A gastropub is a British term meaning a bar that specializes in serving high-quality food. They are on every corner in the big cities, but our area has just built the first one and it is called Mason Bar located in the picturesque village of Arroyo Grande. At the helm is a stellar culinary and front of the house team. Dustin Winkelpleck runs the restaurant with an excellent sense of service and a welcoming smile, keeping the drinks cold, the food hot and the guests happy. Jason Gable and Benjie Puga run the kitchen using locally sourced ingredients (the menu will change with availability and even says “Weekly Rations” at the top). Both have done stellar rounds in other critically acclaimed kitchens and are finding much inspiration with the bar infused menu.
They call it a country-chic atmosphere, as they used remnants of the JJ’s market wood beams to adorn the walls and a creative use of mason jars for lights and decorative style. With 25 beers on draft, an eclectic wine list, and only premium spirits this is a place where creative cuisine meets exceptional libations.
Gary started with the Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler, served in a mason jar with five-spice shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream and a strawberry, rhubarb compote that was a flawless combination of sour and sweet. Gary was astounded how good this was and moved on the Bourbon Pecan Pie with a chocolate mint granache and topped with an espresso crème fraiche. Both were worthy of a return trip and deemed impeccable by Mr. Dessert.
I started with a Frog’s Leap Cabernet that is served on tap. This is the best way for bars like this to serve finer wines and I was elated. Then I went for the Lobster Corn Dogs. You read that right; tail meat from lobster dipped in a corn dog carnival batter and fried. Accompanied by a creole remoulade sauce this was a happy circus in my mouth. They are not skimpy on the lobster meat and these three skewers were astoundingly clever and delicious. I also tried the delectable soup that was Habanero Butternut Squash Bisque with a honey drizzle. Sweet and hot combined to make this the best soup I have ever slurped.
Gary then tried a barrel-aged cocktail. They are crafting drinks by mixing and aging the spirits in oak barrels. This allows them to blend and integrate harmoniously, giving them time to mature and smooth out harsh edges. He had a drink called New Amsterdam Negroni, with Campari, New Amsterdam Gin, Carpano Antica and a smoked orange twist. He couldn’t wait to try more of these inventive and delicious cocktails. I moved on to a Grown Up Grilled Cheese sandwich served with a mushroom, brocclini and gnocchi side dish, this sando was wonderful. Bread came from my favorite farmer’s market vendor, Little Red Hen. Her sourdough surpasses everyone’s. It was joined by a local sheep’s milk gouda, smoked cheddar and two large slices of heirloom tomatoes. Comfort food for a full-sized human and it paired nicely with the Baker & Brian Grenache. I loved every bit of this new addition to the Village and plan to be there weekly. The atmosphere, drinks and food make this a grownup wonderland that I will be visiting often.
Drop in where country meets chic at this casual, neighborhood gastropub, Mason Bar.
Located at 307 East Branch Street in Arroyo Grande, at the corner of Mason and Branch. Open daily from 4:30pm to 10:00pm and the bar is open until midnight Friday and Saturday nights.