The Leaning Pear hides a secret. It’s revealed as guests walk into the restaurant’s main dining room or out to spacious back patio. Though just a few hundred yards from Wimberley Square, the heart of town, they are looking down into a wooded, hilly park space most visitors never really see.
Even on a brilliant summer Sunday, many brunchers brave the warm to sit outside at umbrella tables on the large split-level porch-patio, to better savor the bucolic view and watch the deer. Others choose the fully-shaded cool of the patio’s screened Treehouse, where they peer down through open cedar slats into rocky woodlands.
The idyllic setting is just one visual treat for guests at the Pear, as regulars call it. The restaurant’s exhilarating structure, opened in 2013, has refreshing utilitarian-look elegance. The exterior is a modern glass, wood and metal structure, topped by a distinctive silver butterfly rain-catch roof and equally bright rainwater tanks. It’s an inspired blending of warm country tradition and cool contemporary functionality.
The interior is just as direct and bold: cedar-paneled ceiling and walls, a free-standing stone-fireplace with round chrome chimney, black metal chairs and free-hanging contemporary art. The main room, while modestly sized, feels positively spacious thanks to the high sloping ceiling, a huge all-window rear wall, and the glow of subdued natural light coming from windows above the front wall.
All impressive, but whether beautiful or dumpy, a restaurant is only as good as its food. Happily, that’s the real secret to The Leaning Pear’s popularity. The Pear’s dare-to-be-unconventional fare – what, no burger? – is consistently as good as it is unexpected and hard to define.
The Pear is owned by native Texans Matthew and Rachel Carson Buchanan. She’s from San Marcos, he’s from Rockwell. They met in Italy and took a roundabout route, including the Culinary Institute of America for Matt, to get back to Texas and Wimberley. All of which impacts their cuisine now.
“Italy was definitely an influence, not just on the food but the dining experience,” says Matt. “There is nothing quite like an elaborate Italian Sunday dinner. Hospitality has always been an important part of who we are.”
Their European inspiration, Matt’s professional training, three years running the restaurant at a Hill Country retreat, and their Texas roots all went into creating an approach to food even they find difficult to define.
“It’s always the hard question to answer,” says Matt. “Our moniker is ‘Hill Country Inspired Cuisine.’ We take our foods from local farmers and purveyors and try to translate that to the plate in some way that makes sense for us and the community.”
On Wednesdays, when the Wimberley Farmers Market sets up just across Ranch Road 12 from the Pear, Matt can often be found scanning the day’s offerings, which may be transformed into that night’s special. How long the special lasts can depend on how much of certain items he finds. (Market regulars know not to get to market after him.)
“’Farm to table’ is a term these days but I shy away from that, though we definitely do a lot of it,” Matt says. After some thought, he calls his approach “seasonally-inspired eclectic.”
The lunch menu focuses on salads, sandwiches, pizza, and a few entrees. A favorite salad is the generous Leaning Pear House, with spiced pecans, goat cheese, pear and shallot vinaigrette. The Iceberg Wedge has dried fig, buttermilk blue cheese and tortilla strips; add delicious local bacon for $1.50. You won’t find a pepperoni among the menu’s five pizzas, but you can chose the Morty – mortadella, pistachio pesto and arugula – or the Bendigo – roasted butternut squash, gingered tomato, spinach, sliced lamb meatballs, yogurt and mint. Sandwiches include a B.B.L.T.– the extra B is Brie – and Cuban Style Pulled Pork.
Lunch and Dinner Entrees vary from an extremely rich Mac & Cheese with gemelli pasta, a five-cheese blend, caramelized pepper and onion (also good with added bacon) to a very popular Meatloaf to Grilled Steelhead Trout (dinner only) with seasonal vegetable curry, basmati rice and cucumber raita.