I love finding a great little eatery where you can count on good quality and good taste without busting your entertainment allowance for the entire month. If that’s your situation, well, I’ve found the perfect restaurant for you in San Luis Obispo called Taste, and it lives up to its name.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- BRICK WORKS TRIO : One of the many trio selections at the new restaurant Taste includes mixed baby greens with Cotija cheese and a toasted coriander lime vinaigrette, Salmon Sammy sandwich and sharp cheddar, with bacon macaroni and cheese.
It had only been open four weeks when I first visited this charming neighborhood eatery, yet it was already established as the hangout for people who live close by along the industrial section of Broad Street (2900 to be specific). And regulars frequent it several times a week for its outstanding soups, main dish salads, an array of sliders, mac and cheese combos, and/or decadent chocolate chip cookies (among other delicious desserts). While it may not be a short walk for SLO downtowners, it’s well worth the short drive, and there’s plenty of free parking at this casual eatery. Once word spreads about their excellent, freshly made foods, Taste will be packing in many more diners besides its neighbors.
It was recommended by a friend in the wine biz, a foodie like me, and knowing her good taste in food and wine, I dined there the next day. That was last week, and it was so good I eagerly returned a few days later to sample more of their fine, modern cuisine. The menu is created and executed by two talented, culinary school trained chefs who make nearly everything fresh every day.
Chef/owner Gretchen Riedlsperger LeMiere and her husband Scott LeMiere own and operate the business. He’s the fix-it guy who handles the specialized task of making everything work, particularly the complicated art of the computer system. Gretchen, a California Culinary Academy alumna, books their catered affairs and creates the delicious menus at Taste. Her very popular local business “In Good Taste Catering” led to the opening of Taste, a cozy café where their loyal clients can dine in or take out their favorite treats, savory and sweet. Chef Matthew “Matt” White, who graduated from Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, does most of the cooking, according to Gretchen. This conscientious young chef manages the café with the heart of an owner and takes pride in what he’s serving customers; it shows in the quality of the food served here. After tasting all the dishes he prepared for me, he deserves to be proud.
When you walk into this chic, urban eatery you’ll see the menus suspended over the counter where you order and pay for your food. They also have a printed menu to peruse, and it’s great for keeping in your car when you want to order food to go and pick it up on the drive home. At the top of the menu are three special offerings: Brickworks Duo ($8), which provides a mini mac and cheese or brickworks sandwich with a side of soup du jour or salad. I liked the Brickworks Trio ($10), which combines a slider, mac and cheese, and salad; it’s quite the value-priced meal. Another option is the Brickworks Sliders: $12 for your choice of three sliders. Not only are there 13 sliders on the menu, there are always additions on the specials board, like the crab cake with spicy remoulade.
On my first taste test of the Brickworks Trio, I chose the Baja burger slider of prime ground beef with pepper jack, grilled jalapeno, and sliced avocado, served on a La Brea ciabatta bun with lettuce and tomato; the sharp cheddar with bacon mac with large elbow pasta; and the Caesar salad. Everything on my generous plate was delicious, fresh, and of excellent quality. I was amazed, frankly, that it was all so good and only $10. I ordered a glass of Firesteed Oregon Pinot Gris ($8/glass), but since it was during happy hour between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., they take $2 off wines-by-the-glass, or $1 off beer prices. Nearby, a regular customer sat at a table waiting for a chocolate chip cookie, which they baked to order for her. The service is great, and everyone there was very friendly and pretty accommodating, which shows true appreciation for their customers.
The next visit, I went with my husband Dan so we could try an assortment of dishes. The soup du jour was shiitake chowder. Fragrant with mushroom essence, it was rich yet not too thick, perfectly suited to my preference. The soup bowl is only $4—or $7 if you order it with a side salad. That day’s special of grilled ahi could be chosen as a salad or slider, which featured very fresh fish with olive tapenade, tarragon aioli, lettuce, and tomato. Dan chose the ahi salad with ponzu vinaigrette, which was topped with crispy rice noodles to add crunchy texture. I choose the slider specials that day—ground lamb with tzatziki sauce plus lettuce and tomato—and the crab cake with spicy remoulade plus lettuce and tomato, both fresh and tasty. I finished it off with one of those big chocolate chip cookies ($2), and we both left quite satisfied.
Gretchen and Matt are both locals who grew up in SLO County, and know most of their customers. Gretchen explained what motivated her to open Taste: “I love food and I love different tastes on my plate. When I go out with a group I wanted to taste what everyone is eating.” That’s why you can mix and match combos. Gretchen noted that she really appreciates Matt because she can be creative with the menu and he executes it very well. Like every good cook, he’s also quite creative.
“Matt gets it when it comes to the food,” she said. “We make all the dressings and sauces, and I’ve made this Caesar dressing recipe for 14 years. But we change things when we come up with new specials. We make things we like to eat.”
Contact Cuisine Columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at email@example.com.