Resty Gossip 4.2

The battle between blank store-fronts KULT and PARK was *who will open first* contest-fodder for several years on these pages… the endless #stuccogate at Nick The Greek’s provided entertainment for many… Now we’re pitting two seeming endless remodels against each other at opposite ends of town: Lure Fish House in the 5YO building WHICH HAS NEVER HAD A TENANT and Cali Tacos Cantina & Distillery–a project seemingly CONTINUING 5 years. The plumbers come–the plumbers go. The drywallers come–the drywallers go–then come again. Kitchen fixtures move around inside and out the parking lot, porch and dining room. Restaurants open–and close–all around it. Meanwhile at the North end of town: Hey! let’s rip out all the brand new windows and put in brand new windows and re-stucco the building! Lure is saying “August”, the Cantina is merely “opening soon”. Despite the utterance of “cali” causing the hair on any true Californian’s neck to bristle–and despite installing a toy still in the corner equaling the EASIEST liquor license on the planet–this will be SLO’s first ‘cantina’ since Chili’s left? or was that Chevy’s? or maybe whatever that thing was at the current Kenny Hotel?


Why am I so hard on SLO Public Market–I am asked frequently. Because my excitement at so many new dining options at that end of town has faded faster than the line at Jay-Bird’s. It’s cold. It’s loud. Its gloomy corridors are awkwardly laid out, pinching light and exposure. There’s DOGS EVERYWHERE. Poorly-dressed and poorly-coifed millennials thick as thieves. Piles and piles of cardboard and plastic packaging. EVERYTHING is to-go. As I have mused several times: it’s LITERALLY a food-court without the mall. Hell, if there were a Foot Locker or a Claire’s or an Orange Julius: I might just like it more. And you have to realize: I talk to hundreds of people around town. These are NOT my singular grouchy opinions. For every enraged 20-something loose in my DM’s there’s 10 grown-ups and savvy business-owners nodding their heads.

And growing pains seem to be afoot: I think the deli is on the way out–either that or a serious rebrand. The shelves are nowhere NEAR as full as upon opening and while the food is delicious, staffing remains a sticking-point. “Indifferent” is a word which pops up often. Torricelli’s Pizza already rebranded into Humble Oven even though it’s the exact same people and the exact same product so that’s not a good sign. Everyone in town except for a handful of fanboi of aforementioned demo are completely fucking OVER the ridiculous unpredictability of Bing’s Bao Buns and every shop-owner in the building hates the screaming woman behind the counter. The sustainability of the vegan soup place or the chocolatier remains a mystery to me–though I find it hilarious these two demographics co-existing side-by-side. Kids love their ice cream and cookies but now the cookie place is gone and no millennial is going to afford that ridiculous gift shop. Please note I did not say “can’t”–I said “won’t”. The beer-bar and hippie-wine place is joke where people sit and eat their food and the distillery is never open what’s that leave? Jaybirds–with the dirt people who pack it–and the greasy-noodle place. Now OUTSIDE the sarcophagus is a completely different story. Brooks Burgers is killing it but I TOLD YOU SO (remember that very unpopular rant about the public market needing what I called “real, non-weirdly-ethnic food”???), Kruzberg will sell coffee well everywhere, Kitchen & Vine is honestly quite good–better than I expected–and seems to be fairly busy, though their menu doesn’t take very long to work through. One of the leading contributors to the lack of parking is first-opener Orange Theory, so basically, all eyes are on the cantina. That and the All Good Grill, which apparently is going in upstairs and advertizes–WAIT FOR IT!–“cali-mex”.

*le sigh*

Mac & Cheese PIG IRON Templeton

I went to Paso for lunch yesterday: SATURDAY. Beautiful spring weather, sun out, shirt-sleeve temperatures, rumors of spring break and lots of people about. WHY IS EVERYTHING CLOSED FOR LUNCH IN PASO??? Hatch was closed. Catch was closed, Della’s closed. Via Villagio 147 or WTF ever was closed. In Bloom has gone from opening at 3 to a short-lived Noon situation to 5 PM. Hemmingway’s and the Stokehouse? both closed. Alchemist’s Garden closed. 15 Degrees C closed. I lost count. Stop me if you’ve heard this ridiculously unpopular rant before: WINERIES NEED TO GET OUT OF THE FOOD BUSINESS. Think about it. Take all the time you need. Down in Templeton, Pig Iron has moved the bar indoors to the old elephant-head AJ Spurs bar, AND expanded hours. Bigger and better. I talk to people very day as bored as I am with the local dining scene rn who have never been to Pig Iron. You NEED to change that and now it’s easier than ever.

Ricotta Rillettes THOMAS HILL ORGANICS Paso Robles

Ended up having a beautiful lunch at Thomas Hill Organics–my first time since the sale. Not sure who the owner or chef is–don’t really care–the food is still stupidly good, everything well-thought-out, perfectly portioned and presented, service stellar. Some things never change, though some of my wine-friends who have worked there in the past would kill themselves if they saw the current list. THREE imported wines. A BTG cava plus Lanson and a petit Chablis I guarantee is left from previous regimes. The part I find particularly outstanding at THO is the comfort of that beautiful patio. EVEN though you are outside; EVEN though there might be a slight breeze or dappled sunlight; EVEN though it is April in Paso: it is the warmest, most comfortable dining area in SLO and Paso combined. When I moved here 20 years ago, the first two things I noticed were: no pho and the COLDEST dining rooms I had ever experienced. Fortunately, the former has rectified itself nicely, but San Luis Obispo’s fascination with freezing restaurants will never cease to amaze me. CLOSE THE BACK DOOR, PEOPLE. Just because a line-cook is hot doesn’t mean everyone paying wants to sit in a wind-tunnel getting aioli on their Patagonia sleeves. I asked for a front door to be closed one recent chilly night and LITERALLY had the manager tell me “The kitchen is hot.” No. Fucking. Shit. That’s like a carpenter complaining about splinters or a barber about hair.

Jam & Smoked gouda Burger ROD & HAMMER SLO STILLS at The Rock SLO

There’s another ‘whiskey lounge’ in town and those in the back rows will appreciate F. Mclintock’s dredging the ‘Matties’ name back up. Only at the Shell Beach location and not sure it will present much competition to the Rod & Hammer Whiskey Lounge at The Carrisa in terms of ambiance and live jazz, who–by the way–have inched their hours back up to a 4PM opening on Saturday: something which REALLY improves your afternoons in downtown SLO. Remember, there’s THREE places grown-ups can drink in this town: Nightcap, Kreuzberg Lounge and Rod & Hammer.

Back up in Paso, UMI Sushi & Sake–presumably the same Bakersfield folks which are in Morro Bay–is opening upstairs on the park where Village Host used to be? I don’t think VH was the most-recent tenant. it’s been a ton of things: upstairs from that colorful deli and Mutiny Burger on the theatre courtyard. It’s decent sushi–and the sake selection is awesome. Also another Mexican restaurant has taken over the old Black Cat Bistro II spot. Speaking of Mexicans taking over old haunts: turns out the people who opened at Panolivo are the Aleyeah (sp) of Templeton fame. See now… I love the tacos from behind the liquor store. I ate at the Paso location once and was rather under-whelmed–but that was before the name-change. Who knows. Kitty-corner: I don’t think the soul food place at artisan is ever going to open.

Al Pastor Tacos TAQUERIA RANCHERO Santa Maria

On the taco front: Got into Los Tacos Sinaloa finally since beloved Las Brasas and Los Brisas went away. It’s really good. Also tried Taqueria Ranchero on Jones north of Main and was rather impressed despite its serious gringo under-themes. Be sure and ask for the hotter salsa. It’s verde, but out of this world–and not that creamy green stuff we’re used to in rotisserie-joints. See: here a *bunch* of people think they know what I’m talking about–but they don’t. Either that or they don’t think EYE know what I’m talking about. Because they have never been to a real taqueria. And I do. Up in SLO, got into the recently-rebranded Chicho’s where Taco Rico used to be in Laguna. If anything’s changed, it’s slightly for the better. I already liked this spot (NOT the one by Food-4-Less) and like it even more now. Look for a full edit of the taco-list soon. It’s been months.

Margherita Pizza NUCCI’S on BROAD SLO

Also look for an upcoming Margherita Pizza run-down. Tried to do NoCo yesterday with Lebbers and ViaViaggo147 and Etto Pastifica, but struck out at all three. The former because of location and ambiance and dining situation, the latter apparently DOES NOT make pizza anymore, and the much-anticipated center-star opened at 3 because you know… that makes perfect sense: a pizza joint in a bustling public market making personal-sized Neapolitan-style wood-fired pies should open at 3 on Saturday. Perfect logic there. Anyway… for the lucky ones who HAVE participated, several predictable bright spots remain un-disputed and several massive disappointments have emerged. Palo Mesa Wood-Fired, Flour House and Giuseppe’s top the charts, and the only thing more depressing than Americans’ fascination with STUPID amounts of mozzerella in the others I tried was Buona Tavola’s sysco flatbread crust. Brasserie SLO makes a great one, but it’s really inconsistent: you never know what style you’re gonna get. Across the street, Linnaea’s has a new owner–someone with Bell’s associations–and will no doubt be getting an update. THAT’S gonna piss off a bunch of hippies.

OK imma gonna stop now cuz I got shit to do today and when I write long ones you glaze over.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carol Roberts says:

    Love your ruminations about food in SLO county. Helps a lot. Fully concur about the freezing restaurants. What’s the goal?
    Live in Grover Beach and love to go to Paso for lunch, but can be darned near impossible with all the closing. Keep up the good work.


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