Not much going on this week. The furor over ALEX being demolished has almost faded. On to something else to be gratuitously infuriated about.
Bunch of new spots in Guadalupe opening. Little one-holers. CHINO’S TACOS… GUADALUPE CAFE… LA PLASITIA OAXAQUENA… Speaking of Guadalupe, I want to re-cap Chef Maili taking the Halme (get it? Get it? The *halme*?!! haha I crack myself up) at FAR WESTERN TAVERN in Old Orcutt. I can not imagine anything but beauty coming from this pairing. Put The Far Western back on your list.
Finally made it into FLAGSHIP, the afore-mentioned Compass Health’s latest restaurant extravaganza. I know I’m about a year late, and many of you–including myself, actually–are going, WHY? Why on earth would someone like YOU even GO to Flagship?!?! True, my jeans were not bedazzled, I had neither shades or the baseball cap to perch them on, and my BMI is significantly under 30, but I was in the mood for a hamburger at lunchtime and thought to myself how bad can it be? CUSTOM HOUSE makes a bangin burger, and throw in decent fries and a ridiculous ocean view and I can overlook the demographic. We even got to sit in the pirate ship! They bring out kettle-chips first-off, and–considering the plethora of house-made chips finding their way to the table these days–I really like these. They don’t shatter your teeth or shred the roof of your mouth. Service was attentive and not bothersome, although my observations of their *white flag* system pointed at inconclusive effectiveness.
The fries were a soggy *steak* style–and of COURSE drenched in Lawry’s. Shrimp “Ceviche” was cooked 51/60’s in a watery tomato-and-celery salsa with flour tortilla chips that would defy tempered glass. And the burger? Ordering snafus aside, it was a smallish affair on a decent brioche. No tomato present (another demographic clue?) and overflowing with finely shredded iceberg drenched in 1000 Islands under a clinically perfect institutional patty. Fat slabs of homemade pickles were the bright spot. The Bloody Mary was *OK*. The dolphins cavorting in the ocean were a nice touch.
If someone held a gun to my head and said, “WILLOW or FLAGSHIP?” I would probably pause too long.
I promise literally NO ONE reading this has ever been there, but BOTTLEST closed. The best restaurant you’ve never even heard of. Formerly Terravant, or The Restaurant at Terravant, it sits down at the end of the street Industrial Eats is on in Buellton. Perched on a mezzanine overlooking the Terravant Winery production cellar, it was quite a bit of an industry spot and offered hundreds of wines by the glass and the last couple meals I had there were INCREDIBLE. The best pork belly I think I have ever had. Anyway… it’s gone.
Speaking of being late to the game, I ate at MAMA’S MEATBALL for the FIRST TIME!!! What have they been there, 10 years? Despite the name–which is what kept me away for so long–the food is almost on par with some of the better-known, white-tablecloth, pinkies-out Italian joints in town. Curt winelist with cheap Italian quaffables and Barolo bling book-ending a core of boring local usuals. Carpaccio is of course the litmus by which all Italian joints are measured, and this was a decent affair, really good meat, great cheese, appropriate capers, and then they kinda lost me with a mountain of HEAVILY DRESSED arugula and mushroom slices??? For entrees, went for the upper end of regional favorites this visit. The osso buco on saffron risotto was OK. The braciole was about the way I make it at home–kinda tough, kinda bland, but this version had too much WAY too spicy sauce to really allow the beauty of this dish be displayed. Excellent service and a great atmosphere, I have decided to go back–but this time I’m going to drink cheap Montepulciano and order off the bottom end of the menu. Remember in The Wedding Singer when Adam Sandler gives the voice lessons? Had a flashback to that scene when I saw you can buy 1 meatball for $5!
SLO COCKTAIL MONTH is almost over. The grand tasting is October 6, but all the restaurants and bars are still participating with specials on their competition concoctions. Details: slococktailmonth.com
Correction from last week: Farmstead Kitchen in Paso Robles has been re-named PARK PLACE GRILL. Nothing’s changed–it was a copyright thing with Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena. One of my favorite restaurants in Paso right now.
GOOD NIGHT NOW!