Home / News / The Baler Bar is set to bring a new dining experience to Hollister

The Baler Bar is set to bring a new dining experience to Hollister

Sep 24, 2023Sep 24, 2023

The Baler Bar and Grill is moving closer to being a reality as the final permits for the restaurant have been cleared and the renovation work is being completed. Taking over the old location of the Hollister Bar and Grill at 500 San Benito St., the plans are to create a high-end steakhouse with a unique customer experience.

The landlord is also renovating 12 rental units created from the hotel rooms located above the bar. Permit hearings by the Hollister Planning Commission for finishing that work are scheduled for Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.

The name of the restaurant is an obvious nod to the nickname of San Benito High School, though principal owner Raul Escareno, who co-owns Mangia Italian Restaurant in Hollister, himself attended Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.

"We wanted to do something for the town," he said. "People always say ‘Go, Balers.’ So I thought, ‘you know, Balers is a pretty cool name." I feel like I am part of the town and this is my way of saying it."

The remodeling will first deal with closing off access to the kitchen from the units above, a relic of when the building used to be a hotel. After that, Escareno will be redesigning the front of the restaurant.

"The kitchen is going to stay the same," he said, "but we are going to redecorate the inside. We want to go with different colors, a little more modern and sleek, a little more upscale."

The restaurant will focus on steaks, including tomahawk steaks, porterhouses, and filet mignon, but will also be offering fine foods like Chilean sea bass and free-range game hens.

"I know a lot of the dishes we are doing are not in any other restaurants," he said. "I think a lot of times people looking for something will go out of town. I am guilty of that too. We want to do things that nobody else is doing so people who are looking for fine dining will stay in Hollister."

There will also be a full bar with crafted drinks.

"I don't want to say ‘upscale’ because that sounds expensive," he said. "But we are going to have cocktails where you can smoke the inside of the glass with alcohol or use dry ice for effects. There will be more colorful drinks, drinks with microgreens, and some using a smoke machine."

Other dishes, including the appetizers, are still being considered.

"Right now we are making some changes in what we thought we would be offering," he said. "We have a chef we are considering, and we will see how things work out with her. We have a main chef we met with from Carmel who has great artistry in his cooking and plating. We have a lot riding on this and we want to be as impressive as we can."

The restaurant will be open for dinner only so the chefs can concentrate on presentation and quality.

"At Mangia, it is more of a family restaurant," he said. "At the Baler, we want it to be more like ‘date night.’ We want the overall feeling to be ‘wow!’ and we want you to leave feeling like a million bucks."

Escareno will also have an informal dress code for customers.

"When you go to a nice place like that," he said, "you can't just walk in however you are. When you go to a steakhouse, you don't wear sandals and shorts. Our staff will be in suits and ties and we want people to feel special when they go there."

The Baler Bar will be open once all of the tenant improvement permits are approved, with a launch date sometime in November.

"It should only take about two weeks to do the demo and the remodel once the permits are done," he said. "We will be doing a soft opening. A lot of restaurants make the mistake of opening before they are really ready and then things go wrong. We want to make sure the serving staff works together well and are comfortable with each other and that the kitchen staff is ready."

Escareno is hoping his new venture will fit into the growing transformation of San Benito Street as a "foodie" location, joining recent additions like the Pour Decisions and Mad Pursuit taprooms and the soon-to-open wine bar, Crave Wine Company.

"I feel for a while there was no destination dining in Hollister," he said. "Nobody wanted to go downtown. People asked me about moving downtown and I always said ‘no.’ I cruise through there and when it is dead at Mangia it is busy there. So we want to get our foot in the door there and also bring in a different vibe."

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The Baler Bar and Grill