Restaurant Gossip v.10.28

JEFFREY’S WINE COUNTRY BBQ Grand Opening in Paso Robles is all weekend today and tomorrow, with lots of specials, his famous paella and I believe even HATCH with their mobile-cocktail cart. I’ll shut up about this restaurant now, because I know y’all are sick of hearing about it, but it’s GOOD. And not just the food. It’s good all over. Get the banh mi. Get the Cubano. Get the hamburger. Get the Mac & cheese. Get the Paix Sur Terre Mourvedre or the Tablas Creek Rosé. Yes, I’ve been eating too often there lately.

Stopped in last week and snooped around The Kinney Hotel SLO up in NoMo and specifically, their restaurant: LEROY’S. The sign caught my eye as I was driving by and something told me I KNEW I had seen that design before. Sure enough: The Kinney Hotel in Venice Beach I am quite familiar with–part of that whole gentrification of older hotels into something not-quite-retro, not-quite-modern, glimpses of MCM and an easy, muted palette of warm wood, clean lines and just enough color to register a pulse. I call it “West Elm” and I rather like it. A beautiful full bar, decor of dining room runs from comfy lounge to spindly 4-tops to velvet-y carriage-back-booths to 50’s living room to skee-ball. Yes you read that right. In the middle of the dining room there is a skee-ball machine. You know: that noisy thing where you roll a ball up a ramp and it hops into a target for points. Interesting hours: Breakfast and dinner. Closed noon to 3. Menu is a collection of aggrandized usual american breakfast & brunch suspects and dinner cavorts through cleverly-named college-kid favorites with a studious theme through all. Sure, it is in the heart of Poly-rental-district and they are definitely trying to tone things down for a casual audience, but it seems a little too posh and expensive to become a dedicated lower-classman hang-out. And it’s in the lobby of a hotel ferchrissakes. Not sure what their demographic is and will be interesting to watch. I did not eat there and possibly never will, but I have my eye on that steak frites of course ($26). Wine list is abysmal.

LE PETIT PARIS in the back of Mission Mall downtown San Luis Obispo is open (there were re-structuring and re-cheffing rumors) and the posted menu seems to be structurally a little more thematic than my first visit. Still haven’t eaten there, but it is looking more and more like a place I will try soon. About 10 sandwiches filed under *croque* and biegnets are definitly the extra point, but I have my eyes on that salade Niçoise dontchano.

A while back I posted what turned out to be a VERY interesting thread on social media titled: “Name a restaurant you’ve never been to”. The results were fascinating and I found common ground with many individuals here locally who just *somehow* have never dined at certain landmark places–and the shy embarrassment that comes with it. One of those places for me is THAI PALACE. I have been to every other Thai-joint in the county and have heard nothing but glowing things for the entirety of my living here about this alleged PILLAR of similarly-themed locals. I have talked about going here HUNDREDS of times in my near-20 years of living here. The other night I finally did. The stench of cleaning products was unbearable and we were seated adjacent the front (open) doors. I asked for perhaps a table less breezy and was escorted to literally the LAST possible table at the back of the restaurant–sharing an aisle with the swinging doors and a buss-station. I was presented with not only an extremely simple, but THE most touristy middle-american laminated color-photographs-of-dishes menu I have ever laid my eyes on in an ethnic restaurant. The wine list was 10 or 12 bottles of gaggingly horrid local plonk–and not a single Riesling or Gewurztraminer among them. WHAAAAA??? I politely excused myself from the restaurant. I don’t have time for restaurants like this. Maybe something has happened? Whatever. The way it is now: I don’t ever need to eat there. I mean: when you’ve got Elephant and Talay and Bunn and Sister and even that dump Classic around the corner and Kitchen in Arroyo Grande Village and the new one out Crossroads everyone is raving about and on and on and on–there’s so many–WHY would you subject yourself to this kind of place? What am I missing? Oh and my personal favorite: DIVINE THAI–not JUST because the food is incredible and doesn’t insult my food-knowledge, but also because of the winelist. By “winelist” I mean *lack of it* and no corkage. You bring a bottle of anything in (translation: Riesling or Gewurztraminer), set it on the table, they bring a couple glasses and a corkscrew and the rest is up to you. It’s a beautiful system.

Had a nice lunch at WOODSTONE MARKETPLACE in Avila. I REALLY love their egg salad sandwich but often switch it up for their garden burger (no, I am not a vegetarian). They always have fat slabs of quiche in the case and this time I went for it. It was *ok*. Don’t think I will order it again. People always forget about this place. It’s good and fresh and a beautiful spot. Occasionally the dogs-and-stroller brigade is a bit much for me, but then you just sit inside. Always good wine BTG too.

Got into GRANADA for dinner the other night. Had quite a few lunches there in the past few years (the burger is to DIE for) but hadn’t had a nice sit-down luxo dinner for some time. Instead of going for a full-on entree, tried the “kimchi forbidden rice” with edamame and a runny egg. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I’ve gone on record many times wishing the whole *runny egg* thing would be OVER, but this worked really well. Food and service were impeccable, of course. Wine list brief and brilliant and cocktails at the top of SLO’s game.

Popped in to SIDECAR SLO for the potato tacos and the pork-belly tacos and to visit since (I’m sure everyone reading this has heard) the accident. I haven’t eaten there in over a year since they switched their entire winelist over to cans and tap. Was thrilled to see a FULL WINE LIST of bottles back on paper. I told you a couple weeks ago on these pages they are moving to the Creekside space across from the art museum, remember? That will probably be a while now. The outpouring from the community has been phenomenal on this one, but now would be a really good time to support them a little extra. Have you had these potato tacos? The most interesting little deep-fried crusted chunks of potato–no, NOTHING like tater tots–in a chipotle sauce and pickled onions. Vegetarian for sure–possibly even vegan. The Pork Belly tacos are basically a banh mi in a tortilla, with tender shredded pork belly and layers of pickled vegetables. Nicely done.

THE most common question I am asked–and it comes up almost daily–is of course “What is your favorite restaurant in the area?” alternated with “What are the best restaurants in the area?” A dreaded question for a restaurant critic–so subjective, so limiting, so exclusive of thousands of dining spots with gobs and gobs of merit but not *quite* coalesced or consistently disappointing in some area. None-the-less it happens constantly–it seems like a simple question to THEM–and yesterday afternoon at a beautiful Indian-themed fund-raising dinner at the Monday Club, it happened 3 or 4 times. First of all, I am careful to define the area: I consider *this area* Los Alamos-to-Cambria. This is the range most are comfortable to drive for dinner. Once you stretch for Santa Ynez-to-Big Sur, the list doubles instantly and including Santa Barbara-to-Monterey things get really construed. So Los Alamos to Cambria. Easy. here’s your list:


That’s it. Those in the front rows are always quick to point out nothing in the entirety of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach or Paso Robles is included. This was not unintentional. Do I have favorite places in these towns? Of COURSE I do, and further prodding as to my very very close second tier will reveal DOZENS of favorite places. But you ask me for my list of best restaurants? There it is.

Have you ever had a hamburger at GIOVANNI’S FISH MARKET? OMG I thought the fish was good. next time you’re up there step off the menu a little bit and order a hamburger. It will blow your mind. Fries don’t suck either, nice proper rested crust.

The newest addition to the Colony District or Sunken Gardens of Downtown Atascadero–whatever you call it– is FOSSIL WINE BAR, opening 5 PM Friday the 2nd of November. I know I just posted about this last week–and lord knows I’m not the world’s biggest Atascadero fan–but sheesh HAVE YOU SEEN THIS AREA RECENTLY??? Entrada Way is blowing up. SOOO much good stuff, and within a block there’s Nautical Cowboy, Whiskey & June, Streetside Ale House and about 10 other food & beverage places–all easily walkable.

Keep your elbows on the table.

ALL the gossip:


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