At Martin's, a tasty trio of cuisines

Special to The TribuneAugust 9, 2012 

  • Martin's Restaurant

    49 South Ocean Ave. Cayucos | 995-2626 | www.martinsrestaurantcayucos.com

    Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

    The scene: A casual, familyowned and -operated restaurant; larger groups can be comfortably accommodated; ask about the dog-friendly patio out back.

    The cuisine: The extensive menu offers Mexican/American for breakfast, Mexican/burger for lunch, and Mexican/Italian for dinner; local wines, draft and bottled beer available.

    Expect to spend: Breakfast $5 to $10; weekday lunch specials $7.50, most other lunches under $10; dinner entrées $11 to $19, individual 8-inch pizzas start at $6.50.

Feel like corned beef hash for breakfast, carnitas for lunch, or chicken parmigiana for dinner? You can get all that and more at Martin's Restaurant.

Located in Cayucos, Martin's (pronounced "Mar-teen's") is on the main drag about three blocks up from the pier.

Inside, the earth-toned restaurant offers a clean, casual mix of high-top tables and low booths. On the walls, you'll see surfboards, south-of-the-border artwork, and pictures suggestive of a trattoria.

That juxtaposition is a clue to Martin's menu — a successful blend of Mexican, Italian and American tastes.

All those cuisines are well within the talents of owner Martin Escobar.

Having worked his way up from dishwasher through the industry ranks, he opened Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant in San Luis Obispo and operated it throughout most of the 1990s. In 2000, he took over an established Italian deli and restaurant in Cayucos, keeping the menu just as it was.

However, about six or seven years ago, it got to the point where "the deli just wasn't working."

Escobar decided to try about 10 Mexican lunch combos, and they proved an immediate success.

As a result, Martin's has since phased into Mexican and American fare at breakfast, Mexican and burgers for lunch, and Mexican and Italian (plus a rib eye steak and some seafood dishes) at dinner time.

For breakfast, options range from pancakes to Huevos Rancheros, from bacon and eggs to bagel and lox, from Denver omelettes to New Mexican enchiladas topped with fried eggs. The side orders continue the combo theme with choices of toast or tortillas, beans or potatoes.

The Mexican dishes available throughout lunch and dinner cover all that's expected and more, from tacos and flautas to burritos, enchiladas and so on.

Other choices include Camarones a la Diabla (spicy shrimp), Chuletas a la Mexican (pork chops topped with grilled onions and green peppers), and a chile verde tostada served in a crisped-to-order shell. (Tortilla chips are also made fresh, in house.)

At 4 p.m. the Italian menu comes alive with pastas such as penne with meatballs, linguine with clams, or Spizatta — fettucini Alfredo with chicken and green peas.

Seafood and meat entrées include everything from a halibut steak to chicken Marsala, and pizzas and calzones are available as well.

The pizza dough is made from scratch, as is the focaccia bread and all the sauces, noted Veronica Mendoza, Escobar’s stepdaughter and one of several family members often on hand at the restaurant.

She added that “we also make different sauces for the dishes — the sauce for the enchiladas suizas isn’t the same as the one for the chili verde, for example — and we use poblano peppers in the chile rellenos for a more authentic flavor.”

Both Escobar and Mendoza admitted that taking such an approach to Martin’s sprawling menu is a challenge, but there are absolutely no plans to change that … or the number of options.

“We’ve thought of a smaller menu,” said Mendoza, “but everyone has their favorites on it, so what would we take off? In addition, the variety really appeals to people. “A family of four can come in here and all order completely different dishes,” she said. “Everyone’s happy!”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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