PIPE CREEK — Suzanne and Kurt Pike have many years of restaurant experience under their belts. She worked the front of the house for Jason Dady at the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, while he served at Le Rêve, Soleil Bistro and a host of other restaurants since he was 15.
With such credentials, they seemed destined to open their own place, and now they have. Pike’s Place Restaurant is a gem worth searching out in Pipe Creek, a speck on the map between San Antonio and Bandera.
Thanks to a glowing recommendation from blogger Geekette Bits, we headed there on a recent dark, rainy Friday night armed with a map from the Internet and a hearty appetite. The map was great as far as getting us to Panther Ridge, the road on which the restaurant is located, but then it took us in a strange direction far past the building we missed in the darkness. (It’s the first building off State Highway 16 and is tucked behind an antique shop.)
Once we dried off a little, we were able to enjoy the charming setting of an old house filled with antiques for sale, down to the art on the walls.
Then we focused on the menu with its all-American favorites, including several steaks, burgers and a hearty array of salads, all at attractive prices. Plus, the specials board offered an array of more adventurous delicacies, mostly involving seafood, from chef Aaron Gonzalez.
We started the evening with a plate of fried green beans and fried artichoke hearts, with the latter proving exceptionally good. A roasted beet and blue cheese salad and the Eva Lee’s Herb Salad both featured sweet and spicy pecans that offered a pleasant contrast of texture in addition to tasting great. A cup of French onion soup also earned high marks.
One of the specials that evening featured a pair of seared jumbo scallops atop pork belly mixed with fettuccine. If this is available again, don’t think twice. Just order it. The scallops were firm, fleshy, voluptuous, sensual and all those other adjectives it takes to let you know that they filled your mouth with the most exquisitely soft textures while the sweetness of the meat caressed your taste buds. One friend who ordered the dish was even more impressed with the pork-pasta combo.
Other specials were pan-seared grouper presented with orzo and mahi mahi perched atop Thai-style coconut jasmine rice. In both instances, the seafood was as pristine, flavorful and fresh as you could want, though the sauce on the mahi mahi went more with the rice than the fish.
I opted for the buttermilk fried chicken, which was solid. A crunchy exterior, with just a touch of rosemary to balance the tang of the buttermilk, led to juicy, hot chicken underneath. It came with mashed potatoes, which I topped with the chicken-rich cream gravy. More impressive, though, was a mound of perfectly prepared zucchini, which had been sautéed with the most judicious amount of rosemary (too much and a dish can taste soapy). The attention that vegetable received was the right test to determine how much care is paid to all details, great and small.
Desserts that night included an excellent lemon cheesecake. The toasted coconut cake had a fine seven-minute frosting, though the cake itself was a little on the dry side. An apple dish, at times called a cobbler or a turnover, found no fans at the table.
For the record, I was with friends who have known the Pikes for some time, so it was impossible to remain incognito. Still, all of the customers that evening were given a friendly welcome and made to feel right at home. And that’s appreciated no matter where the restaurant is.
On the night we were there, Pike’s Place had not received its beer and wine license. When making your reservations, you may want to ask if it’s OK to bring your own wine or beer with you.
Pike’s Place Restaurant
167 Panther Ridge
Lunch and dinner: Wednesday-Saturday. Brunch: Sunday.
Again, use the map to find Panther Ridge, but look for the restaurant just off State Highway 16.