Popped in to HALFWAY STATION 41 Saturday night after ESPRIT DU VIN because on Google it looked like they were open a bit later than normal and OMG was I met with a surprise. It’s, like, 7:30, the place is PACKED, several people I know, a crazy-good band is playing some mellow vibes. SO much energy there! SO happy this little out-of-the-way place is doing well. We NEED these kind of restaurants in the area. And SO many vegetarian items on the menu.
Heard a rumor BAYSIDE CAFE is closed for a little remodel… haven’t driven out there to confirm. Speaking of remodels *out there*, The Hungry Fisherman has re-opened after a couple-month interior facelift. Do NOT hold your breath for my visit there. There’s like, 4 restaurants on that street in Morro Bay: I’ve never been in any of them and I doubt if that will change. While we’re on the subject of old-school restaurants in Morro Bay, I popped in to both DORN’S and HARBOR HUT this past month! My Dorn’s visits are always yawners–I go about twice a decade–but the bar at Harbor Hut just might be my new watering hole. And their winelist is 10X better than Dorns. The menu is just like steppin straight back into the 50’s. There’s an entire page of oysters haha EVERY WAY your grandparents could imagine: Rockefeller, Kirkpatrick, Imperial, Franklin, Deviled crab… I had to ask what half these things are. And raw of course… Kinda surprised no mignonette though, I’d be all over that. Calamari’s awesome, the Sole Almondine to die for: soaked in butter and a hint of lemon, I even had a steak there the other night. Beautiful rib-eye–perfectly cooked. And I don’t have to explain to Andrew–or Connor–how I want my cocktail.
While we’re on the subject of throw-back spots, how many of you get the urge for some good old red-checkered-tablecloth Italian food occasionally? I know I do, and every town I have ever lived in had one I could rely on. Mine USED to be Del’s in Pismo–loved sneaking in there on a weeknight and cozying up in a corner with the shag carpet and Chianti bottle candles. The new location is very nice. I’ve eaten there a couple times… it is fresh, it’s bright, it’s clean, it’s beautiful, the food’s unchanged wonderful… but the charm of the old place is just gone, gotta be honest. So, I’ve driven by this place in Los Osos many times over the years–actually got out and looked at the menu a couple times–really unassuming little joint on a side street with a funny name. I had read in Darren Delmore’s books about “washing dishes in my dad’s restaurant in Los Osos” but it had just never clicked together in my head. So I go in, settle in with the down-home service, the shockingly good Italian classics (the Pasta Fazol is to die for), serviceable red wine in a bad glass, the signature table-cloths–EVERYTHING–and suddenly it dawns on me: JIMMY BUMP’S PASTA HOUSE is Jim Delmore’s place!!! And there he is, in the back, cookin. I literally can not wait to go back.
While we’re in MB, The Wine Seller (get it? get it? haha the wine SELLER get it??), is transitioning into a little more food-oriented spot. Still selling wine, lots of craft beer and live music–all that remains unchanged since the expansion–but installing a fairly expansive cold-kitchen and small bites and plates will be forthcoming. Speaking of wine-bars, STAXXX has new owners and a few changes are noticeable. A couple Morro Bay locals and friends of mine bought it and are divin into the food & wine business! No major changes, just little stuff here and there. Oh, and I forgot to mention, The Wine Seller is changing its name to THE SAVORY PALATTE (THAT’S THEIR SPELLING NOT MINE!!!). The Goddess of Wine, Denise Lowe, is still doing tasting evaluation and wine education classes there but also at FOSSIL WINE BAR in Atascadero. Let’s see what else happened while I was gone? I went to Italy for a couple weeks and of course ate way too much beautiful food and took way too many pictures but you pretty much need to follow my INSTAGRAM for those bites. Olde Port closed… Yeah, that was the big shocker I heard about while I was gone. JUST had drinks and apps there a few nights earlier and was chatting with the wonderful owners. Funny, that place survived SOOO much. Think about it. It survived the UNOCAL clean-up and destruction of Avila. It survived the commercial fishery closing. It survived the pier being CONDEMNED! Remember that?? It survived the (main) fish market moving to 5-Cities and a couple years of empty-building construction on Mer-Sea’s. Then the OTHER fish market closed. Yes, it’s kinda in bad repair and the menu hasn’t changed in 20 years, but I remember back in the heyday–I remember the place being so busy they seated you upstairs! And those stupid little glass-bottom tables you were supposed to see the ocean through. Oh well, it will be interesting. Poor Harford Pier. I love Olde Port Inn–I don’t care what you say.
ALL the hotels downtown are now fully open. PIADINA has been open for a couple months, OX & ANCHOR next door for a few weeks… Went to the Grand Opening of the entire HOTEL SLO complex last night. Quite a party. If you follow my Instagram stories, you saw good chunks of it. Apparently, it coincided with the Chinese New Year or New Lunar Year, as there were dragons and such! BRASSERIE SLO has been going through a bunch of softs and special events, but opened full-time Friday. Eaten at Piadina twice–with good results–the other two I can’t wait to hit up.
Arroyo Grande is getting a Grocery Outlet. FINNEY’S CRAFT KITCHEN or something is open…. in the old Forden’s building downtown. It’s another burger joint. Because you KNOW: It won’t survive in SLO unless you can eat it with your hands. PARK is not open yet, neither is the place next door, blankin out on the name momentarily… Down in the Creamery Marketplace, BEAR & THE WREN is *really close* to launching their brick & mortar. Watch for that in a matter of weeks. Have you been to KIN coffee? Best coffee in SLO right meow. And while we’re talking coffee, have you been to TRIBE in AG??? Both towns have stepped up their espresso game with these additions–SLO not so much, as there’s several places pressing some really nice stuff, but Arroyo Grande has stepped things up EXPONENTIALLY with Tribe. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I hear all you Red Bee and Andreini’s fans screaming back there. Speaking of coffee, my close second favorite, KREUZBERG is opening up places like MAD. What is there, 4 now?? Poor but Sexy needs to take a breath! Up the street, the newish Vietnamese owners of DRAGON PALACE Chinese Buffet have dumped the *buffet* part and gone to a fully Viet menu. While I predictably applaud this move, I worry the demographic in 5-Cities will be far less inclined to belly up for pho than they currently do for bad General Chicken and Chop Suey.
Did you know THAI ELEPHANT in Pismo has pho? You do now. This is of course the old Konfusion spot in the corner by El Rancho. I had it the other day and it was quite good. Had a little nutmeg or alspice or star anise or even cinnamon twist to the broth. The noodles were a little over-done, but the *rare beef* was proper.
About as hotly contested as pho preferences are taco places… Decided to hit up TACOS EL VIEJON again after a big disappointment right after opening. I am sad to admit nothing has changed. These tacos, their tortillas, and the salsas provided are basically inedible. Hey but you know who has good tacos? LA PARRILLA TAQUERIA in Atascadero is doing everything right.
Couple of restaurants going through some fairly high-up transitions lately. Moon Over Avila continues to churn through staff and management and TBH I don’t see LOUIE’S surviving. PICO Los Alamos is going through a big FOH & BOH re-situation, forcing it to close temporarily. THE STATION SLO has a fat For Lease sign out front, and while wine & craft events for the paint-by-numbers crowd continues, January 31 is rumored to be the final day of operation. Let’s get a good tenant in there, PLEASE??? Such an amazing historic property (yes, that’s a gas station on the main highway LONG before the 101 was built) and I heard some rent numbers and they were NOT typical SLO outrageousness. And while we’re on the subject of the Old Highway WARNING THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOD OR WINE the U-Haul place at the corner of Prado and Elks is closing. That gas station was built in 1958 and he has been there for 41 years! Nowhere near as cool as Station, but I will be sad to see it bulldozed. Up at the extreme OTHER end of the Old Highway, the Carl’s Jr. where New Frontiers used to be has finally worked its way through several painting situations and has been branded as @BITES. Not sure it food or computer place…
OK, so this has gotten WAY too long… It’s been a couple months. I was actually starting to get serious complaints. I’ll try not to do that again. What shall I leave you with? OMG I just thought of, like, 4 more new places I’ve eaten recently. Next week. For now I’ll leave you with The Cheeseburger Salad up in Cambria at BRIDGE STREET CAFE. Man oh man you’re missin out if you haven’t been to this place.
Play with your food.