The Cambrian

Centrally Grown recycles the old but takes a new approach

Andre Ponce, left, and Bill Lacy serve customers in the deli at Centrally Grown 
on Thursday, March 5.
Andre Ponce, left, and Bill Lacy serve customers in the deli at Centrally Grown on Thursday, March 5.

Centrally Grown’s long, second-story dining room is set for a “soft” opening Friday, March 20. But don’t expect it to be just like The Hamlet, the restaurant the new operation replaced. 

Centrally Grown is in a category by itself.

For now, the upstairs will be a combination lounge-bar and restaurant serving “small plates,” according to owner Dave Robertson. “We want it to be chic, funky and warm, all at the same time.”

A full-fledged, festive grand opening of the multimillion-dollar, totally redone building and grounds, with its gourmet market, specialized deli and casual café, should happen a week or so later, owner Dave Robertson told The Cambrian on March 5. 

But, in keeping with Robertson’s insistence on reducing the operation’s carbon footprint, those small plates could be ceramic or even wood, rather than plastic. 

“I hate plastic,” he said.

Also, “we’ll have everything we can on tap, including beer, wine and maybe even champagne,” he said, because Robertson’s also not a fan of bottles.

He plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with some menu items duplicated upstairs and down. There’s also lots of seating outdoors, some of it on artwork chairs made of wood or even compressed earth, or “Cob Earth.” 

The outside seating overlooks the jaw-dropping ocean view, the Santa Lucia range, the Centrally Grown garden (in which many edibles are grown in portobello-mushroom compost), or a sweeping circular staircase and a waterfall, which uses the pump from — you guessed it — the Hamlet waterfall.   

The eagle-eyed will find many Hamlet-esque touches throughout the new operation. After all, a cornerstone of Robertson’s elaborate reconstruction is his recycle-reuse philosophy. 

For instance, one door from the former restaurant (owned by Norm and Maggie Hamlet and Roy Ford, all of whom have died) has been adapted into the larger front door of the new upstairs lounge-bar-eatery. 

Another door has been worked into a table at the Off The Grid building, which provides a meeting-community room and shelf space for camping, gift items and art, including “Evan Savoy’s custom-built bird, dog and cat houses, including one incognito plan that’s designed to look like a dresser.  

Upstairs, The Hamlet’s former long bar top has been reworked into a classy horseshoe-shaped bar. Parts of an antique armoire were adapted into a back bar, and other armoire pieces will surface in other areas. 

Hamlet flooring was used for kickboards and windowsills, and the wood on the restaurant’s floor is reclaimed. 

Chairs and tables that were in The Hamlet before are being redone to be used upstairs at Centrally Grown, where the space can accommodate 155 people.

And amid all that green, environmental consciousness there are two automatic-open doors that help people going into and out of the market, perhaps in the latter case with arms full of purchases.

The market includes lots of locally sourced items. 

“Almost all our beer and wine is 805,” Robertson said, referring to the Central Coast area code, and as he walked along the aisles, among the products, he picked up this item and that, calling out the location of the San Luis Obispo County manufacturer, vendor or artist. He even highlighted a hand-done wood liquor flask. 

Just because Centrally Grown will be formally open as of March 20, however, work will continue, he said, and some operations could adapt to what the customers want.

Robertson also doesn’t plan to rest on his Centrally Grown laurels. He’s working on a contract to put a food trailer with a wood-burning oven in the State Parks campground, and he’s negotiating for a “prominent Los Angeles location that could open this summer.”

Centrally Grown is growing.