MerSea's- Avila Beach

Mersea’s, if heard first audibly, you think of the French for thank you, if witnessed first visually, it is an oasis at the end of the Hanford pier in Avila.  Mersea is the newest tenant at Port San Luis and the latest offering from the Dorn’s family. This bastion of seafood and fantastic views opened a few months ago to rave reviews and now I am going to add mine. 

We first visited on a Sunday. While most folks watch sports and yell at TV’s, we are culinary explorers, which makes for open space and attentive servers.  We saddled up to the full bar where Ron was the stalwart mixologist who had a heavy hand, a quick wit and a firm personality. Just the kind of person I want making my drinks and we became fast friends. I started with Myers Rum over ice with a twist, a classic pirate drink. I tried the local crab cocktail with diced celery on the bottom and house made cocktail sauce resting on big chucks of Dungeness crab. Gary had the Clam Chowder (that is offered in both red and white, so he tried a cup of both). The New England was full of clams, potatoes and creamy goodness. It was a contender for best of.  The Red Manhattan was made Nolan’ Style by adding bacon bits and croutons. I preferred the white, especially when you add oyster crackers and a couple tosses of Tabasco. 

Next I had the fish tacos, with the fish sautéed, served with shredded cabbage Jack and Cheddar cheese and a pico de gallo.  The fish was seasoned and cooked perfectly, I inhaled every bite.  Gary had the Crab Melt Sandwich with large lumps of rock crab, cheese and toasty sourdough bread.  While we ate, Rob shared stories of the salty happenings and people of the pier as we watched the sailboats rock on the water. I was in heaven 
   Our next visit the windows were open so we sat at the bar again for a pristine view of breaching whales and swooping pelicans.  I noticed the portholes in the floor for viewing the ocean below and the amazing light fixtures of octopus and squid.  Our bartender this time was Linda, a saucy tart with a hint of a Norwegian accent, so she fit in well with the ocean dwellers.  Mersea’s is a place where you can pretend to be a pirate, eat your fill of fresh off the boat seafood, drink strong rum or excellent wine (served smartly in a tumbler glass so the sea breeze doesn’t carry your prize away).
I ordered the crab special, a two-pound Dungeness crab steamed and served with melted butter, lemon and the tools to break that bug open.  We dug in and although it is so dirty work, the payoff is some of the most delicious subsistence you will ever put in your mouth.  The GM, Mike Hoffman was our relief bartender who was kind enough to offer me a fresh wet bar towel to clean my salty, buttery hands after devouring the crustacean. In the past, we used to steam and eat the crabs on a couple of sheets of newspapers while the wind whipped around us. I can tell you it is so much better from a bar stool with a glass of George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila.  As we watched the sunset slip into the horizon, a pod of whales breached in front of Mersea’s and we all agreed this was the finest dinner show we had ever witnessed.

Mersea’s is a fast casual restaurant with stunning views and a spellbinding location at the end of the pier. It has comfortable places to eat inside or outside that are clean. From every table you can see the ocean, as the whole restaurant is right above the sea. The inside has portholes in the floor so you can watch the sea critters below. The menu has fried seafood, salads, basic and fish sandwiches, oysters and chowders. Mersea’s is located at the end of the Hanford pier in Port San Luis, Avila; you can reach them at (805) 548-2290. They are open every day from 11:00am-8:00pm.

Cubanissimo Food Truck

The food truck phenomenon has hit the precipice of astonishing and inspiring food, and we have some of the finest examples right here on our coast.  I chase these culinary coaches of goodness around like I am searching for gold. For it is in the traveling kitchen that you find the master chefs doing something so veracious, and delightful that customers are willing to chase them down to sample their feasts. Food trucks do not have one address to hunt and find, but a different one each day.  It is a culinary scavenger hunt and I love it. My newest find came in a brightly colored one parked out in front of MindBody Company in San Luis Obispo. Cubanissimo Food Truck is the brainchild of Arqui Trenado who is living the American dream. He is a Cuban immigrant who along with his wife, Chrystal has brought some of the best regional cuisine of the forbidden Isle of Cuba to our shores.

It was the Hubs birthday and in a quest to find good food in a new setting, I found the Cubanissimo Food Truck.  Cuban food has always been a favorite of mine, but this was his first try.  Arqui prepares everything from Cuban sandwiches to Ropa Vieja to Chuleta plates and serves only Cuban beverages. We ordered the Cuban sandwich, Tostones with
Black Beans over Rice and Yucca fries. Though the meal was consumed on a black top and served in a plastic tray, it was a birthday highlight (after 5-pounds of See’s Candy). 
For those who have not had Cuban food, a brief tutorial.  The Cuban sandwich is a rare treat and a star of the between two pieces of bread sect. It must be Cuban bread (which Arqui drives to Los Angeles to get), which has an element of lard added to it making it dense and good for soaking up juices. Inside the sandwich is sliced braised pork shoulder, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, a pickle and mustard.  It is pressed in a heat source (like a Panini maker) so the bread is crisp and the cheese melted. People will argue for hours over the kind of pickle and mustard, and the proper seasoning of the pork, (mojo is my favorite) so every chef’s version is unique.

They are served with Yucca Fries, a delicious break from potato fries.  Yucca (sometimes called Cassava) is a root vegetable similar to the potato, but richer in flavor.  These are fried and served with a garlicky mojo sauce. The Tostones are twice fried plantains, a Caribbean delicacy that I crave. Unlike its imposing cousin, the banana, plantains are savory and delicious. To make these, unripe plantains are sliced lengthwise, fried and then smashed flat, then fried again. Here black beans accompanied them, a simple yet tasty way to wake your taste buds.

I asked Arqui where he learned to cook and he told me it was his father who was his inspiration and maestro in the kitchen. He is planning to expand Cubanissimo's menu in the near future by adding sweet Cuban coffees. I tried the Jupina Pineapple soda, which was sweet and a refreshing change from soda.

One my next trip I followed them to Santa Maria newest Farmer’s Market on Friday night. Located in the Town Center West across from the mall, I was lucky enough to catch Imperial Rice on the menu. A creamy, seasoned rice with shredded chicken and cheese, simply delectable. Gary had the Ropa Vieja de Pollo, Tropical Fruit Salad and Plantain Chips and then we shared the Cuban Chorizo over Rice with Tostones. It was too much food for one setting, but as leftovers, it was scrumptious.

The Cubanissimo food truck is easy to spot on the street, with its brightly colored images of all things Cuban, such as music, dance and dreams. But following the business on its social media is the best way to know when and where the truck will be and what eats will be featured. Truck locations and daily menus can be found by following Cubanissimo on Facebook or on Instagram @cubanissimofoodtruck.
For those not in the social realm, call toll-free 844-4CUBANO (844-428-2266) or email