John Linn’s been hearing the same question a lot lately: “When are you going to reopen?”
“It almost makes me want to dodge people because I don’t have a real answer,” said Linn, co-owner of Linn’s Fruit Bin Farmstore in Cambria. (No, we’re not related.)
A year after fire gutted Linn’s Main Bin Restaurant & Gifts on Easter morning, restoration work is moving slowly on the popular Main Street eatery.
So, while the original restaurant rises from the ashes, the Linn family has launched Easy as Pie Café, a cute eatery with plenty of familiar dishes. John Linn calls the salads, sandwiches and soups served at Bridge Street’s newest restaurant “Linn’s version of fast food.”
“The response has been really great,” he said of Easy as Pie, which opened late last year in the Cambria Gardens & Arts retail center. “We’re busier and busier and busier as people catch on to it.”
According to Linn, Easy as Pie and the nearby Linn’s Gourmet Goods gift shop will remain open once the Main Bin restaurant unlocks its doors. The family is hoping for a Fourth of July opening.
“We want it to be distinctive enough that people enjoy going to both,” he said. The Main Bin will also undergo a transformation into a more formal, gourmet eatery, Linn added.
I recently stopped by Easy as Pie to sample its wares and take in its atmosphere.
Just like the original Linn’s Main Bin, Easy as Pie Cafe puts the emphasis on country living in a wooden farmhousestyle building brimming with plants and framed prints of roosters.
On one recent visit, I traded Easy as Pie’s breezy interior for sunny April weather, taking a table on the inviting outdoor patio behind the eatery. Rustic touches shine here — a farm windmill, wildflowers, the rusty skeleton of an antique tractor. There¹s even a water pump-turned-fountain gurgling over river stones.
As for the food, Easy as Pie¹s menu echoes the fresh flavors of a country kitchen-turned-modern deli. In a clever touch, all meals are served on metal pie plates.
I started with a berry salad ($7.50) that matched the season, pairing thick, sweet slices of strawberry and tart olallieberrries with greens, blue cheese, walnuts and chicken.
Fresh fruit is the standout here ‹ firm, plump and clearly ripe.
Fortunately, Linn¹s olallieberry vinaigrette packs less sugar than most store-bought raspberry versions and brings out herbal tones in the salad. Nutty multi-grain bread makes a delicious, wholesome side.
Healthy eating is also the motivation behind a tomato tortilla wrap stuffed with roasted red pepper, zucchini, red onion and wild rice ($7). The mix was filling, but somewhat bland.
My meal arrived with a small cup of peanut coleslaw, an unexpectedly light version with none of the creaminess of classic coleslaw. Cilantro and crushed peanuts lent their flavors to shredded cabbage and diced red pepper.
I preferred the crunchy potato salad with its boost of mustard.
Most of Easy as Pie¹s menu focuses on light seasonal dishes such as salads, soup, sandwiches and quiche, ideal for those Ladies Who Lunch. For those seeking more solid fare, there¹s Linn¹s classic comfort food ‹ like chicken pot pie ‹ along with meatloaf and barbecue.
Big chunks of barbecued meat bury a crusty, buttered baguette for Easy as Pie¹s pork sandwich ($8). The sauce is sweet, plentiful and tastes truly homemade, always a good sign.
Rare roast beef, thinly sliced, is the standout in another simple sandwich ($7.50), along with cheddar and soft, chewy ciabatta bread. The menu promises a horseradish cream dressing, but it tasted like plain mayonnaise to me.
A fitting end
Of course, no visit would be complete without a fat piece of olallieberry pie ($4.25).
Linn¹s famous slice is as good as ever ‹ a juicy mess of sweet-tart berries wrapped in a thin, flaky crust.
For another touch of indulgence, I sunk my fork into a raspberry tart ($5) topped with a mountain of golden-brown meringue.
After tunneling through enough thick, airy egg whites to make an omelet, finding the tart¹s gooey lemon and raspberry filling is a true treat ‹ and it¹s paired with a thin, flaky crust. The portion size makes it easy to satisfy your sweet tooth without stuffing yourself.
For frequent visitors to Linn¹s Main Bin, Easy as Pie Café will seem reassuringly familiar. It¹s nice. to see this smaller, quainter version becoming a favorite among locals and tourists headed on Hearst Castle tours ‹ at least until the Main Street restaurant reopens in a more posh form.
After all, there¹s no place like home.