Want to whisk your taste buds away on a worldwide tour? Just book a meal at Odyssey World Café in Paso Robles.
The Pine Street eatery was launched by John Hawley and Dawn Gregory in December 1997. Originally, the setup was that of an upscale, order-at-the-counter, grab-and-go deli with just a scant number of tables.
There wasnt anything like that in Paso Robles at the time, but customer demand soon began trending toward more sit and stay business.
Shelves of gourmet foods gradually gave way to more tables and plastic plates were replaced by china, but Odyssey didnt completely shift to a traditional sit-down restaurant.
We had to stop and ask, What are we going to be? said Hawley. We wanted to take the best of what you see when youre traveling trattorias, tavernas, bistros, pubs, cafés; casual places that are family-run and have really good food, but its peasant food. Almost anyone can make a rack of lamb taste good. I want to see what can be done with the lamb shoulder to take something like that and build it into big flavors.
Odyssey has achieved just that with its menu and its comfortable, casual ambiance.
Its really more of a gathering place where you can linger over just a bowl of soup or wholeheartedly tuck into a steak dinner.
While you still order and pay at the counter, your food is brought out to your table. As Gregory pointed out, this arrangement is especially convenient for people on their lunch hour because they dont have to wait for the check afterward.
As far as food goes, the nice thing about the World Café concept is that we can really go almost anywhere, said Gregory.
Indeed, the Odyssey menu calls to mind the stamped passport pages of a well-seasoned traveler.
From the lunch choices, you can order a Reuben on rye or a lamb gyro in a pita, a teriyaki stir-fry chicken bowl or a Bombay curried chicken salad, a French dip sandwich or Mediterranean three-olive pasta. There are also several side salads, such as Thai noodle and chicken Caesar.
The lunch menu is available throughout the day and evening, but after 5 p.m. theres also a separate set of heartier dinner options.
Go for fettuccine Alfredo or lasagna Classico, grilled salmon with lime butter sauce or half a rotisserie chicken, a bone-in rib eye or an Angus burger with caramelized onions and blue cheese. Those last three all come with a baked potato, and all dinner entrées include bread and your choice of soup or salad.
Daily specials stick to the global itinerary as well, and might include sole Veracruz, a Greek-inspired prawn kebab or slow-roasted prime rib, and house-made soups range from vegetable barley to cream of mushroom.
The Odyssey kitchen team makes just about everything from scratch, right down to baking fresh bread and hand cutting steaks from whole prime ribs, said Hawley. We dont make our desserts, but we get the best we can buy.
With Odyssey World Café in its 15th year, Gregory said that its all been pretty rewarding, and lauded the efforts of the entire staff, noting that a couple have been with the restaurant almost since it opened.
We try to have fun and give things a little twist.
Hawley agreed, adding that, really, there are three essential ingredients to this business: food, atmosphere and staff. Its like a three-legged stool. They have to all be good or it doesnt work.