Raul Escareno is tired of people having to travel outside of Hollister to dine at other restaurants, especially because the excuse is there’s nothing to eat in town.
The longtime owner of Mangia Italian Kitchen is aware that he might be throwing a rock at his own business—and at every other restaurant owner in town. But, he said the reality is there really is no place for fine dining in the downtown area.
Escareno plans to change that by opening an upscale steakhouse restaurant he’s calling The Baler Bar & Grill, which will replace the Hollister House Bar & Grill on San Benito Street. His main goal is to incorporate the agriculture and farming industry by serving a farm to table experience with a splash of high-end dining.
“What I want is people to walk in there and feel like a million bucks,” he said. “You look at the menu, you look at what you’re ordering and when you get your plate you’re looking at your plate, salivating.”
Escareno said he also plans to update the menu as the seasons change. He will feature items such as tomahawk steak, porterhouse steak, filet mignon, seabass, free range hen, oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes and seafood risotto.
“You can’t just go upscale and not do something special,” he said.
Escareno said he wants to highlight the different ingredients that come from local sources such as Hollister and he wants to attempt to keep food costs as low as possible.
“The way things are today, [ingredients] are expensive as they are already,” he said.
His plan is to reach out to farms from all over the Central Coast from Watsonville to Salinas.
Escareno said it’s important to feature farms in the tri-county region so that they could help each other out and continue to work as a community.
“We’re struggling, so I can imagine how they’re struggling,” he said. “Especially with all these new things that are happening with Covid.”
The goal was to open by the end of August but there are some hiccups. The city has prevented them from demolishing and remodeling the inside of the restaurant, mainly the kitchen area.
Escareno took over the vacant building in June with the first plans already in place. He had a crew ready to go for demolition but they still needed to get permission from the city. Escareno said they’ll be able to get back to work about a month after the city approves with hopes of opening toward the winter.
“That’s if God permits,” he said.