The month of January has routinely been a very slow month for the restaurant industry—but that need no longer be true on the Central Coast. With the creation of “Restaurant Month—January 2012,” people have good reason for dining out more often. Most of our fine restaurants are offering a three-course gourmet meal for about the price you’d normally pay for an entrée: $30. I eat out regularly, but even I appreciate a great deal like this for starting the New Year off right.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- $30, MAKE YOU HOLLER: Start the New Year off right with fine dining at a great price.
Restaurant Month takes place Monday, Jan. 2 through Tuesday, Jan. 31 in seven towns in SLO County where participating restaurants offer three amazing courses for $30 per person. The list of 38 participating restaurants is large and not all are upscale. Inexpensive cafes also love to participate but they make up for it by adding another course or some type of special (described below). No matter which places you choose to dine, you can’t go wrong.
Please do check out the SLO County website, provided at the end of the participating restaurant list, to call for reservations which are necessary to get into these busy restaurants. Many of them are not open daily so a phone call will keep you from driving to a place across the county that may be closed the day you hope to visit. Please note that nearly all restaurateurs ask you not to request substitutions for these special prixe fixe menus. It would be quite an imposition considering the fact they are already doing a great service for diners throughout the month.
At Gardens of Avila Restaurant chef Pandee Pearson offers you a range of selections. You can choose between two salads or the soup du jour as a starter, braised lamb shank with creamy parmesan polenta or local sand dabs with rustic potato cake and lemon, caper, garlic salsa verde, and finish with a fresh berry and Meyer lemon mousse, just $30.
In Pismo Beach, Guiseppe’s features a menu with three categories featuring three antipasto, three insalata e zuppa, and four entrée choices. The latter section includes excellent choices: wood-oven-roasted pacheri pasta with creamy mozzarella, veal meatballs, and tomato-basil sauce; boneless beef short ribs braised in Pinot Noir and served with creamy polenta; tomato risotto with artisan burrata cheese, chicken meatballs, and grana Parmigiano; and sand dabs alla Milanese with lemon, butter, white wine, capers, and Parmigiano risotto. If you want to try chef Guiseppe’s DiFronzo Pinot Grigio, Syrah, and Pinot Noir with dinner, it’s only $40 for three courses each paired with a glass of wine. The offerings are similar at Palazzo Giuseppe in SLO, but some of the offered dishes are different there.
There are some unique, additional dining opportunities this year: chef Charles Meyers at Big Sky Café is offering paella for two with Spanish salad and dessert, only $30, and they always have very reasonably-priced wines by the glass or bottle; Splash Café offers a free cup of clam chowder, for which they continually earn acclaim, when you purchase any entrée; Thomas Hill Organics offers a three course menu from Jan. 2-15, and then a new menu from Jan. 16-31 by their creative chef, Julie Simon; and SLO’s ever popular Novo is offering a three course, prixe fixe dinner for $30 that changes themes each week through January, featuring Sea of Japan, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, and North China Sea.
At Cass House in Cayucos chef Jensen Lorenzen will be offering the foods from the legendary French chef, Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire. Need I say that’s awesome? It’s one of the many reasons why this chef is highly regarded by his peers and his diners. As regular diners at Cass House know, the chef works closely with local farmers and foragers who supply him with the freshest ingredients of the season. The menu changes daily so he cannot provide the prixe fixe menu for Restaurant Month in advance. To make it more of a special dining experience, Lorenzen invites guests to dress in the appropriate attire of the turn of the 20th century. You’ll find ideas on the history of fashion and dress at costumes.org.
“Escoffier published his master work in 1903, so as a nod to this period of culinary history, any customer who dresses in the appropriate attire of 1903 France will be presented with an additonal canapé and the wine pairing at no extra cost,” Lorenzen explained, adding, “Please no street riff-raff, Gavroches will be escorted into the kitchen to turn mushrooms and attend to the duties of ‘Le Plonguer.’ Our staff is very excited about this series of meals and we look forward to seeing the creative costumes.”
SLO County Restaurant Month
Participating Restaurants listed by city:
Gardens of Avila, Sycamore Mineral Springs
Old Custom House
Black Cat Bistro
Cass House Restaurant
Hoppe’s Bistro & Wine Bar
The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar
Rose’s Landing Steak & Seafood
Windows on the Water
Enoteca Restaurant & Bar
Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse
Thomas Hill Organics Market Bistro
Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana
Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort
Marisol at Cliffs Resort
F. McLintocks Dining Saloon
Steamers of Pismo
San Luis Obispo
Big Sky Café
Copper Café at Madonna Inn
Gennaro’s Grill & Garden
Greenhouse Grill & Café at Embassy Suites
Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse
Meze Wine Café & Market
SLO Brewing Co.
Splash Café Artisan Bakery
Plan your dining by visiting sanluisobispocounty.com, click on restaurant month to see the list of restaurants and some of the menus, or call the SLOVCB at 1-800-634-1414.
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at email@example.com.