Read about the latest news and activities at the Appleton Grill & Ballroom in Watsonville, CA.
Big Return on Community Engagement-Santa Cruz Sentinel Nov 28, 2015
Ann Parker, Restaurant Review: A tasty Watsonville history lesson at the Appleton Grill
By Ann Parker
POSTED: 01/13/2014 01:11:06 PM PST (click here for the full article)
WATSONVILLE — It isn’t every day you can munch onion rings in a historic landmark, but customers at Watsonville’s Appleton Grill can do just that.
When Kay and I talked about having lunch at the grill, she said, “You have to see the ballroom,” then filled me in on the history of the 102-year-old hotel where the restaurant is located.
Originally named the Appleton Hotel and designed by famed architect William Weeks, the four-story structure was built in 1911 at the then-astronomical cost of $100,000. Nine years ago, the hotel was badly damaged in one of Watsonville’s largest fires, but after extensive renovation reopened as the Wall Street Inn three years ago.
Of course the ballroom was the first thing I wanted to see. Entering via the spacious outdoor patio, Kay and I walked through the high-ceilinged restaurant and into an area that was once the Appleton Hotel’s huge two-story-high lobby but now functions as a ballroom. The turn-of-the-century opulence of the hotel has been preserved: marble wainscoting, square columns topped with ornate Corinthian scrolls, stained glass skylights. Heavy red-and-gold brocade curtains fell floor to ceiling along one wall; in an adjoining room, the same material covered several banquettes. Kay pointed out a marble-fronted bar and a handsome balcony high above the room’s tiled floor.
We returned to the Appleton Grill and were greeted cordially by our server/hostess, Gloria, whose attentiveness was enhanced by her warm, friendly charm. When we admitted that this was our first visit, she said, in mock seriousness, “Shame on you” and laughed, inviting us to return.
Gloria was helpful throughout our meal, from making menu suggestions to checking in with us frequently but not obtrusively. She also explained that the restaurant was in the process of expanding the dinner menu, including adding her favorite, fried polenta pieces.
We started with Appleton Sliders ($9.75), which came two to an order, requesting one with pesto and sautéed mushrooms and the other with teriyaki sauce and pineapple. For entrees, we ordered Spinach Lover’s Pizza ($8.95) and Caesar Salad with Marinated Skirt Steak ($10.95), two of the day’s specials. Beer, wine and other beverages are available, including espresso drinks; we chose fountain Sodas ($2).
The grill’s décor combines historic and modern; tall white columns presided over sleek, comfortable furniture and stylish hanging lights. Walls painted in cool greens and yellows highlighted historical local photographs. Behind our banquette, a sepia-toned photo captured a striking entry in the 1911 California Apple Show: a replica of the brand-new Appleton Hotel constructed out of dried apples.
Gloria brought our sliders, which came with a big basket of housemade onion rings that were tasty and very hot, the onions sweet and juicy under their crisp batter. The handmade burgers on the sliders were delicious, lean but full of flavor, and the tender Sunamo’s Bakery mini-buns were just right. However, the sliced tomato and watermelon wedge that came with the sliders were pale and flabby, and although the teriyaki sauce and pesto were quite good, the fresh pineapple was hard and lacking flavor.
The Caesar steak salad also earned mixed reviews. Some aspects were very good — the tender marinated skirt steak was perfect, for instance, wonderfully flavorful and grilled exactly medium-rare. But the salad itself was overdressed, using a rather bland dressing lacking the anchovy edge or lemony tang of classic Caesar, and topped with too-soft tomato pieces and slices of barely toasted bread.
We were quite happy with our pizza, cooked in a gas pizza oven and featuring a crust somewhere between Neapolitan and Chicago-style: neither thin nor deep-dish. The browned “cornicione” (what Italians call the outer crust) was puffy, chewy and crisp-edged, surrounding a center generously strewn with fresh spinach, chicken breast, bacon and mozzarella.
“For anyone tired of thin-crust pizza, this is a good alternative,” I commented.
Although it has been open for several months, the Appleton Grill’s grand opening was less than two weeks ago; perhaps this attractive little cafe hasn’t worked out all the kinks, resulting in the inconsistent food quality we experienced.
Located near the intersection of Rodriguez and West Beach streets, Appleton Grill is also worth a visit for its decor alone, from the large, attractive patio enhanced with fire pits and a flat-wall fountain to the gorgeous architecture of the historic building.
Worth returning for: That memorable skirt steak
Puffy pizza: If you’re tired of thin-crust pizzetas, try Appleton Grill’s substantial version
Faded fruit: Especially in an area known for its produce, our garnishes didn’t measure up
Don’t miss: The opulent lobby-turned-ballroom and the photo of the Hotel Appleton made out of apples
Pretty patio: Appleton Grill’s spacious outside seating area is one of nicest in town
By laura Copeland
Santa Cruz Sentinel
POSTED: 04/16/2013 12:22:07 PM PDT
Finishing touches are coming along on the Appleton Grill in Watsonville, expected to open next month on the ground floor of the Wall Street Inn. Owner Abe Novin has tapped as his manager Jackie Bisesto, who owned Scotts Valley’s now-shuttered Backstage for 20 years before selling it in the early 2000s.
The Appleton Grill will aim for a family-friendly vibe with pizza, wings, soups and salads. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served.
“Abe wants to keep it affordable but maintain the quality,” Bisesto said. “Prices will be competitive, but everything will be homemade.”
Watsonville resident Gabriel Chavarria won a contest to select the new restaurant’s name, a reference to the building’s history. The four-story structure at 30 W. Beach St., née The Appleton Hotel, was nearly destroyed in 2005 in the largest fire in Watsonville history.
Posted: Monday, Mar 25th, 2013
BY: TODD GUILD
WATSONVILLE — In the days when the streets of Watsonville were not yet paved, when many people used horses as their primary source of transportation and large buildings were virtually unknown, the Appleton Hotel was a source of pride for the city and a vision of the agricultural epicenter Watsonville was to become.
Now, eight years after a massive fire largely destroyed the 101-year-old building, the final stages of the renovation process are falling into place with a ground floor restaurant slated to open in April or May.
Owner Abe Novin in January announced a community-wide contest to name the new business, and lifelong Watsonville resident Gabriel Chavarria’s choice — the Appleton Grill — was the winning selection.
Chavarria said his choice is a nod to the region’s rich agricultural heritage, which reaches around the world.
On a recent trip to China, Chavarria said he saw bottles of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider in a hotel refrigerator. With many fields now growing berries, he said he wanted to help preserve the history of the apple crop that once dominated the region.
“Call me old-fashioned but I feel apples and Watsonville are synonymous,” Chavarria said.
Now known as the Wall Street Inn, the 96-room hotel and theater complex was designed 101 years ago by renowned architect William Weeks after more than 40,000 people attended the city’s Apple Annual festival, a fete meant to celebrate the success of the crop.
Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30th, 2013
BY: TODD GUILD
“We really don’t have a good name for it,” owner Abe Novin said. “This is for the community. I think the community will benefit to know it’s for them.”
Novin, who has owned the building since 2004, said the restaurant will still feature wings and pizza, along with a “complete” menu with American and Italian dishes.
Additionally, the ornate adjacent lobby, will serve as a meeting spot for events such as parties and Quinceañeras.
Originally called the Appleton Hotel, it had a restaurant with a grand dining room, a cigar stand and an adjacent theater. It was converted to a residential apartment nearly 40 years ago.
The Hotel was built to house the people flocking to Watsonville for the city’s Apple Annual festival, which drew 40,000 to its inaugural event.
Built by William Weeks and considered the last example of neoclassical revival architecture in Watsonville, the building has long been a centerpiece in downtown Watsonville.
Among Weeks’ many other accomplishments was also the Bandstand in the Watsonville Plaza, The Christian church on Madison and East Lake and the Lettunich Building.
“It has a historical touch,” Novin said. “There is really nothing else like that in Watsonville.”
An early morning fire on Jan. 5, 2005, destroyed the interior of building and displaced 50 people who were living in apartments after a renter fell asleep while smoking. Novin repaired the building and reopened it last year with 74 simple studio apartments. Those plans included opening a restaurant on the ground floor.
Novin’s plans to allow a franchise called Wings-Pizza-N-Things to move into the spot fell through early this year. Because he has already purchased the pizza oven and other supplies, however, he has decided to open his own restaurant, with plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Jackie Bisesto, who will be managing the restaurant, said she aims to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer a unique menu, including “great burgers, a different kind of pizza, and great wings.”
“We’re trying to fill a niche that Watsonville doesn’t have,” she said.
“It will be fun to see what people come up with,” Bisesto said about the contest. “Hopefully we will get everyone involved.”