Neon Carrot SLO
Anxious to try something new, I stopped in yesterday for lunch.
Located in smallish, casual, basically rectangular space in a strip mall, The Neon Carrot was swamped at the noon hour. Still sparsely appointed; the emphasis was on the food. There was a bit of a traffic jam at the walk-up order-and-pay counter, with too few menus to browse while waiting in line. (no posted menu board yet). You place your order , then step to the side (getting in another short line) and another staff member rings you up. The card capture machine is located behind the register area, so that slows things up a bit. Then you stake out a table and wait till your name is called, and upon signalling your location, your order is delivered to you on a tray.
The menu is small, but with something for every dining mood. Sandwiches and other savory items, soups, green and starch-based salads, housemade desserts, plenty of drink choices including beer & wine, and daily specials to keep things interesting if you're a regular. As people become familiar with the menu, I think things will speed up at the order counter. There was just a short wait for my burger order, less than 5 minutes. Condiments come on the side. The only minus was that I didn't check my takeout bag for the chocolate pudding I ordered. Sadly it was missing when I opened my take out bag.
All the staff were working hard and were very pleasant despite being slammed. There was palpable excitement in the room from both sides of the counter. Megan and her partner were working the counter and there were least 5 other staff in the open kitchen, with two runners. They were working as a well-oiled team.Good sign!
Just opened, the room itself needs some tweaking to soften it and bring down the high decibel level. (think: heavy--but very comfy--wooden chairs constantly scraping against sealed concrete floors.) I hope the owners will be able to add some noise absorbing amenties as things progress. It was so busy yesterday at 12:10, that I got my order 'to go' and found a shady parking spot on a side street across Higuera. With a serene view of the east hills, I relished my Hearst Ranch burger in peace. Great burger! Passed the no-moist-condiments-needed test with flying colors. Nice semi-sweetish challah-style bun which held up very well to the moist burger. Red ripe tomato slice, dark leafy green lettuce and choice of food condiments (I chose carmelized onions and Provolone cheese) made this a near perfect burger.
The hours and location will cater to locals who work at this end of town; it's certainly well off the beaten tourist track. The cafe is located on South Higuera, in area of town a few miles (3?) south of the downtown core, in a narrow strip of industrial/commercial/office that runs parallel to the freeway from Madonna Rd to Los Osos Valley Rd (and which includes a small area of retail , TJ's, Starbuck's, Foof Maxx). There are VERY few lunch food options in the area. I think it will continue to be the area favorite at the lunch hour.I can't wait to go again. Open M-F 8 am to 3 pm.