- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- PULL UP A CHAIR : The Dining room at Native Lounge next to Mission Plaza in SLO now offers an alternative to cozy sofa seating.
That was 21 months ago before the recession put the skids on extravagant spending for the exclusive wines he carries, like Dom Perignon 2000 and Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 Champagnes, at $260 and $560 a bottle, respectively. Attractive as the lounge and restaurant is for a younger crowd, Faries heard from many San Luis Obispans that they preferred a traditional style dining room. He listened and now he has brought back “The Dining Room at Native Lounge,” to remind locals and tourists that it’s a destination among its peers in SLO’s downtown dining scene.
I like the fact that nothing seems to faze Faries: if one concept isn’t working, this savvy restaurateur simply goes with the flow and comes up with another good reason for drawing locals in to dine there. But unlike those business types who are in it strictly for the money, Faries puts his heart and soul into his family-owned restaurant by continually offering good food and beverages, and good times.
“People are cutting back, but they need some relief so they’re dining out on a Friday or Saturday night. Our lounge is busier now than ever, but people prefer a traditional style of dining,” Faries pointed out. “Adding a (traditional) dining room was always in the back of our minds. We gave the lounge style concept an opportunity to work in SLO but the best opportunity for our food to excel is a combination of both.”
Faries redesigned one section of the interior by bringing back the traditional tables and chairs you’d expect, while keeping other areas furnished with the comfortable sofas and low tables originally designed for the lounge. He consulted with local experts (which included his friends in the business) in changing the cuisine and service, and re-trained the staff. Faries kept long-time favorites like the special weekday events: industry night on Tuesdays and 65-cent oysters on Wednesdays; and he plans to bring back lunch and their popular Sunday brunch.
Native certainly hasn’t lost its romantic ambiance, but the new dining room makes it much more appealing to an array of tastes for every age group. At dinner with my friends, we shared three tasty entrées: the Meyer lemon roasted chicken breast with house-made lemon-chive gnocchi and forest mushroom cream sauce ($17); smoked black pepper ahi salad with spinach, jicama, cucumber, strawberries, and crispy won tons dressed in a strawberry vinaigrette ($16); and the pan-roasted, local halibut with citrus rice, wilted spinach, Kalamata olive vinaigrette, and fennel vin blanc ($19). The latter, hands down, was our favorite and so delicious we consumed every bite.
For dessert the grand finale was an old treat, the famous Mission Grill sizzling cookie: a chocolate chip cookie served on a sizzling iron skillet with scoops of vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate sauce added at the table for a dramatic presentation. It easily served the three of us, although I’m sure Charlie could’ve eaten it alone. It was a great finale to a memorable dinner that was reasonably priced from start to finish.
“We wanted the menu to be friendly on all levels, not just meat and potatoes, although our ribeye steak is the number one seller ($19). Our chicken and brie quesadilla with caramelized apples ($8) is awesome,” Faries concluded. Check out Native’s new menu, wine list, and dining room and you’ll find it appeals to people of every age.
You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.