I went to VENTANA GRILL. Yup, I’ve only had cocktails here. Hadn’t eaten there since Pelican Point and stairway to nowhere. Yes, THAT long ago. Overall, fairly decent food. A couple steps up from Custom House and Wooleys and Flagship, and a couple steps down from Oyster Loft and Mestiza (for those who live under a rock, yes, they are all owned by the same person). One of the strangest presentations of ceviche I’ve ever had, but pretty. Not too much substance to it, even though it fills an entire plate. The fish were just a tiny little white clump of almost shredded consistency–one on each chip. There’s a perfect square of iceberg between the fish and the tortilla chip–to keep it from getting soggy, I assume. We were joking about the dude in the kitchen who has to cut all the little iceberg squares. Rather pedestrian pico de gallo sprinkled all over and a steamed half lemon rind filled with what tasted like Miracle Whip and ketchup with a speck of heat to it. A fun dish, I mean, it didn’t taste bad, but anyone who dorks out on fresh fish or ceviche is going to be severely disappointed.
On a related note, you KNOW Compass Health sued the contractor working on ALEX. Saw that one coming a mile away. Oops.
Kin Coffee Bar opening on Higuera in that Wineman complex of troubled restaurant spaces. On a related note Le Petit Paris closed in Mission Mall. PORTHOUSE opened last week in Morro Bay. This is the Willow people of Willow Nipomo and Willow Kitchen Pismo and is in the old Otter Rock building on Embarcadero. Only open for dinner presently. Also only open for dinner apparently is Cass House Grill, which removed Sunday lunch a while back shortly before doing a whole bunch of chef swicheroos and now have ceased serving Saturday lunch. They DO have a new chef though, after Julie Simon consulting for a few weeks, they picked some girl from LA. Gotta check that out soon.
All this Cass House discussion is–of course–after Chef Bidwell went to HATCH in Paso Robles, which I HAVE eaten at since the transition–TWICE for dinner–and I gotta say, after a slow start the first few years, HATCH is kinda growing on me. I wish they had a better wine list. That’s always been the short point for me. They have half-a-dozen wines on tap and ONE bottle, a special which changes frequently. Last time I was there it was Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel for 90 bucks, so not really complaining. Yes, and they have arguably the best prime rib in the area on SUNDAY night.
Made the trek out to HALFWAY STATION 41 again. Holy wow this is a fun place. Not super super gourmet or anything, but the vibe is so great, the food is solid, wine and beer is perfect and everything so relaxed and charming. It is the youngest resty to go on my TOP 10 HIDDEN SURPRISES list and I was a little worried it might not hold up, but GET OUT THERE. If you’re in North county or coastal, it is super convenient and even from SLO it is only 20 minutes or so.
Maegen Loring is coming back to town. After bumping around in Mendocino at a couple of big inns. She’s quiet about where she’s landing–or at least it hasn’t drifted down to me yet. Say what you want about Chef Loring, PARK was arguably one of the best restaurants San Luis Obispo has ever had and she took Niner from lunchtime sandwiches to recently being named one of the Top 10 Best Winery Restaurants in the US. The interesting thing to gossip-mongers like me is all the restaurants around here right now teetering on near-dangerous or hollow-sounding chef transitions, all of which could make for a landing spot for Loring.
Speaking of which, Julie Simon is doing her very-familiar-now consulting thingamajig for Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles until they find someone. I tried to go there for their Sunday Supper after judging the KRUSH 92.5 Cocktail Competition at the fair last week and they were closed. I’ve kinda stopped keeping count of the places she has filled this role….
Oh, and in the first drop of ink I have given THIS place, Branzino closed. No one saw that one coming. Funny how all the rave reviews from _________, ___________, and _________ couldn’t save it.
SPOON TRADE and SIX TEST KITCHEN were both looking for line cooks. Couple decent gigs there.
Have you read the new food columnist’s pieces in the New Times? She’s done 4 or 5 now. Bethany somebody or somethin. Interesting direction. Keep a kleenex handy.
I went to BURGER VILLAGE in SLO on their third or fourth day. This is in the completely remodeled Natural Cafe location. Not intentionally having it on my MUST TRY NOW schedule or anything, just happened to be down there and snoopin around. As I always do with burger-joints, I started with their normalist of normal burgers. Gotta start with the basics and move on from there. There’s boar, elk, ostrich, turkey, salmon, lamb, venison, and, like, 10 veggie-burgers. Impossible is their meat-similar choice, but also some hand-made vegetable burgers. Action-packed menu which takes some studying to grasp. Nearly limitless options for toppings and sides and sauces. The burgers are smallish affairs with a choice of brioche, whole wheat or wrap. They come with nothing on them which will be refreshing for the anti-condiment folks or those who like to make their own condiment decisions. Fries a little dark and soggy, with large remnants of peel. A fairly serviceable wine list all by the glass from bottle and homemade craft sodas are an interesting touch. They also do handmade milkshakes and dessert. Overall above-average experience and a nice vibe for a place that’s only been open a couple days. Despite the commonly heard theme of “just what SLO needs: another burger joint!”, I think this is a nice addition to the south end of downtown. I quite look forward to returning and trying some of their other burger options.
While we’re on the subject of burgers, I don’t generally order sliders, because they’re just dry and humorless, but at HOUSE OF JUJU in Morro Bay they offer any of their very interestingly contrived burgers in a slider option. And that’s the other reason, I don’t eat a lot of weird burgers, I like my burgers very normal, very American, very boring, and House of JuJu has six or seven burgers with all kinds of weird options. You can choose any three in a slider version and it gives you a really nice couple bites of how they’ve integrated various other flavors into a burger profile. I’ve had the standard burgers at this spot and they are FABULOUS, so this was an opportunity to branch around on the menu a bit. I told myself I would remember the names of these three, but I’ve forgotten already.
I WENT TO HIGH ST DELI. Wow, nothing I have ever admitted to has generated such outrage as me saying I’ve lived here almost 20 years and have never been to this place. I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches, okay??? Maybe because it’s kinda off the beaten path or maybe because it’s stoner’s favorite t-shirt, but it certainly holds up to the hype. They’re like, really friendly and efficient too–it’s quite an operation in here–fun to watch. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to all the midtown delis now, and if I had to lump them into a category this would easily be my favorite experience so far. Every local will vehemently defend their pet deli, I’ve found, and I have my reasons too, from ordering awkwardness and efficiency to dining area and quality or availability of ingredients. This place gets top marks in everything. Now I want to try their meatloaf hamburger! This is the Italian sub (untoasted), a really generous and well-made sandwich, and straight off the menu–nothing custom.
Let’s see… what else. SLO BREW downtown closed mid-July for remodeling. Should be out-of commission about a month if all goes well. COMPLETELY re-doing the interior and changing up the entire menu and vibe. *Luxe Cantina* is the theme–and it will have a new name–so that makes THREE brand new restaurants running that twist downtown now. For the first time in 30 years, live music will no longer be a part of the downtown location–it has all been moved out to their purpose-built AMAZING event center at SLO BREW ROCK. Food stays the same out there, under Chef Fundaro’s excellent watch. The other excitement out there is ROD & HAMMER opening a distillery and lounge next door. Look for that within a month.
Up north, still no restaurant from Stephan’s (l’Aventure) son…. Promises, promises. ROOTS ON RAILROAD–from the Fish Gaucho people–shooting for September. Also in Paso, don’t forget JEFFRY’S WINE COUNTRY BBQ has opened a little-differently themed spot across the courtyard of his same spot for more seating. Kinda what MOON OVER AVILA did with Louie’s next door. Little different emphasis on drink selection, little different food-vibe. Haven’t visit either one of them, so just going off gossip for now.
I think ADA’S FISH HOUSE in Pismo opened, like, literally the night before I posted my last Resty Gossip (www.eatdrink101.com/resty-gossip-7-6), and all the usual suspects have been trotting through singing its praises. I guess I am going to have to visit one of these days. Can you feel my excitement.
Let’s see… what else. None of the one, two, three, FOUR new hotel restaurants have solidified opening dates. It all just keeps drifting toward fall… 1 in Hotel Cerro, 2 in Hotel SLO, and one in the big place in Pismo between Sea Venture and the pier.
OK, I’m done. What should I leave you with? How about Lamb Carpaccio from IL CORTILE? I told you I went to Il Cortile, right???
Don’t forget Kreuzberg California DEVOUR CHEF POP-UP SERIES with Thomas Drahos Aug. 16!!!!