Chances are you already know Frank Leal as a wine man. But soon
you’ll be hearing his name in conjunction with a type of alcohol
not traditionally made in San Benito County: tequila. Two-hundred
different kinds of the Mexican-born favorite, to be exact, all
ready to be tasted and sitting behind the bar of Leal’s new Baja
California-themed restaurant, the Cantina Grill Tequila Bar in Tres
Tres Pinos – Chances are you already know Frank Leal as a wine man. But soon you’ll be hearing his name in conjunction with a type of alcohol not traditionally made in San Benito County: tequila. Two-hundred different kinds of the Mexican-born favorite, to be exact, all ready to be tasted and sitting behind the bar of Leal’s new Baja California-themed restaurant, the Cantina Grill Tequila Bar in Tres Pinos.
“Frank wanted to have an escape for the locals,” said Leal Vineyards Spokesman Dan Payne. “I know that there are a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area, but I think this one is going to have a really different kind of flavor, a different kind of flare.”
Leal has always been enthralled with the ambiance of Baja California, Payne said, and thought the people of San Benito County would be too if they knew what they were missing. So Leal and his partner, winemaker Dave Griffith, have been striving for the past two months to put the same colorful touches on the new restaurant you’d find down south. The Cantina will feature open-air dining and outdoor fire pits, brightly-colored tiles, wrought-iron fence work and a “hacienda” feel, said Payne.
“Without having to go to the airport and get on a plane and go to Los Cabos, this is Los Cabos in Tres Pinos,” said Payne.
Leal is also hoping to fill another unmet need in San Benito County by making his Cantina a destination for nightlife. The bar, located inside the old Rocky’s Saloon on Airline Highway, will provide a spot for the over-21 crowd to try exotic tequilas and listen to live music on the weekends.
But, Payne added, the restaurant will be family-friendly, too.
“There is a separate dining room when you walk in, and we won’t serve just Mexican food. It will also be a place where you can go to get a nice steak or a nice piece of fish,” he said.
And the restaurant may bring more visitors into the tiny town outside of Hollister.
“I’m hoping it will,” said Jeannine Miller, owner of Jeannine’s Hair Shoppe on Airline Highway in Tres Pinos. “I think it will be a good thing. Everyone I’ve talked to so far has sounded really excited about it.”
Leal couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but Payne said the decision to put the restaurant in Tres Pinos had a lot to do with the market they’re trying to corner: It’s close enough to Leal’s vineyards that visitors can head down for dinner, and it’s also not far from Bolado Park Golf Course, so golfers can enjoy a meal or a fresh-squeezed lime margarita after 18 holes.
And, of course, a nice glass of home-grown wine.
“Frank’s really into Mexico and the Baja feel, and he just felt like there was a major need for something like this in the area. And it’s also a great opportunity for him to be able to get his wines out there,” Payne said.
The Cantina is scheduled to open in late April, but no date has been set.