Restaurant News & Reviews

Los Osos is losing the Sculptured Egg, but it’s gaining High Street Deli

Get a look at the Sculptured Egg’s chicken knick-knacks

Sculptured Egg owner Marlene Richardson talks about the closure of her longtime restaurant in Los Osos, California. See the quirky interior with its novelty items such as the "drunken chicken" and 1970s photos of the owners.
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Sculptured Egg owner Marlene Richardson talks about the closure of her longtime restaurant in Los Osos, California. See the quirky interior with its novelty items such as the "drunken chicken" and 1970s photos of the owners.

A longtime breakfast spot is closing in Baywood Park, but a popular San Luis Obispo sandwich-maker will take its place.

More than four decades ago, Jeff Richardson decided to postpone plans to pursue an architecture degree and take a chance on opening a restaurant across the street from the bay.

He dubbed it the Sculptured Egg.

For 43 years, Richardson and his wife Marlene, without kids or dogs, threw themselves into making the business thrive.

But recently, the Richardsons decided to retire and sell their property, which is now in escrow to the owner of San Luis Obispo-based High Street Deli, Randy “Doobie” Coates, who has new plans for the space.

“I’ve loved doing this and I thought I’d keep on doing it until I dropped dead,” said Jeff Richardson, 71. “But it was time to do something else. My perspective on life has changed.”

The Richardsons listed the 1,860-square-foot building for $799,000 on local real estate websites.

Deli and a restaurant

While details of the transaction and other specifics aren’t being revealed until escrow closes, Coates told The Tribune that he plans to open a High Street Deli takeout window in the back of the building with the same menu as the San Luis Obispo sandwich shop.

And he’ll renovate the front of the building for a future second restaurant of a different name and menu, “focusing on lunch and dinner.”

“We have plans to build a really cool deck, eating space with bay views,” Coates said. “It will be more of a sister restaurant to High Street.”

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The Sculptured Egg has been an institution in Baywood Park since 1975. Nick Wilson

Coates has owned High Street Deli, a popular spot for students as well as locals, since 2000. The business opened in 1927 in the railroad district. Coates will open another location in the San Luis Obispo Public Market at Bonetti Ranch on South Higuera Street this year.

Coates said that he and his family recently relocated to Los Osos and have become very attached to the community, and they “want to build something really cool out there.”

End of an era

The Richardsons and their restaurant have been a mainstay in Los Osos since 1975, when they moved to the Central Coast from Pocatello, Idaho, and bought the building at 1326 Second St. for $30,000.

The native Idahoans, who married 52 years ago when he was 19 and she was 17, got to know locals, tourists and regular customers, with Jeff working as cook and Marlene as waitress.

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Jeff and Marlene Richardson, owners of the Sculptured Egg, are planning to retire after 43 years. Nick Wilson

Jeff learned to cook from his mother, and the idea behind the name of the Sculptured Egg — referencing the craft of making an omelet and Jeff’s puffed up, artistic egg dish — came from his father, Max.

The couple filled the converted boat house with eclectic wall decor — of wild-eyed, “drunken chicken” figurines, a photo of Jeff with hair so long he “had to wear a turban,” and old-fashioned, framed golf clubs — giving the eatery a funky feel.

The business once had as many as 14 employees. But the couple worked best, including financially, when it was just the two of them, and they’ll end their careers that way.

The restaurant offers a variety of omelet dishes, including a $15 specialty chef’s choice, the “Design of the Day,” in which the customer is surprised with “a different omelet each day depending on the caprice of the cook, the stars, the weather, the availability of seasonal produce.”

Marlene described the atmosphere of “good conversation, good food, and a good time.”

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High Street Deli in San Luis Obispo is in the process of buying the Sculptured Egg in Los Osos. Joe Johnston The Tribune

But she also recalls intense customer debates over the opening of the Diablo Canyon power plant in the 1980s, and she wouldn’t hesitate to ask people to “take it outside” if things got out of hand.

In recent years, the couple also has observed more people thumbing through their smartphones at dining tables, which they find bothersome.

They have no timetable about when they’ll close and expect to simply shut their doors and hand over the key when all is done.

Marlene said that the lunch-and-breakfast restaurant business can be all-consuming and she and Jeff want to enjoy their retirement relaxing at home in Pismo Beach, earning some well-deserved rest after years of 5:30 a.m. wakeups.

“I’ll miss seeing the bay, and I’ll miss my customers,” Marlene said. “But I know there’s life after the Egg.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.
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