There’s gonna be a lot of tacos in this weeks gossip, I’m warning you.
I’ll ease you in to it all with a fish taco at the bar in CUSTOM HOUSE out in Avila. Pretty bad tortilla, lots of *stuff* I don’t need, but like everything at Custom House, solid and well-designed for the clientele. And I’ve taught them to make me perfect margaritas. And it makes a perfect segue for the rest of this column:
First up the bad news: TACO TEMPLE has opened in San Luis Obispo. No, I won’t be eating there. That’s not tacos. That’s salad. If you scroll back in my Instagram a couple years, there’s a pic of one. I don’t feel like digging it up. Every time I see it I’m just like WTF??? To be fair, the ceviche is pretty good. Feeling cute, maybe pop into Taco Temple later, IDK. Hey did you know TT started out in that little tiny corner in Cayucos where Ruddell’s is??? I didn’t know this til just the other day.
Kinda reminds me of DEL’S PIZZERIA starting out in the cute little building where MEI’S is. Do you remember when LUNA RED was up on Monterey by the Fremont? Do you remember when KREUZBERG was in the old Muzio’s? Oh, this is a fun theme. Keep it going.
EFRENS #5 opened up on Laurel. It will be a big hit in this town, let me predict. First of all it is HUGE. Vast, open and clean with lots of smiling staff, extremely user-friendly menu–glossy with pictures of everything–massive massive portions: burritos the size of my thigh and huge un-identifiable piles of stuff covered in lots of grated cheese. A long glass sneeze-guard food-assembly area that the gringos can stand in front of and point and gesture and shout about how they don’t want this and they don’t want that and they need more cheese and sour cream. Dining room was quite full the weekday I went–no Mexicans. And the tacos? Meat is over-salted and wrapped in cold thick gooey tortillas. The salsas are an un-insulting setting of 4 alongside four huge drop-ins of pico de gallo (of course). A rojo all heat with no flavor, guacamole of a vapid Umerican style, that snotty green verde of course and something with mangoes in it. Efren’s got an extra point for asking me if I wanted ice in my horchata, but then she asked me if I wanted salsa on my tacos and I’m standing literally 5 feet from an open salsa bar. I shudder to think what they would have put on them if I had said Yes. Everything adds up to literally the world’s most perfect San Luis Obispo taco place for yoga mom, 9 to 5ers on their 30, and ladies who lunch. I will say: Efren’s makes pretty much the best horchata in the area. Rich and creamy and with verve and the bottom is literally brown with cinnamon and nutmeg. It is ladled out of a big bucket, so who knows–maybe it’s not a mix. Another fabulous horchata is at TAQUERIA CARMELITA in SM, but be sure and pay an extra dollar for the fresca.
SAN LUIS TAQUERIA is open on that horrible revolving bro-strip on Chorro. It’s actually not horrible. Popped in for a quick sample of the al pastor this week. Nice group. Not much has changed. Good vibe. And… wait for it: Lots of Mexicans eating here. Salsa good, meat *OK*, tortillas *OK*, horchata decent. I’m kinda scared of the pink hab tho. Isn’t hab supposed to be kinda orangish? Check this place out, I mean–if you’re downtown it’s literally RIGHT THERE. And I like it better than the one down by the Creamery.
Around the corner, MESTIZA at the old THO in SLO has literally glasses on shelves and a stocked bar. I would expect it to be open within days. Peeking in the doors, it looks really nice–and I didn’t notice all the alleged TV screens and sports-bar accouterments people have predicted the downfall of SLO civilization around. They’ve been saying April all along and it’s the 27th…. Can’t find a website… instagram… nothing.
Since we’re covering new taco places, there’s a new one out in Morro Bay on the strand. I visited TACOS EL VIEJON a few weeks ago and it was VERY disappointing. Bad meat, bad tortillas, good salsa tho…
Speaking of Morro Bay, the WILLOW people are looking to re-open Otter Rock June 14. It is rumored to be a “high end steak house”. Don’t know what it will be called. But I am sure in about 5.. 4.. 3.. I will get a message from someone telling me what it will be called. #santaslittlehelpers
A couple clicks up the road in Cayucos, did you know Chef Julie Simon is consulting at CASS HOUSE GRILL? (Cory Bidwell going to HATCH is old news for those of you who read these scribblings every week–the rest of you: WHY AREN’T YOU?)
NAUTICAL COWBOY (who thought of that?) inside The Carlton Hotel in Atascadero DID NOT CLOSE last week–despite a couple fairly well-sourced rumors. Hey Atascadero: somebody go by and see if DANIELS has re-opened. Those were good tacos.
Speaking of famous chefs, have you seen the ARCHIE MCLAREN BOOK??? Just came out. Picked up a copy down at Sinor_LaValee tasting room in Avila Beach. I’ve spent WAY too long studying the pages with all the chefs involved. Some fun history there. I’d rather you buy it from Wine History Project at the link above or around town at a local shop (the Dallidet Adobe and Carnegie Library will both have it) but for those of you who absolutely insist on feeding the machine, here’s the stupid amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Archie-McLaren-Journey-Memphis-Revolution/dp/1732973709
That craptastic bedazzled donut shop between Habit and Chipotle downtown is gone. SHOCKER. What was that 3 months?
Popped into MCCONNELL’S ICE CREAM for a second. Wow, nice job. And those ice cream sandwich-cookie things look fantastic. I probably can’t afford it though. No: No relation and no subsidies. I keep waiting for them to call, but
*sound of crickets*
Hey now look at this. Since we have derailed the restaurant blog into all things tacos, might as well surrender. Here’s MULLIGAN’S fish taco out at Avila Beach Golf Resort. It’s a deep-fried piece of their fish & chips covered in cabbage and cotija. But seriously: LOOK at that tortilla!!!
Along those same lines, LOOK at these little tortilla darlings accompanying duck confit and bean stew at THE SPOON TRADE in Grover City. You KNOW Jacob hand-made them things. #teamgringo
Above, a disappointment I mentioned last week: LA PLACITA MARKET in Nipomo has become quite inedible. Just plain old dogfood.
Another situation which concerns me greatly and that is a little noticeable slide in quality at the CAYUCOS GAS STATION. It’s STILL far and away the best up in those parts, but *something* is different about them. You KNOW those are Syrians, right? I’m eating in there with one of my Mexican workers and he goes, “You know they aren’t Mexican, right? They own a couple liquor stores down in South County too: they’re Syrians. That’s the daughter there and that guy in there is their son. Dad just walked through here a minute ago.” Blew my mind. They speak perfect Spanish too. Just goes to show you what an amazing country we live in.
Gotta end on a good note, and after all those bad tacos this week, I had to cleanse my palate to get some memories out. and where does a real taco person go for a *taco-correction*??? LA TAPATIA or EL TIZON, of course. I was in SLO and so El Tizon #3 had to do. and oh boy did it ever do it well. Remember: there are El Tizon’s in LOMPOC and SANTA MARIA, so there’s really no excuse not to eat good tacos.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
SANTA BARBARA VINTNER’S FESTIVAL May the 4th be with you
Mark Adams (one time spaceman) at PUFFERS OF PISMO May 5th.
Annual Tri-Tip BBQ Competition at PRESQ’UILE WINERY May 18th
MAC & CHEESE FEST June 8 Avila Beach
OJAI WINE FESTIVAL June 9 Lake Casitas
OK, I’m done and YES, I will update THE TACO LIST. I’ve been so bad about editing it and there are places closed, obviously new places to add, and changes in score. I appreciate all the messages addressing these changes and I promise to go through it. Apparently, there’s even a reference to Soif in there. Sheesh. Can’t have THAT: CALL THE SOIF POLICE!!! For those of you who find the MASTER LIST intimidating, I did throw together a cheat-sheet recently narrowing it down to the must-have’s in each town around here. Looks like I need to do some editing to THAT list too: 200 MILES OF TACOS
Tacos: A Love Story
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