Oh shoot, I’ve been eating so much I haven’t had time to post about it in almost a month. SOOOO much gossip too. Took a big road-trip up through Sonoma and Mendocino, eating WAY TOO MUCH at both some new spots and some favorites. I might cobble together a separate post for that, because I know from feedback anything *out of town* makes a few of you cheer but the eyes glaze over in a large chunk of my following. I know a healthy number of my readers travel regularly North or South to wine-country and beyond, and I also understand a good chunk of them somehow can’t even find Spoon Trade.
Here’s a crab-cake from THE GALLEY in Morro Bay just to get the ball rolling.
None of the new hotel restaurants downtown San Luis Obispo are open yet. SLO BREW is set to open in three weeks as THE CARISSA, offering upscale Mexican and craft cocktails. Tom Fundaro remains at the helm out at The Rock, but Codi Conti is the chef at the new configuration downtown. At the same time out at SLO Brew Rock, ROD & HAMMER’S has opened, a plush, themed tasting salon for the products of SLO Stills, their new distillery. The emphasis is on sampling and purchasing their whiskey (and soon gin), but gorgeous cocktails and small bites are available.
Construction continues in Shell Beach on CAPE COD EATERY AND TAPHOUSE with “Summer 2019” come and gone and not lookin too close. I’ve seen the door open and some work inside going on at PARK on Chorro downtown, but that’s about it. Around the corner KENNY KRAFT KITCHEN or something (I’ve mentioned it here a few times but have completely forgotten the name) has undergone a DRASTIC new direction in remodeling at the old Forden’s spot and a fresh ABC app is posted. Out in Los Osos, HIGH STREET DELI’S remodel of the former infamous Cultured Egg remains red-tagged by the building department.
There’s a new spot on Court Street called MON AMI CREPE BAR, serving sweet and savory crepes, including one called “The Bako” *insert major eye-rolls*. One can only assume it is an extension of Mon Ami Creperie in Pismo Beach. BOTH Brickhouse BBQ AND Grill House BBQ in Morro Bay suddenly closed this week. Something in the water up there? That horrid Mexican restaurant behind Shell and FATTOUSH on Foothill shut down and everything is for sale. Somebody should snap that place up before they liquidate the kitchen. Can’t imagine the rent being stupid there, and what a great little corner for a tiny, good resty!
Let’s start with the new places I HAVEN’T been yet, just so you’ll stop asking. I haven’t been to PORTHOUSE yet. These are the Willow people, in the old Outrigger spot on Embarcadero. They are not open for lunch and I just haven’t pinched off a time-slot for dinner in Morro Bay yet. Actually, the problem is priorities. If I’m gonna be in that neck of the woods for dinner, I’m going somewhere I LIKE, somewhere I KNOW will be fabulous, like Cass House or Windows or Robins. Of course, curiosity will get the best of me eventually, EVEN if I am feeling decidedly lack-luster about a new restaurant. Besides, it’s my RESPONSIBILITY to try these places! Equally anticipated is ADA’S FISH HOUSE in Pismo. I just can’t seem to trump up any excitement in myself about this place. I even tried to go a couple weeks ago, but it was packed and the demographic in the foyer made me return to my car and drive to Ember. I’ll go, I’ll go, I promise I will go one of these nights, but it will be a week-day and I will be sure and wear my bro-tank and baseball cap.
Where else haven’t I been? I haven’t been to THE STATION in Los Alamos yet. That’s the Ontiveros’ family take-over of the old gas station there on the main drag. DO NOT believe their website which says they are only open for private events “until July”. Come’on people. It’s almost 2020. I also have not been out to CUYAMA BUCKHORN in–you guessed it–New Cuyama. Really looking forward to hitting that classic up again. Might have to mix in one of their hotel rooms for a little staycation action.
Where HAVE I been? Well, I popped into Chef Rick’s the other day. Had to. THE only real restaurant Santa Maria has ever had and it is BACK!!! As you would suspect, the menu is heavy on Cajun and the winelist heavy on Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen. I ordered all over the menu and went away raving about a couple things and idly pushing other things around my plate. I’m not real big on *towers* but lemme tell you that fried green tomato, shrimp, guacamole, salsa and roasted corn tower disappeared SOOOO fast.
Likewise the polenta–errrrrr I’m sorry–CHEESE GRITS in the spicy sauce topped with breaded eggplant, sauteed mushrooms, and fried basil. Well, to be honest, the grits and basil disappeared, as did the mushrooms, the eggplant I kinda picked at. And the sauce was VERY spicy. OH BOY and the penne with shrimp, chicken and andouille HOLY CRAP is that an amazing dish.
I just finished judging KRUSH 95.5’s Mac & Cheese Fest and let me tell you THIS “Jambalaya Pasta” would have won had it been present. At least 3 different kinds of meat in it, so much umami going on in this thing. Breathtakingly creamy, sticky and goey, man oh man what a gorgeous plate of pasta. OK, so what DIDN’T I like? First of all–and this is just personal–I HATE counter-ordering. Want to order? Gotta get up and go chat with the cashier about it. Want another glass of wine? Get up and go pay for it. Decide on dessert? Another trip to the cashier. Don’t forget your number so the server can find you because she has no idea who you are or what you ordered. Oh, and all tipping has to be done BEFORE you lay eyes on the food, taste it, or interact with the staff. That part isn’t THAT big of deal, because I tip 20% no matter what, but occasionally 30% if I feel the restaurant is clicking and everyone’s attitudes are up to snuff. But I know people who DO NOT TIP with counter-ordering. Several people have even told me they PREFER counter-ordering because it removes the onus OF tipping, i.e. the meal is cheaper. Not me. If I’m spending 150-200 bucks on dinner I am NOT getting up every 20 minutes to interface with your glorified hostess and watch her s t r u g g l e with a corkscrew. Oh and your stemless glasses. Fuck your stemless glasses. I hate them and it gives you a major asterisk. I know I know I know, believe me I’ve heard and understand all the arguments for them, and I get it from a restaurant perspective, but still hate them. Disappointing also was the fried catfish.
It was disappointing to me, but that does not mean is was *bad*, just not the kind of plate I enjoy. This came as a HUGE platter of food, and it was clear it is designed for a certain demographic. Not mine. It reminded me of a plate someone quite un-picky about food would order at a bad gringo Mexican sit-down: a chili relleno and a wet enchilada with giant sides of rice and beans and a pile of iceberg, pink tomatoes and an orange slice for 14.99 with a free taco special this week only. This is what kept going through my head as I picked at it. I *thought* Hey, what better place to order catfish (one of my favorite fishes) than at Chef Rick’s? Well, the catfish is heavily breaded and fried, pretty much obliterating the beauty of catfish and creating a juxtaposition between the thick crunchy shell and the slimy earthy goodness of the bottom-feeder inside. The sweet potato fries were excellent, Imussay–and I am not a huge SPF fan. They are often too gooey, but these were crisp and wonderful. Unfortunately, a mountain of tartar sauce–clearly homemade, with from-scratch mayo–sullied everything in its formidable and obfuscating path. It got on EVERYTHING, infecting everything it touched with in-edibleness. The slaw was a bland, watery corner-statement, and the gumbo rice bed nothing more than starch filler. A slice of watermelon was my favorite part of the whole plate. This dish is designed for someone who wants 3000 calories in one spot, doesn’t care if anything touches, will probably salt the whole thing before tasting it, and wash it down with Diet Coke refills. I’m sure lots of people love it. Just not for me. Winelist is a curt affair of 6 wines served in the aforementioned finger-printed chunks of heavy glass, half of it made by Qupe, and half of it made by ABC. This is surprising and not, as Chef Manson has ALWAYS had a groovy relationship with local winemakers and the list at the original restaurant was always interesting. The wines he is serving now are indeed high-quality, but rather un-curious in their selection. Chef Rick’s is back, and a lot of it is as if nothing changed. All your favorites from the old restaurant are there and you need to check it out, whether you’ve never heard of it before or were an old regular.
CASS HOUSE GRILL and THOMAS HILL ORGANICS both have new chefs, and Chef Bigwood got fired from GRENADA. And I have visted 2/3rds of these new scenarios and have opinions, of course. We’ll touch on all that later…
Tune in next week when we discuss Burger King’s new TACO.