Restaurant Gossip 12.9.18

MCCONNELL’S FINE ICE CREAM opened down on Monterey in SLO kinda next to where Muzio’s used to be. Next door to JUNK GIRLS and by MINT + CRAFT. No relation to the fine, upstanding writer of these scribblings but thanks for asking almost DAILY. It IS wonderful ice cream though. Pretty much the only one I buy.

Had to check out PHO 4 U in Atascadero right there in the EXPLODING colony district or sunken gardens or downtown… whatever you call it. There’s so much new stuff here in about four square blocks it’s almost unrecognizable. Go Atascadero! It’s pretty good pho, too. I’m going to be coming back here over and over and over. I think the only complaint that will come from some of my pho-friends is they’re going to need 2 of them but for me it’s perfect size. THEY HAVE VEGAN PHO TOO! (I don’t even want to know what that shit tastes like)

Oh and speaking of pho, the new place in Orcutt at Skyway and Broadway is open and hearing good things. Viet Kitchen or something. I’ve written about it before, but there was a great opening stagnation. New burger place there too.

Finally tried SPOON TRADE’S duck ramen. Apparently, it was so popular on their ‘Ramen Night’ (I think it was Monday?) they just stuck it on the full menu. It is very very nice and easily fits into my trifecta of local (non-pho) noodle bowls–one in each area: Los Osos: Ramen at Kuma; SLO: Noodle Soup at Mee Heng Low; and in 5 Cities: Ramen at Spoon Trade. Get your noodle on.

The chef for the THIRD Devour Pop-Up Dinner Series at Kreuzberg in San Luis Obispo has been announced. There had been a lot of speculation and wonderment this past week amongst those of us who have nothing better to do with our time than speculate and wonder about such things. I mean–you do Julie Simon, you do Spencer Johnston, WHAT do you follow those acts with?!?!? And then you start going through the list. Brian Collins would never do it. Jacob Towne would never do it. Cory Bidwell’s not gonna do it. Jose Dahan? Jensen Lorenzen? Cheyne Jackson?–I mean: he’s doing WINESPEAK PASO next month… Thomas Drahos? Rick Manson? Well the conversation is over: Michael Reyes is #3.

Speaking of FINALLY’s: Had a full-on sit-down bottle-of-wine dinner at CASS HOUSE GRILL finally after picking around at pieces/parts of the menu for ever and ever all hours of the day (it’s the same menu) and saying it was one of a tiny grouping of top area restaurants. My proclamation had always carried a tiny asterisk with it in my head because I had never sat through several courses of a full dinner. I am happy to report nothing has changed: The best three restaurants Los Alamos-to-Cambria are still: PICO, EMBER, and CASS HOUSE. Here’s the other thing, though: We have this entire generation of people here on the central coast with whom the word *Cass House* is associated with exclusive, expensive, luxurious dining because this is what we were programmed the past decade with Chef Jensen and the big yellow house. Let me tell you THIS IS NOT THE SAME RESTAURANT. It is a completely new building, a completely new style of cooking and presentation–in fact I feel great lengths have been gone to to PURPOSEFULLY make it contrast with the original, to preserve Jensen’s legacy.

ROOT 246 invited me down for a Meet The Chef dinner to introduce their new kitchen-lead and direction and remodel. The place certainly is beautiful. Miles of wine behind glass walls, floor-to-ceiling stone, a comfy lounge and bar and two stunningly outfitted dining rooms, this place will seriously make you re-think how long it has been since you dined at Root 246. And remember the brilliant Bacon & Brine in Solvang? Well, the new chef is the person behind that place and she is REALLY shaking up the menu. Don’t worry, all your defacto regulars like rib eye and seared scallops are still there, but alongside are a myrad of easy, comfortable interpretations of standards Chef Pink has introduced to make the menu accessible, cheaper, and locally-sourced. Wine-list TO DIE FOR.

Drove by STREETSIDE ALE HOUSE PASO the other day in the former Artisan location. From the street I counted 5 TV’s. I actually really like the food at Streetside and have applauded it numerous times in these inches. I will no doubt have to try the Paso Robles location at some juncture.

The former operators of Baywood Alehouse (now BAYWOOD TAVERN) are rumbling around in the building in Los Osos proper behind the Shell station across from Sweet Springs Saloon.

Heard a rumor about a long-time downtown SLO drinking establishment closing maybe perhaps. A popular one. A recently expanded one. One where you have your own mug with your name on it.

I’ve sat on this one for over a month, but I think it’s literally almost common knowledge around town Vegetable Butcher is for sale.

Did you know JUSTIN had a tasting room in downtown Paso???

Skipped out on the Santa Parade this year to attend Big Dave Thum’s iconic FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US party (which basically turns into a wine-festival) and afterwards–as the sidewalk-campers were trucking their folding chairs out to where they found parking, I ducked into town for FOOD. My first choice–Giuseppe’s–was thwarted by being seated horribly (one of those stupid 2-tops all in a row along the dividing wall and reeded glass that makes you feel like you’re at the visitation counter of prison). Left and went to LUNA RED for a WONDERFUL dinner. Here’s the thing about Luna Red. I keep having TWO experiences there. One is popping in for lunch or dinner and receiving a cardboard sheet with a bunch of wines on it and all their food (I *guess*) and kinda-cal-poly-brunch/ladies-who-lunch style service and THE OTHER is sitting down and receiving a proper menu and BINDER of wine-selections (HAVE YOU SEEN THEIR IBERIAN SECTION?????) with a stupidly attentive waiter–an absolute IMPECCABLE fine dining experience. I’ve had my fair share of BOTH experiences at Luna Red but parade-night I definitely go the latter. Nights like this make me seriously consider Luna Red my favorite of Robin & Shanny’s Blue Mango Group.

I get into BLUE MOON OVER AVILA about once a month. They still keep fiddling with the menu. The new winelist is pretty impressive–albeit a bit dorky. The old ‘Poisson Tahitian’ or whatever ceviche cocktail dish has been replaced with a GIANT spread of fish, shrimp, and salmon–all prepared ceviche-style, with fat chunks of peeled grapefruit and orange and plantain chips. A gnocchi dish has them coated in something colorful but rather benign like tomato or paprika and fried. Interesting. This restaurant continues to plug along, so much potential but never really wowwing.

Speaking of Avila, I got into WOODSTONE MARKETPLACE for their Monday-night prime rib. It’s pretty good! I have a soft spot in my heart for this preparation of beef and there are no complaints here. Comes with a nice big salad, veggies and a baked potato for 22 bucks. Grabbed a decent bottle of local Syrah from their shelves and enjoyed the THREE DOLLAR CORKAGE (yes you read that right!) to have it with dinner. Woodstone isn’t just Bob Jones Bike Trail lunches: it has different dinner every night of the week and it seems fairly themed for the quasi-retirement neighborhood surrounding it (fish on Friday!) so be warned: it closes EARLY. If you arrive after 7, you probably won’t be seated! If you love prime rib like I do, Woodstone is a worthy option.

NITECAP, the new cocktail speakeasy next door and owned by Granada Hotel & Bistro, opens Friday at 6PM. Speaking of finally!

Every time I publish one of these gossip columns, I get messages informing or asking about this place or that place and how come you left that out and don’t you KNOW about this or that and 99.9999999% of the time my answer is, “Thank you for your input, I covered that last week (or the week before, or literally even TWO MONTHS AGO).” Therefore I encourage you to visit previous entries of this strip by scrolling back at soifeats.com. I try to write one every Sunday.

OK, I’m done. Follow me on Instagram @eatdrinkCA

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