Noi's Little Thai Takeout - Baywood Park, Los Osos


Sometimes a Staycation is just what you need to clear out the cobwebs and jumpstart creativity. I was in a writing funk after committing and finishing that horrible Grey series (bad writing is NOT good for writers, even if it does make one randy). My girlfriend Deb (the Gluten Free founder of La Pizza Senza Glutenata) told me I needed to sample the wonder that is Baywood Park, so we set out of a small adventure in a quaint town. 

Baywood Park is on the bay side of Los Osos, an oasis with a gentle lapping shore and the sound of the seabirds resounding at each cove. We started with a hike around the neighborhood with a combination of beach shacks, creative architecture, sweeping colonial dwellings, charming Inn’s and a few eateries, I was enchanted. I toured the Baywood Inn Bed and Breakfast and instantly booked the Quimper room for the weekend to finish a writing project that had been evading my brain. This is a perfect place to escape, unwind and restore with its sweeping views, full breakfast, wine and cheese in the afternoon and such delightful chambers ( 

With a “Sawadee” (hello in Thai) we settled into enjoy Little Noi’s Thai Takeout for lunch. This Thai palace is also an art studio, Zen garden and yoga cottage, using small space to effect large tranquility. As a food-to-go place with a few tables outside and all food served in take away containers, the sheer volume of customers surprised and delighted me. The menu is simple and straightforward with a different curry being made every day of the week. 

We started with a set of vegetarian egg rolls that came with a spicy/sweet sauce that I poured over left over rice and devoured. I ordered the Pad Prik King that is a spicy combination of chopped chicken, sautéed with cut green beans, curry and ribbons of lime leaf. I ordered mine “Thai Hot” as there is a difference between American and Thai hot and I prefer the fiery version. Served over jasmine rice gave it the cooling factor to make it complete.  My friend had the Pad Thai, a classic dish made different by every Thai cook, but I adored the authenticity of this one with crushed peanuts, small rice noodles, chicken (you can choose any meat or vegetarian), scrambled egg, green beans and onions. Garnished with cabbage to squelch the small blaze, this is a dish I would return for. We also shared the Tofu Stir with peapods, cabbage, broccoli, onions, green pepper, tofu and ginger. The ginger added a real snap to this delectable dish. 

I talked with Noi and Ron Miner (the owners, she is the cook) and they told me that they designed the space with bits and pieces of Asian artifacts, art and collectables to enhance the Thai food experience. Their main focus is to serve the highest quality rice and noodle dishes with pride and to foster warmth and good feelings within the diner’s heart and soul. This is rare and wonderful trait in a chef. 

After the meal, we strolled the Monday Farmer’s Market (having celebrity sightings of almost every great chef in the area buying delectable vegetables and fruits). I perceived why the food was so fresh and wonderful at Noi’s. This huge market is seeded with amazing farmers offering the best of Central Coast produce, spices and treats. I bought 10 pounds of Empire Apples (the best apple in the world) from Sea Canyon, tuberose soaps shaped like mermaids, a blueberry/lemon custom made peanut butter cup from the Joycup Company and a bourbon/maple salt from Anna’s Spices. Then I had a delightful fresh pressed juice from Heather’s Healthy Living, bought some custom Lemon Pepper spice (which I put it on my popcorn) from Spice of Life and argued over which onion was the sweetest. We ran into more chefs, shared recipes and literally filled my trunk with organic veggies for the week. 

I returned with the grandson for a hike thru the elfin forest and to try the Masaman Curry on Thursday. I dream about this bisque and haven’t had it prepared fittingly since I returned from Thailand. Noi’s offers this comforting soup with flawless flavor. Chopped chicken swimming in a coconut milk, tamarind juice with a Masaman curry paste with red potato, peanuts, and onions. We spooned it over brown rice and delighted in this ideal technique of paring food with a serene sense of beauty. The boy impressed them with his proper “kob kun kaa” (thank you) when they brought his chicken and rice kids meal.

If you go to Noi’s, you must be prepared. They only take cash and if you are in a hurry, call ahead as even in this tiny town, this small restaurant has many patrons.  I have become one of the regulars. Noi’s Little Thai Takeout is located at 1288 2nd Street, Baywood Park; call them at  (805) 528-6647. They are open Monday thru Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The Naked Fish - San Luis Obispo


If you listen to what your body tells you after eating sushi, you would eat it every night. Even if you over-indulge and leave uncomfortably full, in a short time you feel a vital energy burst that does not weigh you down like many other foods. I was in search of a new favorite sushi bar, when I found the Naked Fish in downtown San Luis Obispo. I grilled the sushi chef before I sat down, as I am a very picky sushi connoisseur. 

His sign out front said that he had the freshest fish and I asked “What makes your fresh fish better
than other fresh fish?” He explained with a gentle smile and a sharp knife, “It comes down to handling. From the moment a fish is taken from the ocean, it starts a time clock on its lifespan of quality. The better a fish is handled, the better the quality will be when it makes it to your plate. We use one of the highest quality suppliers in the country, and I typically pick them up every day, as FedEx dose not know how to handle fish.” I was already a fan of this chef’s passion, now I wanted to see what he could do next to impress me.

Gary started with the blackberry chocolate mousse that was a refreshing delight. I started with the Peruvian Scallops served on the half shell with shiso garlic butter.  The scallops were flawless and the BBQ Albacore that we all shared was an accomplishment being flash grilled and very rare with a spicy miso sauce. A large bottle of Sake worked its way around the table and the lively event was off to a wonderful start. 

Next we tried the Tuna Tataki that was served over lettuce leaf, with avocado puree, hearts of palm, garlic and black lava salt. Tuna Tataki is one of my favorite sushi starts and this was phenomenal. We had a meat eater among us so he tried the Garlic Pepper Ribeye Tataki. This was thin sliced beef that was garlic pepper crusted, then pan seared medium rare with sautéed onion and garlic.

We shared the special of five sashimi plate specialties, and all were unique and very tasty.  Tuna with creamy spicy garlic ponzu, sesame chili oil with micro greens, Hamachi with sweet potato threads and sweet jalapeno ponzu, Salmon with pickled red onion, capers, truffle aioli and ponzu, Sizzlin’ Albacore with seared Albacore with caramelized onions, jalapeno, garlic chips and ponzu, and finally the Hokkaido Scallop Sashimi with truffle aioli, black lava salt, and ponzu. I was impressed with the creativity and extreme flavor ranges this dish offered us. 

Hot and Wild Roll
The Naked Fish Chef’s make their own ponzu from rice vinegar, soy sauce, lemon, orange and Japanese seasonings. It was a tasty and healthy alternative to the high cholesterol, high fat mayonnaise based sauces used in other sushi bars.

Next we had the Salmon Sliders, which consisted of six pieces of a roll that had fresh, Crab and Avocado wrapped in Salmon, topped with tempura asparagus, tobiko, chili teriyaki and sesame seeds. Even the “meat” guy loved this dish. 

Chicken Udon
Our waitress told us the Maui Wowwie Roll was another house favorite. She was not so sure what to do with this lively group, so she brought us sake bombs. I hadn’t done these in years and our dinning companion had never had tried them (he called them Soccer Mom’s). 
For the uninitiated, a sake bomb is a beer mug filled 1/3 of the way up with beer. Then you take a small sake class, fill it with hot sake and place two chopsticks on the top of the beer class. The hot sake cup is carefully rested on the chopsticks.  The sushi chef then starts a chant. Our was NaNaNaNaNa, Sake Bomb!  On the third course, you hit the table around the beer stein, hard and the sake falls into the beer. Then you pick up the glass and chug it down. It is messy, delicious and fun. 

The Naked Fish Sushi bar’s atmosphere was fun and inviting. The chefs were highly skilled, artistic and fun. You could tell that they take great pride in preparing the meal to ensure an all around abundant experience.  This gets me stamp as my new favorite.   As the sushi chef told us as we did another round of sake bombs, “Treat yourself. Treat your body. To Naked Fish!”

Naked Fish Sushi is located at 857 Higuera Street is San Luis Obispo; call them at (805) 543-3474.

Oki Momo Asian Grill - San Luis Obispo


There is a preconception that food that is good for you lacks flavor. That is rarely true, but in the hands of a masterful chef, even the healthiest meal can become a symphony of flavor and texture. I was excited to try and new concept in nourishing cuisine at Oki Momo Asian Grill. They opened and I was there the second day. With a clean esthetic and the promise of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian this wholesome food turned out to be some of the best casual dinning I have had in this area.  Jon Yeh greeted us at the cash register as we grilled him on the menu and what to try.  What was immediately impressive is that they make everything in house. I ask about the concept and he told us his wife is a vegetarian so eating out was always a challenge for their family. If it was a “health food” restaurant, it was usually lacking in flavor. She had a difficult time finding anything to suit her appetite at regular restaurants. They decided to join forces with an old college pal, Chef In Lloyd and create a flavor filled menu that satisfied everyone’s palate. 

Oki Momo, Japanese for “large peach,” is named for its signature momo sauce, which includes peaches. Even the plates and cups were sustainable all made from pressed bamboo.  Jon told us about his late nights of making the dessert Mochi. Gary ordered three to start.  These rice flour and cornstarch pillows filled with mango, chocolate and strawberry ice cream were exceptional.  Gary inhaled them and ordered more. 

The menu includes dishes with Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese influences. Single item are $5, with two and three combo options priced at $9.50 and $13.50. I ordered the Teriyaki chicken; Thai chopped salad and a bowl of Pho. The Tolosa Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with the light Asian flavors. 

The Teriyaki chicken was cut into small moist chunks and cooked perfectly.  It was seared on the flat iron grill with baby Portobello and shiitake mushrooms, and glazed with house made teriyaki sauce. It was exceptionally moist and the teriyaki delectable with the mushrooms, a savory sweet combination. I love the open kitchen and watching the dance of the chefs as they prepared each item.

The Veggie Chop Salad instantly became my favorite. With a perfect blend of cabbage, kale, cucumber, carrots, red pepper, and edamame tossed in a Thai peanut, lime and cilantro dressing. It was hearty and refreshing. I ordered another to go for lunch the next day. 

Then the magic happened. They brought me a bowl of Pho. If you have not discovered this enchanted street food from Vietnam, you should. It is comfort in a bowl. It sustains and cheers you. I travel to San Francisco for a bowl of this delight, but now (for the first time) it is done correctly in San Luis Obispo. 

Pho (pronounced FA) is a slow cooked beef bone broth infused with an aromatic blend of herbs and spices and served with rice noodles, bean sprouts, Thai basil, and cilantro. At its most basic, pho is Vietnamese noodle soup that’s typically made with beef stock, herbs and spices and simmered for several hours. Pho is served with rice noodles and various cuts of beef (Pho Tai). The noodles come out still cooking in the bowl, which gives you time to dress up your Pho by adding Sriracha or hoisin sauce. This is a dish that is served primarily at breakfast time in Vietnam and remains a staple of the early-rising Vietnamese population. Pho is like cereal, oatmeal or scrambled eggs. It’s how you start the day. This bowl took me instantly back to south east Asia and Chef In came to check on us. I gushed on about Pho done right and he smile with pride. 
The next visit (two days later) we sat on the bright and clean patio. Gary dived into the Momo bar that looked dense, but was full of flavor. Then he had the Lemon Bar that was an impeccable combination of tart and sweet.

I started with the Pork/Shrimp Wontons that were lightly fried. They were handmade wontons filled with minced pork and shrimp, baby bok choy, water chestnuts, and onion, served with our house made ginger soy dipping sauce. I loved this dim sum sample of an appetizer.  Next was the Purple Rice, a blend of long and short grain white rice and antioxidant-rich purple rice, seasoned and seared on the flatiron grill with kale, cabbage, carrots and egg. Purple rice done right is outstanding, and this one was flawless. 

Then I tried the Korean BBQ chicken wings, and instantly decided I would not be sharing these dreamily done crunchy chicken wings tossed in Korean BBQ. You could also choose honey lemon-pepper or soy buffalo sauce. The Rice Noddle’s where subtle but when I added the Momo sauce and a bit of heat, I feel in love.  They were Fair-trade, organic brown rice noodles seared on our flatiron grill with kale, cabbage and carrot ribbons. Gary had the 
Yellow Curry over white rice and loved the mild burn mid throat. 

With the peach and the robot as cartoon character mascots, this new Asian Grill, Oki Momo is delectable as it is healthy. Find them at 2256 Broad Street, Suite 120 in San Luis Obispo (by Fresh and Easy). They are open everyday from 11:00am to 9:00pm; call them at (805) 439-4198.

Palo Mesa Pizza - Arroyo Grande and SLO


Palo Mesa Pizza is a little chain of bistros with a big buzz around them. I went for the fried chicken; I stayed for the award winning pizza. But the chicken was fantastic and a nice surprise.  The first location is right across from sister restaurant, Tanner Jacks up on the Mesa.  The locals had been raving to me about their food, so I drove up the hill to try it out. The eight-piece meal was enough for four of us, but we also tried a couple meatball sandwiches with hand rolled meatballs, a tomato meat sauce and mozzarella all on a tasty house made French bun. We took the food to go, as the restaurant was too small to accommodate our noisy group. The food made perfect picnic fair with the drinks secured from JJ’s Market. 

Michael Stevens
Michael Stevens started Palo Mesa Pizza in 2007. Stevens is a celebrated chef that is known in the industry for his creative side. Motivated by his many awards and awesome reviews, Michael decided to open Palo Mesa Pizza and bring great pizza to the people of the Central Coast. Today Palo Mesa Pizza (in the Craig Center next to Tanner Jacks) is known throughout the area as the provider of the best darn pizza around (some even call it Happy Pizza). He opened his second location in The Albertsons/Office Max center earlier this year and we were excited to have a pizza out in our side of the boonies. 

We ordered up a feast for family night to be delivered. Starting with spicy boneless wings with a ranch dipping sauce. These wonders suited everyone, not to spicy but with a horde of zest. Gary got the cinnamon bread as his starter, with swirly cinnamon and sugar surging thru the bread. He swore he would make the world’s best French toast out of the leftovers for breakfast. My daughter ordered the Greek salad with black olives, salami, tomato, onion, banana pepper and feta cheeses. She enjoyed the fresh components and scrumptious dressing. For the boys we got extra pepperoni, as this was the best pepperoni I have had from a pizza parlor with large but sliced super thin slices of delectable pepperoni. All pizzas start with the house made recipes of hand tossed dough and gourmet pizza sauces that range from traditional tomato, ranch, buffalo and Thai peanut sauce. 

We shared the award wining pizzas that score at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas competition. The Greek had homemade Italian sausage, red onion, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese, banana peppers and a sprinkle of oregano. This was a crowed pleaser.  The International Pizza Challenge pits up to 60 chefs against each other in the Traditional and Non-Traditional divisions of pizza creation. Palo Mesa pizza took first place in the competition’s Southwest Region Division of the United States. His creation finished in fifth place overall, although another pie took the coveted “Best Pizza in the World” title.

When I was home sick with everyone out of town, I had them deliver me a pizza that was not only enchanting, but would cure my cold.  The California Chicken Pizza has cubes of chicken breast, bacon bits, garlic and mushrooms all with a ranch dressing for the sauce. I had them add extra garlic to wash away my germs. And I love that they will deliver anywhere- even to the beach for just $4.00.

The best deal is the Palo Pack with a two topping large pizza with cheese bread and a soda at $20.00. We ordered this and snuck into the apocalyptic movie rationalizing that the people watching this film wouldn’t mind the pepperoni smell. It was a fantastic meal in the dark at the back of the theater. (Note: the manager of the theater frowns on this behavior, so don’t tell him I suggested the idea).

Palo Mesa Pizza also makes fantastic appetizers, pasta, calzones, sandwiches and more.

 Palo Mesa Pizza is open for dining in, pick-up, delivery and even catering from 11:00am to 9:00pm Sunday through Thursday and
11:00am to 10:00pm Friday thru Saturday at both locations.  The location by Albertsons is at 906 Rancho Parkway
in Arroyo Grande and the number is (805) 481-7888. The Mesa location is at 2790 South Halcyon Road in Arroyo Grande and the number is (805) 474-9924.

Papi's Grill - Pismo Beach

I long for those chefs that truly create, take something that is blank and turn it into art. The high is entertaining and everlasting, and it touches people. Thus they must continue. To experience the moment of creation, the inspiration of their souls reaching another's. I am happy to say I found another brilliant chef running a “must try small find” in Pismo Beach.

When a new eatery pops up in town, I try to be there during the first week. I am forgiving for growing pains, but if this place is going to set the town on fire, I want to be the first one with the scoop. Opening day at Papi’s Grill in Pismo Beach, and I was in love with this new bistro. Rosendo Perez took over the former Garland’s (aka Longboards and Bullwinkles) and produced a taco stand that will redefine the term taqueria.  

Rosendo comes via the executive chef track from Santa Barbara where he was a tappen chef for a sushi bar. He wanted to return to his wife’s hometown and mix his knowledge of Japanese flavors with the roots of his native Mexican food. I knew this was going to be a special place when Rosendo pulled out a ball of corn dough, hand shaped and fried my tortilla after I ordered. I nearly fainted, real Torillas del Mano is only something dreamed of North of the border. 

I started with Taco de Pescado, that featured fresh halibut caught daily from local waters that is cut and grilled, served with pico de gallo, cabbage and a special white sauce that like everything else, is made from scratch. A combo of traditional Mexican vegetables blended with a Japanese flavor palette to make a fish enhancing sauce that was perfection. The Taco do Camarones were equally good with large succulent shrimp cooked to impeccability. The corn salsa that accompanies most dishes was spectacular and I saw Rosendo roasting and cutting the corn himself.  With the traditional Mexican coke in a bottle and a Model Negro we moved on to the Potato Taco. These crispy little treasures are filled with potato, chorizo and a queso fresco combo then deep-fried and served with fresh guacamole (also made as ordered). 

I became obsessed and ate here every day for a couple of weeks trying everything on the menu. Every dish was a spectacular as the next and my favorite was the Pasilla Grande. This dish that dances in my dreams contains a large roasted pasilla chile that is stuffed with cheese and chorizo.  It is served with two tortillas because of its size and I take a fork and knife to get every delicious morsel. A close second is the Veggie Taco (yes, the meat loving carnivore that I am, likes theses veggies that are seasoned and grilled to perfection) with a delectable horchata milkshake. 

And not just a taco stand, Papi’s has fantastic hamburgers in addition to salads. We tried the Raja’s burger, a thick prime beef patty served with grilled pasilla chile with onion, tomato, lettuce, cheese and an amazing chipotle sauce.  This burger with a kick was served with a side of fries.  

Rosendo makes Ceviche on the weekends with the freshest of fish and shrimp plucked straight from the ocean. He marinates it in fresh lemon juice and adds cilantro, onion, tomato and a hint of fire. It is served with tortilla chips. Papi’s Grill for was a gift to my mouth. Every taste bud thanked me for sharing. 
Come and try what all the foodies are talking about at Papi's Grill Tacos y mas. It is located at 1090 Price Street in Pismo Beach; you can reach them at 805-295-6660. They are open from 11:00am to 8:00pm daily.

Paso Terra - Paso Robles


Sometimes being a social media junkie pays off. I am a Facebook, Twittering, Pinterest, and Blogging fool and I adore the restaurant leads, friends and snarky memes I have gotten off my trolling cyberspace. My best find to date is a fantastic eatery in Paso Robles called PasoTerra. I found them first via a Facebook fan page where their pictures and descriptions of the dishes drew me up over The Grade to downtown Paso Robles. My dinning companion (Gary) and palette thanked me for the visit to a chef that is an artist with a canvas and cuisine. 

Chef Andre and wife, Chef Cristinia
Upon walking in PasoTerra, I was instantly enchanted by the huge under the sea painting. I took a minute to gaze upon the passion on the canvas as the loveliest proprietor came out to greet us. Cristinia told us that her husband had painted all the pictures and Chef Andre Averseng came out to bask in my praise. A chef with a French accent, who can paint instantly gains affection from my heart and I enjoyed his telling of the stories that went behind each painting. 

We were offered a glass of bubbly as an aperitif, a gorgeous Blanc de Blanc
and a amuse busche of Ahi tuna in a wanton cupcake shell with soy, sesame oil, lemon juice and a touch of cayenne. It was then I remembered that I had met this chef years ago at the Pallet to Palate event when he was running a catering company called Dining With Andre. The catering still exists, but now so does a charming bistro where you can sample his amazing fresh seafood offerings every night. 

We ordered a bottle of Jack hammer Pinot Noir and Gary marveled at the saying on the bottle: 
There are three laws of American engineering:
1. Always use the right tool for the job
2. The hammer is the right tool for any job
3. Anything can be used as a hammer. 

Gary started with the Lemon Cheese Cake, which was an amazing air filled custard with a fresh blackberry and sweet whipped cream all resting in a raspberry purée. We told Cristinia (Andre’s charming wife and front of the house extraordinaire) of our wedding dinner with a French chef gone insane because Gary insisted that all guests start with dessert first. Andre giggled at the story and told Gary how he would have roasted him very slowly on a spigot. I loved the laughter coming from the kitchen and that Andre took the time to come out in between courses to talk, laugh and share his talent. 

Chef Andre is making everything from scratch, including the bread made with a hint of rosemary. I had the Soup de Jour, which was beet top puree. This was an amazing amalgamation of flavors and inventiveness. My appetizer course was the Blue Crab and Mushroom Strudel. My first comment was “Everything should be served in a strudels”. This was the first time I have had mushrooms with crab and the earthiness and richness made my knees weak. It was all wrapped up in beautiful filo dough with a micro green accompaniment. 
Next was the Scallops Sauté with Beurre Blanc au Caviar and Vodka. My six huge divers scallops were seared to perfection and drizzled with black caviar that added crunch and brininess to the flavor. It was served with shredded summer squash, cherry tomato, haricort verts (French green beans), carrots and red cabbage. Everything was cooked to perfection with an eye for detail and the plate looked as pretty as a picture. Gary had the Crab Fondue for Two served with crostinis. This luscious cheese dish and big chunks of crab were spreadable on the perfectly cooked crostini (they were still soft in the middle)

We shared more stories, laughed endlessly and truly fell in love with this bistro, the chef and the charming crew. I had to try the Flourless Chocolate Roll with Chocolate Mousse and I was glad I did. The impeccable Mousse was sitting in a raspberry puddle and it was rich, creamy, heavenly flawlessness.

Paso Terra was conceptualized as a local product sustainable farmed restaurant. Chef and Cristinia visited and met with many farmers, tasted their vegetation, ate their fish, and ate their meat, then picked the finest to serve. Chef Andre embraced the usage of these products and has created a menu with flavors and presentation that is heralded as the best here on the Central Coast. Sighting his mother, Marie Blanc as his inspiration this chef is at the forefront of fine dining.

It was a pleasant meal in every conceivably way, from the service, surroundings, food and amiable chef willing to share and take a bow. I became an instant fan. 

PasoTerra is located at 1032 Pine Street in Paso Robles, you can call them at (805) 227-4100. They are open Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30pm to 9:00pm and Friday and Saturday from 5:30pm to 10:00pm.

Pluto's - Fresh Food For A Hungry Universe - San Luis Obispo


Rarely am I greeted so warmly at an eatery that the adoration I feel for it is established before I take a bite. This was the case at my new find in San Luis Obispo at Pluto’s Restaurant, named for the outermost planet, (and not Popeye’s hamburger swilling companion). They provide fresh food for a hungry universe, especially in college towns and feature a revolutionary concept in dining satisfaction. Pluto’s has a special homespun distinction and serves as an extension of your mom’s kitchen.

Like its namesake, Pluto’s strives to be truly out-of-this-world via the food station, as advanced as the space station of planetary exploration where you get what you see and see what you get. Pluto’s started in 1995, filled a much needed niche in the vast nothingness between fast food and full service restaurants. This is the 9th restaurant in the empire and I believe we will see many more. 

I asked the nice young gentlemen, Preston King who greeted me if he was the owner and he told me, “No, but I take ownership of your good experience while dining with us”. I was very impressed. Pluto’s mission is to offer quality, American style fresh food in an inviting setting. On the counter before me I saw a large juicy whole turkey, succulent roast beef and all the side dishes waiting to be pick in your version of the perfect home style meal. 

But first I was excited about the salad bar. I love when I can create my own rabbit food masterpiece from the pre-chopped and washed ingredients fabricating my version of the unadulterated salad. Preston assured me that the produce Pluto’s uses is purchased daily and each salad is tossed to my satisfaction by the salad chef. Salad tastes better when washed and chopped by someone else.

I cherry-pick a mixture of romaine and baby spinach with all the toppings that I believe make the textbook salad. They included broccoli, red onions, carrots, sunflower seeds, plum tomatoes, green beans, garbanzo beans, croutons, Parmesan cheese and crumbled blue cheese. I added grilled herbed chicken breast and topped it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. There was 20 other items to choose from all looking garden-fresh and tasty. Each salad comes with your choice of freshly baked sourdough, wheat, or focaccia bread; I choose the focaccia and was impressed by the texture, flavor and wholesomeness. 

I moved on to the next station to decide my main course and side dishes. Every day they prepare carve-to-order oven-roasted turkey and roast beef. You can choose to have it sliced on a plate or as a grilled sandwich on freshly baked bread. I selected to go for a traditional pre thanksgiving meal with carved Herb Roasted Sonoma Turkey, gravy, smashed potatoes, Neptune’s stuffing and the Martian Mac N' Cheese. These dishes are presented to you like your grandma made them in sturdy pans that scream this is going to be delectable. Each was a testament to the mission statement with a sense of comfort food created from the freshest ingredients. I especially like the Mac N Cheese, as they elected to keep it simple and cheesy.

Portobella Mushrooms
My companion choose the Grilled Portobello Mushroom with Roasted Red Peppers and goat cheese with Mushrooms of the Moment and Saturn's Garlic Potato Rings that were light years better than fries. These vegetarian medleys were superb in there flavoring and interesting combinations. 

They had a nice selection of local wines and beers and the desert section made me long for my missing husband (he had a meeting), so I scooped up a huge peanut butter cookie, two Carmelitas Lemon Bars and a pecan bar to take home to him. I am a good wife, after all.

I liked the layout and that you enjoy the best of all worlds in dining. Instead of having to cope with all of the uncertainties of a wait staff, guests are served at individual food stations where they make their selections and oversee their preparation in a refreshing one-on-one process. You are encouraged to dine at your own pace (a selection of daily newspapers is available for those who wish to linger) and partake of that good neighborhood feeling. Pluto’s has erased the annoyance of poor service, unidentifiable entrees, and the added expense of tipping.

Louis Kimball and Gerry Bugas
The manger/owner Gerry Bugas came to chat with us and we complemented every dish. He told us that Pluto’s is absolutely committed to wholesome fresh food, and the use of the latest healthful cooking techniques in its food preparation, such as steaming, char grilling and roasting. These places has everything you need if you are missing family or want a home cooked meal without having to clean the dishes after (unless you loose your ticket, then you do have to wash the dishes). 

Pluto’s fresh food for a hungry universe is located at 1122 Chorro Street in San Luis Obispo, you call call them at 805.439.3200. They are open seven days a week from 11:00 am until 10:00 pm.

Blaze Pizza in San Luis Obispo

My granddaughter just turned four years old. With this abundance of years on the planet she has developed a picky palate. In fact, the only thing she will eat is exotic unicorn or dragon meat with a tossing of Tinkerbelle’s dust on a bed of  Willy Wonka’s vegetables.  Even though she has been eating with me in restaurants since she was 2 weeks old and knows how to order, and complement the chef, she has now decided that she needs to control everything - including what she eats.  I tried something new to satisfy her discerning penchant upon hearing about a new pizza joint where you can literally make your own pizza.  With late hours, healthy options and cheap prices, Blaze Pizza desires to become the perfect meal for any kid. This pizza place offers all you can eat toppings, gluten-free options and vegan cheese.

We entered, ordered a “Do It Yourself” pizza and the small ruler was engaged and excited to control the destiny of her pizza.  The staff played along and the garlic pesto sauce became fairy dust, the mozzarella shredded cheese became unicorn hair, the pepperoni became spots, the pineapple became hoofs.  She ordered the same pizza she usually likes, but because it was made just for her, not to share or with anyone else preferences on it, it became a treat to be devoured.  She ate every bite of her 8-inch creation.

We all ordered individual pizzas with the boys heaping meatballs, sausage and pepperoni. I tried the white sauce, roasted garlic, sautéed onions, chicken, and mushrooms with a dusting of sea salt on the top. I was impressed with the quality and quantity or items you could choose to sprinkle on your pie. It was one of the best pizza’s I have tried.  Amazed and intrigued I asked for where this genius concept came from.
The Manager told me that Blaze offers exceptional quality cooked at lightning fast speed. Designed by Executive Chef Bradford Kent (aka The Pizza Whisperer), his goal was to put fresh, made-from-scratch dough along side healthful, artisanal ingredients on an assembly line. You get to pick as much or as little as you want. From towering of meat and cheeses to fresh vegetables, you have no limit to what you put on your pizza.  Then they place it in a super hot oven, cook for 180 seconds and what comes out is a fast-fire’d, perfectly crisp perfection pizza.

It is a chain (which I usually avoid) but this “do it yourself” pizzeria spoke to my need also to finally get the pizza I want, not the one the tossers in the back decide.  Blaze is a new and growing franchise with over 100 locations now. Locally one of its owners, Mitch Wolf, has been a marketing instructor at Cal Poly for 10 years.

The concept behind Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is simple: You pick your crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings, and your pie is popped into a blazing-hot oven for a mere 180 seconds. It then emerges, ready for your enjoyment. It’s fresh. It’s fast. It’s exactly what you want it to be.

CEO and founder Rick Wetzel explained that the idea was actually conceived out of a need that I found too.  “My wife and I were looking for lunch one day. We wanted pizza but were disappointed to find that there was nothing available that was both fast and fresh. So we ended up at Chipotle instead. Elise looked at me and asked if the Chipotle service model would work for pizza. That was our ‘aha’ moment.” Simply put, where fast food focuses on the value of the food, Blaze focuses on the value of the experience. Wetzel’s inspiration comes at a time when there is a greater demand for fast food made from fresh, high-quality ingredients.

If you are not creative or wanting a unicorn pizza, they offer Signature Pizzas with plenty of choices to satisfy the artisan within you. I had to try the Art Lover with artichokes, mozzarella, ricotta, chopped garlic, and red sauce dollops. It was fantastic and I enjoyed a draft beer with my pizza while Gary inhaled the S’more cookie before his Meat Eater with pepperoni, crumbled meatballs, red onion, mozzarella, and red sauce.

I have been there 4 times last week, as my granddaughter is obsessed with the pizza and it was her birthday week.  Everything I have had is fresh and the staff is friendly, helpful and fun.  It is the perfect food for families or starving students whose mom told them to eat healthy.  This is the best fast food alternative I have ever experienced.

Blaze Pizza is located at 892 East Foothill Blvd in San Luis Obispo; call them at (805) 788-0619. They are open daily, Monday thru Saturday from 10:30 to 11:00pm and Sunday from 11:00pm to 11:00pm.