Friday, March 31, 2023

Tacos and oysters collide in this new Merrimac Trail restaurant

Casa Pearl opens Dec. 4 on Merrimac Trail in York County. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
Casa Pearl opens Dec. 4 on Merrimac Trail in York County. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

He’s from the Northern Neck and she’s from Northern California, and they’re blending their culinary backgrounds in their new home of Williamsburg.

Chelsea and Michael Maksimowicz moved to Williamsburg from Charleston, South Carolina in December 2017. Twelve months later they are opening their first business together on Merrimac Trail, next to CVS.

Casa Pearl will open Dec. 4, Chelsea said, and as its name would suggest the restaurant will offer mollusks on its menu. The concrete walkway leading to the front door is even lined with oyster shells and a display case inside will show six types of oysters.

The couple both graduated from culinary schools – Michael from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and Chelsea from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Oregon.

Being from Colonial Beach, Virginia, Michael grew up eating from “the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay,” Chelsea said. As a California native of Latin American descent, she said she grew up eating tacos.

“Why not combine the two?” she said.

In addition to a raw bar that offers oysters and peel and eat shrimp, and snacks like chips and dip, hushpuppies and shrimp toast, Casa Pearl offers a selection of tacos – some stuffed with oyster, and others with fish, pork or chicken.

“The market needs something that’s different,” Chelsea said.

The menu for Casa Pearl. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
The menu for Casa Pearl. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

She added they have tried to source their ingredients regionally and will rotate their menu seasonally.

“We want to feature the fish when they’re at their best,” Chelsea said.

They also have four beers on tap, including three for local craft brewers Virginia Beer Company, Alewerks and Hardywood. They will also carry bottles and cans of beer, wine and a cocktail menu.

Before it was a restaurant, Chelsea said the building was a Texaco gas station that was built in the 1950s and sat vacant for many years.

“This space really spoke to us,” she said.

The inside of Case Pearl will have lots of natural light. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
The inside of Case Pearl will have lots of natural light. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

She said she and her husband took pleasure in taking an eyesore and remodeling it into a fresh new business.

The remodeling cost about $1 million, with some being covered by York County grants. The rest came out of the couple’s pockets or their investors.

The cinder block walls, the wood behind the bar, the rafters and the concrete floor are all original to the building, but have been touched up to look fresh with a hint of the building’s age. They even kept the garage door, facing Merrimac Trail, in the dining area to let natural light in.

Chelsea said they took a do-it-yourself attitude to decorate their kitchen. She searched on Pinterest for ideas to keep them under budget and Michael made the bars and tables. For their dining tables, Michael bought wood from a home improvement store, charred them with an open flame to seal the wood and give it a worn look, and then gave it a fresh coat of paint.

“It makes it that much more special,” Chelsea said.

Casa Pearl seats 50 between their bar and dining room.

Once they settle in, Casa Pearl’s hours will be:

  • Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Closed Monday

During the first week Chelsea said Casa Pearl will only serve dinner, before opening in time for lunch their second week. They said they will also have a ribbon cutting and grand opening with county staff.

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