PHOTO BY LAURA DICKINSON
DOWN-HOME EATS : Jay Dickinson serves up hearty meals at reasonable prices at 10th Street Grill in Los Osos.
Walking into the 10th Street Grill recently brought back fond memories of the late ’90s when chef Rex Hale opened Pastore’s Restaurant at this location. I raved about his talent, like many of my fellow foodies in the county, and I’ll never forget his delicious cuisine. Sadly, his talent for cooking was offset by his penchant for unfortunate business decisions. That’s why too many chefs crash and burn when striking out on their own. Restaurateur Jay Dickinson, however, was savvy when he decided to take over this cozy dining room and rename it the 10th Street Grill.
“I originally starting looking in San Luis Obispo but it was too expensive. I considered the location where Novo is now, but they wanted $9,000 rent,” Dickinson remembered. “I got this place for $1,200. It was rough going the first couple of years until word got around.” He took over the location in January 2003 and though it’s not easy to find in Los Osos, hidden away in the center of a mini mall, it’s popular among its neighbors. An aficionado of the seaside, Dickinson enhanced the rustic wood paneled walls with a nautical theme, adding lanterns, a ship’s helm, nets, and other nautical collectibles. And I still love the old brick fireplace in the bar.
Unlike Pastore’s, the 10th Street Grill doesn’t come across as trying to be contemporary or upscale. The menu is decidedly American, and ranges from $4.25 for a cup of soup to $24.50 for a 7-ounce filet mignon. The average prices for entrées are between $15 and $22, and kids get a great selection of meals for only $6.95. This restaurant is small, but it’s your typical mom-and-pop kind of place where you can get a rock-solid meal at affordable prices. If you want even better bargain-priced meals, visit between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for the early-bird menu, with most of the usual pastas and entrees priced from $9.95 to $13.95, all of which come with warm bread and choice of garlic mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, seasoned wedge fries, or steamed vegetables. A cup of soup or garden salad is an additional $3.75.
Although Dickinson always features daily fish specials to support local fishermen, he offers a nice selection of steaks, several surf-and-turf combinations, hot pasta dishes, salads, and a tasty appetizer selection. I wasn’t surprised to find the quality very good, after talking with Dickinson. A local for more than 25 years, he and his wife Laura raised their three children in San Luis Obispo. He’s worked in restaurants at every level from the Jetty in Morro Bay to McLintocks and A.J. Spurs. His steakhouse experience explains the steak and combination offerings on his menu.
When I dined there midweek with my husband Dan, our wonderful server, Claudia Corona, suggested a sampler of appetizers. We enjoyed the pork tenderloin cutlets with a delicious bourbon-and-balsamic-reduction sauce, and the grilled calamari steak, cut into strips for dipping into the tasty house-made tartar sauce. We both couldn’t resist the garden salad. Dan loved the raspberry vinaigrette on the tossed romaine and spring mixture with mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes. I preferred my choice of the chunky blue-cheese dressing.
I ordered the 5-ounce, center-cut, top-sirloin steak, medium rare. Cutting into it I found the steak quite lean, which can be a disaster for a steak lover like me who prefers well-marbleized beef. Yet this steak was flavorful and amazingly tender. The size sounds small but it was just right with a side of steamed veggies, and you can get a 10-ounce cut. Dan ordered the daily special, fresh ahi also seared perfectly rare, the only way he likes it, with the veggies of the day. Our entire meal was quite tasty and we were impressed that Dickinson is able to keep the prices as reasonable as he does.
THE VINEYARD COOKBOOK: By Barbara Scott-Goodman
A compilation of recipes and winery profiles, this new cookbook offers more than 60 recipes with suggested wine pairings from 32 wineries across the country. Written by the author of The Beach House Cookbook and The Diabetes Menu Cookbook, most of the recipes are easily prepared even if you’re a beginner at cooking. The beautiful photographs by Kirk Irwin and Wes Walker (the former one of my favorite artists who lives in Nipomo) alone make it worth buying this cookbook. Of course, if you love wine like I do you’ll find yourself eager to try the suggested food and wine pairings. It includes local favorites in SLO and Santa Barbara counties, including: Lafond, Rancho Sisquoc, Sanford, Talley, and Zaca Mesa. You’ll also find recipes from such notable wineries as Beaulieu and Clos du Val in Napa Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Seven Hills in Washington State, and Bedell Cellars and Fox Run in New York State. Talley’s lobster, corn, and tomato salad paired with their Bishop’s Peak Pinot Gris sounds fabulous. This gorgeous book will be as welcome on your coffee table as it is on your kitchen shelf. It’s $24.95 retail, available at
welcomebooks.com/vineyardcookbook and at amazon.com.
Corona gently nudged us toward ordering dessert. We tried the crème brulee and she melted the sugar coating on top at the table. Dan preferred the butterscotch and I the vanilla; both were excellent. I watched our friendly server as she waited on other tables and did everything possible to keep everyone happy. At a nearby table she gladly accommodated an elderly couple who split a calamari appetizer, a fish entrée, and then dessert. Throughout our dinner we saw several people come in and sit at the bar to collect their orders-to-go.
Dickinson’s restaurant is classic and old school; nothing wrong in that. I was impressed that they did everything possible to make their customers happy, and that’s not true of many restaurants in this small community. You can dress up or down as much as you like; the ambiance is completely relaxed. If you ask me, I’d say it’s just what people are looking for during a recession: good food, fair prices, and service that says they’re glad you chose their restaurant.
You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.