Then & Now
By Judy Salamacha
In the late 1800s worldwide travelers would pause in Cayucos to enjoy the Pedraita Family’s hospitality and cuisine.
Immigrants from Switzerland, they realized the need for a hotel and dining room near the busy pier and warehouse Captain James Cass had built by 1875.
Additionally, inland dairy farmers and pelt traders would frequent the busy docks bringing their wares to be shipped to Northern and Southern California. Among the regulars at Pedraita’s Cottage Hotel was the Hearst Family. From San Francisco to San Luis Obispo they’d travel by private railway car, then a horse-drawn surrey would pick them up for the ride up the Coast.
Satisfied by a 3-course meal for 50 cents, they’d continue the journey to their ranch above Cambria to camp in elaborate tents attended by many domestics.
“Our deed dates the building back to 1876 purchased from Captain Cass,” said Hank Eisemann. He and wife Mary Ellen purchased the property from Mrs. Pedraita in 1974 renaming it The Way Station. “The Pedraitas built the center section first, then brought in barns for a 12-room hotel on the north ell and kitchen and bakery pantry on the south. She was an excellent cook and successful from the beginning.”
The Eisemanns restored the aging property, repurposing the hotel rooms for shops. When long-time tenant, Cayucos Candy Counter, moved to another location, the restaurant operator, Chef Bill, requested a wine bar to showcase the fine wines stored in a wine cellar under the restaurant.
Currently, the upper level has three plush vacation rentals with magnificent views of Little Cayucos Creek and the Pacific. “Mrs. Pedraita always had a place with us,” said Hank. “Her cottage became the bakery and deli. We are enclosing the patio to accommodate more seating and special events.”
The Eisemanns cherish the history of the building. It’s décor sparks memories of times gone by, with antique art and historical photography. When available Hank loves to tour guests through the annotated collection.
“World renowned pianist, Padewereski, who was the first prime minister of Poland, played in the parlor and brought visiting artists like Madam Schumanheinke to perform. Our daughter owns Salinas Dance School and restored the piano for her studio.”
The first restaurant operator was Sue Patchen who had Cayucos’ first meat market. In 1992, a fire shut down the restaurant. In 2001, Chef Hoppe reintroduced fine dining until his untimely death in 2010.
But the outdoor patio garden is Hank’s pride and passion. He laid the 20,000 bricks and planted each plant. It is now his daily joy to maintain it. “Our son Marc is a local contractor. He repurposed the wood to build the enclosure.” Birds and butterflies love the garden and locals find solace sitting in the lush sunken area. “Marc has modernized the kitchen and built a mammoth barbecue area on the patio. Pizza and tapas can be prepared in the Italian wood-burning oven.”
Hank and Mary Ellen are as interesting as their historic building. They met attending San Jose State and have been married “61.5 years.” She taught kindergarten in Salinas for 30 years. Besides expert gardening, Hank has written several children’s books and was the first to document the story of “Hump-Free the Wrong-Way Whale” in an illustrated book. Mary Ellen loves to collect pumps and engines and in 1974 started the Cayucos Antique and Steam Engine Show — set for Memorial Day Weekend this year.
After a lengthy search, the Eisemanns have selected a new generation of restaurateurs to re-open for business. Lunada Garden Bistro is family-owned and operated by Markco Lucatero, Jorge Lopez, Pablo Favila and Jessica Favila.
They’ve worked day and night to present an American/European bistro menu to open in early May, including patio dining, wine bar and The Coffee Bar. “My mom’s (Eva Mercedes) cheesecake is really good — she has a magic touch when cooking,” said Jessica.
The entire family has worked in the restaurant industry for years at quality eateries including Cambria Pines Lodge, Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, Sea Chest Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Indigo Moon, Centrally Grown and French Corner Bakery of Cambria.
It was a family dream to join family-forces in their own restaurant. Marcko spoke for the group when he said, “We are so grateful to the Eisemanns for giving us the chance. They liked our menu.”
Pablo said, “We hope Cayucos will want us involved. Many have been welcoming us and see we are working hard.”
Jorge added, “We’ve tried every restaurant in Cayucos and met the people. We’re putting our heart and soul into this.”
And Jessica said, “We want to be part of Cayucos — be involved in the community.”
Freelance writer, columnist and author, Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media. Contact her at: email@example.com or (805) 801-1422 with story ideas.