When I tended bar, we didn't delve into the cocktails of the past. Now, I wished that I had dug up some of the old recipes and tried to make some of them in the 80’s and 90’s. There were bottles behind my first bar that we rarely used, like Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Cherry Heering and Maraschino liqueur. In the seventies, a few cream drinks were popular. Back then, the Brandy Alexander, the Grasshopper, the Pink Squirrel, and the Golden Cadillac were cocktails that were somewhat popular, but by the mid-eighties, these drinks were never requested. This is such a contrast to the drinks of the current year. The Good Lion featured drinks of the past, like the Aviation: gin, Crème de Violette, lemon, maraschino, or the Champs-Elysees: Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and bitters. These are classic cocktails of which most bartenders have no knowledge. With some of their drinks, The Good Lion used a house aperitif blend, yet most of their drink recipes were classic remakes and very good renditions, I might add. I was impressed to see a lounge with this focus and elated to see that they had an enthusiastic clientele that enjoyed them.
"It turns out that this is the only place that offers this drink list because the drinks were created in-house"
It was still early in the evening when we left Santa Barbara. I enjoyed having the experience of the historical cocktails that The Good Lion featured. After which, Ruka and I dragged our tiny house north along Highway 101 wondering if we could find craft cocktails and good cuisine in San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is a college town and has a much different character than Santa Barbara. Here again, the streets were crowded with people, but they are about twenty years younger on average than the people that walked the streets of SB. There were many restaurants, bars and several other shops along the main street that were bustling with business. Our search led us to a little place, oddly enough, called Sidecar. It's coincidental that we would run into an establishment of the same name as the bar we visited in San Diego. None of the staff at Sidecar, SLO had even heard of the other venue. There was absolutely no connection and indeed they had a much different focus and distinctly different motifs.
Sidecar, in San Luis Obispo, is a small restaurant and bar. Out front, just off the sidewalk, there were a few tables, which always helps draw attention to a venue and inside back in the left corner is the bar. I started my evening dining at a table outdoors. I began by looking at the small plates. I thought tater tots were an amusing item, but then I saw they were topped with smoked gouda cheese, chives and served with a house dipping sauce. Now that might make you think it's not a serious small plate menu, but it also includes a beef carpaccio, on grilled crostini with piquillo pepper and shallot jam. However then, I noticed the fried Brussel sprouts that are served with a garlic aioli, blue cheese, balsamic reduction, and fresh thyme. It was at that point that I realized that Sidecar serves very serious cuisine.
Under the Greens and Soup category, is a Caesar salad made with grilled Radicchio. But the other thing that caught my eye was the squash and potato soup. It's a cream and chicken stock base with roasted butternut squash, potatoes, gouda cheese, chili oil, and croutons.
Under the entrees section, they have some standard items like a half chicken, pasta Bolognese, a Sidecar Burger and a pork chop. I opted for the braised hanger steak. Everything I tried on the menu was excellent, but I wished I had tried the scallop risotto and the Green Zebra Lasagna which is made with Heirloom tomatoes, sliced zucchini, basil-pistachio pesto, pine nut “ricotta” tomato sauce and chives. Yum, that sounds great. This dish is vegan, pasta-less, raw and served cold. At Sidecar the cuisine has a contemplative quality.
Just as my entree arrived, I noticed that there was a space at the bar so I moved inside to discover their extraordinary drink list. It turns out that this is the only place that offers this drink list because the drinks were created in-house. The first drink on their list is called: Duct Tape, Super Glue, and Bad Decisions. This drink is made with avocado infused, Tapatio tequila, Behnaz tequila, Green Chartreuse, lime, pineapple, agave syrup, and Maraska Maraschino liqueur. Okay, that's a little unusual, but if you want to be the life of the party you must try something new. Or how about, Frank's White Ferrari, which is made with Fernet, Campari, half & half, and Clement coconut liqueur. Whew! So, if those two drinks aren't wild enough you should try the Just Like Sister Ray Said, Play On. This drink is made with Copper and Kings Apple Brandy, Amaro Montenegro, creme de cassis, Aztec chocolate bitters, and Angostura bitters, orange bitters, and a tobacco tincture. Okay, I’m diggin’ this place. Truthfully, I have never seen creativity like the drink list at Sidecar, SLO. You shouldn't be surprised if the drink you find isn't your cup of tea, but you may be even more surprised that the drinks they serve might become your favorites that you wish you could order somewhere else. Seldom have I seen the art of cocktail creation more uniquely developed than here at Sidecar, SLO. Here are some of the interesting ingredients they include in some of their cocktails, Frankincense bitters, black pepper tincture, hop infused oil, Schisandra tincture, myrrh tincture, celery shrub, Tamarind puree, Sarsaparilla bitters and jalapeno infused agave.
So, if you want to get your creative drink on, come down to San Luis Obispo and check out Sidecar. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. The place is awesome, the bartenders are friendly, and the service is very good.
Well, while I was off checking out this unique place Ruka was, of course, at home sleeping. I didn't have the heart to wake up my little snore baby. And well, there are more venues to visit, our next stop, San Jose.
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