For husband and wife Mikey and Chelsea Maksimowicz, Casa Pearl is more than just a restaurant—it is the fulfillment of a culinary dream and the summation of childhood memories. Set to open in Williamsburg in October 2018, Casa Pearl will dish out playful seafood bites, funky tacos and tasteful twists on American Southern classics.
Both Mikey and Chelsea discovered a passion for food at a young age. Summers in the back of Outer Banks kitchens prompted Mikey to exchange a college career at Virginia Wesleyan for New York City’s French Culinary Institute (now known as International Culinary Center). Similarly, Chelsea’s love for cooking was revealed in the kitchen of her childhood home preparing Latin-inspired dishes with her mother and grandmother in Oregon. This culinary upbringing ultimately led Chelsea to pursue a career in the food industry at the famed Le Cordon Bleu in London.
Mikey and Chelsea have since appeared in numerous kitchens around the globe including those in Argentina; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; and Washington, D.C. This year, however, the two will be making their Williamsburg debut in a kitchen of their very own with Mikey as executive chef and Chelsea as general manager.
Explaining Chelsea’s decision to swap the chef’s hat for business attire, Mikey says, “About a year ago Chelsea switched gears because we knew we would want to operate the restaurant in a way that gave us full control.” Chelsea currently serves as the assistant general manager at Richmond’s Rappahannock.
Casa Pearl marries the briny savors of Mikey’s Northern Neck upbringing with Chelsea’s Central American palate to create the perfect fusion of seafood and spice. Focalizing the plates of the lunch and dinner joint are freshly harvested oysters from the Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic waters. Other items on the restaurant’s seafood-driven menu include Outer Banks shrimp, cobia, black sea bass, mackerel and catfish.
The couple hasn’t forgotten about fish-free diets either, offering a selection of courses crafted from Shenandoah Valley pork, Maryland beef and fresh produce from regional farms. One of Casa Pearl’s signature tacos is stuffed with fried chicken, bread-and-butter pickles, pimento cheese and traditional Southern coleslaw.
Taking cantina-style chips and salsa to a new level, Mikey will also introduce a trademark dip combining barbecue spiced pork chicharrón with pickled vegetables and pimento cheese. Furthermore, Mikey and Chelsea are designing a kids menu that transcends the cut-and-dry chicken and pasta options of other eateries by offering kid-friendly versions of Casa Pearl’s main plates.
“My sister whom I am very close with has two young kids who are very adventurous eaters,” explains Mikey. “They have great palates for a 3 year old and a 6 year old and enjoy foods like oysters, filet mignon and fish.”
Mikey and Chelsea are excited to welcome the refined palates of young diners into Casa Pearl and hope to provide a space where families can comfortably enjoy a gourmet meal without the stuffiness of other fine dining establishments. While the presentation and tastes of Casa Pearl’s dishes will mirror the quality of Williamsburg’s most expensive eateries, the cost per check at Casa Pearl will average only $19.
The founding of Casa Pearl not only sparked a new chapter for the Maksimowiczs, but breathed life into a formerly abandoned Texaco gas station dating back to 1951. After decades of isolation, the building located just outside Colonial Williamsburg is undergoing major renovations to prepare for its rebirth as Casa Pearl.
“We’re putting up a whole new façade on the front and we’re adding a small building off to the right for a patio, but as far as the inside goes, it’s going to be very minimalistic. We’re going to keep the concrete floors and roll-up garage doors so that [the space] will still somewhat resemble a gas station,” Mikey says.
The couple intends to host monthly cornhole tournaments on the patio and commission local artists for live entertainment. Also gracing the patio will be winter oyster roasts, a Southern tradition Mikey and Chelsea enjoyed during their two-year stint in Charleston. In true South Carolina style, Casa Pearl will steam cluster oysters on their outdoor patio and dump the clusters onto a communal table for guests to enjoy. Reminiscing about his Charleston days, Mikey says, “People stand around the table eating saltines, drinking beer and enjoying freshly steamed oysters, and that’s something we definitely want to introduce to Williamsburg.”
Come summer 2019, the Casa Pearl patio will transform into a crab lover’s paradise featuring the craftsmanship of Mikey’s father, a commercial crab enthusiast. “He’ll be supplying crabs during the summer months so guests can buy a bushel of crabs, a couple of appetizers and a couple pitchers of beer for a fixed price and sit on the patio while my father cooks them.”
Casa Pearl is located at 722 Merrimac Trail, Williamsburg. Beginning this fall, Casa Pearl will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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