Reasonable Eats…

While there are lots of fancy and expensive restaurants on the waterfront, patronized by tourists and sometimes by locals for special occasions, much has already been written about them. Like many coastal tourist destinations, dining in Morro Bay can be expensive, so I want to share with you some of my favorite small, independent places for eats. These are the places where you can grab some takeout without running up the credit card on the nights you don’t feel like cooking or are coming from the beach wet and sandy, the kind of places where the locals eat, where kids are welcome.

Since I didn’t start blogging until recently, I don’t have food photos for most of them. I know of a few other eateries that should probably be included here, but I’ve run out of time to try them,so their absence here doesn’t mean they’re not worthy, just that I didn’t get there before leaving–maybe next year.

In any locale, when assembling a list of go-to eateries, one must always have a place to get a good pizza. We found ours pretty quickly, Pizza Port. My friends in Ilwaco, WA, Tom and Judy,  will back me up on this: this is seriously wonderful pizza. The pizza is hand-tossed, a crust  that’s such a perfect combo of crispy and chewy that I’m grateful when the Mister tosses me his pizza bones; I’d even sit-stay for them! The sauce is fresh and rich with herbs and they always use just the right amount. Our standard order is half double pepperoni and half Laguna: mushrooms, olives, onions and artichokes. I snuggle it into a zipped fleece jacket and carefully carry it home.   Hint: heat leftovers–if there are any–in an iron skillet the next day and the bottom stays crisp and tastes just as good as fresh.

Pizza Port

Pizza Port

Mid-afternoon. Evenings this place is packed

Mid-afternoon. Evenings this place is packed

Outdoor Eating Area/Beer Garden

Outdoor Eating Area/Beer Garden

The central coast is famous for BBQ, and our little piece of BBQ heaven is Brickhouse Barbecue. It’s a fairly new, small family-owned restaurant in an old gas station that was previously a law office (the owner’s), but he’d apparently rather barbecue than argue a point of law. I don’t know how well he lawyers, but he’s in the supreme court of barbecue. Inside there are a couple of tables and also some outside where you can people watch while you eat, but we usually get ours to go, The meat is cooked outdoors and the kitchen inside produces their wonderful sauces, and sides including a very good coleslaw, succulent fresh green beans with garlic and parmesan, ranch beans and garlic bread. Try the strawberry chipotle sauce or one of the other interesting flavors. We each had two meals from our 2-meat platter and we still had leftovers from our second meal. The Mister marks Brickhouse down one star because they have no sausage.

For some good inexpensive Mexican food–and this is the real deal–at Taco de Mexico you’ll likely stand in a line that winds out the door but moves quickly. This family-owned restaurant dishes up fragrant tacos (carbon, carne asada,  carnitas or chicken), huge burritos and excellent guacamole. The chicken tacos have huge chunks of freshly cooked chicken, no bits of processed chicken here. The corn tortillas are small but piled high.  If you really like authentic, have a lengua taco, reminiscent of good street tacos. The Mister loved his enchilada. For a crowd, order up carnitas, carne asada, or pastor by the pound, or chile verde or colorado by the quart.

Taco de Mexico

Taco de Mexico (for Judy and Tom)

2450 (1024x768)For a different take on Mexican, Taco Temple with “California Fusion” food is well known to locals and travelers on Highway 1. I’d read about it before coming to Morro and finally got over there to try it on Monday night.

Taco Temple

Taco Temple, California fusion

Their specials always include fresh fish.  The prices may look high, but wait til you see what you get for the money!
2505 (1024x903)Oh, my goodness, scallop tacos?  With mango salsa? Decadent! We had meant to order one order of scallop tacos and one of crab cake tacos and split, but due to a miscommunication (ours, not our server), we both got scallop tacos which turned out to be just fine because they were too delicious to share.They were the largest, most succulent sea scallops I’ve ever seen or tasted and they were grilled to perfection.

Pefectly grilled scallops

Perfectly grilled scallops

Today we went back for lunch to try the crab cake tacos as Monday we couldn’t help ogling the heaping platters coming out of the kitchen. We weren’t as impressed with the crab cakes as we were with the scallops. For one thing, they were deep-fried and fried foods don’t like me.  Also, I don’t understand why they would serve them with a big crispy nest of fried shredded potatoes. And we’re spoiled for crab having lived on the Long Beach Peninsula in SW WA state., There the mister would go out crabbing and bring home enough crab to  make crab cakes with such big chunks of crab and without filler that they’d barely hold together.

Crab Cake Tacos

Crab Cake Tacos – just try to pick one up!

Those who know the Taco Temple would be disappointed if I didn’t mention the carrot cake. It was the biggest, densest, moistest carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. We got ours to go, and the single slice was so heavy I had to carry the take-out tray with both hands. It could have easily fed a family. Hard to tell from the picture, but it was easily 5″ high and 5″ wide at the outside edge of the slice.

Ginormous Carrot Cake

Ginormous Slice of Carrot Cake

In my last blog post, Books, Coffee and Gardens (continued), I commented on the Taco Temple sign which, for some unknown (at the time) reason, hangs above the koi pond at Beads by the Bay.

Koi Pond (the sign has a story)

Koi Pond  with Taco Temple sign

While searching on-line for an explanation, I was surprised to discover a news article from February 2012 reporting that Taco Temple had been raided and the kitchen manager arrested for transporting narcotics and was in jail on an immigration hold as a previously deported criminal alien. He was suspected of selling cocaine out of the backdoor of the restaurant for more than a decade. One never knows where a simple google search will lead or what goes on behind kitchen doors.

Today I called Beads by the Bay to ask about the sign. The story isn’t as interesting as my google search. It seems that Taco Temple was in Cayucos at one time and the owner is the former owner of Beads by the Bay. When Taco Temple moved to Morro Bay, the old sign ended up at the bead shop, where it hangs today over the koi pond.

For fish-and-chips, chowder or fish tacos, we like Dockside Too (known for its BBQ oysters) at the north end of the docks, away from the tourist shops and fancy restaurants.  We enjoy sitting outside and listening to a musician who plays and sings tunes that take me back to the years I can’t remember. You children of the 60s know what I’m talkin’ about. The ships dock right there to unload fish and the menu tells which captain caught it. There is a seafood market next door and The Dockside all owned by the same family, a local fishing family. (Dockside is a white tablecloth restaurant where we had a wonderful meal on Valentines Day with friends from out of town.) There’s s a third restaurant called Dockside Three which remains to be explored.

Another favorite place for both coffee and eats which perhaps should have been included in the coffee blog is the La Parisienne French bakery. I think this place has a magnet in the door that sucks people in.  If you are counting calories avoid this place as you won’t be able to limit yourself to their healthy salads or soups, no matter your good intentions. There’s outdoor and indoor seating where the walls are decorated with fanciful breads.

Bread sculpture decor

Bread sculpture decor

The breads are good and I often pick up a fresh loaf to have with a soup and/or salad dinner at home. They have an interesting selection of breakfast and other sandwiches on croissant or baguette; think shrimp, bacon and swiss or sauteed scallops, avocado and bacon,  Or how about a slice of crab and leek quiche?

Parisienne menu

Parisienne menu

The pastries look beautiful and unlike some, they don’t disappoint.Our downfall while we were here was swoon-inducing chocolate eclairs. If we didn’t inhale them, I’d have a photo.

Pastries and truffles

Pastries and truffles

I’m not a breakfast person but the mister loves big breakfasts. So far, he hasn’t been greatly impressed with breakfast here, none were bad but none knocked our socks off and most seemed just a little over-priced. There are still a few that we didn’t get around to so next year we may find a gem.

Another go-to place yet to be found is one for a good burger…no fast food burgers for us except our traditional In-N-Out visit when we’re on the road. .We spotted a diner-type place that looks promising, but we’ll save that to explore next year.

We have so come to enjoy this little town and the many delightful places within a few blocks walk.  We’ll have to readjust to our home in Oregon where delivery doesn’t exist and, there’s only one take-out place–the small grill at our little country store–but they do make delicious hamburgers!