Kosmicki: Craving more restaurants in Hollister

Wayne Clark of Mansmith's BBQ flips the tri-tip steaks at the Hollister Farmer's Market in 2015. File photo by Nick Lovejoy

A certain craving usually hits every couple weeks, normally in the late afternoon after the 78th or so time passing a certain restaurant’s sign since my last gorging.
When it calls my name—“Kollin … Pssst, it’s the Beijing beef and chow mein over at Panda Express…”—I always respond.
“Hey, Beijing beef and chow mein. How’s it going? Both of you would taste really good with Sierra Mist. Do you mind if we invite orange chicken, too?”
This is how intermittently crazy I get over Panda Express, a place where the food goes down in minutes and comes out at some point 18 to 24 months later. While I’m willing to carry around seven to 10 pounds of Panda weight—because it tastes that good compared with other choices—this occasionally delusional behavior results from lacking restaurant choices locally.
Fortunately for all of us, some chains are finally taking notice of this county’s ascending population charts—Wingstop is moving in and Applebee’s has shown interest—and maybe some other factors in our favor. Looking outside the corporate crystal ball, if any of those analyst types are willing to do that, Hollister is isolated from other places’ competition, has a severe shortage of local restaurant options and—wait a second while I loosen my belt—we have that collective tendency to eat more calories than we burn.
The multimillion or multibillion-dollar restaurants call the shots, of course, and we won’t have much say on who comes or shows interest, especially with the enduring absence of a local Economic Development Corporation director who could otherwise be out recruiting new businesses.
It doesn’t stop us from dreaming, though, so I’ve compiled a list of America-friendly restaurants that would kill it in San Benito County along with reasons why.
Outback Steakhouse: For me, this is the perfect fit of all national chains. It aligns with the local rural culture, but then who doesn’t like a good steak with butter-bathed baked potatoes washed down by endless cups of soda and Blooming Onion shreds? Hollister also somehow lacks a signature steak option, so this town’s people would line up for Outback.
Red Lobster: This is a close second, and I am biased due to a recent Red Lobster kick. I don’t care what anyone says, either. Red Lobster has an undeserved bad rep for several reasons. One, where else can you get Cheddar Biscuits? Two, how many appetizers taste as good as Cheddar Biscuits? Three, what other restaurant chain’s chefs were smart enough to wonder whether Cheddar Biscuits might somehow pair well with lobster, crab cakes or fish? Talk about a monumental discovery. Four, where else in Hollister can you get memorable seafood that isn’t raw and wrapped in things I’d rather not think about?
Then again, look at how well the city’s two sushi places do as an indicator of this town’s appetite for fish. Sushi in Hollister: Who would’ve thought?
Olive Garden: Like Outback and Red Lobster, the Garden is a longstanding mega-eatery that could use a place like Hollister—where we’re desperate for just about anything decent—to help regain growth momentum. I just gained two pounds thinking about the bread sticks.
Qdoba Mexican Grill: Forget Chipotle. It’s good, but there’s one in Gilroy down the road where crowds dissipated like mosquitoes in a volcano after the E. coli outbreak. Plus, there’s a much better tasting option that’s been around for decades: Qdoba Mexican Grill. Since there’s already a Hollister Jack In the Box—its parent company owns Qdoba and would know the local market—it’s not a far-fetched prospect.
Panera Bread: Few national chains are likely to show interest in downtown Hollister in its current state, but Panera Bread could actually do well there. It would draw healthy, consistent breakfast and lunch crowds and probably better-than-normal takeout numbers, too. It would also fill another big shortage, of local sandwich shops or cafes.
Five Guys: It’s a toss-up between this red meat eatery and In-N-Out, which some people adore with the falsely guided passion of touring Coldplay fans, as the best option for a new burger joint in town.
Dunkin’ Donuts: Either Dunkin’ Donuts or Psycho Donuts would do quite well in Hollister. Locals love their donuts—just watch them stream in and out of Spudnut on the weekends all day long—and would savor a wider selection of fried goodness as well. “Psycho Donuts?” you might be asking yourself. Let’s put it this way about the Campbell-based pastry haven: Its oddball menu features donuts with ingredients like bacon, Butterfingers, peanut butter and cheesecake.
Just don’t bring your Fitbit.
Mansmith’s BBQ Restaurant: The Mansmiths don’t need anyone telling them how to run a business. They do a pretty good job at it without some knucklehead’s advice, but a chain of small, efficient Mansmith’s BBQ Restaurants could make a serious run at things. Nobody does tri-tip quite like the Mansmiths. Their food makes for great conversation, too.
Earthbound Fresh Café: It’s a natural fit. Earthbound Farm, a leading producer of organic produce, is based in the San Juan Valley not far off the 101. Earthbound already operates an organic café over in Carmel, so why not replicate the operation here in San Benito County where it’s actually based?

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