While most Cal Poly graduates trade in their books for desk jobs, Trevor LaSalle and Eric Peterson took what they learned from their college jobs at A. J. Spurs and opened a restaurant.
The pair debuted the Guest House Grill in Atascadero earlier this year where they serve up barbecued steaks, seafood and burgers in a casual setting. The restaurant was renovated by the duo before opening and now boasts both booth and bistro tables in a cozy setting with a vast patio.
The Guest House Grill is still a work in progress, with some of its landscape barren and the outdoor patio in need of fixtures. But it’s been attracting local patrons who fill the restaurant regularly and often wait in line for a table. Lasalle and Peterson say they’ll continue to make upgrades as the weather gets warmer and will likely open for lunch in the future.
Currently the menu is filled with steakhouse favorites from fried onion strings to a “gut buster” jalapeño-infused burger to a classic rib-eye steak.
Before we ordered on a recent visit, our server brought us a few slices of a baguette to dip into a pesto spinach sauce. A nice change from the usual rolls with butter, the sauce was thick, pungent and refreshing with just the slightest essence of garlic.
For an appetizer, we chose the baby back ribs ($9), four tender and meaty ribs that are juicy and packed with flavor. Drizzled lightly with a sweet barbecue sauce, the ribs are a good way to enjoy some meat-off- the-bone without committing to a full dinner. The presentation was a bit stark — just ribs on a plate — but the taste made up for the dish’s minimal appearance.
The rib-eye steak sandwich ($17) is served open-faced on a toasted wheat baguette. the plump steak is topped with oozing provolone cheese hidden under a tangle of sautéed green bell peppers and onions. When folded, the sandwich is nearly too big to eat comfortably, so I picked up knife and fork to eat mine open-faced. I especially enjoyed the sundried tomato aioli, which adds a nice tanginess to the hearty sandwich. I was happy to see that it’s used for other dishes as well.
My sandwich was served with the choice of a house salad or daily soup, and I opted for the salad with blue cheese dressing. The chunky and creamy dressing is house-made, an excellent complement to the crisp pile of mixed greens, sprouts, tomatoes and bell pepper slivers.
The sandwich also comes with sweet potato fries that are both sweet and creamy, with a crisp exterior. Sweet enough to not need ketchup or another dipping sauce, they are a clever alternative to traditional French fries.
I also sampled the chicken breast ($16), which is char-grilled and stuffed with herb cream cheese. The chicken was admirably moist, and the cream cheese adds a nice touch, although this isn’t an overall interesting or enticing dish. The salmon tacos, seared ahi or pork chop with apple chutney may be tastier alternatives.
That said, I liked the chicken’s accompaniments — sautéed rustic vegetables including two varieties of squash and carrots. The vegetables were earthy, to say the least. The carrots looked as if they were freshly picked out of the ground with their long, stringy tips. Some diners might be put off by such authenticity, but I welcomed vegetables as nature grows them rather than diced and chopped and smothered in butter.
Desserts at Guest House Grill are simple but satisfying and include cheesecake, chocolate cake and a homemade cookie sundae. The wine and beer list are even better with more than a handful of beers — including seasonal varieties—on tap. Wines were mostly local with many decent bottles in the $20 to $30 range. Only a few cost more than $30 which makes this new restaurant an appealing place to enjoy a savory barbecue dinner with a nice bottle of wine on a warm spring evening.