Attention to craft is what drives the vision at Sidecar in San Luis Obispo.
Originally opened in 2011, the restaurant/bar is now co-owned by Josh Christensen, who started there as a bartender and eventually became manager, brother Jeremy Christensen, and Chris Lee (also a bartender at the original incarnation). Though none have been restaurant owners before, all have extensive experience in the industry, and their combined résumés include stints in San Diego and Austin, Texas.
Sidecar’s décor now sports an understated yet urban look, and the space still benefits from its high ceilings and the ambiance imparted by the tall wooden bar at the back of the restaurant.
Though the majority of the seating is inside, when weather allows it, there are several tables near the front that take full advantage of an open-air concept along the sidewalk.
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The new owners kept the underlying farm-to-table approach on the menu, steering it in “a gastropub direction,” explained Josh Christensen. “We wanted to focus on things that were good to eat with drinks, but the food certainly doesn’t need alcohol to match with it.”
The result was a focused combination of both small plates and hearty entrées.
Noshes include bar bites such as tater tots with housemade dressings, California deviled eggs with bacon and jalapeño, and fried Brussels sprouts with garlic aioli and balsamic reduction. Other, smaller options are an arugula salad with watermelon and cherry tomatoes, baked potato soup with cheddar cheese and pork belly tacos with Asian slaw and a sesame/ginger glaze.
Entrées run the gamut from a roasted porchetta (pork loin wrapped with pork belly) with noodles, to the Sidecar burger with smoked mozzarella and caramelized onions, to a wild mushroom risotto with pancetta and leeks.
The menu also features a daily fish special and a daily “market cut” of meat that might be short ribs or even a whopping 32-ounce, bone-in ribeye known as a “tomahawk.”
“We wanted to offer some impressive proteins,” said Christensen, “and this way we can really utilize local ranchers — they can get us a lot of great cuts of meat, just not always the same ones every day.”
That said, Sidecar definitely wants to “still be inclusive of vegetarians and vegans. We’d hate to have a group of people come in and have a friend or two that can’t get anything on the menu.”
Currently, there’s a vegan hash made with squash, black beans and oyster mushrooms, as well as a pasta-less “lasagna” made with heirloom tomatoes.
The menu will have some seasonal changes throughout the year, and there will be some new lighter vegan/vegetarian options for brunch (which currently features items such as pozole, chicken and waffles, and several benedicts).
Christensen noted that “we have a great collaboration with our chefs, executive chef Ryan Hernandez and sous chef Edward Ruiz. We tell them we’re thinking of something and they just run with it.”
Sidecar’s bar program is equally inventive. Opt for such creations as a Smoke and Fire with house-infused mezcal, a Blinker with rye and grapefruit, or a Cable Car with spiced rum and orange liqueur.
Riffs on classics such as a Corpse Reviver, gimlets and — of course — a Sidecar are also available, and brunch sports six different bloody Marys. The taps rotate with craft beers, and the wine list uncorks a good mix of locals and imports.
“We want to keep it simple, not offer a million different things, but be really good at a few things,” Christensen said. “We want to be as good as we can be as a restaurant, as a team.”
1127 Broad St., San Luis Obispo | 540-5340 | sidecarslo.com
Hours: Daily; Monday-Friday, lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., small plates 3-5 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, brunch from 10 a.m.; happy hour 4-6 p.m. (Closed for Monday lunch after the holidays; look for new earlier hours starting in 2015.)
The scene: A vibrant restaurant/bar with a welcoming urban feel.
The cuisine: A farm-to-table, gastropub approach serving up both small and hearty plates, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options; the bar program focuses on craft spirits and drinks.
Expect to spend: Lunch $9-20, dinner entrées start at $15, brunch $9-15.