Restaurant News & Reviews

Sally Loo's Wholesome Café in San Luis Obispo offers lots to love

Jen and Brandon Manuele own Sally Loo's near Railroad Square on Osos Street in San Luis Obispo.
Jen and Brandon Manuele own Sally Loo's near Railroad Square on Osos Street in San Luis Obispo.

As residents of the Railroad Square neighborhood, Jen and Brandon Manuele often “wished there was a place nearby where we could get lattes made with organic milk, or food made from local ingredients, or …”

The couple had also frequently toyed with the idea of having their own café, so their dreams were put to the test this spring when a business became available on Osos Street, “30 seconds from where we live.

“We went back and forth about it,” remembered Jen, “but we decided we needed to do it.”

Thus, Sally Loo’s Wholesome Café was born, named for the Manueles’ wise and faithful 7-year-old pit bull that Brandon found abandoned when she was only 6 weeks old.

Aiming for the kind of neighborhood café they themselves wanted to frequent, the couple has created a warm, welcoming space with food ranging from baked goods to whole wheat waffles to seasonal quiches. There’s wireless internet access, works by local artists on the walls, a separate room with a conference table for meetings or study groups, and an eclectic live music schedule that includes monthly tango and Irish evenings.

In developing Sally Loo’s menu, the Manueles’ relied on their own tastes and on Jen’s experience at the coffeehouse her parents used to own in Cambria, The Rainbow Bean. Though she learned the basics of baking there, she’s now whipping up such unique items as strawberry black pepper scones and chocolate rosemary tarts.

“We really try to make something different,” said Jen, “and it’s fun to be able to experiment and have people enthusiastic to try it.”

Brandon added that “everything is made from scratch, right down to the quiche crusts, and we use all organic flour, dairy and eggs.”

Also, the baking goes on throughout the day, so there’s a good chance your maple oat scone, poppy seed coffeecake or apricot oatmeal cookie will be fresh from the oven.

(Among the few items not homemade at Sally Loo’s are the bagels from House of Bagels, one of the many local businesses and products the Manueles use. The list includes fair-trade organic coffee from Coastal Peaks Roasters, teas from Secret Garden and SLO Chai, and produce from the vendors Brandon visits at the Saturday farmers market.)

Obviously, any coffeehouse worth its grounds offers a dazzling display of barista brews, and Sally Loo’s is no exception.

All the usual suspects can be had, plus “Mexican Mocha” made with real Mexican chocolate, a black and white “Heidi Loo” drink named after a Dalmatian, a caramel-based “Silly Sally” created for Sally Loo herself, and a “Ray of Freaking Sunshine” which somehow involves zest of orange, a sugar cube, a shot of espresso and soy milk.

Within the next few weeks, the Sally Loo menu will gradually expand to include paninis, soups and — something Brandon is particularly anticipating — traditional malts, milkshakes and sundaes “that will be made with organic ice cream and real ingredients like strawberries, peanut butter and fresh mint.”

The paninis will have both vegetarian and meat options, while the hearty soups will probably include split pea, blackened salmon chowder and “a good old-fashioned bean soup,” said Brandon.

In addition, the café’s selection of salads will add some signature creations to the existing seasonal lineup, which includes varieties such as orange fennel and strawberry basil.

The enhanced menu is mainly due to customer requests, a voice that the Manueles obviously value. After all, “Our customers are all our neighbors,” said Jen, “and when they tell us that ‘we’re really glad you’re here,’ it feels good to be a part of that.”

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