Bay View Deli & BBQ
The food, if not the ’tude, inspires a visit to hidden Bay View Deli & BBQ.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Most people that arrive at the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey are either fishing, diving or lost. On a typical day, the vast, vacant parking lot feels more like the deck of an aircraft carrier than the runway to a mouth-watering destination.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Bay View Deli & BBQ, which is situated at the foot of the pier and surrounded by concrete and water, doesn’t see much in the way of walk-ins.
The spot is owned and run by the husband-wife team of Lenny Leon, formerly a cook at Bernardus, and Valentina Rapisarda, a Russian-born restaurateur. True to their disparate backgrounds, the menu offers a unique variety of options: Leon brings barbecue skills to the mix, while Rapisarda creates the breakfast fare and numerous Russian specialties that can include, depending on the day, borscht ($5 a cup, $7 a bowl), beef stroganoff ($12) served with mashed potatoes or egg noodles, and piroshki ($7.50) stuffed with homemade sausage.
Given the semi-Siberian isolation, I half expected a welcoming party when I first arrived and a ceremonial slaughtering of a pig to throw on the spit. Instead, despite the restaurant being empty, I was greeted with a relative indifference that I discovered over time to be one of the eatery’s signatures, and is something that even Leon himself hints at: “The main thing we have to get across about our place is that it’s not a restaurant. It’s barely even a cafe… We don’t have a hostess, bussers or waiters. Sometimes we’ll bring the food to your table, sometimes you have to come pick it up.”
Their focus on food over service is intentional. “Everything Valentina and I do is hands-on,” says Leon. “It’s the type of place we like to eat at, where the owner has a hand in the food.”
Without anyone to guide me I took a second to look at a collection of chalkboards and paper pin-ups announcing the specials. I finally honed in on the barbecue and sandwich boards, which had a plenitude of options to navigate. The barbecue offerings, which are cooked in a smoker on site, include pork, salmon, tri-tip, turkey, chicken and ribs, while the deli sandwich choices are many, from the vegetarian to the hot meatball.
I decided on a barbecue pork sandwich ($8.50) and a veggie burger ($8.50), and when I saw that five different English Ales were kept on tap, I ordered up a Pale Ale ($4.50).
The pork, like all the sandwiches, comes served on a hefty fresh-baked roll, which in itself presents a potential problem – dryness. Perhaps I should know by now to always order extra sauce for all things barbecue, just in case, but there is something to be said for letting the kitchen decide the level of juiciness. The sandwich fell short in this respect, which seemed anticlimactic given that the pork was tender, tangy, and the sauce the right mixture of savory and sweet.
The veggie burger, also served on a roll, held unique promise: the “burger” mix is made from scratch, an uncommon find on the Peninsula. The patty itself was tasty, appropriately moist, and very generously portioned. Where it disappointed was in the topping options. I am accustomed to slices of avocado on veggie burgers, or perhaps dripping delicacies like grilled onions with barbecue sauce on melted cheese. As it was, I settled for the combination of lettuce, tomato, mayo and swiss, and had to keep dipping my burger in ketchup to help it along.
On the morning menu, aside from fresh baked goods and the eggs, bacon and potato fare, there are some intriguing dishes to choose from: a roasted veggie or smoked salmon frittata ($8.50), or olallieberry pancakes ($8.50) made with whole grain flour. I tried a breakfast burrito ($5) filled with three eggs, roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, cheese, and a choice of bacon, ham or veggie.
The burrito didn’t have the girth I have come to expect from local taquerias, which is fine in my book, and the filling had a nice balance of egg and potato that was elevated to surprising deliciousness by the veggie component of chopped eggplant sauteed with curry spices. It was a satisfying start to the day.
What was left to try was something Russian, and having little borscht-eating experience, I ordered a bowl with a side of coleslaw ($3.75). Valentina was watching TV when I placed my order, and without a word (or a smile) she got up to prepare them. What love I was spared clearly went into the soup, because if her version is what borscht is supposed to taste like, then sign me up. The beet-based soup had a sweet, rich and fortifying broth, and the bits of beef within added just the right punch of flavor without stealing the show. The coleslaw was also a pleasure, and unlike the mayonnaise-y version so often found elsewhere, was crisp, light and thoughtfully topped with chopped parsley.
Open for almost nine years, word of mouth has finally been spreading about Bay View. The dining area was recently expanded to create more room and ocean-and-dock views, and hours have extended to 8pm Wednesday to Saturday. With its wide spectrum of flavors and from-scratch cooking, it’s a worthy destination for the epicurious. Just don’t expect anyone to act happy to see you.
BAY VIEW DELI & BBQ 32 Cannery Row (on the Coast Guard Pier), Monterey. 7am-7pm Sun-Tue, until 8pm Wed-Sat. • 375-6958.