Restaurant News & Reviews

Team behind Novo, Robin’s opens a hidden cafe in SLO

Chonuts — churros in the shape of doughnuts — are served with chocolate dipping sauce at Café Fiero in San Luis Obispo.
Chonuts — churros in the shape of doughnuts — are served with chocolate dipping sauce at Café Fiero in San Luis Obispo. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

It’s unlikely you’ll just happen upon Café Fiero. But it’s worth the effort to find if you’re looking for the “Fast! Fresh! Eats!” that its company tagline promises and delivers.

Drive south on Broad Street and keep an eye out for Fiero Lane, just past Tank Farm Road. The café is tucked at the back of the industrial buildings on that street, behind the FedEx shipping center. Formerly home to a couple of other restaurant/catering businesses, the location sports a small retail space, a relaxing dining area and a spacious commissary kitchen.

It’s that kitchen that caught the attention of Café Fiero’s co-owners, Robin Covey and Shanny Covey. The well-known restaurateurs established a firm commitment to farm-fresh cuisine more than 30 years ago with Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria. Their other projects under the umbrella company of Blue Mango Management include Novo Restaurant & Lounge and Luna Red restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo — as well as Mint+Craft Café & Mercantile, opening on Monterey Street this spring.

Mint+Craft will feature fast casual fare and retail space, but its small footprint lacks a significant kitchen area. For this new venture to work, the Coveys had to find a commissary space where food could be prepped for daily delivery.

“I’d been thinking about having a commissary kitchen for some time, but it was incredibly serendipitous to find this when we did,” Robin Covey said of the Café Fiero location.

The operation opened in December 2016 as a workplace for menu development and a way to streamline restaurant functions.

All the desserts for the Coveys’ San Luis Obispo restaurants are now made there by pastry chef Russell Thomas. The new kitchen space also gave Mint+Craft chef Nathan Clapp a place to fine tune that menu in consultation with Luna Red’s chef, Shaun Behrens, and other members of the Blue Mango team.

Then came the idea for Café Fiero.

“Since we had a kitchen, it just seemed natural to open the café,” said Molly Kiely, marketing director for Blue Mango Management. “If you work around here, there really isn’t an easy place to go get something to eat, especially the fresh, flavorful food that Robin and Shanny are known for,” she added.

Café Fiero is open for breakfast and lunch, offering easy grab-and-go and made-to-order items. The overall concepts are in keeping with the Coveys’ other restaurants: farm-fresh ingredients, vegetarian/vegan options and global influences.

Breakfast options include burritos with roasted potatoes, eggs from Cal Poly and cotija cheese, plus your choice of bacon, carnitas or veggies. Or go for an Egg Sando with bacon and tomato, Niman Ranch apple Gouda sausage and cheddar cheese, or sautéed veggies with Jarlsberg cheese.

The lunchtime menu features everything from bahn mi sandwiches, tandoori chicken wraps and Caesar salads to black bean tacos, BLTs and burgers. Deli salads are also available, as is the popular salmon bisque from Novo and Robin’s.

Though showcased at breakfast, chef Thomas’s freshly baked goodies — scones, croissants, muffins, etc. — are on hand all day while they last. Enjoy them with a cup of Café Fiero’s custom-blended coffee from Coastal Peaks Coffee in San Luis Obispo.

If you work nearby but can’t get over to Café Fiero, just keep an eye out for a stylish red-and-white delivery bicycle dubbed the “Food Trike.” In the mornings, it’s often stocked with an assortment of breakfast pastries that you can purchase on the spot. At other times of the day, the bike is used to bring online orders to individuals and special orders to neighboring businesses.

Considering that Café Fiero was merely an afterthought, its success speaks to the goal of all the restaurants in the Blue Mango family.

“This location is a great place to play and try things out,” Kiely said, “but for us it always comes down to giving diners they want.”

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

Café Fiero

709 Fiero Lane, No. 35, San Luis Obispo (behind the FedEx shipping center)

805-632-9100 or cafefiero.com

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday

The scene: A small café in an industrial park offering a casual dining space and options for eat-in or to-go.

The cuisine: Fast casual, farm-fresh items for easy grab-and-go or made-to-order; catering, online ordering and nearby delivery also available.

Expect to spend: Breakfast $4.50 to $7, most lunch items $7 to $10, grab-and-go and pastries $3.50 and under.

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