OUR STORY

Pastrami'n'PickleThe Refuge is an upscale, artisan beer pub located in the ever popular downtown area of San Carlos on the main artery, Laurel Street. It captures the best iconic dishes America has ever conceived, and the personal European nostalgia of its founder and owner, Matt Levin.

The menu is eclectic and cohesive. Our ultra-tender, mouth-watering pastrami, hand-carved and steaming hot, will be a Bay Area revolution. Nobody has ever served this type of pastrami in the Bay Area. It is made with respect to the bold traditions laid down by the great delicatessens such as Langer’s and Katz’s. The menu also features fresh house-ground Hamburgers, authentic Ribeye Cheesesteaks, fresh salads, seasonal soups, comforting desserts, cured meats and last but not least, house-made chicken liver.

With 18 Belgian beers on tap in San Carlos and 24 on tap in Menlo Park, the most in the Bay Area, our beer selection is our crowning jewel. Our wines are distinctly “Parisian wine bistro caliber.” They are overtly Old World and focus on newer, European varietals that are well-made with outstanding quality and value.

The heart and soul of The Refuge are Chef/Owner, Matt Levin and Chef de Cuisine, Michael Greuel. They met as sous chefs at the well known peninsula restaurant, Viognier. It was there that Matt and Michael conceived The Refuge. Later, Matt became Chef de Cuisine and Michael the Executive Chef at Viognier.

Refuge KitchenThe combined experience and background of the two are unparalleled. Matt has extensive international experience. He worked in Paris, France for two years. Working in the prestigious Michelin-starred kitchens such as Les Ambassadeurs at Hotel de Crillon, Taillevent, and Le Pre Catelan, Matt delved into the deep world of “La Grand Cuisine”. Moreover, Matt assimilated himself with the rich culture of wine and charcuterie (art of curing meats). The true French culture, Matt realized, revolved around a bold autonomy, constantly blooming from respected traditions. He carries this epiphany in his head to this very day. Like a perfectly scripted fairy tale, the genesis of The Refuge’s name lies just adjacent to Matt’s old metro stop in Montmartre. It was an old wine bistrot called Le Refuge. Coming from a Jewish background, Matt began to notice many similarities between a Deli Man and a French Charcutier.

They both worked in the world of cured meats and had culinary traditions that go back hundreds of years. Also, they were both a natural, grassroots product of the community. The greatest cooks, Matt believes, work within the spectre of ‘Tour de Main’, or ‘slight of hand’. These are the minute details and techniques that are not in the recipes or presentations. Rather, they are sublime expressions that elevate what is seemingly ordinary to the extraordinary, and show their face at the most unlikely times, in every level of cuisine. Overwhelmed with inspiration, Matt made up his mind that this was the type of restaurant he’d like to own.

Refuge AngelNot too long after their introduction, Michael was on board with all things The Refuge. He was a perfect partner for Matt. Michael has unyielding honesty and loyalty. His perseverance and drive had carried the two through many tough situations. Michael’s word is golden, and that is very, very rare these days. His taste, palate, and philosophy echo perfectly, the vision of Matt and The Refuge; and his wealth of experience with Bay Area diners proved invaluable. That is why he was chosen as Chef de Cuisine.

The REFUGE thrives in the quiet, unassuming towns of San Carlos, CA and Menlo Park, CA where the hand-carved, meltingly tender, boldly flavored navel pastrami is sending shockwaves through the gastronomic consciousness of patrons who call it “the greatest this planet will see in some time.” If that wasn’t enough, the REFUGE boasts the most Belgian Ales on draught (18 in San Carlos and 24 in Menlo Park) in the Bay Area, with more in bottles.
But wait, just for good measure, we grind our own blend of hamburger on a daily basis as well as slice Ribeye for our Authentic Cheesesteaks.
Not to mention, we also offer honest Old World wine, dazzling salads and appetizers, a 35,000 song iPod library, and an owner and staff crazy (and skilled) enough to pull it all off. Casual connoisseurs unite! This place is the real deal. Whether it’s a quick lunch or a raging evening, the REFUGE experience is unlike any other place at any one time.
The originality and pathos are immediately apparent. We care about every detail, and it means a lot to us when the REFUGE is chosen to spend a piece of precious time.

We care about every detail, and it means a lot to us when the REFUGE is chosen to spend a piece
of precious
time.

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