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‘A lot goes into it:’ Boise-born, New York-trained chef opens local oyster bar

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Donuts. A bar. Now – oysters.

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The former Regal Beaver space at 160 N. 8th St. in Boise – which used to house Donut Daze – now hosts the Little Pearl Oyster Bar. The small space on the ground floor of the Main + Marketplace building got a revamp late this summer and early fall for the new restaurant.

Cal Elliott, the Boise-born chef who spent much of his adult career working in and owning restaurants in New York City, opened the new restaurant this week. He is also the owner of the historic Bouquet building at 1010 W. Main St., where he hopes to open a hotel, restaurant, and bar.

‘Feet wet’ in Boise restaurant scene

“This gives me an opportunity to ingratiate to the Boise market, to train staff and see what product is available,” Elliott said. “I’d hate to open up (the former Bouquet) without getting my feet wet.”

Little Pearl Oyster Bar Boise
Little Pearl Oyster Bar posted a pic of its bar on Instagram in grid style.

His work in NYC grabbed attention from the New York TimesVICEEater, and others. His business Rye closed in 2018 ahead of Elliott’s return to Boise.

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“My wife and I had a baby girl in June. I thought… I better get to work. So I thought I’d raise a baby and a restaurant and really stress myself out,” he said laughing.

Elliott initially planned a ghost kitchen offering take out and delivery food. But once he got to work revamping the Regal Beaver’s kitchen – subleased from Russ Crawforth – he decided to do more.

“I started building this and cleaning out the kitchen and it became too much work to not be a real restaurant. I was going to do this little simple idea, and then I was invested too much emotionally and physically.”

Small space, with options

The space is small – but Elliott said it provides a few different seating options.

“The layout is great… I worked really hard on optimizing it,” he said. “In the front window you can sit and people watch – or you can go in the back at the leather banquette with darker candlelight and sit down and eat a steak.”

A patio space out front gives options when the weather allows.

[‘BBQ in a cup:’ Permits say Korean restaurant will bop to old Thomas Hammer spot]

Seafood and more

The new spot offers a small but diverse menu focused on seafood. It includes a wide variety of oyster options as you might expect, as well as a Kobe beef burger, roasted chicken, salads, and a charcuterie board.

Elliott said the differentiator at Little Pearl… is effort.

“We are a little tiny place, but we do a veal stock, a lobster stock, a fish stock and a chicken stock. I break down my own fish. We do some in house butchering and some in-house greens.  I think everything is set up differently in Boise as a finished product. It’s so different than in NY. Everything is the way of the world now – cooks are there to warm food up and put it on a plate… they aren’t there to cook.”

He said he hopes Little Pearl will go a different way.

“I don’t make conceptual food, I make traditional food. But there’s a lot of work that goes into it.”

Bouquet work still to come

The Avery Boise
The Avery will restore the historic Averyl Building in Downtown Boise at 1010 W. Main St. Via CTY Studio

He said he hoped to pull permits for the revamp of the Bouquet on Main St. – an ambitions renovation that includes a new hotel, fine-dining restaurant and a bar opening up on to the alley.

“Boise always leaves you with that feeling… “come on, we can do this – we can do it.” That’s where the Bouquet comes from.  It’s been over five years on the Bouquet – everyone and their grandma is asking me to sell it. I love Boise and I think it deserves it.”

He said slowing down a bit on the project made sense at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. They still plan to move forward, but timing still isn’t certain.

Even so, he wants Little Oyster to become a downtown fixture.

“I’m going to be in this space forever. It’s really appealing and I love the kitchen and the guys in the kitchen and got lucky with really beautiful people.”

For now, Little Pearl Oyster Bar will open for dinner from 4:30pm to 9:30pm, Wednesday-Saturday. Elliott hopes to expand to 11am-10pm five days per week this spring.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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