Regulars at the Pearl Street Grill, an institution at 1477 South Pearl Street for close to thirty years, were shocked - shocked! - when they sat down and looked at their menus a couple of weeks ago. Because not only had the menu design gotten an overhaul, but so had the items on that menu, with a new emphasis on salads (spinach with dried cranberries and gorgonzola, Thai, Southwest steak); a black-bean variation added to the burger lineup; and small plates that are available at all hours, not just happy hour.
Over the years, even as the owners changed -- the Pearl Street Grill has been part of the Wynkoop group of restaurants for almost a decade -- the menu of elevated pub grub had stayed largely untouched. "Through those early years, we tried not to change too much," says Mark Schiffler, the chef/co-founder of the Wynkoop Brewing Company, who know works with all the restaurants."But we decided it was time to finally enter the new millennium."
"It's been a long time," admits general manager Stephanie Blocher, who's been at the Pearl for six years. "We looked at the menu, and we looked at what was available around the neighborhood, and we saw that there was a niche along South Pearl Street that wasn't being filled, for more healthy food." Certainly more healthy than what the Pearl was serving when it first opened, when the other dining hot spots on Old South Pearl were Spuds, a baked potato spot, Mark's Milk Bar and the Dinner Bell Diner.
Today, of course, the two-block stretch has all kinds of culinary options, among them the Sushi Den, Den Deli and Izakaya Den siblings; India's Pearl; Black Pearl; Village Cork; Gaia Bistro and Kaos, the to-go pizza joint that recently added a dining room. The Pearl Street Grill's new offerings, including lamb burgers and a Cuban sandwich, fit in nicely with this more upscale lineup, even if some longtime favorites had to disappear. "People who have come in for years to get the pot roast or the Monte Cristo suddenly see they're no longer on the menu," Blocher says.
Still, the more things change, the more some stay the same. The Mexican Egg Rolls remain on the menu, and while not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, they're definitely delicious. The kitchen still serves until midnight, seven days a week. And the secluded backyard patio, with the planting just finished, is "gorgeous," Blocher promises.
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