Poppy Hall mussels

 Poppy Hall is now open in Pacific Grove with a menu of California soul food. The new spot is the last in a marathon of restaurant openings in downtown Pacific Grove, which has seen a revitalized restaurant scene on Lighthouse Avenue following the debuts of Wild Fish in mid-April and The Monarch Pub & Restaurant in early May.

Chefs Philip Wojtowicz and Brendan Esons developed a menu for Poppy Hall that marries comfort foods with hip California sensibilities. Both are Big Sur veterans: Wojtowicz from the Big Sur Bakery and Esons from the Big Sur Roadhouse. Enjoy affordable and shareable dishes drawn from their time at revered Big Sur institutions. There are also a number of selections vegetarians will appreciate.

Appetizers include a pair of oyster options: crispy oysters with cauliflower puree and curry aioli ($12) and oyster stew ($10). There are a number of seafood starters, like sauté of squid with spicy tomato sauce ($9) fennel- and coriander-crusted scallops ($15), and steamed mussels with shoestring fries ($15). Braised lamb with favas on toast ($15) is a hearty selection to consider as Pacific Grove’s May Gray gives way to June Gloom. Salads include baby greens ($10), arugula ($8), and the requisite burrata and tomato salad ($12), as well as more unconventional choices like marinated beluga lentils and beets ($10) and marinated cauliflower ($7).

The entrees are reminiscent of the Big Sur Bakery’s famed dinnertime fare: braised chicken leg with horseradish potatoes and bok choy ($18), prosciutto-wrapped trout ($15), seared duck breast with roasted root vegetables ($20) and skirt steak with fingerling potatoes ($22).

And finish with a treat: chocolate pudding with citrus caramel and poppyseed rugelach ($7) or lemon poppyseed cake with lemon curd ($7).

The menu carried a “First Edition” notation, indicative of evolutions to come.

Matt Peterson helped curate Poppy Hall’s globetrotting wine list. Look for unexpected selections from Portugal, Spain, and even Greece. Of course, there are French and local California selections to sip, too. All can be ordered by the glass ($8-15) or bottle ($32-48). Draft and bottled beer ($6-15), plus Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can ($3)—please explain why this trend continues—are also available.

Mauricio’s previously occupied this space, with a casual breakfast and lunch diner vibe. Now, the renovated interior is replete with natural woods and earthtones. A large wooden slab bar is the centerpiece of the space. Copper-top dining tables (imported from Mexico) dot the room, with a larger communal tables near the entrance. Bookshelves house vintage speakers alongside wine glasses in a rustic modern look.

Like the namesake poppy, this new restaurant certainly evokes the soul of California: classic and contemporary in cuisine and culture.

Poppy Hall 589 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 204-9990, poppyhallpg.com. 5-9pm Wednesday-Monday, closed Tuesdays.


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