For SLO County residents, the dozens of hotels that dot the Pismo Beach shoreline are normally considered something for tourists. But locals and visitors alike will enjoy the hidden gem that is hostel at the pierthe restaurant and the bar.
The roof is best experienced on a warm summer night, drink in hand, admiring the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. I happened to choose one of Pismo’s signature cool evenings to make my visit, but sitting next to a comfy fire pit table kept me snug.
I started the evening with the Hotline Bling cocktail, a tropical mix of mezcal Vida, mango, lime and ginger beer. The smoky mezcal cut with mango sweetness was easy to drink – topped with a pink orchid, the drink was also visually appealing.
The bar staff here must enjoy a good pun, because One in a Melon (Midori, Hendricks gin, lemon, vanilla meringue cookie), Rum to the Hills (Copalli rum, Licor 43, passion fruit , coconut, lime) and Te-quilling Me Softly (El Jimador tequila, Aperol, watermelon, lime) are among the other fruity choices on the drink menu.
If you like hot drinks, there are also plenty of punny drinks on this side of the cocktail menu. Just Chai It offers chai-infused rum, Licor 43 and honey, while the Dublin Down! combines Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey with Dorda Sea Salt Caramel Liqueur and Mr. Black Espresso Liqueur.
Once you’ve browsed the drinks menu, appetizers await. Go for the ahi poke nachos, coconut shrimp, crab arancini, or barbecue ribs with grilled pineapple if you’re feeling the beach vibe watching the ocean crash into the sand. from your perch.
I opted for a classic: burrata with garlic confit tomato, pearl balsamic, micro basil and grilled sourdough. I assembled the perfect bite myself: a piece of sourdough; a layer of light and delicate burrata; farm-fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic; and topped with balsamic pearls (they look like caviar) and basil. It was fabulous and fresh.
Inn at the Pier’s new executive chef, Stefen Shatto, says incorporating the freshest ingredients into his dishes is an integral part of his culinary philosophy. He spent his childhood on a farm in Iowa, learning from his parents how to farm the land.
“My personal cooking style is all about flavor, color and season,” Shatto said in a statement. “I want everything I prepare to be exciting and interesting, even if it’s something we all know.”
This approach certainly shone with the burrata. It’s an appetizer I’ve ordered countless times at different dining establishments, but Inn at the Pier’s version of the classic dish was particularly memorable: from the quality of the ingredients to the fun twist of the balsamic caviar, the dish was my favorite of the night.
Shatto’s past experience in restaurants in Rome became evident when I tried his vegetable pappardelle. This type of long, flat egg pasta originated in the Tuscany region. Accompanied by smoked shiitake mushrooms, broccolini, candied tomatoes and basil pesto cream, it was a must.
Venturing into the high end American side of the menu, I also tried the angus beef burger. Obviously I had to go for the “hangover style” option – with an over medium egg, caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon (all my favorite things!).
For fish lovers, Inn at the Pier offers chilli-glazed king salmon with couscous, pepper confetti, mashed peas, citrus salad and furikake (a Japanese seasoning filled with umami in base of grilled sesame seeds and nori) or pan-fried sea bass on spring gnocchi, sun-dried tomato cream, lardons with bacon and micro basil.
The restaurant also offers many light dishes to choose from: salads, sandwiches and tacos. The seasonal winter salad looked particularly tasty, with butternut squash, apples, quinoa, kale, arugula, pecans and pomegranate dressing. The tacos come with a choice of chicken, steak or shrimp and are topped with chipotle creme and pineapple pico.
At dessert time, I had absolutely no room left, but I was still tempted to try the chocolate pie with hazelnut crumb, black cherry coulis and whipped cream. If chocolate isn’t your thing, there’s the hot bread pudding with cranberries, ginger, Madagascar vanilla and custard. Or stay local with a trio of Doc Bernstein ice creams.
“Chef Stefen’s creativity, experience and flair for culinary presentation is a perfect match for Inn at the Pier’s dining experiences,” Adam Marquis, president of Pacifica Hotels, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to offer our guests new and delicious menus at our hotel’s dining establishments.” Δ
Editor Malea Martin sips another Hotline Bling at the Rooftop. Contact her at [email protected].