We sit at a picnic table basking in the shade of an old gas station canopy, waiting to hear our names. Accompanying the voice will be a couple of hard-earned sandwiches: The Kluck ... That's Kluckin' Good and the Hot Mess Reuben—also known as a fried chicken sandwich with jalapeño cole slaw and a pastrami sandwich with sauerkraut and Thousand Island.
- Photo By Camillia Lanham
Sunday morning yard work led to some serious hunger pains and a desire to not cook. But my cousin and I weren't the only ones who had recently pulled weeds, mowed the lawn, and weed-whacked the crap out of some tall grass, according to Colony Market and Deli owner Joanna Wemple when she'd taken our order earlier. She said a lot of people stopped in that day after a hard-fought battle with their yards.
As of mid April, the Colony Market and Deli has been open for less than a month, but it's already a busy place.
A couple of couples bellied up to the bar in front of the open garage doors of the 1950s era gas station turned sandwich stop on Atascadero's main drag. In the space where cars once filled their tanks, people now fill picnic tables with beers, chips, and sandwiches. Kids play corn hole while the adults chat and cars pass by on El Camino Real.
Sitting in the shade, I glance up at the mural next door and the sign at the Carlton Hotel across the street. This, I thought, is a place I can see myself spending some time on weekend afternoons this summer (after yard work, of course).
That feeling is by design. The Wemples—husband and wife Shayne and Joanna—created a place where they would want to hang out and eat. And they searched for the perfect spot for years.
"Two years ago, November, Shayne comes home and he's like, 'Oh my God, I got it!' ... And he drives me to that gas station building," Joanna said with a laugh. "It was like this whole vision from the moment that he realized it was there."
Shayne was a contractor for many years and so he could see the potential that the vacant gas station had.
"He's like, 'Look, you just roll these doors up and ... ,'" Joanna said. "He just has this ability to see space and optimize it."
It was a lot of work, she said. They basically turned a gas station into a hip spot to grab a sandwich, beer, salad, and/or appetizers—and put a full restaurant kitchen in the back. It's a dream at least 10 years in the making—and the last five of those years were pretty serious. Although, Colony Market is a deli, Joanna said it's more than just a sandwich shop.
"We always talked about that we wanted a place where the community would come together," Joanna said. "We've had different versions of this, but it's always been comfort food with a twist that is responsibly prepared."
You won't find high-fructose corn syrup, saccharin, or nitrites at Colony Market. What you will find are many locally sourced ingredients and items made fresh to order. And, most likely, you will also find members of the Wemple family manning the register, working in the kitchen, or stocking shelves.
- Photo By Camillia Lanham
- GAS UP The Colony Market and Deli's bar and countertop sit inside the garage doors where an auto shop used to be.
"It's very, very, very family oriented," Joanna said. "Family is really a big part of this."
Shayne's mom is in the kitchen cooking; Joanna's sister-in-law helps them with human resources; Joanna's daughter and niece are there on the weekends. Each of the sandwich, appetizer, and salad recipes was dreamed up by Shayne, with more menu items on the way.
The whole deli concept stems from Joanna's time growing up on the East Coast. She said her dad would often take her and her mom to delis to eat. It was a family activity.
"I grew up going to delis—like East-Coast-deli delis," Joanna said. "We wanted to be sure that this deli wasn't just a build-your-own-sandwich type of thing ... but thoughtful sandwiches that you can't get anywhere else."
Some of the carefully crafted recipes unique to Colony Market include a tomato bacon bourbon jam (made with Bulleit bourbon, thank you very much), shallot marmalade, and arugula pesto. You can look to the Due South BLT for that tomato jam and the Bullseye roast beef sando for the marmalade and pesto.
Plus there's also this amazing little thing called the P-P-Porchetta.
It's unfamiliar to a lot of customers, Joanna said, but for her, it ticks all the right flavor boxes. A traditional porchetta is a stuffed pork shoulder roast. The Shayne twist on that tradition includes a walnut gremolata rub all over a slow-roasted pork shoulder stuffed with fennel seed, rosemary, garlic, and thyme. It's sliced thin and served on ciabatta bread with pickled fennel and a lemon caper sauce that "really puts it over the top," Joanna said.
- Photo By Patrick Ibarra
- CALI GREENS Citrus marinated grilled chicken, roasted poblano pepper, and applewood bacon marry avocado, tomato, red onion, and aged cheddar—dressed up with cilantro vinaigrette, this is a salad you can sink your teeth into.
You can get that porchetta fried into a fritter as well, for a savory little pre-sando snack. And yes, it's served with that lemon caper sauce.
"Somehow, it's just spectacular. I think it hits all of the parts of your palate. And it's so unique and savory," she said.
All of the food is made by hand, fresh, and fried to order with quality ingredients. The fried chicken on my The Kluck ... That's Kluckin' Good sandwich was crispy, light, and moist. Tender morsels of meat blanketed by a warm brioche bun so soft and beautifully golden brown.
"It costs more money to make it like that, but that's what makes it special," Joanna said. "You can make a turkey sandwich at home, you know? People come out to have something they can't have at home and hang out with their friends in the community." Δ
Editor Camillia Lanham doesn't kluck around when it comes to fried chicken. Send your tasty tips to [email protected].