Road Trip: Artisan in Paso Robles

Part of the pleasure of a road trip is the discovery of delicious places to fill our bellies. On our somewhat-spontaneous adventure to San Francisco this last week (to catch the final hours of the SFMoMa show on elderly design icon Dieter Rams, and, across town, the first days of the nascent star Miss Nora Woods) , we found such a place for lunch after our first night out, in wine country Paso Robles.

We were strolling the main square in town when we spotted Artisan. As he tends to do, Andy quickly consulted his palm oracle and one trusted site in particular. From Ireland to New York,  ChowHound has rarely brought about an unfortunate meal. The folks inside the joint certainly looked blissfully happy.

Artisan opened in 2007. Since my bi-annual family camping trips to Paso Robles ended sometime around junior high, I was now only really rediscovering how far this Central Coast enclave had come—including what was happening inside this bistro, housed in an Art Deco building and owned by brothers Michael and Chris Kobayashi.

Michael used to be in the music biz, and a crazy collage in the hallway to the bathroom features musicians baring their chests/breasts, from Lisa Marie Presley to Kurt Cobain. Kooky. The brothers have spent their spare change on a several better pieces in the dining room, including a trio of small Banksys, tucked away around the bar and which we noticed only when we sat down in front of them.

Chef Koby (as Chris is known) is behind the stoves and the farm-and-sea-t0-table menu, with his brother and siblings keeping front of house—though, in all honesty, we’re not sure if any of them were actually there during our lunch. The wait staff could’ve been family, at least by tenure: our fantastic waitress, who was an absolute gem with Nina, had been there since the beginning.

She certainly steered us right. While Nina indulged in an off-the-menu bowl of pasta and butter (and this was no standard butter), we took the waitress’s tip on one of the specials: a sandwich stuffed with fried oysters, poached pork belly and slivers of red pimento. A few bites in, I connected in memory to an oyster meal in London with my pal Serena Rees and her guy, Paul Simonon…here in Artisan, Paul was doing damage to his bass in an iconic black and white portrait in front of me. Yet another example of how small the world can actually be when it involves good food and travel.

Posted in Art, Food and Drink, Music, Travel

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