Found some new tacos this week. AGAVE GRILL in Nipomo. I’ve been searching for an above-average taqueria in Nipomo since La Placentia has somewhat dropped off in quality and La [completely blankin out here] over in old town shut down. I am sad to announce Agave Grill is NOT it. Added to the TACO LIST at ♦♦ which is not a dreadful score, but…
Tanner Jacks Closing after brunch on Sunday. I lived on the mesa for quite a few years, so this place kinda has a special place in my heart. Ate there and closed down that bar a few times…. I know it was popular with mesa folks, and JJ’s is your closest grocery store. I still love JJ’s, and shop there occasionally even though I live many miles away now. The Tanner Jacks people are also owners of PALO MESA PIZZA, an award-winning wood-fired pizza joint with, what? 4 locations now? I’ve never actually had this pizza–something I’m more than a little embarrassed about–because I think it’s all take-out and delivery and I don’t really do that.
FINNEY’S CRAFTHOUSE AND KITCHEN in the old Forden’s next door to Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica. It appears to be a South Central Coast microchain. More beer & burgers, plz.
Across the street MESTIZA is looking really really nice, and as I have stated before, it doesn’t look at all like what the THE SKY IS FALLING doomsdayers announcing *big-screens, sports, and Mexican* have predicted. I could be totally wrong and have only poked my head inside the door, but dang it looks REALLY nice. I literally can NOT find any social media for this place. No www, no IG, no nothin.
Downstairs from Mestiza, finally had the banh mi at MINT + CRAFT after several people raved about it and also the closed sister-spot FIERO. Ok, so here’s the dealio: I love Mint Craft, and the sandwich is very very good. It is fresh and bright and alive and the bread feels wholesomer and it is made with slabs of pork belly and the pickles are *BARELY* pickled–more like fresh and crunchy–and doused in fish-sauce and there’s basically no cilantro. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it highly. BUT! with that said, if you are a fan of the Blue Mango Group (that’s the company who owns NOVO, Luna Red, Robin’s, Mintcraft, and Fiero catering) banh mi, I BEG you to go try the version at LINCOLN MARKET. They are WORLD’S apart, and I’m not saying either one is the gold standard by which all should be measured, but you should make up your mind after both. I HAVE to go re-visit Lotus now. Is there anywhere else to get this sandwich around here? I was kinda hoping my visit to HOAGIES in Pismo last week would turn up another version, but didn’t see it on the menu. Do any of the 40-odd cookie-cutter submarine sandwich places scattered around mid-town SLO make one?
While we’re on the subject of MINT + CRAFT, you’ve read how much I love their Community Supper series and there’s another one THIS WEEK. Wednesday, the 15th. I’ve forgetten the theme–often there really isn’t one–but these are bang-for-the-buck amazing experiences. Under 50 bucks, limited to 22 seats, chef and cheerful staff take REALLY good care of you, often the owners are there, and you’re all sitting around one big table with grown-ups–people who turn out to be neighbors or business relatives or common interests. It’s light, it’s fresh, you’re never over-fed (or underfed), wine is an option, and everybody leaves with new friends. They are *somewhat* monthly all summer, so if one sells out, make sure and set yourself up for notifications of the next one. Let me see if I can find a link. Here you go: www.eventbrite.com/o/mintcraft-13330122220
OK, so here’s your schedule for the month:
Mint + Craft Supper on Wednesday THIS WEEK
May 18 Saturday: Presquile Winery Annual Tri-Tip Cookoff Yes, I am judging again, which was very magnanimous of them after I somewhat looked down my nose at all things *tri-tip* in my recent SLO BBQ REPORT CARD. Hey, if there’s ONE thing you can NOT accuse me of, it’s a closed mind.
June 7 Friday: Kreuzberg California’s DEVOUR Chef Series returns with DENCH restaurant’s Jimmy Wong. This is the CalPoly student who started a 4-spot restaurant in his tiny apartment in SLO and turned it into a sensation. You can NOT eat at his restaurant anymore, he is graduating and moving back to Hong Kong where he will undoubtedly become world-famous, but you have ONE MORE CHANCE to eat his cooking and that is here: www.kreuzbergcalifornia.com/collections/pop-up-dinners/products/devour-jimmy-wong
June 8 Saturday: MAC & CHEESE FEST in Avila Beach benefiting Woods Humane Society and again, yours truly will be judging. I’ve already talked to a bunch of the chefs participating in this and they have some amazing things up their sleeves. But here’s the part about the Mac & Cheese Fest I like the best: it actually is a HUGE wine and beer tasting, and I have also seen the list of wineries, breweries, and distilleries pouring and you will NOT believe it.
June 9 Sunday: The 33rd annual–yes you read that right–the THIRTY-THIRD OJAI WINE FEST returns to beautiful Lake Casitas outside Ojai and here’s the deal: I know a lot of Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Santa Barbara people read this report, and you get used to seeing the usual suspects at wine events. This event pulls heavily from vendors throughout the area and also South Central Coast wineries you do not see often at events. Head out of your comfort zone a little. You won’t recognize a bunch of people pouring at this event by the lake. And the BEER. Stella, Leffe, Hoegaarden… all pouring. Pro Tip: if you at all can, get the VIP ticket, because there’s lots of stuff going on in that tent you don’t want to miss.
June 21-23: The LIVE OAK MUSIC FEST is changing both the classic Father’s Day date AND the location: #peacelovedirt is moving right HERE in San Luis Obispo right out at Chorro Park across from Cuesta.
How are we going to deal with MISTURA MESTIZA MISTURA MESTIZA MISTURA MESTIZA a few blocks apart?!?!? I’m ALREADY having problems with this!!! Stuttering and sputtering and having to pause and think really hard before speaking. Nicola Allegretta is of course moving his Peruvian restaurant, Mistura, from Paso Robles into the old Foremost Wine Co space in The Creamery next door to his MAMA’S MEATBALL. I owe Chef Nico an apology, as I poo-pooed Mama’s Meatball for many MANY years because of the dumb name, but recently have eaten there twice and it honestly ranks up there with the top names of local Italian cooking. Yes, THOSE names. You know who I’m talking about.
So let’s do a quick around-the-room show of hands at the new CREAMERY MARKETPLACE. Mistura, Mama’s Meatball, the cupcake shop, La Esquina Taqueria, Goshi’s, Joliene Bakery, Withco Coffee, Cider Bar SLO, the Instagram ice cream place, the pot place that will heal all your bodily woes mon, and Bear and the Wren. Did I miss anyone? Ciopinot, I suppose if you want to be all-inclusive.
There is new construction activity at whatever we are calling Matties on the corner there–now owned by ROSA’S RESTAURANT–basically new block-out window coverings. Blue tape on the outside facing the sunset–which will be fun to clean off in about 3 months. SCOTTY’S is still for sale. Hey somebody buy that thing and turn it into a real place grown-ups can go to. I mean, check out the ultimate quality Bermuda Triangle this potentially could be of La Bodega, Puffer’s and The Artist Formerly Known As Scotty’s. Nearby, the highly-anticipated opening of a brunch-spot emphasizing bacon and gravy has been postponed due apparently to what your mother would call a “personality issue” with the City of Pismo. Down closer to the pier, an alcohol license has been posted for off-sale wine & beer in the old boutique next door to my beloved Esquire Magazine Shop. #printisdead
I think this might be a pretty good place to throw in my short rib from MOON OVER AVILA the other day. Did you know they took over the Morovino spot next door and are expanding? You do now.
Also in Avila, I heard AVILA VALLEY BARN is serving proper brisket now. Coming off my SLO BBQ ROUNDUP I published a few weeks ago–not to mention their kitchen fire of nearly the same time-frame–this is of particular interest because in the research for that report I found there are only 3 places in SLOco serving proper brisket. I will have to visit to confirm. Apparently, there’s FOUR.
This weeks messiness… Oh boy. hold on to your hats. Our local off-the-radar favorite INDUSTRIAL EATS in Buellton made NATIONAL news–yes, FOX had a little fun with it–when they used [hashtag fuckTrump] in a tweet. On the same day, CAL POLY DINING decided to evict Chick-Fil-A from campus based on political contributions, but then flopped on that decision the next day. Hey, so how about we just make food and mind our own business? Can we do that in 2019? or is everybodies’ business everybody’s business? Additional messiness involves LAETITIA’S new gigantic corporate owners, Vintage Wine Estates suing at the last minute to block closure of their driveway to Southbound 101 traffic which came about in response to a heated grassroots campaign by Jordan Grant’s father. Mr. Grant has called on his supporters–which probably includes almost everyone reading this column–to boycott all Laetitia products. Oh, but you say, I LOVE Laetitia! They’re the only bubbles in town! Not so fast, Grasshopper. There are a LOT of methode champenoise producers locally now. RAVA and DERBY in Paso Robles, RIVERBENCH just south of Arroyo Grande, and FLYING GOAT–who REIGN Santa Barbara County– and also SANFORD and many many more. Don’t forget CARACCIOLI up in Monterey County, which makes Laetitia look like pond-water.
Along the lines of The Creamery becoming a culinary center–AND my oft-mentioned Colony District of Downtown Atascadero having nearly the same excitement–One-Stop-Shopping is also expanding exponentially across town, out on Tank Farm (when are we going to rename this road? There’s no tank farm anymore, so why can’t we rename it something pretty?) with practically another building added each week to the SLO Public Market on [I forget the name of that ranch]. Not much news of new tenants outside of what I have reported before, and so far the list is pretty boring. Figueroa Mt. Brewing, Central Coast Creamery, Kraken Coffee, Mama Ganache, Negranti Ice cream, some Acai bar and a yoga studio. *yawn* Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Central Cost Creamery, Kreuzberg, and Mama Ganache, and maybe if they are comparing themselves to Santa Barbara Public Market it seems expansive, but sheesh. Fig Mountain Brewing? Is that the best you can do? MOAR burgers & beer, plz. Have you ever been to a real public market??? I’ve been to public markets you could LIVE in. Places more amazing than Disneyland and the Smithsonian put together. Places you walk around with your mouth hanging open, astonished at the layers of food and learning new things every time you turn around. How many of you have been to Oxbow? OMG. Butchers, bakeries, tea shops, spice shops, fromageries and charcuteries, raw bar, Italian, Indian, sushi, groceries & produce, wine & beer. All this stuff is promised on their website, but boy am I anxious for some announcements.
What shall I leave you with? I’ve sputtered on long enough. How about Chef Mathers’ Korean-style TOWER OF RIBS out at OCEAN GRILLE in Avila? I had them the other day. That’s some serious food, and there is no wonder he won the popular vote at the Taste Bud’s Chef Comp this year.
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