Top Hidden Treasures or Fast Casual Restaurants on the Central Coast 2019
The big restaurants have multiple chefs, big budgets and staff. They mostly come with high price tags also, so for many people, they are just for distinctive occasions. The hidden treasures or fast-casual diners can be just as dependable for a night out. The bistros below offer food and service that is superior and consistent. This list consists of the ones that I often dine with or send people to appreciate. They are in alphabetical order.
This light and airy little bistro is fish centric in its decor and menu. The Chowder is simplistic, yet remarkable, the Crab Cakes were East Coast style with lots of fresh crabmeat and tiny breadcrumbs. Go for the Sand Dabs. These heavenly Pisces are only found on our local shores. They are lightly breaded and expertly seared with butter and capers. All the dishes are created decorously by enhancing natural flavors and textures by adding the perfect spice accruements.
My favorite: The Lobster Roll, an East Coast delight. The white sweet New England bun is filled with a ton of Lobster and mixed with either drawn butter or a Mayo/Celery/Celery salt mix. Also, try the Mexican Wild Shrimp cooked with lemon white wine butter sauce and served with potatoes au gratin. Find them at www.adasfishhouse.com.
Along with custom made scrumptious and creative sandwiches, this NEW concept in a deli adds bespoken potato chips. The chip concept is achieved by taking large hardy Kennebec potatoes, slicing them paper-thin and deep-frying them in a high flash point (thus less greasy) canola oil. These chips are then layered with palate bursting flavors and served with house-made dips that are dazzling.
Go for the La Belle chips with truffle essence and lace-thin shaved Parmesan served in paper tugboats. USS Constitution with a salty, crispy exterior. The Conquistador, an amalgamation of flavors including chili salt, fresh cilantro and topped with jalapenos, cotija cheese with a hint of lime. The Mary Rose consisted of fried potato chips topped with lavender salt, goat cheese, and honey.
Accompanying the chips were dips served in industrial compostable containers with amazing flavors like Sweet French onion. This sweet sautéed onion based (this is not your French’s mix here) dip was exceptional. The Cheddar Beer dip was an outstanding grouping of a stout beer, creamy cheddar with a sour cream base.
All the chips are named for famous ships, while the sandwiches are after famous naval spots. The Dips (called Tugboats) are perfectly fried, crispy, thin slices of potato topped with the most interesting toppings.
My favorite: The Port Banes Sandwich. It is not at all what you expect and so much flavor you’ll skip the chips. Consisting of fried plantains dusted in a chili salt with sharp cheddar cheese, chipotle dressing and fresh cilantro on a toasted roll. Find them at www.chipwreckedinpismo.com.
Executive chef Jacob Town and his multitalented bakers give us our daily bread. And muffins, coffee cake, cookies, bagels, pretzels and more. This bakery also offers some breakfast and lunch delicacies such as Egg Salad and Tuna Salad, soup, Biscuits and Gravy with daily surprises. It is the bread that brings me in daily. Hot from the oven are Brioche buns, long-fermented sourdough and even some flavored loaves of bread. Like a proper European, I only buy my bread fresh and I get it almost every day. I take myself for a walk at the end of Grand Avenue on the beach towards Pismo Beach, after my stroll, I get my bread. They also have coffee, and house-made crackers shaved paper-thin from the sourdough.
My favorite: The deep dish sourdough pizza that weighs more than a small child and is better than Chicago.
Brooke and Jacob Town are the lovebirds behind the bakery. The artisanal goods are made with only the finest quality ingredients from certified organic flours and grains to premium filtered water. Their restaurant, The Spoon Trade, is located across the street. Grover Beach Sourdough supplies the restaurant with all the bread, buns, waffles, biscuits, and cookies you crave. Find them at www.gbsourdough.com
Go for the Cuban Pork Loin that is smoked to perfection and served with Dijon aioli, kosher pickles, and Swiss cheese. The Wine Country Grilled Cheese is a winner as Jeffry has won multiple gold crowns at the Mac and Cheese Festival. Savory and comforting, this dish is the right combination of noodles to cheese and tastes scrumptious. It consists of sharp white cheddar, provolone, and manchego. Have them add house-made bacon, which was a thick piece of pork belly. Share an order of house-made black truffle potato chips with an enchanting jalapeno citrus aioli. Also try the H.M.B.L.T. that was a giant and delicious house-made bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich served on sourdough bread with the impeccable portions of perfect ingredients.
My Favorite: The Wine Country Bacon Cheeseburger 1/2 lb. Signature Blend Angus Beef Burger, with house-made bacon, sharp white cheddar, horseradish aioli, pickled onions and
baby arugula, on a toasted French roll.
Jeffry and his wife Kathleen offer a unique style of wine country comfort food, in a beautiful outdoor courtyard setting. They feature award-winning Mac and Cheeses, House Made Potato Chips, Smoked Tri-Tip & Pulled Pork Sandwiches, in addition to great salads, vegetarian offerings, they offered eight craft beers on draft, and eight local wines on tap.
Five-star food in a small-sized open kitchen worthy of a shirt and tie requirement, but next to a feed store. The open kitchen, with smiley chefs, beckons you to order everything on the menu.
Go for the Cr’a Monsieur made with country bread, ham, and Gruyere cheese with a perfectly cooked egg on top. Add a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a cup of rich coffee, making this the perfect. My favorite food on the planet is the Ricotta Pancakes filled with dragon spring farm blueberries and a hint of Meyer lemon smothered in grade A Maple syrup.
The Turkey Bánh Mì, with country pork pâté, pickled carrots, cucumber, and herbs, with a house Sriracha mayo is delightful. Also, try the Slow Roasted Lamb Dip sandwich with pimiento goat cheese and sweet caramelized onions. This sandwich was a classic French dip's big American brother on flavor steroids. It is an impeccable culinary destination. Find them at www.kitchenettetempleton.com.
Eating here is like leaving the country without a passport. The menu is illustrated street food in El Salvador. The house specialty is Pupusas, a dish like no other and one of my most desired ethnic foods. A Pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade maze tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of cheese, refried beans, or queso con loroco (a unique Salvadoran flower). They are fried and served like an extra thick tortilla. Add the vinegar cabbage and onion mixture (called curdido), sprinkle the Salvadoran tomato sauce and pick them up like a taco to engorge yourself.
Go for the Platano con miel and crema, which is a tropical plantain sautéed then covered with maple syrup and sour cream. This is an exotic blending of flavors.
Las Comadres also has homemade tamales that you can order in combination with the Pupusas. Everything on the menu was outstanding and so reasonably priced, You will feel like you are stealing Find them at www.lascomadressalvadoreanfood.com
I wish lunch would last forever. Lunch is always my biggest meal as I only nibble and nosh for dinner. Go for the Salade Nicoise, a treat pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds. A beautiful combination of green beans, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion-caper relish, dukkah crusted and seared rare albacore, soft boiled egg, house marinated olives. Sitting outside on the patio with a crisp Gewürztraminer wine, I was instantly transported to the City of Lights. Other highlights are the delectable Monte Cristo with an egg battered brioche, stuffed with baked ham, swiss cheese, dijon, micro mustard sprouts. My favorite is the Saigon Sandwich with spicy pickles, fresh herbs, nuoc mam (a Vietnamese fish sauce), sambal (Shrimp paste) aioli on Cubano roll. The sandwich is spicy and dense, the perfect amount of pork belly for a savory and tart combination. Try the Market Vegetable Cassoulet, a warm inspired Clay Pot of heirloom bean and market vegetable stew with seasoned breadcrumbs or the roasted white beets, pecan and goat cheese salad.
Mint+Craft sources high-quality local ingredients for breakfast and lunch toasties, cassoulet-inspired dinner dishes, fresh deli goods, pastries, and meals made to go or enjoyed on the open-air patio. The mercantile features a curated collection of over 600 small batch and handcrafted goods sourced from over 60 artisans. Find them at www.mintandcraft.com
I have always found it ironic that to buy some of the best seafood in the area you have to drive past two ports, inland for 40 miles and stop in Templeton at Pier 46. I make the trek for just the Ahi Tacos, which are my favorite. Four crispy wonton shells nestled with Asian slaw and topped with the finest raw sushi-grade Ahi served with octopus and seaweed salad. Try the raw Oysters. Nothing is as good as twelve oysters on the half shell, freshly plucked out of the tanks of seawater keeping them vibrant and alive.
Go for the fish tacos that are served with warm tortilla strips, shredded cabbage, pepper jack cheese, cilantro, and a spicy sauce with limes on the side. Close your eyes and you are one the docks in Ensenada; the fish is that fresh and the flavors are melded to perfection.
They are also a fresh seafood market, so you can get your fish to-go.
Poke Bars are my new place to get fresh fish and a healthy bowl for lunch. You pick a base, add protein, toppings, sauce and crispy things. It categorically is made correct for you. The Poke here is supreme, but they offer some different options. Loco Moco is a scrumptious meal that showcases the contemporary cuisine of Hawaii. There are many variations, but the traditional Loco Moco consists of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty or fried spam, sous vide egg and brown gravy. They also have Spam Musubi, which is a snack food in Hawaii composed of a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori in the tradition of Japanese omusubi. Pokirito has unique toppings like spicy Cheetos and Kimchi. I like this one because there are so many flavor options and the fish is super fresh. Find them at www.poki-rito.com
Imagine a place warm and inviting with a master chef and sommelier taking you through his most rare wines and pairing them with amazing culinary treats. Somm's Kitchen brings sommelier Ian Adamo's love of fine dining and wine education together in a warm, welcoming space. This isn't your typical restaurant experience. Ian personally serves each guest from the center of a beautifully curved granite counter. The goal each night is to share edible ideas that evoke a sense of place, culture, and tradition accented with a bit of whimsy.
My favorite is the Foie Gras Torchón with reduced cherries the silky texture and taste of the Foie were matched by the tart and sweet of the cherries. It was served with a crusty baguette cut into small pieces or Pâté de Campagne that was speckled with peppercorn glaze and grain mustard. The juxtaposition of flavors and textures was a delight to all senses. Another bite was the Gambas al Ajillo, which was perfectly cooked shrimp over garlic and butter sauce. Go for the baked Akaroa King Salmon resting on a fired mash potato with a crème sauce and then a Colorado Lamb Sirloin with Sauce Violette. They were all small in stature, but huge in flavor.
Go for the host, he is world famous, yet approachable and an entertaining artist. Remember it is a prefixed menu, reservations are required and enjoy being spoiled. Find them at wwwsommskitchen.com
At this deli, we get an epic illustration of passion, quality ingredients and a talented pair of chefs with Hannah and Michael Avila. Go for the Pork Belly Bahn Mi with house brined pork belly, kimchi, chimichurri, cilantro, jalapeno on a Dutch Crunch roll, this is a mixing of Asian and Western flavors for the advanced palette.
For the cold surfer, there is the Kook Burger. It is made with a half-pound of house ground rib eye, tomato, onion, lettuce, pickles, cheddar cheese, guacamole, house-made aioli. All the elements are from the farmer’s market or in-house made and tucked into a fresh sesame bun.
My favorite is the Poached Tuna Sandwich. This is fresh albacore fresh off the boat from our waters, sliced and poached. You can have it as a salad or on bread with boiled egg, arugula, and avocado. Everyone agrees that this is the highest-ranking deli that needs to be regarded as a bistro of brilliance. Find them at www.surfsidedeli.com.
Start with the Al Pastor that are spit-roasted tacos. Known as “tacos in the style of the shepherd", Al Pastor is an art form. To create this dish, marinated pork shoulder steaks are skewered in layers on a large upright spit (or, Trompo) and topped with a pineapple and an onion. As the spit turns, the pork is simultaneously slow-roasted and basted by the pineapple, onion, and its own juices. The fire eventually caramelizes the sugars and crisps up the edges of the meat. To serve, the pork is shaved directly off the spit, put into freshly made and warmed tortillas, and topped with fresh onions, cilantro, and salsa.
Also, try the Shrimp Diablo with succulent large Mexican shrimp sautéed in a fiery devil sauce and served over rice. America may love to eat big, heavy meals, but traditional Mexican food is not that. Traditional Mexican prepared meals are quite simple. It's all about the ingenious details that are delivered elaborately. Find them at www.tacoseltizon.com
On the ever changing Shell Beach road survives one of the best neighborhood eateries. The menu has both full American flare food and Mexican specialties. From eggs and meat to healthy choices like granola and fruit for breakfast, to burritos and omelets cooked to order with home fried potatoes or hash browns. Zorro’s has left its mark with this bistro. It is mostly outside dining is the seaside sun, so you can rub elbows with all the surfers, bring your dog and enjoy a wonderful meal. My favorite is the Chumash Chilaquiles with two scrambled eggs, homemade corn tortillas, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, savory Spanish sauce, and jack cheese, topped with sour cream.
Go for the Chile Verde plate with special green chile sauce, chunks of pork simmered until it melts in your mouth. Also, the sweet corn tamale and carne asada steak with mango salsa. This little café has something for everyone including salads, sandwiches, burgers, and even fish and chips. Zorro’s is open daily serving from 7:30 am until 9:00 pm. Find them at www.zorroscafe.com
2019 Top Restaurants on The Central Coast of California
Once a year I dust off my old restaurant picker and make a list of the culinary waypoints that are infused in my cranium. These are the paramount spaces to eat for celebratory and important events (even if it is a perfect meal for one). This list has many newcomers, that surprised me, as it usually takes a new eatery over a year to get on my culinary waypoint list. My choices are judged by exemplary food, superior service, consistency, and atmosphere. I believe each of them can be your “go-to” when trying to impress a crowd or just yourself. They are not in order of excellence, but rather by the alphabet.
Bon Appetite Magazine agrees with me on this magnificent French-inspired bistro in Los Alamos. Run by a husband and wife team (Greg and Daisy), this exceptional experience has brought me back time after time. I always stop first at Lo-Fi Winery and get a bottle of Chardonnay and Cab Franc to accompany our meal.
Every morsel on the menu is a delight to behold.
The most mind-blowing is the Tinned Brújula Spanish Sardines with Sarah’s Saltines. On first look, it is just a can of sardines and crackers (like my Papa used to enjoy), but there is magic in this simplicity. The house-made saltines serve are the impeccable podium for the tiny fish, creamy butter and siracha like red sauce. The combo of these three items on a cracker will make you see stars.
For entrees, we do the Moules Frites with Santa Barbara Hope Ranch mussels, white wine, garlic, and saffron broth and the Poulet Rôti roasted Jidori chicken, potage of potatoes, and leeks and the Steak Frites. Here I have a secret- I always go with another couple, so we order everything on the menu and share. The desserts are exemplary with the 30-layer crepe cake reigning supreme. Reservations are encouraged, save your table at www.bellsrestaurant.com.
They have established themselves as the best of the best in the national, regional and local press. They continue to be the first restaurant that locals recommend, and they deserve every accolade. The love and devotion that goes into preparation are stupendous, the heart of each employee is felt in this flawless dining experience. Brian Collins is the soul of this gastronomic enchantment and a wonderful host.
The menu changes monthly on the first, but some of my favorites are the Prosciutto Wrapped Artichoke that is stuffed with burrata mozzarella, the Cayucos Abalone made with crispy pork belly and the Rib Eye Steak. I usually order as many appetizers as we have quests so we can try everything. Gary always has all the desserts. Don’t believe the hype, there are seats to be found without an hour wait. Go early (4:00 pm) or late (8:30 pm) and midweek. Find them at www.emberwoodfire.com
Raised from the ashes, this established monarchy of Italian delicacies never ceases to impress. They are only open for dinner (except for weekends) and the bar presents the whos-who of bartenders and patrons. If you want to see all the movers and shakers of a 7,000-population beach town- it happens here. Joe DiFronzo started this as a Cal Poly senior project and now his grown children help run it, but he is still in the kitchen. The menu is seasonal, but I love the alla Picatta Morro Bay Sand Dabs made unflawed with Meyers lemon, briny capers, and white wine served with a parmigiana risotto. Try the Bucatini con Polpette della Nonna (which means done grandmother’s way) the thick spaghetti-like pasta stems with little holes running through them and hand-rolled meatballs, it is scrumptious with Joe’s fresh marinara sauce. Not to be missed is the Scaloppine di Vitello con Pomodori Fresco, a thinly sautéed pounded veal done with lemon, extra virgin olive oil, diced tomatoes, and chunks of avocado. A wonderful symphony of flavor and texture. This is the one place that I order dessert, the handmade cannoli. With fresh strawberry, blueberries, and small chocolate chips adorning the plate, this is nirvana. Find them at www.giuseppesrestaurant.com
Nothing about this restaurant should work. Not only does it work, but it surpasses any dining experience. Every time. There is nothing on the menu that is not fantastic. The food is sourced from rare and the finest purveyors. The industrial vibe is part of the intrigue, but the staff is so well trained and happy, it permeates the experience. This place is a pure dichotomy of fine dining. I love every moment that I am there.
You stand in line to order, try to figure out the menu, then try to find a spot to eat. My favorite spot is seating at the back bar and watching the dance of the wood-fired oven masters. The shelf is lined with unique and fascinating cook/foodie books. My chosen first dish is the Caesar salad. It simply is the best. Large romaine leaves are drenched in a garlic/lemon/anchovy flavor and served with parmesan bread crisps.
Their plates are meant to be shared and are as diverse as Smoked Pheasant with basil and citrus, White Shrimp served with pancetta, chile, and garlic, a salad with apple, fennel, walnut, and parsley and Chicken Liver with guanciale and capers. All exceptional and completely surprising. They specialize in wood oven pizza and sandwiches which defy gravity. Everything down to the idealized wine (served in a mason jar) to the exceptional desserts, make this the place where I treat all my Highfalutin friends. See menu and hours at www.industrialeats.com
Taking over the old Foremost spot inside the Creamery is one of the most award-winning and multi-faceted chefs in this area. Chef Nicola Allegretto has owned restaurants in over 8 countries and this man is a culinary genius with menus, ingredients, and creativities. Every contest he enters, he wins. Every dish he serves is a miracle of culture, presentation, and taste. Mistura is a Peruvian restaurant and an adventure in dining.
Go for the Habla Causita, a distinctly Peruvian dish. Seasoned whipped three different cold potatoes crowned with wild shrimp, king crab and Ahi tuna tartare. My other love is Anticuchos de Carretilla, a grilled natural beef heart marinated with aji panca. The Alpaca Carpaccio is so good, I nearly fainted with joy. Thinly sliced served with an aji Amarillo, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, avocado with a swirl of aji verde. They have “fajitas” type dish and empanadas for the less adventurous, but everything is superb. Mistura is a perfect place to impress a date then have a romantic and joyous meal. Find them at www.misturarestaurants.com
I encourage you to try all the meal cycles at the new Piadina at Hotel San Luis Obispo. I am happy to report that each offering was so well thought out and was presented as a work of art. The chef is from French Laundry and it is confirmed in every bite.
The Ahi dish with wasabi and Calabrian chilies, avocado, Dacron, cauliflower, pickled fennel, and compressed watermelon squares. It encouraged you to delve into each bite, alone and then combining them. It was as picturesque as it was tasty. Rarely is the surprise of the entrees a simple fowl. The Roasted Chicken with brussels sprouts, egg yolk ravioli, pancetta, and pickled pearl onion, was perfection with each part made up a luscious whole. Other favorites are Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread, Fried Egg Flatbread and the Artichoke Lasagna. This ancient pasta layered sculpture was herbaceous and I have never tasted anything like it.
The Hotel SLO is like stepping into a statuesque San Francisco hotel in its stunning and understated elegance, best described as comfortable and chic. See the menu and make reservations at www.piadinaslo.com.
Another epic culinary adventure in Los Almos with my favorite winemaker squeezing the juice. Lumen Wines is located inside Pico, and the care and brilliance that goes into each one of Lane Tanner wines are mirrored in this expectational eatery. Gary goes for the warm chocolate chip cookies each time we land in Los Alamos. He disappears and I miraculously find him here.
One of my favorite activities is Burger Night at Pico on Sundays. Share a Dagwood Burger which is filled with the chef’s choice of toppings. The meat was Tri-tip, short ribs, and pork sausage ground together into a 1/4-pound patty, on a grilled Brioche bun. It was topped with three kinds of wild mushrooms, pork belly, home fries, Coleslaw, Jalapeño, Manchego, Sautéed onions, and a fried egg.
On other nights, the inspired chef offers Pork Cannelloni with a bechamel and manchego, Rabbit Crepinette with potato gnocchi and spicy tomato and Double Cut Mangalitza Pork Chop.
For the full experience, you need to end each night in Los Alamos with a nightcap at the Union Hotel with a game of pool and a Bob sighting at the bar. Find them at www.losalamosgeneralstore.com
Somerset contains the compulsory open kitchen and a plethora of smiling faces all there to make the guest feel "waited on". But they went a step further with exceptional food, great service, and stunning scenery. The menu seems pedestrian, but it is executed with a panache we do not see in this area. Case in point: Smoked Salmon Toast Points. This was perfection in flavor and impeccable accouterments including fried capers, crème fraîche, grated hard eggs, red onions, and scallions. Try the Spicy Tuna Poke, Seafood Chowder, Strawberry Shortcake, Succotash, and Short Ribs. Every dish here seems to outdo the next for flavor and excellence.
The best part is strolling after the meal to the fire pits to finish off the bottle of wine with the dazzling sound of the ocean breaking on the shore only 20 feet from the stunning property.
They are open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Valet parking is free for the first two hours, so do not waste time trying to find parking. See everything at www.somersetgrillpismo.com.
In a place where I should not play favorites, I do with this Restaurant. Brooke and Jacob Town have a created a bacchanal of flavor and service in every minute detail at The Spoon Trade. The pleasure that all my guests receive here is unending. The food is always steeped in flavor and flawlessness and the service impeccable. I long for the Petrale Sole Almondine that is the pan-seared local sole, melted leeks, roasted baby broccoli, almond-brown butter, fresh herbs. They have an incendiary brunch and happy hour to please all wallets and tastes.
Go for the Chicken and Waffles with house-made kimchi, sourdough waffle, butter, spiced honey, fried rosemary, the Tri-Tip Tartare with fresh ground tri-tip, shallots, parsley, sherry vinegar, and a tonnato sauce, or House Made Ramen with duck confit, 36-hour bone broth, shoyu egg, scallions, and schmaltz. Everything on the menu is impeccable. They call it “Comfort Food” which is our first pleasure, representing the memory and flavors of our youth. When we revisit the sensory effect, it is more than taste buds and fullness, it’s a remembrance of grandma, our childhood, and our life. This is a restaurant with a palette and imagination to combine comfort and haute cuisine. Find them at www.thespoontrade.com.
This is a new bistro run by an exceptional husband and wife team of William and Kari Torres is the epitome of everything foodie. The restaurant is open from breakfast and lunch every day but Sunday and opens for dinners on Friday and Saturday only. At The Farmhouse, breakfast is such a gourmet affair, you will not want to eat for the rest of the day. The flavors are subtle and exceptional, the execution is immaculate, and the service is brilliant. Go for the Kimchi Fried Rice with garlic, ginger, Koshihikari rice, Spam, Branden’s mushrooms, shoyu, shishito, scallion, and a fried egg or the OG Albacore Kinilaw Bowl with the freshest Albacore anywhere served with Fresno chili, coconut, cilantro, Thai basil, shallots, and crispy garlic. The menu changes seasonally, but for dinner, I was impressed with the Steamed Halibut with Japanese curry, delicata squash, potato, mustard greens, pickled honshimeiji mushroom or Braised Natural Pork with brussels sprouts, Anson Mills polenta, and braising jus.
The Farmhouse boasts a market with everything you need for a complete charcuterie at home and the chef makes wild ice cream flavors like Avocado Lime and Butterscotch all from scratch. Gary is there daily for the ice cream and the pastries. Find them at www.farmhouseslo.com
Restaurant maven supreme, Debbie Thomas has once again devised her dream of the immaculate restaurant with the new improved THO. New Executive chef, Libry Darusman is the stuff of legends and not just by name, but by flavor. He spent his younger years in Bogor, Indonesia and was exposed to the exotic taste of the orient. Growing up throughout Europe, with a strong emphasis on French and German cultures and exposures to many Michelin Star restaurants and chefs, he has tasted accomplishment and knows how to recreate it. What he does at THO is bring the literal world of culinary royalty using our local organic ingredients. Go for the Roasted Chestnut Soup, seriously- I have never had anything like this glorious and award-winning soup. It has chestnuts, house-made crème fraîche, smoked maple reduction, and local olive oil.
Try the Black Cod with haricot vert, toasted almonds, charred cucumber pesto, brioche bread puree, scallion ash or the Bone Marrow Crusted Rib-Eye with a Niman rib-eye, baked potato puree, radish yogurt, roasted seasonal vegetables, black tea bordelaise, and herb leaves. The setting, service, and surprises will make you a culinary conqueror if you chose TMH and take friends. Find them at www.thomashillorganics.com.
You wait in line on the foggy shore for an hour, while sharing a bottle of Rose with the stranger who just became your best friend. You sit at the counter and watch the culinary dance of the shuckers and streamers. You order raw clams (this is the ONLY place to do this) and Oysters Rockefeller. You bring an envelope of cash because that is the only currency they deal in. This hidden gem of fresh seafood is my favorite for anniversaries and birthdays. I like waiting in line and also walking the shore after the meal.
Sea Chest is well known for all of its seafood, especially it’s House Cioppino, local Morro Bay Oysters and the best Panko Crusted Calamari Steak you’ll ever have.
We ventured down to Santa Maria to explore her first estate sale. It’s a weird event when someone has passed, and all of their things are intact and for sale. The food in the cupboard, the clothes in the closet, the things she held most dear, now have a price tag on them.
We found some treasures and then moved to Las Comadres. This Salvadorian restaurant is one of my favorites, as Pupusas is my favorite street food.
Trying new food is like being kissed for the first time. The anticipation is giddy, with the hope that the taste on the lips will be satisfying. Pupusas Are made with ancient maize and formed into pockets that hold delectable ingredients. Loroco is a seed found on and plant and mixed with cojeta cheese. It’s fried on the grill and served with a cabbage and carrot vinegar salad. Then topped with salsa roja which is made from tomato sauce, water, cilantro, green bell pepper, onion, crushed garlic, and a bouillon cube.
We had 4 different pupusas including, bean, pork skin, and cheese. They were accompanied by fried Plaintain‘s and croquettes stuffed with beans.
I watched with pleasure as her face lit up at the taste of exotic in yet simple. Everyone must try this. Las Comadres is on Main Street in Santa Maria.
Then we did grownup stuff like County Clerk and Banking. We felt we needed a reward so we ventured to Pismo Beach.
Hospitality when done correctly, is an art form. Charlie Puffer personifies that the ancient art of marking everyone feels at home and comfortable in his unique wine bar/bistro/cabaret. This welcome den of pleasure features the best wines, amazing tapas menu and live music every night.
At first glance, you see the erotic mermaids on the wall and the Bone-In Jamón Serrano in the kitchen with Andy. Then the always welcoming arms of Charlie- the genius behind Puffers of Pismo, welcomes you. One sweep of the bar and you realize that all the diners are foodies, influencers and Chefs. You know you found Nirvana.
We sat outside to watch the Pismo traffic flow by. Our first wine was an Italian Albarino, It’s a cold tart snap, paired perfectly with our cheese plate of preternatural tastes-of house-made honey brie, pecorino, truffle manchego, Marconi almonds, and grilled bread. A trio of delicious olives, a plate of gossamer cut ham completed the meal.
Charlie chooses our next succulent wine, a Tempranillo which sated us all. As the bossa nova begin to swing, we reveled in this exquisite place.