This month’s award for strangest new food-concoction/concept goes to HIDDEN KITCHEN for their savory waffles. Alongside their sweet waffles and smoothie creations are 5 or 6 hearty blue-corn waffles piled high with eggs and mushrooms and chipotle and avocado and beans and bacon and salsa and–well–YOU NAME IT. Pretty sure my first words upon opening my to-go box were, “OMG it’s a pile of shit on a waffle!” Appetizing-looking in a sort of hangover-jaded fashion, all criticism came to an abrupt halt on first bite. Texture was perfect. I was apprehensive about the thick waffle and layers of food with my flimsy plastic fork, but the whole thing is a tender package on the plate and in the mouth. But it’s not soggy, either. You HAVE to try one of these things. I was NOT expecting to like it–in fact I had DECIDED not to like it upon viewing. The first bite literally changed my mind. This has to be the world’s most perfect Saturday-morning food with a michelada and sunglasses–even for those of you who didn’t grow up with beans-on-toast.
Heard rumors of banh-mi at OKI MOMO and rushed over to get my own. First of all: it’s beef or chicken. Then it comes on Dutch crunch. No complaints about anything else on it though and the whole situation is a nice handful of food which meshes great. And the pickles. OMG the pickles.
Speaking of fusion, the Carl’s Jr. at Foothill and HWY 1 continues to plod along with “opening soon” signs getting a little faded.
Also downtown SLO, Chronic Tacos has thankfully faded away from that court of terrible bro-spots in front of Barnes & Noble. That’s the good news. THERE IS NO BAD NEWS. The OTHER good news is TORTILLA TOWN has expanded their wonderful Paso Robles situation to grace us with their stupidly-good handmade tortillas and chalupas. There are a few changes at the new location–mostly positive–except one thing: the color of the meat. It’s terrifying, actually. Al Pastor is NOT fire-engine red. Those tortilla tho. And that hab. San Luis Obispo’s taco situation continues to climb after many years of being the laughingstock of the area.
Work continues in Los Osos on the new BAYWOOD ALEHOUSE (although I’m guessing it will not be called that since it is not in Baywood anymore) across the street from Sweet Springs. Up the street, heavy improvements continue on the Marriage-Breaker, inside and out. Across the bay, work has begun in earnest on 3 STACKS AND A ROCK BREWING at the former location of “World’s Saddest Aquarium” (those are not my words–they were Sunset magazine’s or something like that). Hopefully it will smell better than Libertine down the block. Assuredly, it will be a FAR more visible location than their current one… where? See, you don’t know WHERE it is, do you?
Half a click down HWY 1 from there, The Buoy has finally made its full transformation into DARK NECTAR COFFEE SALOON, a sort of bistro/coffee/winebar/brewpub that is turning into a neighborhood–and passer-by–hotspot. Haven’t had the coffee there yet. I HAVE had the coffee at the newly re-worked ROCK ESPRESSO BAR, which is full of life and pastries and good coffee now. Speaking of coffee, the venerable Gordon Lu chose the shutdown as an opportunity to retire, permanently closing THE COFFEE POT, Morro Bay’s only bacon & eggs spot on the Embarcadero. GIOVANNI’S FISH MARKET AND GALLEY used this opportunity to open a second dining window, GIOVANNI’S TAKEOUT EXPRESS. The concept is pretty straight-forward: Take the top-dozen best-selling items that have made Giovanni’s (and 1-hour waits) famous and serve them out a window with outdoor seating around the corner. It opened July first and 10-15 minute waits are the norm. Of course, as people find out about this option, those times will change….
“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” While nothing is exactly normal, there is a semblance of return out on the streets and sidewalks and 4-tops and even bar-tops. Well, there are a few restaurants which have returned to nearly IDENTICAL normal, but I will not reward OR shame them as the do-gooder *task-forces* being nurtured on Nextdoor and FB and alleged food-blogs would assuredly take notice. Stay in your lane. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t go. But leave the tattling to the playground.
This little stretch has been particularly hard on me–for some funny reasons I have only shared with a handful of my absolute inner circle over the years . I’m warning you now: these will NOT be popular opinions, and I don’t press them on others–this is just me. First of all I DESPISE eating outdoors. I can’t stand the sun, the shade, the wind, the calm, the hot, the cold. Secondly, I don’t *do* takeout. I have always considered it lazy. I just don’t buy prepared food and take it home. The line around the block at In-N-Out at supper-time astounds and nauseates me. Chinese just doesn’t taste right at home. If somebody else is going to cook for me, I’ll pay them to do the dishes too. Which brings us to another thing: I am packaging-phobic. I can’t stand wrappers and boxes and plastic utensils and paper napkins and cups and lids and straws and wrappers and IF I NEVER SEE ANOTHER CLAMSHELL AGAIN IN MY LIFE IT WILL BE TOO SOON. So see? This whole thing-a-ma-jigger has been a sure-fire test of my patience. But I think I have done pretty good. I have stood in lines outdoors, I have eaten on steps and park-benches, I have sat in my truck, I have taken a few complete meals home, and I have thrown away an uncomfortable amount of paper and plastic crap. Basically I’ve been cooking a lot of dinners and skipping a lot of lunches.
There’s still a few really weird hold-outs. Taco Bell still has not opened their dining rooms, even though McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack-in-the-Box all have. Brown Butter Cookie Company locations have remained shuttered until tomorrow, July 6. I wonder: are they still cooking for all the places which sell their cookies? STAX WINE BAR pretty much opened the 3rd. Pretty sure Paul Kwong at MEE HENG LOW NOODLE HOUSE is still doing take-out only, and Abe at GRAPE LEAF DELI is sidewalk-only and JUST opened.
I found out one of my Sacramento natives and favorites, BEACH HUT DELI has expanded into a small chain and THERE’S ONE RIGHT OUT ON LOVR in Los Osos. You need to stop what you’re doing right now and get yourself a Surfin Bird. You will never forget it. Juicy folds of roasted turkey, avocado, bacon, pickles, red onions and a fat slab of CREAM CHEESE??? Come on. And–just like in Sacramento–THE best selection of micro- and nano-brews on the taps.
Speaking of *finding out*, someone clued me in to San Luis Obispo’s clandestine BENNY’S PIZZA, a best-kept local secret of ‘Detroit-style pizza. What is Detroit-style? I didn’t know either. And although Benny’s has been around for YEARS, they managed to keep it from me quite well. Turns out it’s THICKER than Chicago, so imagine inch-and-a-half thick triple-risen dough supporting a lake of fat slabs of melted mozzarella and spicy sauce. The cheese runs down along the sides of the deep pan and carmelizes crunchy and black around the edges–creating straight HEROIN for any ‘edge-lover’. There are 5 toppings available and you are assigned a time-slot to receive your pizza from the 150-odd he makes per week. Serious pizza-nazi stuff here, boys & girls. A week after I posted about it, Jeremy West had one of his pies on his morning-drive show and a week after THAT, Starkey wrote about it in the New Times. Suffice it to say the insiders are NOT happy, and Benny’s is selling out faster every week–making the already way-too-complicated-for-most process of scoring a pizza even iffier.
I FOUND SOME MORE BRISKET. That brings the total locally to 5. THREE FAT GUYS DINER inside Mongo’s Saloon in Grover does a juicy, soft kinda-pulled version between brioche which has visited a puddle of butter on the griddle. This is a coronary in the palm of your hand, but hey.
A couple of LONG-holdouts for re-opening–and a couple favorites of mine: WINDOWS ON THE WATER overlooking Morro Bay and BRASSERIE SLO inside the new Hotel Cerro. I’ve been critical of Windows *gooping* up their dishes too much–adorning them with so much STUFF it detracts from the natural goodness of the food. Looks like nothing has changed. I mean–I get it–people want their shit all dolled up and pretty, but I like simple strokes. I’m weird, I know… Remember the part about not eating outdoors? Yup: weird. Chef Anderson is a bread MASTER and his pizza dough certainly shows it. Haven’t got in for a full formal dinner yet, but several lunches in–and a few cocktails–and I’m liking this place better than the *other* new hotel resty. Speaking of which, I guess Ox & Anchor finally re-opened too. Another long-hold out.
OK, two more *unusuals* and I’ll shut up (I haven’t written one of these since April 29 so ya gotta let me go a bit). But these are just too good to not squawk about. Did you know HIGH STREET DELI made a hamburger? I didn’t either. And they don’t–really. It’s a meatloaf burger and I nominate it for BEST HAMBURGER IN SLO. Except it’s not a hamburger, it’s a meatloaf sandwich pretending to be a hamburger so make whatever rules you want BUT GO ORDER THIS THING. It’s on the menu sheet… gotta look around for it a bit. I had heard about it and had to have help finding it. She’s all, “We don’t make a hamburger.” Along the lines of hamburger-switcharoos, I went to the inarguable KING of local hamburgers, FLAVOR FACTORY for one of their ridiculous offerings and something caught my eye on the specials board. I have a soft spot for both egg salad and tuna sandwiches and decided to eat a bunch of baby chickens instead of some silly ground up cow. A very plain, unadorned version–salt about the only obvious flavoring–and, obviously, stacked so thick it squirted out in all directions from between the thick white slabs of bread.
Don’t forget to say the blessing.