Local restaurant gets by with a little help from its friends

Imagine fine French cuisine being served at Cheers. That’s how I feel about Pierre’s Bistro,” said regular Paul Austin. “Most evenings, all of the wine bar patrons are engaged together in a friendly, social conversation.”

Pierre’s Bistro has been in business for 12 years at the corner of 50th & Penn. The restaurant has succeeded with good food and word-of-mouth advertising. But the combination of a struggling economy and protracted road construction on every surrounding major road — I-35W, Crosstown and Penn — is hurting many area small businesses.

A group of loyal customers got together to figure out what they could do to help. “Our idea was to create a sign that would attract more attention than the ‘for rent’ sign in the windows of the recently-failed business on the corner,” said customer Tom Beckfeld. “We made a sidewalk sign to remind people of Pierre’s, and to promote the rack of lamb, it’s the best in town.”

After delivering the sign, Tom and friends dined at several tables pushed together on the sidewalk. David Day said he comes for the Kronenbourg 1664, a lager from a French brewery founded the year of its name. To order it, ask for Seize Soixante Quatre (pronounced say-swah-sohn-cot.) An unabashed Francophile, he also comes for the traditional pâté with the Amora Moutarde de Dijon Fine et Forte —a good strong Dijon mustard. After desserts of Charlotte Au Framboises and crème brûlée, the festive troupe asked to see the sous-chef, Adriana Surmak, and gave her a round of applause.

Mark and Cara Belisle met Pierre and his wife Kristin at their annual pilgrimage to Sturgis. They frequently make the one-hour trip from Rochester, and are promoting it to others in their Harley owners group as a destination. “Pierre’s is very quaint, just a real gem,” said Cara. “I would be here every day for the creative salads if I lived nearby.”

Local politicos Judy Blaseg, Kari Dziedzic and Nikki Carlson shared paella, steak frites and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône at the bar. They are planning several events to boost Pierre’s business over the summer. “Either the outdoor patio or the private room by the wine cellar are great for events of 25–30 people,” Judy explained.

Another customer, local faux painting artist Bob Newell, was there with his partner Joe discussing ideas to update the colors and lighting in the wine bar, to make a more brasserie-like ambiance.

The owner, Pierre Gardien, was formerly executive chef at the Sofitel restaurants La Terrasse and Chez Colette. Born in Dijon, France, he began his career at the age of 14 as an apprentice in a restaurant in the French Alps. “It was called Peter Pan, because the farm where it was located harbored Jewish children during WWII, and many of those children returned for years and years to visit it.” He said it was a good experience. “I learned not only about food, but about hospitality. People who come to my restaurant are welcome and honored guests.” During Gardien’s tenure at Sofitel, it earned its first Four Diamond award.

“Stop in and try it,” urged patrons Laura Nolen and Roz Sampson. “Once you brave the road construction, there is free parking, incredible food, and not just friendly service, but friendly customers too.”

Pierre’s regular Annamarie Ferguson, a vegetarian, recommends the Mushroom Tart and Artichoke au Gratin.