If you’re in the mood for from-scratch Mexican dishes, check out Blue Moon Southwestern Grill in Paso Robles.
Blue Moon is located behind a plain façade on the downtown square, in a space most recently home to the Second Press restaurant.
Your best bet is to look for the hanging sign with the howling coyote. Often, a sandwich board touting the daily specials will also be on the sidewalk out front.
With touches of early Californian and Southwestern décor throughout, the stylish interior offers seating in the spacious dining area, at the bar or in front of the large windows in the bar area. A separate room that comfortably seats up to 14 is available for meetings and special occasions.
Owned by two Paso Robles residents — chef Miguel Figueroa and his wife, Dora — Blue Moon Southwestern Grill quietly opened in December. The couple had been living in the Los Angeles area, but when some local relatives told them the space was available, they took the leap to open their own place.
Miguel Figueroa has spent over two decades in the restaurant industry. While working his way up through every kitchen position, he also learned the in-and-outs of various cuisines.
However, for Blue Moon’s menu, he’s reaching back to his own culinary roots.
“As a kid in the Central Valley, I grew up with my dad’s cooking,” Figueroa recalled. “Every day was a different experience, a different version of his homemade Mexican food, and we were never disappointed.
“Here, I’m doing things the way I saw my dad do it.”
That free-wheeling style didn’t result in any family recipes, but it did instill an attentive, from-scratch approach in Figueroa.
“Everything’s fresh and made in-house,” he said, from chile verde sauce and meat marinades to several salsas such as pico de gallo and mango.
Some of the most popular items at Blue Moon feature those items. The fresh grilled fish tacos come with both salsas and a generous dusting of queso fresco. And, osso bucco lovers will appreciate the chile verde sauce on the slow roasted, melt-off-the-bone pork shank dish served with rice and beans.
Other menu favorites are tried-and-true Mexican dishes such as charbroiled steak enchiladas, ceviche with housemade chips and a shrimp chile relleno served with black beans and rice.
Several salads are available as well, including a tropical mango salad with charbroiled chicken and a seared ahi tostada served with field greens and a drizzle of chipotle dressing.
One thing that surprised Figueroa was the popularity of his steak dishes. All started out as specials, but found such a following that he has put them on the regular menu.
Among them are an eight-ounce filet mignon with blueberry reduction sauce and an aged ribeye with either housemade mushroom marsala or chimichurri sauce.
Figueroa still enjoys stretching his culinary chops with daily specials. Recently, he offered an island-inspired Jamaican seafood curry with shrimp, rock fish, scallops, clams and mussels steamed in curried coconut milk.
“I grew up cooking, and grew up to love cooking,” he said. “I didn’t learn things from a book. I’m doing what I do out of that love and passion.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Moon Southwestern Grill
Expect to spend: Appetizers and most salads $10 to $15, entrées $10 to $30.