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
Pier 46, Templeton
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