Restaurant News & Reviews

The Greenhouse Grill & Café at Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo

A roasted red pepper goat cheese appetizer is accompanied by crisp taro chips.
A roasted red pepper goat cheese appetizer is accompanied by crisp taro chips. The Tribune

What do you think of when you hear the words “Embassy Suites”?

Obviously a hotel, then maybe conference facilities and banquet rooms?

What might not come to mind is a versatile restaurant serving everything from cheeseburger basics to filet mignon fine dining, including its fair share of sustainable and locally sourced food.

The Greenhouse Grill and Café enjoys a spacious spot in the middle of the hotel’s fourstory indoor courtyard. As such, it is open to the lobby and all the comings and goings of the guests, but the restaurant area itself still provides a relaxing and tasteful ambiance, complete with white linen tablecloths.

With ample parking, close proximity to stores, and a convenient location on Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo, it’s a perfect spot for group meetings, a light post-shopping lunch or a business dinner.

“We obviously want to focus on our hotel guests,” said Tim Hulburt, executive chef since January 2009, “but we also want to be here for the general public. A lot of people don’t associate us with fine dining, but I’ll put our food up against anyone’s.”

Hulburt backs up that claim with some 30 years of hotel and restaurant experience, 24 of them as a chef, most recently at such upscale, high-volume Vegas venues as Planet Hollywood Resort and Hard Rock Hotel.

In terms of his overall approach to food, Hulburt admits that he’s “big on presentation. I want ‘Wow!’ from the moment the server sets down the plate.”

Beyond that, he’s looking to “take fun comfort food and put an eclectic twist on it, like our seared ahi nachos (with crispy wonton skins, spicy cabbage and Thai peanut sauce).”

The lunch menu at Embassy Suites offers everything from light appetizers to heartier dishes. Start out with fresh soup of the day, chili lime hot wings, or some fried calamari strips served with crisp vegetables and chipotle aioli. A side house salad is available, or go for a Caesar or Caprese entrée salad.

The rest of the menu is rounded out with everything from a French dip to fish and chips, a pastrami sandwich to Alaska salmon over linguini, a turkey club to chicken paillard (a pounded, grilled chicken breast).

For dinner, a roasted goat cheese appetizer and salads such as baby spinach with caramelized onions or field greens with Stilton and Brie cheese join the starters lineup. Main entrées include a blue cheese crusted filet mignon, shrimp linguini, and a baked eggplant stack, plus seasonal specials that might consist of sesame plum glazed chicken, savory braised short ribs, or diver scallops with saffron potato gnocchi.

Hulburt noted that “all of our seafood is purchased according to an ecologically sustainable program (Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program), and we’re also trying to use locally grown vegetables as much as possible.” Additionally, Hulburt uses Hearst Ranch beef for the Greenhouse cheeseburgers and rib-eye steaks, and serves a pork tenderloin from Snake River Farms, an Idaho company similarly known for its attention to animal care.

“Overall, we’ve had a lot of new changes, but everyone’s been very receptive to them,” said Hulburt, who is charged not only with overseeing the Greenhouse menus, but also all of the hotel’s numerous banquets and room service details. “We’ve got a very consistent service staff and a fantastic staff of cooks that are very adaptive. It’s very easy for me to succeed when all the people around me care so much about what they do.”

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