Did you know there’s three Hawaiian spots here now? One in each town! You will never be more than 20 minutes from kalua pork and katsu chicken and SPAM musubi. Santa Maria (actually Orcutt) has Zoe’s, AG has Tropical, SLO has Nobu. Wait does Lahaina’s have Hawaiian food? I don’t remember seeing any. Does Paso have Hawaiian? I finally got in to Nobu recently… here’s the deal about Hawaiian food: It looks way better on a menu than the plate. And it sounds a lot better than it tastes. Your mouth is fairly watering while you order and then it arrives and you remember why Hawaiians are not exactly the picture of svelte health. SOOOO MUCH FOOD. SOOOO MUCH SALT. SOOOO MUCH GREASE. And the rice is ALWAYS horrible. Plus luke-warm, mayo-dense macaroni salad snuggled in next to the hot meat? Honestly that weird mac salad typically becomes my favorite about halfway through as my palate desperately needs something light and cool for a break. The differences between these three restaurants is insignificant enough to prohibit a *best-of* list. I think Nobu’s pork is the best of the three, Zoe’s salad my favorite, and Tropical’s katsu chicken is literally some of the best fried chicken you’ve ever put in your mouth. I have never eaten SPAM musubi in my life and don’t plan on starting. Have to draw the line somewhere.
Speaking of *drawing the line*… took some heat the past few weeks as my feed “cheapens” into a seeming plethora of burgers, hot dogs, nachos–not to mention my deep dive into tourist-fave CLAM CHOWDER–and then for the piece de resistance… *drumroll* I went to Fried & Loaded last week. My sodium intake needs a sodium intake as a break. It wasn’t actually as horrible as I guessed. I got the chili but subbed nacho cheese–and glad I did–as I feel it “less salty” somehow than cheddar. They have fries or tots or a combo. As far as drunken late-night finger-food goes, I can kinda see its appeal to a thirsty palate, but it’s not exactly business-lunch fare. And-in classic and now-normal post-covid, genY fashion: their entire web presence is an on-line ordering and delivery portal. Lots of options on the menu, including a gravy-induced coronary basically looking like poutine–though the word ‘poutine’ is never used and the girl behind the glass gave me a blank stare. I’ve never had poutine–and scared to start in the US. Apparently, there’s a version of this in Arroyo Grande now too… forget the name.
Speaking of Lahaina’s, had a fresh and unique catering experience where the chef there arrived at location, set up a small table with par-boiled pasta and the typical three sauces–plus a variety of toppings and additions–had a couple propane burners and battered pans, and proceeded to toss and bang out to-order plates of Italian food lickety-split for a private party of a dozen or so. I don’t know what it cost, but rather impressive and quite different from the almost de rigueur taco-truck or hotdog trailer mobile situation around here.
SLOTOWN: Which is worse: Airport restaurants or Golf Course restaurants? This has been a long mantra of mine but have you been to Spirit of St. Luis at SBP??? This place does a really good job and PACKED with locals every day. I wanna go try their brisket on Saturday. … Oki Kohi has moved multiple items from their closed Oki Momo Grill across the street to the side of their coffee-shop and dim-sum menu. I’ll be honest: I was never impressed with Momo–depsite my ravings about Kohi–and tried THREE of these menu items the other day instead of my usual cold-sesame-noodles and shu mai dimsum. They were *ok*… Yaki-soba is not something I would ever order again, and the nutritional-yeast-coated crispy fried tofu just plain odd in flavor and texture. The BBQ pork was sweet and delicious–but how ya gonna ruin Korean pork? I mean–come ON! “Japanese Curry” remains a bit of a mystery to me, as I have never had curry presented to me on a Japanese menu before–OR Chinese. OR Korean. This is clearly the S&B curry bouillon cubes you can buy at most supermarkets (or at Kohi’s small asian market) and somewhat muddles a salty but flavorful gelatinous middle-ground between the horrible Indian Madras stuff and the absolute perfection that is Thai curry. I’m sticking to dimsum. … Finally got into Benny’s brick & mortar in that gorgeous old Mexican place in NoMo. Nice place, good vibe, excellent bar and FAR easier ordering and pick-up haha. With that said, EVERYONE I showed and tasted on the GDB I brought home felt the quality not up-to-par with the former clandestine stuff. I dunno… I’ m not a Benny’s inner-circle bro… I don’t even understand Detroit-Style pizza–I merely buy it for curiosity’s sake. I’ve always said, “It’s a LOT of bread!!!” and will maintain that, though this time it felt soggy and under-cooked: a bit too moist, but this I DID have numerous vegetable toppings on this version, and that can sog up a pizza quick. Also the ridiculous amount of green bell pepper cubes on top were added post-cooking, a feature on one hand bright and crunchy and fresh but on the other a bit too ‘salady’ and over-powering. … Down in the airport/south Broad corridor, Brooks Burger is wide-open in a Public Market anchor-spot, and… currently… the most viable *food* there. Seriously. I’ve preached before that SLO Public Market lacks a ‘real food’ place, being instead filled with ‘curiosity food’ of various satisfaction. Brooks Burger changes that. And still no sign of a taqueria. … Across the street, Buttercup Bakery of Morro Bay fame is open in the old Breaking Bread spot. Gotta get in there. … Farther down the road, the restaurant at SLO Brew Rock is getting a bit of a make-over inside as the Rod & Hammer Distillery makes a branding move on the classic brewery taproom. Here’s the benefits: It’s becoming a bit softer, homier and more loungy; Barstools are coming back to the bar!!!; You will be able to buy and enjoy cocktails IN the restaurant; The whole annoying food-back-and-forth-between-SLO Stills-and-SLO Brew-situation will be incredibly streamlined. It’s all win-win, with the menu constantly being elevated well beyond ‘pub-fare’.
Out along the coast: Chef Mercurio continues to elevate the ‘pub-fare’ at The Olde Alehouse–some of it’s rather astonishing. … Three Stacks added a couple menu items to their gourmet hot-dog list. The nachos are good. … Kicker’s in Morro Bay–Roger Sharp’s latest and greatest–did the strangest soft I’ve ever seen last Thursday: an absolute open-invite to the general public facebook everything free food come on in help yourself all night. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have more visibility or engagement, or that could have been disastrous! I think Kicker’s opened for good on Friday night. The website claims “THE #1 SEAFOOD RESTAURANT IN MORRO BAY”… a pretty bold claim for a resty open two days. And to look at the MASSIVE menu: he’s coming after EVERYONE. The marketing of this whole thing is what troubles me the most–and I think will hurt him on Yelp and FB: the platforms of his demographic–he’s going after the Gafco crowd with Galley prices. He should have called it something singular, like Embarcadero or Morro or something, toned down the reggae and light-show and warmed the place up a bit for the designer crowd. Instead, you’ve got $60 steaks and $40 bouillabaisse with dudes in hoodies and karens from Nextdoor. The people looking to pay for the finest dining experience won’t like the vibe–and the people he’s marketing to will REVOLT at the prices. I guarantee it. Looking forward to trying, though. …
I think I’ve pissed off enough people for one week. Tune in next time when I rank every split-pea soup the county. Don’t flip around.