The Cass House Grill and Bakery has come full circle. Just as it was in the days of its founder, Captain James Cass, the Cayucos property is again abuzz with activity.
Perched across from the Cayucos pier, the captain’s house, built circa 1875, was restored in 2008 and turned into an upscale five-room hotel.
In 2014, general manager Traci Hozie and her family purchased the hotel and surrounding property. (Hozie and her sister, Christa Hozie, are the founders and owners of Brown Butter Cookie Co., also based in Cayucos.)
By June 2016, the Hozies had transformed an adjacent dirt lot into the Cass House Grill and a small, vintage beach cottage into the Bakery.
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The Cass House Grill features inviting bar seating overlooking the kitchen, but the main focus is the spacious, open-air dining room. Lofted ceilings and tasteful chandeliers add an elegant touch to the al fresco experience.
On chiller days and evenings, space heaters and large shades around the room create a cozier mood.
“It’s really become a gathering place again, which is one of the first things Traci wanted to create,” explained Jenna Hartzell, Cass House senior director.
That’s especially true during Monday Community Nights. Tables are pushed together for a relaxed ambiance, and a focused dinner menu is available to enjoy from 5 to 8 p.m. during the acoustic live music session. Some recent options were beef Bolognese with pappardelle pasta and smoked tomato sauce, and pizzas featuring pepperoni and vegetable choices.
From Thursday through Sunday, the main dinner menu expands to about 20 items, most of them showcasing the kitchen’s wood-fired oven.
An afternoon tapas menu is available Friday through Sunday, and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday.
The Cass House Bakery provides breads for the restaurant, as well as fresh-from-the-oven breakfast goodies Thursday through Sunday mornings. Choose from scones, muffins and biscuits, plus savory quiches and focaccia.
“The Grill’s dishes are all based around the oak-fired hearth and driven by fresh, local ingredients,” executive chef Cory Bidwell explained. “The grilling gives us the smoke and the char, so what I get excited about is providing contrasts and brightness and balances to that.”
Starters include charred broccoli with tahini yoghurt sauce and oven-roasted artichokes served with tarragon butter. Main dishes run the gamut from oak-grilled prawns to mushroom fettuccini with housemade pasta, from Moroccan spiced tri tip to Tuscan-style pork ribs.
Brunch features favorites such as quiches, eggs Benedict and a lobster roll.
A hearty chopped Cobb salad with housemade Green Goddess dressing can be enjoyed as an entrée or shared. The tapas menu features shareable plates as well -- roasted patatas bravas (potatoes), beef empanadas and pizzas.
The Cass House Grill’s farm-fresh approach also extends to Kirsten George’s beverage program, especially the seasonal mimosas with housemade syrups. Ten local wines and six select beers are on tap, and the well-curated wine list includes food-friendly domestic vintages and imports.
“We just really want people to feel welcome here, whether they want to come for a casual or dressy affair,” Hartzell said. “And it’s still such a lovely time of year to visit the coast!”
Cass House Grill and Bakery
222 North Ocean Ave., Cayucos
Hours: Dinner 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; Community Night Monday 5 to 8 p.m.; tapas 3 to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday; brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; bakery 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Closed major holidays and for private events.
The scene: A serene gathering place for special occasions or relaxed get-togethers.
The cuisine: Farm-fresh local ingredients, often grilled in the oak-fired hearth, plus local wine and beer. The bakery offers oven-fresh breakfast goodies and breads.
Expect to spend: Dinner $14 to $30 (or market price), Community Night $13 to $21, tapas $14 to $24, brunch $12 to $25.