Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it comes from modest goals, as is the case for Lawrence Lemery, owner of 1621 Bistro—the newest gastropub in San Jose’s Northside.

“Our real inspiration is to offer good food to the neighborhood we grew up in,” he says. “We want to provide good food at an easygoing, affordable spot. Nothing fancy or pretentious, just good, hearty meals.”

Those are words any foodie can get behind.

1621 Bistro, named simply after the address on North Capitol Avenue, takes pride in the fact that almost everything they serve is made in-house. For burgers, they use a combination of Wagyu beef and rib-eye steak trimmings, which are cut from their house-made prime rib. Lemery brought in Milohas empanada master Kyoo Choe as a baking partner, and he’s currently working on recipes for 1621’s own signature hamburger buns, sandwich breads and pastries. All they’re waiting on is the baking ovens to be installed. Once that’s done?

“I think we will have the best burgers in the South Bay,” Lemery says.

I arrived on a Saturday to check out their all-you-can-eat brunch buffet (weekends 10am–2pm, $15 each). The brunch, while not necessarily Hawaiian-themed, definitely skews in that direction, as one of 1621’s chefs is of Hawaiian descent and likes to serve up what he considers “comfort food.” The brunch consists of your staples (e.g., scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns) and then there’s island favorites that include Kahlua pork, malasadas, crab cakes, Portuguese sausage, and made-to-order loco moco over fried rice. There’s even a make-your-own benedict station, where customers can even order up a loco moco benedict or chicken and waffles. I found myself leaning towards the Hawaiian side of the menu.

Of course, no brunch would be complete without a mimosa, and their bottomless guava mimosa ($12) helped cleanse my palate. The Kahlua pork was outstandingly juicy and had a light, smoky flavor unlike anything I’ve had on the mainland. My dining partner noted that the pork was a superb match with the crispy hash browns. The malasadas were fluffy balls of doughy goodness that melted in my mouth. However, the crown jewel was easily the loco moco—the poached egg combined with their tender, beefy hamburger meat and fried rice was an epic flavor adventure.

With everything just a click away these days, interactions with passionate restaurateurs become increasingly infrequent. 1621 seems destined to be one of the area’s better eateries with an owner who cares as much as Lemery. I’ll definitely be back to try their burgers, prime rib and maybe just a nibble of their pastrami fries.

1621 Bistro
1621 N Capitol Ave, San Jose.