Roadhouse, where they were both waitstaff members for almost seven years. As one of the original partners at Ryan Ranch Rotisserie (now Billy Quon's), Deamer had also spent time in the back-of-the-house. When the couple realized they shared the same dream of getting a place of their own, they started to plan. "We traveled around the world getting ideas," Deamer comments, "and it became clear that this was what I wanted to do."
Lucky for them both, he's also a contractor. "We looked at several places," Deamer explains, "but this really appealed to us. I learned a lot about the dry cleaning business doing the remodel," he laughs. "Buying the building means we're here for the long haul. And we're here at a good time; Salinas really deserves a hand. For the last five years, the city's been on the upswing. Everybody's excited about what's been happening with the downtown, and the new restaurant scene."
And Pajaro Street Grill adds a whole new dimension to that scene. As charming as it is eclectic--shards of pottery, hand-made tiles and funky memorabilia are permanently plastered in the walls--the decor gives a clue about what you may expect from an equally innovative menu.
"In the next ten years I think you'll see 'Central Coast' cuisine take on its own definition," Deamer predicts, "because of the kind of great products we have access to. Just like the food of Tuscany, California's Central Coast will become recognized."
Right at the top of the list of appetizers is the not-to-be-missed Pajaro Street Platter. Creamy cloves of roasted garlic are the perfect complement to tequila-sweetened sundried tomatoes. Along with the olive-caper tapenade and Laura Chenel goat cheese, you can have some delicious fun with the crostini, brushed with basil oil and baked. A steal at $4.50.
The bronzed salmon is seared on the flat-top and finished with a pat of nasturtium butter, "an old idea given new life," as the chef describes it. Deamer uses the whole flower, blended into softened butter. Garnished with tomato and cucum- ber salsa, it's got color, texture and flavor.
Sharing equal accolades is the mixed grill. Barbecued baby back ribs, lemon chicken and duck come with a complement of three homemade barbecue sauces: spicy picante for those that like it hot, a smoky, neutral blend and a blackberry variety. And save room--the apple bread pudding in caramel sauce hits a home run.
Try the Scheid Vineyards Pinot Noir on for size, a good cross-over selection that can go well with either fish or fowl, with good fruit and earthy qualities of both butter and oak.
Pajaro Street Grill
435 Pajaro St., Salinas, 754-3738
Hours: 5-10pm dinner, Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
(Closed Dec. 19-26)
Price range: $2-17.50