MISSOULA — The Pearl Café' in Missoula was the place to go for years for exceptional French cuisine in a vintage downtown building. Although it’s closed now, something new is coming to the building. something new -- but maybe a little bit familière.
The Pearl Café on Missoula’s East Front Street was fancy, French, and fantastic. While owner Pearl Cash retired and closed up shop, the new owners are ready to keep the French cuisine coming with a new name and a new look.
It’s a project they began even in a pandemic.
“Our take on it was being downtown, having the opportunity to provide beer and wine in a fun atmosphere, down here would succeed or everything was going to fail. So, the idea that we were somehow at greater risk by raising the tightrope, a little bit off the ground wasn’t really a concern for us. It was just a matter of we just had to swing for the fences on this one.” - Brasserie Porte Rouge owner and chef Walker Hunter.
Walker knows this space well. For seven years he was a chef at the Pearl Café before branching out with his partners Jason McMackin and Cameron Williams to open the very popular Burns Street Bistro in Missoula.
Now, they’re beginning the interior work on their next adventure.
“So, there’s going to be a very substantial interior remodel of the Pearl to open it up and make it have more of an open bar social vibe to it,” Walker explained.
When the restaurant opens the brown door will be red but don’t be intimidated by the name; this is a place for everyone -- even if you know nothing about French cuisine.
“You don’t have to be able to pronounce it. We’ve been getting congratulations from people in French and I don’t know what any of them say,” Walker said.
“We’ll have burgers on the menu, we’ll have price points ranging from a reasonable $20 dinner to eat all the oysters and drink all the beer you can. And leave your wallet at the bar. “
Just like Burns Street, the new place will be unique in style and substance, as they’re turning the page but not closing the book on the legacy of this special place and the woman who started it.
“We aren’t looking to continue the Pearl as it was. What she did, she did exceptionally well, it was her vision. It was singular, and it was a thing of beauty,” Walker said “And I wouldn’t try to replicate that.”
“That said, we will be celebrating some of her dishes over time bringing them back on to the menu here and there so people can understand the pedigree of the space and French cooking in Missoula Montana in which Pearl was really the architect,” Walker concluded.
Walker is thinking the new restaurant will probably be this winter, around December.