Considering the frequent turnover of restaurants, it seems rare to find a restaurant that has been around a decade or longer. It’s even rarer to discover a restaurant that’s still around over a century after it first opened. I’m sure that things haven’t changed much inside the Martin Hotel since it first opened it’s doors in 1898 catering to hungry Basque sheepherders seeking out a hearty meal.
Sure, the place has changed hands over time and the original structure is long gone, however the restaurant has been consistently serving Basque meals since it first opened over a century ago. In the traditional Basque setting, service is family-style, which means you’re going to be seated with complete strangers. There’s no experience quite like the camaraderie of sharing good food with new friends.
Dinner begins with a simple salad of iceberg lettuce with oil and vinegar. Creamy corn chowder arrives along with French bread. A cornucopia of sides consume the long table, including tarragon-laced carrots, smokey Basque beans, a garbanzo bean dish loaded with spicy chorizo sausage, and garlic mashers. Copious amounts of the burgundy house wine is also included in the meal.
Just as you’re enjoying the seemingly endless parade of side dishes and the banter of conversation around the table, the main course arrives. Each diner chooses their own main course, which is served with fresh-cut french fries made with locally grown spuds,. I chose the solomo, a Basque specialty. The thick-cut boneless pork loin yields a porcine flavor which stands up to the pimentos and fresh garlic cloves that its simmered in.
Although it breaks from tradition, the meal concludes with a cinnamon-rich bread pudding, an appropriate ending to a monumental meal.