Salinas’ new Eatery

Every few months I love to drive over to Salinas. To see the green crops and smell the dark rich earth through open windows. I usually take my dogs, Newport & Biscotti, as we enjoy our walk around their small farmer’s market and taste some street food and talk to the vendors.

A few blocks away from the Steinbeck Center is Main Street. Every little town on the Coast has it’s “Main Street” where old tear-down buildings transform into little indy shops and restaurants. Here you must look beyond the homeless and the boarded up storefronts to appreciate the transition this historic street is undertaking. I have always wished for a cool restaurant to open there, as my destination is shopping at the antique mall that is housed inside a former bank building on the corner with its concrete façade and entry, then walk next door to a great eatery for a bite & wine.

Well, on this day in March, my wish was granted. A few doors over from the antique mall, I stop suddenly in front of a new restaurant called Patria. As soon as you enter, the décor pulls you further into the restaurant and explodes into something out of the pages of Santa Barbara magazine. Smooth stucco walls with wood beams and polished wood floors are divided into large rooms and an exquisite bar. Country French antique vignettes are staged throughout each room, bringing your eyes up and down to enjoy the professional design touches throughout. I look around and see a large group dining in a separate room, decorated minimally with antique cuckoo clocks mounted on the wall. Fascinating.

The hall where the bathrooms are located, are concealed with a type of vintage screen door. Another thoughtful touch so that this area is not openly visible to the diners. There is a baby grand piano facing a counter of pastries and a collection of antique wine openers beneath a domed display case.

I have only 20 minutes to order before their lunch is over, so get seated and select a glass of Morgan Chardonnay. The menu promises wonderful combinations of ingredients, and I am torn between just an appetizer of calamari or the wild boar pappardelle. Whenever that wide flat pasta is offered on a menu, that is always my choice, so I opt for the boar pasta. My iphone is almost out of juice, so one of the servers offers her charger to me, as I am expecting a call. These are the thoughtful services that make a restaurant stand out to me.

The menu has just the right amount of choices. Some of the standouts include a lobster ravioli and an artisan cheese board among the appetizers, bitters and salmon salad, a Margherita hand-crafted pizza, and desserts which definitely have a German and Mediterranean influence.

My wine comes in a darling blue & gray pottery pitcher. The cloth napkins are striped and very bistro. It’s the small touches in a restaurant that are sometimes the most memorable, such as the small oval white porcelain butter tub with appropriate small butter knife. The boar pasta arrives in a large round shallow pasta bowl. The meat falls apart with a fork and is mixed with a dark rich Bolognese sauce and a touch of asiago cheese. I savor each bite and wash it down with the chardonnay.

After taking many photos with my phone, I find that their Happy Hour is daily from 3:30-6, so I decide to shop next door at the antique mall and return for a drink after. Shopping was great fun, and I do return for their Happy Hour, carrying a large wood & wire pet carrier I found there.

Patria’s Happy Hour is so personal. Drinks are full price, but they prepare plates of gourmet country French type hors d’ oeuvres such as pickled lima beans, a briny potato salad, Greek olives, sliced meats, fresh cooked beets and a delicious quiche.

Sitting at the bar, somehow coffee sounds good. Their coffee service comes on a silver tray, complete with a small glass of water, a creamer, brown sugar cubes and a wrapped chocolate. This delightful presentation makes the coffee taste even better, and I make a mental note to serve my home guests their coffee this way.

Patria is a “must visit” restaurant while in the Carmel/Monterey area. It is well worth the 20 minute drive to Salinas. Make a reservation for dinner, as they are sometimes booked one week in advance. Don’t forget to save room for their desserts. I hear they are “to die.”

228 Main Street . Salinas . 831.424.5555