Dining Out

Hoppe’s legacy lives on in Cayucos

New owners preserve the culinary standards set by the popular chef who died in 2010

Special to The TribuneSeptember 11, 2013 

  • Hoppe’s Garden Bistro

    78 N. Ocean Ave., Cayucos | 995-1006 | hoppesbistro.com

    Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (bakery 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

    The scene: A welcoming, fine-dining destination with seating options ranging from the white linen dining room, to the more casual wine bar, to the dog-friendly patio and gardens. (The bakery serves breakfasts and lunches.)

    The cuisine: Seasonal, local ingredients prepared with classic, from-scratch techniques.

    Expect to spend: Most lunch entrees about $12, dinner about $15 to $30, prix fixe dinners $35 to $85 (without wine pairings), three-course brunch $26.

It may have new owners, but don’t expect Hoppe’s Garden Bistro to change into anything different.

Long considered a Central Coast dining destination, Hoppe’s was originally launched in the mid-1980s in Morro Bay by Wilhelm Hoppe, one of the area’s premier chefs and one of the first local champions of farm-to-table fine dining.

When he moved his restaurant north to a historic building in Cayucos, his ever-growing legion of fans happily followed.

Hoppe passed away in November 2010, but his immediate family members vowed to carry the torch. They aptly did so until this year, when most decided that life held other adventures for them.

Fortunately for the restaurant’s legacy, Brendan and Amanda Fritzsche, the owners of Schooners Wharf (located just across the street), stepped in and bought the business as of May 1.

“They’ve not only got a strong restaurant background, but they also live here in Cayucos, and they didn’t want it to go away,” said Hoppe’s general manager Jeff Tolan, who came on board with the new ownership. “They felt it was very important to the community.”

As such, new owners have not meant changes to Hoppe’s.

The bright, high-ceiling dining room still sports the understated white tablecloths that let the food and plating shine. The front wine bar still lends itself to a relaxing occasion or an energetic gathering. The dog-friendly patio and gardens still offer a tranquil spot to enjoy a meal.

More importantly, the food hasn’t changed. The tenets of the menu are still fresh, seasonal, local ingredients crafted with a classic, from-scratch approach.

“Really, our ace in the hole in that regard is chef Jesus Almaguer,” said Tolan. “He stood right beside chef Hoppe for 14 years and learned every technique, every sauce, every plating.”

With its seasonal approach, the Hoppe’s menu will change accordingly, but longtime fans can expect to find stalwart favorites such as the Cayucos red abalone appetizer, a grilled flat iron steak with Parmesan, and bouillabaisse swimming with clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops.

Lunch offerings might include a Cayucos burger with Gorgonzola and prosciutto, a pizza Bianco with ham and arugula, or even seared salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes. Hoppe’s also serves a plated Sunday brunch with everything from duck-stuffed chile rellenos, to brioche French toast, to beef tenderloin with a Madeira reduction.

At dinner, you can start off with a shrimp and ahi spring roll with ponzu sauce, go to a warm goat cheese salad with citrus vinaigrette, and then tuck into pork medallions in a brown butter sauce.

Other dinner choices include prix fixe menus with three, four or five courses available with or without wine pairings, and the housemade desserts for either lunch or dinner might range from a decadent croissant bread pudding to bright seasonal sorbets.

(The Hoppe’s business also includes the bakery in back, which not only serves casual breakfasts and lunches, but also provides all of the freshly baked bread products for both spots.)

“I really couldn’t be more pleased to be here,” said Tolan, himself a longtime veteran of the restaurant business, most recently at Adelina’s Bistro in Nipomo. “Hoppe’s is definitely a fine-dining destination with a great history. We all believe in what chef Hoppe started — all the maxims he espoused are what we’re all trying to continue.”

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

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