When I think of Sally Loo's Wholesome Cafe, one of SLO's first and most cherished third wave coffee joints, I think of three words: Local. Creative. Playful. From the array of bold art that moves across the walls throughout the year to the butcher paper scrawled with super seasonal brunch specials topped with produce from area farms, this cheery hangout tucked away on Osos Street has always screamed modern-coffee-shop-meets-eclectic grandma's house (of course, I am looking at all you "cool grandmas" out there).
"Wholesome" is right there in the name, and the food is exactly that: good for your soul, good for the environment, and extremely fun to eat. Last week, I saw a slightly more sophisticated side of Sally Loo's, when I attended a soft opening for the cafe's new wine bar hours. The experience still felt totally funky and handcrafted, but the small plates and drinks menu (served Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. with happy hour 5 to 6 p.m.) was decidedly hipper, more adult. Local wines (Opolo, Hearst Ranch, Pomar Junction), a host of craft beers, and dry hard ciders replaced the ubiquitous lattes, açai bowls, and waffles. Table service and tabletop candles transformed the experience into more than a snack, although the prices are fun-sized. Now, you can stop in after work and grab a proper nosh, like their heirloom tomato stack with pesto and crispy prosciutto (highly recommend), stuffed dates to share, or even a trio of chocolate truffles dusted with orange zest. I nibbled on an epic cheese plate with delicious dairy and honeycomb sourced from local Stepladder Creamery, admiring the twinkle lights overhead.
With live music on Friday nights, art happenings unfolding monthly, and that signature brown butcher paper still lining the tables (perfect for drawing dogs and mermaids), this is still the Sally Loo's of laptops, giggling kids, and espresso shots. However, their new wine bar hours have struck a balance between coffee shop and white tablecloth: Think of this new offering as a respite from the thumping, rowdy college bars as well as an alternative to too-serious, too-fussy fine dining. Case in point: I was able to enjoy a glass of Field Recordings rosé while partaking in a goofy impromptu Boggle tournament with some new friends. If that's not what this whole experiment is all about, I don't know what is. Eat wholesome, but don't grow up. It's a trap!