When signs emerged of a new restaurant going into the space at The Carlton Hotel in Atascadero, it sent excited shockwaves through the community.
Though both had prior experience in the industry, owners John Shockley and Kimberly Ness hadn’t foreseen opening a restaurant when they set out on a road trip south from the Bay Area. They decided to stop in Atascadero, hoping to relax at the Carlton’s bar. Finding the business shuttered, they joked, “well, we’ll just have to open our own bar!”
Given the couple’s love of motorcycles, they harbored thoughts of opening a biker bar, but realized that a much different concept was right in front of them.
The elegant, high-ceilinged and well-appointed Carlton certainly wouldn’t need much, and it definitely had location going for it. Shockley and Ness added touches such as additional televisions in the bar and changed some of the seating to make it more workable.
Shockley’s at The Carlton opened its doors on Sept. 23, 2010, with the team further bolstered by the bar and restaurant management experience of John Shockley Jr.
At first sporting only dinner and bar menus, the restaurant began to settle into its identity, eventually offering holiday dinners and adding lunch just a couple of months ago.
Recently, all the menus underwent an overhaul, “offering more options, a wider price point range, and also a kids’ menu with fun stuff like mac ’n’ cheese and a small pizza,” said Ness. Though diners can still enjoy an upscale experience, “we didn’t want to be just a special-occasion place,” Shockley said.
The new lunch menu — almost doubled in size — offers salads, soups, pastas, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and oven-fired pizzas.
Among the lighter-fare favorites are the blackberry balsamic beet salad with toasted candied walnuts and crumbled goat cheese, the French onion soup, and the thin crust smoked chicken and smoked mozzarella pizza.
Heartier appetites can opt for the double club sandwich with aged Wisconsin cheddar or even the fettuccini Marco Polo with chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes in a curry cream sauce.
For dinner, many of the lunchtime soups and salads are available, and other starters include steamed clams and the striking Dungeness crab tower with avocado and mango.
Entrées run the gamut from chicken marsala to crab fettuccini, from sea scallops with black forbidden rice to top sirloin with jumbo prawns, and from a slow-braised lamb bolognaise cannelloni to a juicy brined double-cut pork chop with blue cheese mashed potatoes and a Brussels sprout-and-bacon slaw that will make you very willing to eat your vegetables.
The new bar menu still offers fun basics such as sliders, but now includes items such as oysters, hummus and baby back ribs.
In addition, Shockley Jr. will unveil several new drink creations using ingredients as varied as muddled red peppers, cilantro and St. Germaine liqueur. The bar already offers beers on tap (Stone IPA among them), several wines-by-the-glass from the extensive wine list, and hand-shaken margaritas made with fresh squeezed lime juice and agave nectar.
The restaurant’s team will be evaluating the menu every three months or so, and will continue to evolve the overall concept in response to customer input. The hope is to eventually start offering breakfasts, and definitely look for brunches on special occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day.
Of their first few months as Shockley’s at The Carlton, Ness observed that “we’ve really tried to listen to people, and we’ve come up with something that we’re pretty darn proud of.”