Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The SLO Life

These are quick and dirty reviews of some of the businesses, mostly restaurants, in San Luis Obispo, CA.

SLO Travelodge on Monterey St: The place looked relatively new/newly remodeled and had a minifridge, safe and microwave, which is sadly becoming a thing of the past. There's no closet, but there is a place to hang your clothes that need to be. The bathroom was small but nice with the curved out shower curtain bar, which adds some space to the shower/bath combo and reduces that annoying cling that sometimes occurs. The main appeal is the location and price.

The Lamplighter Inn: Good location, nice facilities and friendly staff. The rooms are smaller than some other places in town.

Papa Cantteo's Sausage: A local product that is nearly impossible to find in stores outside of the SLO area, this is the best linguica I have ever found in a grocery store. Unfortunately they don't make that many products and again, it's hard to find outside of SLO county.

Linneae's Cafe: One of the few places that has remained unchanged in SLO downtown in the last decade. The coffee is good, service is good if a bit slow because of the lack of room for more than two people to work at once. Big plus is that they have very long hours and is one of the few places open after last call. This is one of those coffee houses where you just want to sit back and chat with friends. I always stop by when I'm in town.

Firestone Grill: This place keeps remodeling, there's always something different everytime I go there, but the food remains the same. The tri-tip sandwich is consistently one of the best in town, and sides are excellent, and portions are good. Their BBQ sauce isn't the best I've had but it's still solidly good. One drawback is because it is so good, it's almost always crowded and finding seating is difficult. Regardless, I always stop by when I'm in town.

Splash Cafe: The best New England Clam Chowder I've ever had. Hands down. And I've had a lot of Clam Chowder. They used to be only in Pismo on it's main drag and a cash only limited menu joint. A little while ago they opened a branch in downtown SLO and expanded into pastries and other lunch fare. I can't speak to any of that, but I highly recommend getting the chowder and a sourdough roll. I always stop by when I'm in town.

Monterey St. Wine: A wine store with a few extras. Wine tastings are $5 to try 3 wines. The staff are friendly and very knowledgable. Fine cheeses and crackers/bread are also available for purchase and trying. Always laid back and welcoming.

Tsurugi's Japanese Restaurant: This is the place that introduced me to my favourite Japanese dish: Katsu Don. The staff are very friendly and mostly come from the Japanese Exchange Program in the area. This is the longest running Japanese Restaurant in town and my personal favourite because the quality of everything is consistently high. I have not tried the new sushi places and Japanese restaurants that have appeared in the last 3 years, but the other Japanese restaurant that's been in SLO for the last 10 years was so bad, it would turn you off Japanese food completely. Stick to Tsurugi.

Le Fandango: I consider this the best restaurant in town, but I highly recommend going if someone else is paying. This is a Basque restaurant with a boisterous, charmingly European owner. The Scallops and Prawns appetizer is to die for. You will ask for loaf after loaf of bread to get every last drop of the sauce. The charcutrie plates boast a very good selection of cured meats, most of better quality than you'll find at your local Whole Foods. But again, on the pricey side.

Taste: I believe this is the name of the place. A very high tech wine tasting bar that features only Central Coast wines. The people are very friendly and there is a wide selection of wines. They are a little more expensive than many wine tasting bars, because they have a system that lets them charge you different prices for different wines and then have so many available at once that you'll be easily tempted into trying more and more.

Unfortunately SLO downtown has a lot of business turn over because of rising rent prices, shifting town interests, and city redevelopment. Law's Hobby has shrunk in half and lost most of it's appeal in doing so. The butcher/sausage maker shop closed down and has been replaced by yet another bar. Linn's Cafe shut down and has been replaced by another restaurant, SLO brewing has been bought out and is now a regular bar from the looks of it.