Who knew converting an old gas station into a restaurant specializing in oysters and tacos would be such a hit?
Michael and Chelsea Maksimowicz owners of Casa Pearl on Merrimac Trail, had such an inkling when they decided to open the casual, family-friendly restaurant and bar in December 2018.
“We just fell in love with the concept,” Chelsea said.
Casa Pearl is housed in a former Texaco gas station that closed in 2002. The property had been abandoned for years until the couple bought it and opened their restaurant with the help of York County.
Both Michael and Chelsea come from culinary backgrounds with a combined 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry. They met while working at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Chelsea, who is from California, grew up on Latin American cuisine while Michael, a native of the Northern Neck, favors fresh seafood, so the pair decided to combine the two styles of food when creating the menu for Casa Pearl.
“Ever since we met, we knew we wanted to open up a restaurant together,” said Chelsea.
Casa Pearl’s small menu features raw bar items, snacks, salads, and tacos as well as beer, wine and cocktails. Among the seafood options are oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp and black sea bass. Patrons can also choose from oyster po’boy tacos, grilled fish tacos, smoked pork tacos, or fried chicken tacos.
“We try to use as many local ingredients as possible,” Chelsea said. “The fish tacos and the oyster po’boy tacos are what people like to order the most. My favorite item on our menu is the ceviche.”
Michael heads up the kitchen as executive chef while Chelsea serves as Casa Pearl’s general manager. A staff of 26 assists with running the business.
“Everyone who works here is awesome,” Chelsea said. “We have a family-like environment here.”
Many locals have embraced Casa Pearl, with customers returning on a routine basis.
“We have many regulars who come back every week,” said Chelsea. “We’ve been really lucky.”
Chelsea said she has always enjoyed working in the restaurant business.
“I love the adrenaline rush when we have people lining up out the door waiting to eat. I love being busy and hearing all the restaurant noise in the background, the cooks in the back, the bartenders, the people laughing and happy and enjoying their food.”
Casa Pearl hopes to offer entertainment as the warmer weather approaches, with live music and cornhole planned for the patio and food specials like crab boils in the summer and oyster roasts in the fall.
“We definitely have big plans,” said Chelsea.
Want to go?
722 Merrimac Trail
Lunch: Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays