Whether you seek seasonal soups, hanker for a hearty hamburger, or are dying for a divine dessert, Berry Hill Bistro will fit the bill.
Located smack dab on the park on Pine Street in downtown Paso Robles, its vibe is decidedly bistro, complete with a wide range of local wines and a full bar that allows the staff to come up with festive beverages such as a pink grapefruit martini. With just a couple tables outside and a little over a dozen inside, it’s the sort of cozy, welcoming place that’s easy to duck into to enjoy “comfort food with a modern twist,” explained owner Jody Storsteen.
Berry Hill Bistro opened in December 2003, and quickly made its mark with fresh frites, standout salads, and grilled panini. Among the favorite panini are a roasted turkey breast and brie with apple and cranberry chutney, a raspberry-chipotle chicken with sharp cheddar and spicy arugula, and a veggie with portabella mushroom, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and goat cheese.
Though these days they’re a ubiquitous part of menus nationwide, “back then, no one really did paninis,” remembered Storsteen. “I made an effort not to compete with anyone nearby, and I’m constantly in search of new recipes and new trends. I’m always looking for something different to switch up the menu, that’s the fun part, and we like to listen to our customers to see what they might want.”
For summertime, Storsteen is exploring the trend of “salads with fruit in them” — such as the recently debuted special featuring greens, blueberries and blue cheese with a housemade pomegranate dressing — though she already set the bar fairly high in that category with the Berry Hill Salad — spring mix tossed with apple slices, berries, Maytag blue cheese, caramelized walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette — that’s been a favorite on the menu since day one.
With a host of other salads ranging from a classic baby spinach salad with warm pancetta, to a Mediterranean with sun-dried tomato and Kalamata olives, Storsteen noted that “somewhere along the way we became known primarily as a place where ladies only go for a light lunch, but our plates aren’t dainty and we have a man-sized, half-pound burger. We don’t want you to go hungry.”
Many of the tastes do tend towards lighter bistro fare such as a wild caught salmon BLT, tempura shrimp, a turkey club, or the very popular artichoke bisque that’s only available seasonally. However, you can also opt for a 12-ounce New York steak with mush-room brandy reduction sauce, an Italian sub, calamari piccata, or “Fish and Frites” — fresh fish dipped in beer batter and served with the Berry Hill Bistro’s signature housemade french fries (also available a la carte with a trio of dipping sauces).
It would be far easier to use pre-made fries, but at Berry Hill they’re made from scratch.
It’s a time-consuming procedure — especially given the restaurant’s small kitchen — that involves hand-cutting the potatoes, soaking them to get the starch out, doing a preliminary frying, then chilling them and frying a second time to order.
“We try to make as much as we can from scratch, though I do use local bakeries for bread because they do such a good job,” said Storsteen. “We roast our own turkeys and chickens, make our own soups and vinaigrettes, and bake our own desserts, like the olallieberry-apple crisp or the chocolate Kahlua cake. I think you can tell that we try not to cut corners. I grew up with my family cooking homemade food, so I just think it’s important to have everything tasting like real food.”