Eat, Drink, Savor: Harvest Time Roadhouse celebrates first anniversary

Robert Eliason

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Adam Jones has been adjusting to being the new owner of Hollister’s Harvest Time Roadhouse, since taking over the business from Grillin & Chillin Alehouse’s Chuck Frowein and opening on Jan. 4, 2023. And being in charge of a restaurant, he has discovered, can make foursome long days. 

“I usually get here about 6:30 in the morning,” he said. “I sweep and mop and just clean from top to bottom, doing a really thorough job. Then I get the tri-tip put in and get everything else kind of fired up and rocking and rolling until everyone else gets here around 10 a.m.”

Jones had worked in construction and retired from PG&E just months before opening Harvest Time. The closest he came to having any restaurant experience was eating at the one that his family ran. 

“I always liked the business,” he said. “My family owned a place called Harvest Time in Gilroy, which became my hangout spot. I spent a bunch of time there and it’s where me and my wife got engaged.”

In 2015, after spending most of his life in Gilroy, Jones and his wife Chenine purchased a ranch in San Juan Bautista. Jones was now retired and said he was getting ready to spend his days just sitting around until the two of them fell in love with the restaurant. 

“This became our new hangout,” he said, “a place to go watch the game, to grab a burger and a beer. I asked Chuck if he had any interest in selling it, and he was okay with the idea. I still call him for information and tricks all the time.”

Part of the attraction for Jones was the location itself, sitting between Hollister and San Juan Bautista, on its own and a little isolated.

“I like being a little secluded,” he said. “I know that I would probably get more business if I were in the middle of town, but I love the country. And I think we are going to have a lot of fun out here.”

Jones has been slow to make changes, only recently getting his liquor license so he can run a bar, but he is almost finished with a section in front of the building for covered outdoor seating and plans to build a stand for local fruit and produce along with a stage for outdoor performances. 

“Once they cut the grass,” he said, “It’s nice and flat and beautiful in the field. It would be fun to do some big country concerts out there, down the line. And we can do some other things to draw people in, like set up a pumpkin patch or a Christmas tree farm.”

One thing that has not changed much yet is the menu, which is the creation of Ismael Manriquez, who is a hold-over from the previous ownership. 

“Anybody who’s eaten here in the past and has enjoyed the food should know it is still Ismael’s menu,” Jones said. “A lot of his love has gone into those recipes. To be honest, If I didn’t have this Ismael in the back, I don’t know how we would have made it the first year.” 

Another person he leans on is a gentleman known only as “Uncle Roger,” who handles the tri-tip.  

“I can cook burgers, and I love barbecuing steaks and that kind of stuff,” he said, “but the magic that he does, I could not do. Uncle Roger will not let me in on any of his secrets—he said at one point, ‘If I tell you, then you won’t need me anymore.’” 

As he has made the business his own, Jones has been carefully listening to his customers as well, sometimes making changes based on their recommendations and suggestions.

“I have one guy come in here and order a BLT every single time,” he said. “He’s in here three or four days a week. He tells me, ‘I’m gonna tell you your bacon sucks. I don’t like it, but I do like my BLTs for lunch.’ So I did some research and brought in a bacon he likes. And he was right: it’s delicious.”

Jones’s almost constant presence has helped to emphasize customer service, as has his retention of long-time employees like Nikki Hassel and Maddie Hawkes, both customer favorites.

“I’d rather see a few repeat customers,” he said, “than be a place where a thousand people come in today who aren’t gonna come over here tomorrow. If we’re not making good food and holding it all together, we’re going to lose those regulars who are coming in.”

And, it turns out, without much advertising and very little social media presence, those regular customers have been his best advertising through word of mouth. 

“I had one grandma named Carol that came and ate dinner here,” he said. “She would send everybody she knew over here. Within two weeks, I probably had 30 people come in saying, ‘Carol told me I had to come over here and try the food.’ You can’t ask for more than that.”

The Food of Harvest Time Roadhouse 

Beefy Nachos – A mound of either seasoned ground beef or tri-tip is piled on house-toasted tortilla chips then covered in nacho cheese, guacamole and house-marinated jalapenos which provides a mellow heat. I tried both variations and preferred the tri-tip, cut into cubes and amazingly tender, but the seasoning is key with this one—nicely spiced. I am not big on nachos but I enjoyed these, mostly because the cheese sauce did not overwhelm the flavor of the meat. 

Ceviche – I am allergic to shrimp, so I had a friend, Manuel Rocha, try it for me. “It tastes clean and fresh,” he said. “The balance is perfect, with none of the different ingredients overpowering the other. It is not hot, but you get the jalapeno and chili flavor. And it is refreshing having sliced avocado on the side rather than having it cut up into pieces, almost as a palate cleanser.” Jones is currently running the ceviche as a special but plans to bring it into the menu.

Loaded Elote Potato – A massive yet fluffy baked potato layered with garlic butter, sweet corn and cotija cheese then sprinkled with chili powder, cilantro and lime juice, This is definitely a side-dish for the table to share—I have had the BBQ tri-tip version of this before, which comes with half a pound of chopped meat, and I could not come close to finishing it. 

Patty Melt – My go-to burger on the menu, a half-pound patty served with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. The key to any great patty melt is the quality of the grilled rye bread and this one is a winner. It lends a sour, buttery taste to the sandwich and harmonizes with cheese and soft onions. The quality of the meat is stellar and this is one of my favorite burgers anywhere.

Pepperjack Tri-Tip Sandwich –  Jones tried eight different kinds of breads before settling on a ciabatta bread from Petaluma. The seasoned tri-tip for the sandwich is prepared simply, tossed in a pan with minced garlic and unsalted butter, then topped with pepper jack cheese. The BBQ sauce is another one of Uncle Roger’s secrets, holding down the sweetness in deference to the rich, deep tomato base. Jones’s tri-tip sandwiches were the hit of last year’s Gablian Seneca event and any of the dishes with this meat are worth checking out.

Street Tacos –  “We use a Hawaiian teriyaki-based marinade with a cabbage slaw we cut and make ourselves,” Jones said. “The meat is actually sliced ribeye and it is topped with a yogurt habanero sauce.”  There is a bright, citrusy tang to the marinade with an earthy undertone and the meat very tender with just enough tooth to it to make it satisfyingly chewy. The dish comes with a side of pico de gallo that offers a nice contrast to the deep tones of the yogurt. I really enjoyed these and I think they are a must-try.  

Homemade Stout Chili – Made with cubed tri-tip and ground beef, Jones said he had Manriquez tone the heat of the recipe down, which keeps the chili very approachable. (Jones says the kitchen can kick up the heat on request.) Tri-tip, again, is the star of the dish and is in plentiful proportion to the two varieties of beans. This is a comfort food version of chili and a cup is filling enough for a light lunch.

Recommendations for future Eat, Drink, Savor articles can be emailed to [email protected].

BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.

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Robert Eliason benitolink.com Eat Drink Savor,Features,Food / Dining,Special Projects,adam jones,harvest time roadhouse

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2024-01-21 18:52:26 , BenitoLink

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