Small Town San Benito County Restaurant Steps Up Big, Again

The Inn at Tres Pinos owners, Mary and Mike Howard, knock it out of the park with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Don’t call it the little restaurant that could, call it the restaurant that does it all the time.

While more than 160 patrons flocked to the Inn at Tres Pinos for Valentine’s Day Dinner in the main restaurant, Mike and Mary Howard were also hosting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and about 30 other dignitaries from the California Farm Bureau and USDA for a special dinner gathering at its private guest house.

The delegation on a regional agricultural tour could have dined in Monterey, San Jose or even San Francisco.  But they picked the small, rural country town of Tres Pinos, population 400 or so.

“We’re always prepared for something like this,” said owner Mike Howard.  “This is natural to us. “

Howard has been in the restaurant business ever since he was a teenager working at several Central Coast restaurants.  Today, his restaurant is not only known for it’s rustic but elegant fare and service, it’s also known for pulling off what most places would say is impossible, including catering in some of the most remote places in San Benito County and beyond.

“Two days before one of our biggest dinner nights of the year, we got the call from the USDA’s advance team about our place,” Howard explained.  “I said, cool, let’s roll.”

So with a full house already booked for Valentine’s Day, Howard was suddenly planning a new menu, special staffing and coordinating with the Secret Service with little time to spare.

What made Wednesday’s dinner possible was the Inn’s private guest house.

“I built it for exactly an event like what we did for Secretary Perdue and his group,” Howard said.

That’s private dining with a capital “P.”

So how did the Purdue dinner go?  The day after, a USDA representative emailed Mike and Mary with this note:

Mike and Mary,

Thank you so much for your hospitality to the California Farm Bureau, CHP, and our USDA team.
The meal was amazing and the setting could not have been more perfect. We also appreciate all the help you provided in planning and executing the dinner and the special needs we have.
I wanted to share these photos of you with Secretary Perdue. He thoroughly enjoyed himself last night and mentioned how nice the dinner was to us on our way back to town.
It was an absolute pleasure working with you and if I find myself in the area again, I will make a point to have a meal with you again.

When asked again how his restaurant pulled off Wednesday’s night’s dinner, Howard didn’t hesitate.

“Everyone who walks into our restaurant door is a dignitary to us,” he said.  “You don’t need a lot more motivation than that.”

BenitoLink Staff