After wowing South Bay diners with his debut in Campbell many years ago (Buca, Restaurant O), chef Justin Perez headed to Santa Clara and took over the iconic Wilson’s Jewel Bakery space. He’s still running catering operations from this location, but the former fine-dining and banquet space has been transformed into Homestead Kitchen + Libations, a welcoming neighborhood spot. Here’s what we found on our first visit:
THE VIBE: Modern and lounge-like. And by lounge-like, we mean the dining spaces are so inviting that you might want to lounge and nosh all night. The redesign placed comfortable, modular furniture and casual tables in rooms with cool decor touches: Books, a bicycle, even a humongous word puzzle turn the walls into lighthearted art galleries. In one room, a billiards table and a collection of board games add to the fun vibe. Just don’t drip any sauce from the Buffalo Chicken Sliders on the dominos.
THE FOOD: The menu of wood-fired pizzas, sliders, salads and small plates will change with the seasons. A Wild Mushroom pizza with fava beans, goat cheese, arugula and truffle-sage sauce atop a nicely crisped crust ($14) evokes spring, as do the Artichoke and Brussels Sprouts Dip with pita chips ($10) and the Strawberry-Rhubarb Pop Tarts ($8).
Other shareable dishes include Pan-Roasted PEI Mussels with lemon butter ($14), Grilled Salmon Salad with avocado and fruit ($14), Turnip Lettuce Wraps with carrots, ginger and mango chutney ($10) and the aforementioned Buffalo Chicken Sliders on biscuits (3 for $12).
Besides fruit tarts, the executive pastry chef, Mimi Young, is baking her version of a local favorite, Guava Passion Creme Cake ($8), and Chocolate “Samoa” Bars with housemade gelato and hot fudge ($8).
On the libations side, The Bowers Lemon — a tart lemon-and-pomegranate drink made with Skyy Citrus Vodka — and nine other signature cocktails ($12 each) are named primarily for local streets Well cocktails run $7 and craft beers and wines by the glass are $8
DON’T MISS: We couldn’t stop eating the Asparagus Fries ($10), a clever and yummy shareable plate. They’re shaved length-wise to look like French fries, battered and fried. Because they’re dusted with togarashi seasoning and served with wasabi vinaigrette, they have a bit of heat.
PERFECT FOR … If you’re a local and you’re not already stopping by the bar for a post-work drink and bite, then you should swing by. And fans of chef Justin’s previous restaurants will definitely want to check out what he’s doing now.
GOOD TO KNOW: The bar is drop-in, but it’s smart to make reservations on the restaurant side.
DETAILS: Open four days a week, 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. 1285 Homestead Road (at Monroe), Santa Clara. 408-638-5300; www.thehomesteadcatering.com/eatery-bar/.