Finally got into SPIRIT OF SAN LUIS at the airport… Airport restaurants and 19th-hole restaurants share typically share the same doldrum-y food, but this place is pretty good. Seemed to be a lot of locals eating there–it was packed on a weekday lunch–and not many actual travelers. I guess the Gus’s people still own this? Had heard a few years ago they took it over. Nicely-stocked full bar with great cocktails, and food was above average. The views are really the main draw, though–always will be. Fairly standard diner fare–with a few embellishments.
Had to go to SF last weekend for graduation… Stayed at the W downtown and wandered up into Chinatown for lunch. Found a little side-street pretty far up in there and a little hole-in-the-wall called CAPITAL. Noodle soup, of course, plus beef & bitter melon. Back at the hotel, the resty downstairs–TRACE–comped everything on the menu for guests–to the tune of about 60 bucks/day–so THAT helps with the price a bit. Almost paid for parking! Gorgeous food and service–as was the room–and I had their incredible avocado toast two days in a row. It was that good.
Had a rash of tacos this week, and–as usual–some disappointments which required going somewhere decent the following day to wash the taste out. First up: not really a taqueria, but *rich-people tacos*… finally timed a visit to FINCA inside Paso Market Walk when their Duck Al Pastor was on the board. Not really fair to add these to The Taco List, but Luna Red and Ventana are on there, so…. These are good. I mean: hard to judge against real tacos, but good. Really like this restaurant–been there a couple times now. I actually think the regular carnitas on the menu are a better “taco”, but the heavily-glazed duck is a nice twist… Popped into La Parrilla again. I’ve gone on record several times saying these are the best tacos in Atascadero, but something awry this time. Bland, terrible meat, and salsas without spirit. Atascadero is such a funny place for tacos. Literally scores of places making a taco that will do in a pinch, but probably not even cracking the top 10 locally. I think right now it is between The Taco Stand and Taqueria Don Jose, but oh boy is it a level playing field. Garcia’s (also not a favorite) has moved into new digs a bit south of the former dump–which has been leveled for new construction. Suprema is also passable, but no inside dining and it’s HOT up there now. Likewise the little market down where Spencer’s used to be: haven’t tried them because nowhere to sit. Gotta hit up the new La Parilla in AG soon…
Tried some tacos from CAPTAIN SPICE of Pismo at a street-fair in Morro Bay. Literally some of the worst tacos I’ve had in my life. Homemade tortillas for a couple points, but not warmed properly and red, grainy, dry meat terribly seasoned with strong nutmeg & allspice notes–just straight-up dogfood. Also the salsa completely pointless.
So what do you do when the bad tacos start piling up on your palate? Gotta cleanse that shit, hit REFRESH, and get yourself back to WHY TACOS MATTER. People always be like: Why you gotta be so hard on tacos, McConnell? They’re JUST TACOS! Just relax and enjoy them for their diversity! There’s no such thing as a BAD taco, man… Trust me, I DO enjoy little touches of diversity in a GOOD taco. And when you have Lucy’s tacos at La Tapatia, the whole universe becomes clear. From the first look at a Captain Spice taco to the first bite of a La Tapatia taco you know INSTANTLY why tacos matter and why THE LIST. Which needs some SERIOUS editing and updating, BTW. I’ll get on that, sorry.
Also in Paso, MARISCOS LA PIEDAD has moved into the old Panolivo spot, and–again–serviceable tacos but nothing that’s gonna crack the top 10. I actually like the yellow corn tortillas, and they were warmed perfectly. Will be interesting to see how long that lasts–kinda a cursed spot. Across the street, PASO ROBLES GRILL in the old (second) Artisan location has bumpy openings. Supposed to be soul-food and our schedules just haven’t jived yet. Also in this conversation: around the corner at the CAL COAST BEER COMPANY brewery, LA REYNA brings their mobile situation down Sat & Sun–the rest of the week they order form The Backyard and the food is run down. It’s barely a block, though food don’t travel.
How about an Atkin’s taco??? These aren’t even called tacos on the menu at STAX WINE BAR & BISTRO, but they sure look like a taco and eat like one! BBQ chicken inside with some slaw–and rather good little morsels.
Tucked into a little slot on 13th alongside businesses which do NOT look like diner-neighbors is VIC’S CAFE–complete with a long shiny bar and red Naugahyde stools. This place has EVERYTHING you need in a diner–all the way to the milkshakes and pie–and can NOT not order the meatloaf. Very very nice, with great pickles and everything has pepperocinis in it: I guess that’s the Vic’s signature. I mean–it’s no HIZENBURGER, but it’s awesome meatloaf. Practically next door is MORNING AFTER CAFE: something I really didn’t know what to think about until I started studying the menu. It’s a DINER! It seriously has all diner-food on the menu, but everything has delightful twists this way and that into what I’m calling *Craft Diner* or maybe ‘hipster diner’… I dunno. They’re only open breakfast and lunch, have a serviceable winelist, beer and hard kombucha on tap, and a VERY interesting menu. I had their version of a croque monsieur and it was possibly one of the best I’ve ever had. Simple and delicious, with gorgeous Dijon. The egg salad it came with was maybe 5 boiled eggs gently mashed into a bowl with country Dijon. Just unbelievable. And they make a cubano, so that’s on the list. Also a MAC-Rib sandwich (“We’re trying to get sued!”). Also biscuits & gravy with mushroom gravy. They don’t even say it’s vegetarian. You gotta check this place out. Only glitch was a SOLID 5-min wait between dining companion’s plates arriving at 2-tops–something I observed several times during lunch. That WILL get straightened out, I promise. If I had to do a Top-5 New Paso list right meow, pretty sure this would be #2 behind In Bloom and before Finca and Mutiny Burger.
Morro Bay has a new sandwich shop: GILLIGAN’S downtown up in the brightly burgeoning area around Napa St. Several new businesses there and the place has a great vibe. Had heard a few grumblings early on about service and consistency, but my visit did NOT demonstrate accordingly. Ordered their Italian straight of the menu and it was absolutely PERFECT. Exactly the way I like them: pillowy bread, plenty of mayo and sauce, enough rabbit-food for texture and not over-stuffed. SOOOO unbelievably good. They also have a full deli-selection for personal *checklist* creations. Haven’t made it in to PANDA PANDA yet, and not in a huge hurry. Down on Embarcadero–and this is the LAST time I’m writing about this, but people KEEP asking–Milano’s Cuban Cuisine is open at the NORTH end of the strip and Thai Bounty remains open at the south end. THE TWO RESTAURANTS HAVE BEEN SPLIT. Sheesh. It’s not difficult, people.
One more sandwich? Lincoln Deli’s Banh mi is barely a banh mi–it’s basically a pulled pork sandwich with cilantro in it–but I order it frequently because it’s SOOOOO GOOD. All you purists just look the other way and go get one. Wonder if you could *doll it up* a bit, say: extra cilantro, pickles, jalapeno and ham?
That’s about it–although I DID manage a spot at Oakland’s newest and hippest supper-club to arise from the Covid-era: HI FELICIA. Pretty much need to do a whole blog on it. This place is AMAZING and the all-natural winelist incredible. Everyone whines about how hard it is to get in–I was invited for this visit–but I played around on the link just for giggles and was able to find open spots in 2-3 weeks. $200/, one seating, 12 courses (more like 14), 3 hours (more like 5)–all on a South-American theme. Sneak preview:
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD!