Paul Martin’s American Bistro

It takes a lot to get me to go to Roseville.  It’s not a destination that I seek out, let’s put it that way.  I don’t have any specific beef with the place per se, but it doesn’t draw me in with any specific gravitational pull.  That being said, when I was invited to dine at Paul Martin’s American Bistro in Roseville recently, I jumped at the chance.  I had heard too many good things about the place from friends, acquaintances, and others in the know to turn down the opportunity.  

Many of you will scratch your heads and say, “Roseville?  Paul who’s?  Why bother?”  Of course you’d say that.  We can’t even get you to go over the J Street bridge, heck, we can’t even get you to leave your couch, why should we expect you get excited about something ten miles up the freeway?  And that’s just fine.  The truth is, there are plenty of folks up the road who recognize Martin’s as the best new restaurant in their neck of the woods.  They’re excited.  They’ll leave their couches.  They’ll put the box of Bugles down and throw on some khakis.  The ‘Bistro will not be hurting for business.  I know you don’t want to hear this, and I apologize for bringing this out into the open, but Paul Martin’s doesn’t need you.   Oh, now I’ve got your attention, now you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, now you’ve got some skin in the game.  Fair enough, read on.

Paul Martin’s American Bistro is the project of restaurateur Paul Fleming, founder of PF Chang’s, Pei Wei Asian Diner, and Fleming’s Steakhouse–all chains, all uber-successful, all somewhat guilty of marginalizing local cuisine and “dumbing-down” the American palate .  So, it’s rather strange that the theme of his new restaurant is “Eat organic.  Believe in sustainability.  Buy local.”  But it works, and works well.

Like any new restaurant, design and interior can be just as important as the food, and Fleming’s design team did well to put together a dining room that is neither too “modern” (with all its loaded connotations) nor too plain.  The space feels like it was designed to please both Bruce Wayne and Pete Seeger–heavy on the wood, light on the industrial features, dark without being gloomy, classic without being retro, classy without being pretentious.

The food, like the surroundings, manages to please, and in some cases amaze, by being elegantly simple.  We started with a dish of clams that happened to be the best dish of clams I’ve ever had in my life.  Followed that up with a spinach salad, also the best I’ve ever had.  Mrs. Eats went for a smoked salmon salad which she proclaimed as delicious.  At this point we were thinking that PM’s could do no wrong.  Perhaps our expectations were a bit too high then when the entrees arrived.

Not to say that the entrees, pan fried sole and seared ahi, were bad, but they definitely did not get the same jubilant reactions as the previous courses.  The sole was a bit overwhelmed by its accompanying brown butter sauce, it having no other detectable seasoning to combat the buttery, butter-fried, butter flavor.  Mrs. Eats’s ahi was tasty, but was also underseasoned and rather plain.  Thankfully, our impressions were resuscitated by dessert, which was a criminally indulgent slice of fudgetastic devil’s food cake.  Served with whipped cream and a huckleberry compote, it certainly ended the evening well.

Like most new restaurants, the service was a little clunky–missing silverware, infrequent water refills, long waits for wine, bread, or other courses–but that will improve as the crew gets more comfortable with their surroundings.  The wine list is wonderful, with dozens of choices by the glass and a great selection boutique choices by the bottle (try the Quixote Petite Syrah if you get a chance, it’s phenomenal). 

But what of that whole “Eat local, etc, etc” thing?  Mrs. Eats mentioned that she really liked the fact that the locavore/organic/sustainable thing wasn’t very “in your face.”  And she’s dead on. Other than a few small mentions of organic ingredients and a little labeling on the menu, the modern-hippie mission of Paul Martin’s is very subdermal.  You can taste the local ingredients, you can appreciate the local standard American fare, and you can feel good about what you’re eating without feeling preached to about the state of our planet.  You can also do it all without breaking the bank.  Most entrees are in the high teens or low twenties in terms of price, with salads ranging from $6-$12. 

So does this new venture absolve Paul Fleming from creating the beast that is PF Chang’s?  Maybe.  Does it change people’s minds about what eating locally grown organic fare should be?  Hopefully.   Do I curse him for putting such a good restaurant up in Roseville, so far from me?  Every.  Single.  Day.

Paul Martin’s American Bistro- 1455 Eureka Rd, Suite 100, Roseville, CA

Food***1/2 Service*** Atmosphere****

23 thoughts on “Paul Martin’s American Bistro”

  1. Disclosure: this meal was comped (first time that’s ever happened) but don’t think we got any special treatment because the waiter and hostess both didn’t know about it until we were presented with the bill.


  2. The smoked salmon salad comes with dressing on the side, but try the salad before you dive into the dressing. The ingredients are so fresh and flavorful on their own that the dressing isn’t even needed.


  3. I have to question how genuine Paul Martin Bistro’s committment is to sustainable foods. Their menu contains few vegetarian options, and nada for vegans. Yet a plant-based diet is the most planet-friendly way of eating (in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, air and water pollution–not to mention being respectful to the other creatures we share the big blue marble with). And when you think of the phenomenal produce available in the area, it’s even more baffling.

    Seems to me like the “green” angle here is mostly marketing …but I hope to be proven wrong.


  4. Vegadelic: Have you thought of contacting Paul Martin’s to see if they can incorporate some vegan options, maybe a weekly special that would incorporate some of our region’s agricultural treasures?

    They seem to be investing fairly heavily into marketing themselves as being a certain way, so maybe they can use some pointers from people like you who are knowledgeable about what it is that they’re trying to do. It can’t hurt.


  5. RunnerGirl–

    I actually did contact them when they first opened, as I was excited by their claim of sustainability, and found their responsiveness to the idea of expanding plant based options lukewarm. I gave them information on veg groups in the area, how veggie diets are greener, and some food ideas. The menu looks not to have evolved since that point.

    We veggies learn to be proactive early on when it comes to our dining options. Contacting restaurants and practicing the art of gentle persuasion are needed skills in our meat-and-cheese happy culture.


  6. The restaurant got a somewhat lukewarm revue today in the Scene section, since Mike Donne didn’t much like the lighting (dim, and I guess when you’re approaching 70 you need bright lights to see the menu) or the service (hey they’ve been open only a few weeks….this time is sorta like training camp for newbie servers.) But he did mention that there were some good vegetarian dishes… (maybe not vegan though, depending upon how the veggies were cooked.) Perhaps the menu has been expanded since vegadelic contacted the owner(s)?


  7. There have been a few times in restaurants where it has been darker than usual, which is nice for the overall mood of the place, but reading the menu can be difficult, especially if the menus are printed on a glossy coated paper or are in a sheath that reflects the lighting in just the wrong way.

    While I’m nowhere near approaching 70 (neither is Mike Dunne), it does make me feel like I am. 🙂


  8. NMB..MDunne is nowhere near 70 years old. He and his wife are an attractive couple in their 50’ what I would say from looking at them. They are very “down to earth” and kind too..and both have great senses of humor. Just saying..for the record.


  9. Sheesh! My “approaching 70” comment was a friggin’ JOKE! I have no hatred for the man, and I know he’s 50 something… (I’ll be 51 in April yet oddly enough haven’t to date been beseeched by AARP to join their esteemed organization.) I was being “snarky” about Dunne’s age because parts of his review were so damn petulant. (Today’s Bonus Word.)


  10. I’m not seeing anything on their menu or website that bills them as being a vegetarian restaurant.

    There are a few interpretations of the buy local/sustainable bent, and obviously theirs is one interpretation and yours is another.

    With as many shades and variances to this complex set of practices, nobody is ever going to be 100% compliant in the eye of the general public (or, at least those paying attention.)

    As much power as the owners of this here blog would probably like to have, it likely doesn’t wield that much power over the philosophies of local restaurateurs.

    Check out some of the key words that jumped out at me from their website:

    The menu at Paul Martin’s consists of dishes aimed at taking diners back to the American farm with meat raised in a humane and wholesome way, locally sourced organic produce, fish from conscientious fishmongers, artisan cheeses and cured meats from small local purveyors and custom-made bread from expert bakers.

    I can see where you’re coming from and respect your dedication to your opinion, but the chasm between vegetarians/vegans and omnivores is pretty deep. (You’d have more success telling my WASP mom why she should vote for Obama.)


  11. No one is asking for this to be a veg restaurant, or 100% of anything, so I am not sure where that is coming from runnergirl. This isn’t an us v. them thing. Most veg*ns just want decent options–particularly at places making “green” claims.

    A plant based diet is the most sustainable form of eating there is in most regions (for more,see the UN report on how animal agriculture is reponsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined, not to mention deforestation, air and water pollution, and predator control programs; also the University of Chicago study showing that a switch to a vegan diet prevents more emissions than switching to a Prius).

    So any restaurant making claims to “greenness” and sustainability should, IMO, make greater strides towards highlighting plant-based dishes.


  12. I can attest to the restaurant’s interest in small local purveyors as far as sourcing wines is concerned. I’m a partner in Ophir Wines, a micro-winery in Newcastle. I approached the management at Paul Martin’s along with Dono dal Cielo, another tiny Placer County Winery. We were given a tasting appointment, which consisted of a thorough interview with management along with tasting the wines and assessing how they would go with the menu. Happily, both Ophir Syrah and Dono’s Zinfandel are now on the wine list. Paul Martin’s took on the wines only with our commitment that we would come and walk the floor offering tastes to customers to introduce our high quality but little known wines, something we are most pleased to do anywhere. This experience signifies attention and commitment beyond what I have experienced with any other restaurant.


  13. The Greenhouse Restaurant in Roseville is another good one to try out I was told by a Chef who’s big on sustainable foods. Infact a good place to meet up with Foodies and Restaurateurs and people in the food industry to get their educated opinions is on a site called
    They are having a Networking event in Sac at the Empire on June 9th. Here’s the link to the event page.
    I’ve met some great industry pros on the site and picked up some amazing tips.


  14. July 12, 2008. Dinner for 4 and child. Very disappointing and overpriced. For example, some of the main courses do not have vegetables. My meal of braised ribs and mashed potatoes, as small as it was, was lost in a deep white plate. Lousy presentation. Bread and butter rations very meager and apparently served reluctantly. Water glasses not refilled. Drinks expensive and weak. Noisy surroundings. Our one and only visit.


  15. paul martin’s is NOT a great restaurant. like most restaurants in the area, it strives to be mediocre. don”t have great expectations and you won”t be disappointed! i highly, highly recommend hawk’s in granite bay instead. it’s a gem! something very much needed in this area. so i repeat, don’t go to paul martin’s because you heard about it so many times on the radio, go to the best restaurant around: hawk’s


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