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Liven your time in San Luis Obispo Superior Court with reliable, delicious food and coffee from Sasquatch Café

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Skip the great outdoors in your mission to find the Sasquatch. It’s been on the second floor of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court for four years running.

There, the only ape-like cryptids you’ll find are cartoons of Bigfoot on stickers on the ice machine, posters on the walls, and an etching on the chalkboard of Sasquatch Café. Co-owner Charles Campbell said that his family inspired the café’s name.

LUNCH RUSH A small chicken salad and a fresh basket of crinkle-cut fries make a sizeable Sasquatch lunch. Don’t forget to grab the dressing from their fridge! - PHOTOS BY BULBUL RAJAGOPAL
  • Photos By Bulbul Rajagopal
  • LUNCH RUSH A small chicken salad and a fresh basket of crinkle-cut fries make a sizeable Sasquatch lunch. Don’t forget to grab the dressing from their fridge!

“All [my] kids at one time had long hair; I used to have long hair and a beard. It’s kind of comical,” he said. “All the kids are like 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6. I’m 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, so it evolved into a name.”

The courthouse spot is an explosion of chalkboards bearing an expansive menu in crowded but meticulous handwriting, and a random assortment of decorative knick-knacks—some of which used to adorn Sasquatch’s former establishments in Paso Robles and Atascadero until both shuttered during the pandemic. Peppered around the café is its personalized Sasquatch mascot—a brooding behemoth sitting while holding a cup of coffee. It’s an original design created by Ricky, a childhood friend of one of the Campbell boys. 

But despite all the markers, the café is still hidden from view. While the courthouse is open to the public, potential patrons still need to be willing to walk through its doors and comply with the standard security check. That’s why Sasquatch’s regular clientele is a revolving door of jurors, attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, and court security and staff. Their days, said Charles and his co-owner wife Jennifer, are dictated by the court system. 

“It’s an interesting place where you have a relationship with the county,” Charles said. “Technically, our contract is with RPS [Real Property Services], which is the agency that runs all the county properties.”

The Campbells are concessionaires not leasers, which essentially means that SLO County rents them the space in the court annex. Sasquatch, in turn, gives the county a percentage of its sales in lieu of rent. 

For Charles, a Seattle native with culinary school training, operating a café out of a courthouse is an ongoing lesson in local government. 

“I never realized how government buildings were structured,” he said. “I left culinary in my 20s and I never thought I’d cook again. I enjoy it but cooking is art, I guess, but a lot of this ends up being grill cook.”

Charles added that he tried to introduce an elaborate menu to the courthouse but received pushback. 

“Most [customers] just work here. Doing shrimp or steak and charging somebody $40 for just sitting at their desk didn’t work,” he said. “We adapted and pretty much everything we have is things people ask for.”

ESSENTIALS Sasquatch Café offers specialty drinks to customers in the courthouse that include a namesake beverage comprising espresso, dark chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut. - PHOTOS BY BULBUL RAJAGOPAL
  • Photos By Bulbul Rajagopal
  • ESSENTIALS Sasquatch Café offers specialty drinks to customers in the courthouse that include a namesake beverage comprising espresso, dark chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut.

Sasquatch’s food menu is straightforward, filling, and delicious. Split into breakfast and lunch, peckish court attendees can choose from a burrito bowl, a breakfast sandwich, bagels, cheeseburgers, and fries hot from the kitchen. A court-themed breakfast platter called “Don’t Judge Me” is a favorite thanks to its tongue-in-cheek name and generous serving of bacon, twice-fried eggs, cheese, greens, tomatoes, onions, and bacon jam on a brioche bun. 

I arrived at the courtroom hungry most mornings after a week and a half of covering a murder trial. But I decided to break that bad habit on April 20 with a Sasquatch breakfast sandwich made by Charles himself. Two thick slices of sourdough sandwiching a fluffy egg, oozing cheese, a crispy sausage patty, tomatoes, and spinach made a hefty and satisfying meal. I paired it with the café’s namesake specialty beverage—an espresso, dark chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut concoction that could be the nuttier, richer cousin of a mocha. The combination kept me satisfied until after lunch, though I did sneak in some of my coworkers’ Sasquatch fries as a snack later.

Charles mans the grill, and Jennifer handles the drinks. 

Apart from the Sasquatch coffee, the café also serves other original drinks like the Yeti, Cherry Bomb, German Chocolate Cake, Elvis, Armadillo, and Haystack. Not a fan of coffee? Multiple fridges are packed with ice-cold beverages that frequently rotate depending on the tastebuds of visitors like changing juries, for example.

“We wouldn’t have ever thought about being here, but after being here, we fit the environment well. We get along with everybody,” Charles said. “We’ll have a line of people that’s the witness, the defendant, the prosecutor, the judge … . Everybody will be in the same line getting coffee.”

Charles and Jennifer are the only two people serving the hordes. The pandemic also heavily impacted the courthouse timetable. Before, it bustled at all hours with different departments active throughout the day at the same time. Now, with many court hearings taking place online, the Campbells’ schedule follows extremes: either facing long lulls or hectic flurries marked by jury and court counsel piling out of different courtrooms eager to stretch their legs and fill their bellies. 

“If you happen to want a latte, sometimes everybody wants a latte because people are talking about it,” Charles said. “You’re trying to make drinks while you’re ringing them up, and people are like, ‘We have 10 minutes!’”

SQUATCH ART Drawn by Ricky, a childhood friend of the Campbells’ son, Sasquatch Café’s insignia bears Bigfoot holding a cup of coffee. - PHOTOS BY BULBUL RAJAGOPAL
  • Photos by bulbul rajagopal
  • SQUATCH ART Drawn by Ricky, a childhood friend of the Campbells’ son, Sasquatch Café’s insignia bears Bigfoot holding a cup of coffee.

Jennifer told New Times that they’re always on their toes because of the unpredictability of their customer base. For instance, a juror who regularly must be in court for almost a month will let the Campbells know their favorite soft drink. Sasquatch will stock a case of it but also has to navigate potential surplus once that juror leaves. Currently, Celsius is the drink of choice from Sasquatch’s fridges.

“It’s different in here because it’s very important to us to not have a lot of waste,” she said. “We have a lot of variety because we have a lot of different people here, but we also tread a different line.”

Sasquatch has morphed into more than a café. It’s also the Superior Court’s makeshift convenience store, stocking items like ChapStick and Advil. As the only café operating out of a courthouse in SLO County, the Campbells think more eateries should crop up in similar spaces.

“It seems more of a necessity than anything, and I would have never known that until we were here,” Charles said. “I had never thought about how long people are at court. I never thought about what’s close by and what people have to do.” ∆

Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal will build a better breakfast habit with the “Don’t Judge Me” platter. Send reminders to [email protected].

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