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Central Coast / Paso Robles / SLO high end w/ veg options

I've searched the boards a little, but was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for places in the Central Coast area (staying in Atascadero, but will be visiting both SLO and Paso Robles and surrounding areas) that are willing to accomodate vegetarian and vegan diners (off-menu is fine and usually is better).

So far, I'm thinking of calling / checking out:

Big SKY (SLO)
Park Restaurant (SLO)
Buona Tavola (SLO / Paso locations)
Artisan (Paso)
Deborah's Room (@ Justin's) (Paso)
Matthew's at the Airport (Paso)
Hoppe's (Cayucos)

but would love some specific feedback about these choices as well as some other suggestions. Also, is 1215 (in Paso) still around? I couldn't find a website or phone number.

In addition to dinner places, would especially love some breakfast / brunch suggestions that have vegan options... extra points if they have something vegan that's not a tofu scramble, as well as lunch options that are informal but still tasty.

Not really looking for ethnic food as I live in LA and I imagine the options here are better.

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  1. I have a vegetarian daughter who lives in SLO. She gives high marks to Novo in SLO for dinner and Bon Temps Creole Cafe for breakfast. From your list I've eaten at both Big Sky and Buona Tavola, both times with my daughter and she was satisfied with the vegetarian items. I wasn't thrilled with Big Sky, but loved Buona Tavola. I have not eaten at Novo, but can vouch for breakfast at Bon Temps - not sure if your breakfast has to be high-end, tho. Bon Temps is not, but they make a mean eggs benedict substituting fried green tomatoes for the canadian bacon...yum! (it's meatless, but don't think it's vegan...sorry)

    3 Replies
    1. re: nancyhudson

      You can find a copy of the Bon Temps menu here:

      http://www.menuclub.com/californiares...

      The breakfast menu at Bon Temps is marked with a number of vegetarian items (marked "meatless") but I didn't see any vegan (probably because breakfasts favor eggs). The lunch menu (& perhaps the dinner menu as well) offer both meatless & a few vegan items.

      1. re: alanstotle

        Yeah - with the possible exception of the grits, doesn't seem like there are any vegan options there.

      2. re: nancyhudson

        Just had Lettuce wraps and Butternut Squash Thai Curry @ Novo on Friday night. Excellent. I find Big Sky to frequently be that kind of vegetarian food that gave it a bad name in the 70's....bland, underseasoned and uninteresting, despite the good sounding descriptions. Not a fan.

        Novo menu here:

        http://www.novorestaurant.com//script...

      3. Big Sky is the obvious choice for Veg and Vegan since that is one of their things. But I wouldn't really call Big Sky "high-end" dining.

        Artisan is quite nice and can certainly accommodate the requests particularly if you call ahead. The chef is quite talented and always has some good Veg (though can't recall if Vegan) options.

        Also on that level of high-end, I am certain both Bistro Laurent and Villa Creek can also serve you up something you will like. The VC quinoa and squash stuffed serrano peppers are one of my favorites. Though make sure since they also do one stuffed with Pork. They also do butternut squash enchiladas (though have to ask if Vegan is possible). But I would suggest the stuffed peppers, hold the cheese and put extra of the chipotle salsa on it (yummy). That and one of the harvest farm salads and I think you'd be good. Chef Tom could deal with that easy enough for you :).

        I am not a huge fan of Hoppe's or Buona Tavola though many like them both.

        1215 is gone and was a second outpost for Matthew's though I have heard much not so good things and it may be gone from there also. I haven't paid attention to it lately.

        Justin's is very small and could likely do something for you though it may be trickier and it is a long way out there unless you are staying the night at Justin.

        3 Replies
        1. re: BeachGrub

          Yeah sorry - I didn't mean to imply that Big Sky was high-end... I was thinking of it more for a quick & informal breakfast / lunch.

          Artisan seemed a little iffy about it at first, and mentioned that they use chicken stock in a lot of items... I was surprised because it seems they're pretty focused on seasonal and local food, and usually places that do a lot of that kind of stuff are pretty happy to work with simple recipes that highlight the ingredients. But after I talked to a second person there, it seemed like they'd be willing to do something for me.

          I had thought about contacting Bistro Laurent, though wasn't sure -- a lot of times French places are offended if you even dare to suggest they prepare something without butter. Villa Creek sounds interesting; the menu doesn't particularly appeal to me, but most of the reviews I was able to find are positive.

          Deborah's (at Justin's) seemed more accommodating, and indicated that they had handled this sort of request before. But as you say, pretty far out there (though there are some olive oil places out that way that I'm interested in checking out... any suggestions as to which ones are worth a visit?).

          Thanks so much for the suggestions so far... keep 'em coming. I'll try to post some thoughts after the trip.

          1. re: will47

            Artisan does use a lot of local purveyors and farmers. However, many of those are the very good local chicken, beef, and pork growers, as well as the other farm fare. It is nice but still in a farming community. I buy my meat from the same sellers as he does. But I know they have veg items on the menu and will work with you. Vegan is a lot less common in Paso but it is something they could do I am sure.

            For Olive Oil, I am a big fan of Pasolivo, but the tasting room schedule may be a bit iffy lately so you should call first. The benefit is it is on the way to Justin if you go vineyard. Also We Olive in town has dozens of the local oil makers and a large tasting bar, so you should be hit that as well.

            Have fun.

            1. re: BeachGrub

              Yeah - Pasolivo was one of the ones on my list, so I'll make sure to try and check that one out if they're open.

        2. Oh also, anyone been to The Park in San Luis?

          2 Replies
          1. re: will47

            Park is an excellent restaurant but I can't vouch for the existence of veg meals

          2. I enjoyed Matthews at the Airport very much - nicely creative menu - a real food adventure in a unique setting. They won and award for the best private plane airport restaurant so they know who they are cooking for - foodies.

            1 Reply
            1. re: glbtrtr

              I had heard that they closed the airport location and are just serving downtown. Anybody know?

            2. Thomas Hill Organic Market Bistro in Paso is another possibility, open for lunch and dinner

              http://www.thomashillorganics.com/mar...

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/607863

              -----
              Thomas Hill Organics
              1305 Park St, Paso Robles, CA

              1. Thanks for all the suggestions.

                Reporting back, as promised. Went to both AOC and Joe's while my dad was in LA during the week leading up to the trip, so might have been judging a little more harshly than usual.

                In short... Artisan was not-so-great, both in terms of the veg stuff they did for me (with plenty of advance notice) and in terms of their non-veg food. Despite all the stuff on their site about seasonal and local food, I feel like Artisan talks the talk better than they walk the walk. Full review and some photos of the food by my gf here:
                http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2009/...
                Everything *looked* great, but good presentation and miniature Staub cast iron really only gets you so far.

                Deborah's Room was much better overall, and I thought the chefs there rose to the challenge of creating an interesting meal without meat, eggs, or dairy much more successfully. The setting is maybe a little stodgy, but I think works well for their target audience, and it's nice to eat in such an intimate restaurant (and in such beautiful surroundings). The service was a little patronizing and syrupy, but other than that, we had a good experience. The pace of meals there is definitely a little slow, which didn't bother me, but definitely bothered a few of the other diners who were there. I think it was just hard for the kitchen (I think there were 2-3 chefs in the back total) to cope with 20 diners who were getting any of 3 options for 4 of the 5 courses -- all on the same schedule. Given that, I thought they did a good job. Doing a straight comparison of the food, I'd say the chef's tasting menu at Joe's in Venice @ $65 was better food for less money than the $90 prix-fixe 5-course at Deborah's, but of course Deborah's is much smaller and not in a major culinary center.

                We also went to Thomas Hill Organics for lunch one day; it was hit-or-miss. Some of the items were pretty good... the melon / cucumber gazpacho was the major fail for me... it was too sweet and not salty enough, and the texture was off - the solid chunks were all on top and the bottom had separated out and was all liquidy. My portabello sandwich minus the cheese was good, and the beet salad had good presentation but was a little too high-concept (and on the small side for $10-12 at lunch time).

                I'll try to post a link to the review and pictures of those two one once they're up.

                1 Reply