New sandwich shop in Morro Bay: Gilligans or something, also a new Chinese spot–which I may have to seek out because the one Chinese resty we DO have is one of the worst I’ve ever had and even better: Morro Bay’s reigning self-appointed foodie dip-tard HATES the new one. So I MUST visit. Across the mud, finally got in to HAZARDS pizza, which seems to be bustling along nicely. The menu contains odd nods to Jim’s original menu–including the 99-layer Lasagna. Wine-list has improved considerably and ordered through a *usual suspects* of items for testing. Mediocre Caesar, rather un-inspired manicotti. Terrible alfredo and artichoke hearts. Everything B-ish at best, but hey: it’s a red-checkered-tablecloth-meatball-joint in Los Osos… I mean… how hard can you be on it?
By now everyone knows FARMHOUSE CORNER MARKET has closed. What happened there? Had this discussion with a plethora of industry folks in the past couple months–the common theme seems to be: What works and What doesn’t and When it doesn’t: WHY. Amazing chef–possibly one of the best in the area–great concept, stunning presentation, ridic winelist, in the fastest-growing corridor of San Luis Obispo DESPERATELY in need of more dining choices and nobody *got* it. I know that’s a lame, un-scientific cop-out, but that’s the only thing I can come up with. Nobody ever *got* Farmhouse. Tom Fundaro–of Villa Creek fame and for the past many years at the helm of the SLO Brew empire–has returned back to his BBQ homeland and the leadership spot in the huge, multi-faceted kitchen across the street from Farmhouse (stay with me here–I’m actually going somewhere with this) goes to: *drumroll* WILL TORRES, as the powers that be at The Rock could NOT let this no-brainer situation slide. I guess this means the Brewery & Distillery will never get duck confit nachos now, but my BIGGER question is: WILL–hahah see what I did there?–the BBQ go away with the absence of who I consider the Lord God King Bufu of local brisket?
Speaking of brisket, in South County, THE RIB LINE has moved in to the 3 Fat Guys spot in Grover City and in North County, I have searched out and tried BOTH of the current offerings in Paso: BIG BUBBA’S BAD BBQ and JEFFRY’S WINE COUNTRY BBQ. Bubba’s did not disappoint, with awkward service and ordering, cold, hard meat, no smoke ring, in-edible–really–even slathered with BBQ sauce. The beans were pretty good. Everyone knows my love for Jeffry’s Cubano and Banh-mi, but ordering a brisket plate comes up pretty short. No bread, and presentation non-existent as everything is delivered in to-go tupperware’s, the meat is CUBED to ½ X ½ rendering attention to detail impossible. I was told it came with sauce on it, to which I immediately replied, “Does it need it?” Short answer: it did. And if it couldn’t get worse, someone spilt the salt on my container of usually-lovely potato salad. The beans were pretty good.
Across town at PASO MARKET WALK, had a chance to visit BOTH recently-opened anchors–at opposite ends–and neither accessible through–the public market. Met a winemaker for lunch pre-HOSPICE DU RHONE at the curiously south-western-ish/Mexican-ish/Central American-ish FINCA and went away rather impressed: not only with the service (they were SLAMMED) but quality and presentation of food and a VERY smart, tiny winelist. Yes, I ordered the tacos–the pork belly chili verde version, and as you probably have already guessed, ordering tacos at an establishment like this is a cringy thing for me. I think there’s (now) 3 “expensive tacos” in THE TACO LIST–which really almost need their own category–Luna Red, Ventana, and Finca. Almost impossible to judge alongside the other couple-hundred on the list, but hey whaddayagonnado. These were good. Very nicely done!
At the north end of the market sits the restaurant THE WHOLE COUNTY NEEDS–the recently opened IN BLOOM. Wow, what a spectacular place: incredible attention to detail, rigidly professional–but gregarious–staff, a winelist probably 1/4 the size of PARK’s but hitting HARD on the same themes, and if you DO manage to narrow the wines down to one choice: THEN THERE’S THE MENU, and the whole I WANT IT ALL process starts again. FINALLY, Paso Robles has another resty on par with The Bistro and Il Cortile to fill the Villa Creek/Artisan/Panolivo void.
A few other Public Market notes: Yes, I HAVE had the ramen at MOMOTARO and spent way too much money on bottles at WINE MERCHANT but also noteworthy is Berry Hill Bistro’s little spot in the middle serving… well… *normal* food. My IG rant on this subject was lost on a few but generally understood. I’m not saying pizza, noodles, bao, thai, Southern chicken, beautiful pastries and vegan cheese are not real food, I’m just saying every public market should have a place to get a burger. A chop salad, a BLT and a Pepsi. And if you feel the need to point out to me pizza, ramen and bao are ‘normal’ food to millions of people in other parts of the globe, you’re over-thinking it and I feel sorry for you. Point is: you can get a hamburger inside Paso Market Walk, something I do not think is possible in SLO, Santa Barbara or Oxbow.
This is probably where Kenny Bigwood would drop into my DM’s. You’re an idiot, McConnell. How on earth is pizza not normal food? And the Chinese invented noodles you dipshit. Learning of his death a couple weeks ago was not even remotely bittersweet–he hated my guts–but deeply saddening and almost *empty*, as it leaves a void where a critic’s critic was never shy about popping up–usually to lash against some egregious or flippant over-statement of mine, occasionally to correct an ill-timed of flat-out wrongful piece of gossip, but also to continue serious conversation, to explore what concepts of dining appealed to me (“worst fuckin chairs on the planet”), details of a dish I particularly liked or disliked (“wildflowers–how fresh”), to weigh in on odd culinary concepts (fish salami!!!?!) or restaurant atmospheres (“NATIVE was 10 years too early”). So I knew he didn’t hate me completely. RIP Mr. Bigwood.
I WILL get off the *public market* chatter eventually–I promise–but right now it’s pretty heavy on the front page. KITCHEN & VINE has opened in the old farmhouse anchoring SLO PUBLIC MARKET and it somewhat falls into the region of *normal* food–I mean if breakfast burritos and egg tacos and RON’S Caesar salad fits into that for you. It is not billed specifically as a breakfast place, but the theme is un-ignorable as the menu cautiously drifts toward lunch-fare. Oh wait! There’s a word for this: BRUNCH! And this place has a definite Bitches Who Brunch vibe to it. Not sure men are even allowed inside. I tucked a yoga-mat under my arm for good measure. And there’s no drinks. Odd. Orange juice and drip coffee, that’s all. “You’re welcome to help yourself to the icewater or go next door to KRACKEN for drinks.” I mean–it IS a breakfast place, so OJ and Folgers isn’t THAT far-fetched. But jesus people: buy a fridge on craigslist and stuff some kombucha in it. I went next door and gave Kreuzberg $12 for iced tea and you’re just walkin away from that money. Do they do catering? Still trying to figure out why the kitchen is so big. I realize interior space has not been a priority the past couple years, but that kitchen is twice the size of the dining room. It’s bigger than Windows’. It’s 3X the size of NOVO’s and double Granada’s or Ember’s. For 20 tops and a half-dozen picnic tables. Hey if you got it, might as well flex it. But that’s a lot of walkin.
And… just in case you–like me–was pop-corning the sketchy, slow start of SLO’s public market, the current inability to PARK anywhere on that whole corner should shut you up. Tractor Supply is impossible to get into now, the entire former Trib expanse is constantly full, I saw–on more than one occasion–people parking and walking from Long Street, as the only blank spaces on the property are the Tesla teats. I’M NOT COMPLAINING! This is a wonderful litmus for the market. Part of the new constipation is clearly the opening of JAYBIRD’S CHICKEN, where lines around the corner have been observed on a couple of occasions. Tried to eat there the other day but discovered they only have breast in a sandwich and chikkie nuggies–no actual fried chicken, so probably will never try.
I made the bold move to visit Jaybird’s solely because of a not-horrible experience at NATE’S NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN in Paso this past week, where the fries were solid, the Stubborn Black Cherry just heroin and even the wings–though a tad too hot for me even in their mildest setting (which is “Medium”)–were nicely done. Both Jaybird’s and Nate’s offer the chicken “Naked” which I kinda want to try, but *naked*??? Seriously? Like NOTHING??? I mean, no salt, pepper, breading–NOTHING? That actually might be kinda gross. But I still want to try the wings that way at Nate’s. Won’t be able to at Jaybirds because I don’t eat tenders. Because I’m not NINE. Ranch with that?
Oh yes! BRUNCH!!! I finally went to BRUNCH! Now THERE’S something I feel guilty about. Tried several times–they have to be what: 4 or something??–but it just never worked out. In a new, far larger location downtown where that horrible Mexican place was for decades (which I have heard rumors is still open in Paso but somewhere else???). Oh, and next door to the new, second, ZIGGY’S location! I rather liked Brunch, and the menu was not what I expected. It has a definite Mexican swing to it, which I’m still kinda processing. I mean it IS California, but do we need huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos and chilaquiles on every menu? I dunno… I just pictured it far more YASSSSGURL in theme. Maybe some tea. White-bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Something with Nutella on it. Kenny’s laughing right there. Kenny hated brunch. Maybe more than he hated me. Nah… not possible.
Expanded my Cayucos experience beyond LUNADA and HONEY GIRL despite how hard to beat those two are with visits to both SEA SHANTY (twice) and DUCKIES CHOWDER HOUSE (also twice). No, I will never eat at Schooners again, Cafe Della Via’s hours make it IMPOSSIBLE to visit, Mexican-Italian is NEVER gonna happen, Beer, Brats, and Bites or whatever that dump is now OMG: no, and Hidden Kitchen just isn’t my thing. Somethin weird about that place–just can’t put my finger on it… Hippies? yeah, that’s it. Sea Shanty provided me with a rather un-inspired hamburger–even by diner standards–and a Cobb Salad finely diced and evenly mixed with grated egg on top. HOWEVER! The DRESSING OMG. That blue cheese they make is STUPENDOUS in quality. And they have prime rib and she said bring whatever wine I want–we don’t really do corkage… so… I mean… see me workin here? Duckies–despite my lack of enthusiasm for the other restaurants in the Dorn’s realm–continues to impress with service, quality and atmosphere. I haven’t had a bad experience there yet, just a shocking statement for me considering what *kind* of resty it is and the demo.
OK blitzkrieg wrap-up sesh: LA PARRILLA is finally open in Arroyo Grande. Need I remind you these people are the ruling taqueria between SLO and Paso? BETWEEN SLO and Paso, notice, as I still favor El Tizon and La Reyna in those two spots, respectively… Around the corner, MALDONADO’S MEXICAN has opened in that little motel anchor where Bon Temps used to be on the street you buy crank and rent rooms by the half-hour. Can’t find a link to anything on them and it doesn’t really matter anyway because they will be gone in 3 months… Speaking of gone: Fredericos downtown SLO in that CURS-ED strip of stores (now for even different reasons) disappeared and so did the Asian next door and now it’s gonna be something else, again, and the only people who care will be Orange County man & wife taking their Poly-bro out to lunch because the line at Firestone is too long… Up on NoMo, Steynberg Gallery’s windows are papered–not that it means anything relating to food necessarily… Kitchenette I guess went away and is coming back without me even noticing? If you’ve ever eaten there, you’d know why…
Found a great little diner tucked away in Paso: SUNRISE CAFE who have the BEST birria I have ever had in my life Sat. thru Tue. but also one of the worst hamburgers in memory. Stick to the tacos. It’s beef, BTW–not goat. And it is a MUST-VISIT… Tried tacos at LA MEXICANA in Paso. Do NOT do make the same mistake… Also re-visited THE BEST AL PASTOR IN THE COUNTY according to gringo and stick with my original opinion of 15 years ago: LOS ROBLES CAFE makes easily some of the worst tacos between Salinas and Santa Barbara. Also had a margherita at the new wood-fired RUSTIC FIRE. Ultra-thin crust, GOBS of basil, easy cheese and thick Parmesean shavings on top. Rather impressed… Tried to get into the Korean place in Paso, but they’re 100% take out DINING ROOM CLOSED so walked out extremely disappointed because Korean food is LIFE… Over on the park, had some green curry at BASIL because they were out of Thai noodle soup. Decent enough curry… Oh Oh Oh Oh! And! NEW FAVORITE SPOT: CELIA’S GARDEN CAFE in Los Osos. This place is an absolute GEM. and they ALSO do prime rib–and have a couple amazing wines on the menu for NOTHING.
Where do you want to go for lunch?