I love writing this column, and over the past 15 years I have never run out of new restaurants, wineries, or charitable events to write about. Over the years, my favorite eateries have always attracted me back to enjoy their delicious treats over and over again. My reason, which you’ll find I repeat frequently in this column, comes down to one thing: consistency. I go back to a restaurant for the same food, be it a cheeseburger, perfect roast chicken, or rack of lamb, because I know it’s going to taste exactly like it did the first time I tried it, and that makes me crave more.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
With the opening of every new restaurant—or any eatery, for that matter—I arrive filled with optimism, hoping I’ll find a new favorite. That doesn’t happen often enough, but worse than that, I hate finding a lack of consistency when I visit several times. When that happens, I put the review off with plans to revisit that restaurant at a later date, hoping they’ve corrected their problems. So if you’ve ever wondered why I haven’t reviewed a new restaurant, the odds are likely that I have. But I didn’t find it worth writing about, yet.
We’ve had many new restaurants open recently, with several more that I’m excited about, poised to open all over the county. Like everyone else, I’m always eager to run right over and try the new menu. But as a restaurant veteran with 12 years of practical experience, I never expect any eatery, casual or upscale, to run smoothly the moment they open their doors to the public. Typically, I wait until they’ve been open at least a month, and then I consider them fair game for a review.
But in the case of one new specialty shop that opened in SLO, it also happens to be one of our oldest. Olde Port Fisheries, which has provided fresh local seafood for 44 years, recently opened a convenient new location in SLO just off Hwy. 101. I’ve been driving out to Avila Beach to buy fresh salmon, Dungeness crabs, prawns, and more from the Cohen family since 1996. I love buying live crabs or lobsters to cook at home, or you can have it steamed right there at the pier at no extra charge. Now, at Olde Port Seafood Grill, you can choose your fish out of the display case, and they’ll cook it to order for you to enjoy in the dining area, on the patio, or to take home and eat.
When they have fresh local Dungeness crab (currently, it’s out of season), it’s so sweet and succulent, I can practically eat the entire crab by myself (I prefer the small-sized crabs). I’ll make a fresh green salad with lots of veggies and Thousand Island dressing on the side. My husband Dan makes a zingy cocktail sauce so we have two choices for dipping. It’s a feast with a crisp, fruity Edna Valley grown Chardonnay.
Owner Michael Cohen plans to expand the menu that includes clam chowder.
“This is a great spot for us. We’ll be bringing in tanks for the live shellfish,” Cohen noted, “and we’re in the process of getting a beer and wine license. Once we get this place completed, we’re going to expand the kitchen at the Arroyo Grande location.”
Cohen hired a dozen people to take care of customers and serve hot dishes all day. Olde Port Seafood is also well known for its smoked fish offerings. The eatery is located at the corner of Santa Rosa and Olive streets. Olde Port Fisheries originally opened in Avila Beach in 1967, founded by Michael’s father Barry Cohen. Four years later, Barry opened the Olde Port Inn, a seafood restaurant that’s been popular among locals and Avila Beach tourists for 40 years.
When Barry Cohen retired several years ago, he sold the restaurant and fishery to his sons: Leonard Cohen owns the original restaurant on the pier and Ciopinot in downtown SLO; and he sold the fishery to Michael. The brothers are not partners, and each one owns his businesses solely. Michael still has the original Olde Port Fisheries in Avila Beach at the end of Pier 3 Port San Luis, and he opened another shop on East Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande a year ago. You’ll find all of the fish shop’s information and recipes at oldeportfish.com, plus the list of farmers markets where they sell fresh seafood. The new shop and restaurant in SLO is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
I stopped in at the new seafood grill to buy wild local salmon, and ordered their fish tacos for lunch. The generously portioned fish, which might be cod or halibut according to the season, is tossed with diced onions and tomatoes, served on corn tortillas, and drizzled with a citrus crème sauce. A wedge of lime and fresh guacamole made it a delightful meal ($7.99 for two tacos, $1 for the guacamole). The daily offerings are posted on a board, which are limited now but will soon expand. This casual café offers very good food with the convenience of fast food.
This news is a bit early, but it’s about the opening of another one of my favorite casual eateries in the Five Cities Area. The Rib Line BBQ & Grill is expected to open by mid-September in its second location on Grand Avenue in Grover Beach. Only one block from the outlet to the beach, this is a full-sized restaurant with the same great barbecued chicken, baby back ribs, beef, and award-winning chili you’ve enjoyed in SLO. But in their new seaside spot, owner Brian Appiano says he’ll be adding fish and chips and clam chowder to the menu. The new location also allows them to offer beer and wine with meals.
“We’re just waiting for our custom grill,” Appiano explained. “Then we’ll open and start delivering food in Grover and Pismo Beach, Oceano, and Arroyo Grande.”
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