A “gastropub” is a British term for a bar that specializes in serving high-quality food. They are on every corner in the big cities, but our area has just built the first one and it is called, “Mason Bar and Kitchen,” and located in the Village of Arroyo Grande.
At the helm is Mark Mishalanie, a stellar, culinary griller, who will appear on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” in March.
Using locally sourced ingredients (the menu will change with availability and even says “Weekly Rations” at the top), he has done his stellar rounds in other critically acclaimed kitchens, and Chef Mark is finding much inspiration with the bar infused menu.
They call it a country-chic atmosphere, as they used remnants of the former JJ’s Market — wood beams adorn the walls and there’s a creative use of Mason jars for lights and decorative style. With 25 beers on draft, an eclectic wine list, and only premium spirits, this is a place where creative cuisine meets exceptional libations.
Gary started with the strawberry rhubarb cobbler, served in a Mason jar with five-spice shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream and a strawberry-rhubarb compote that was a flawless combination of sour and sweet.
He was astounded at how good this was and moved on the Bourbon pecan pie, with a chocolate mint granache and topped with an espresso crème fraiche. Both were worthy of a return trip and deemed impeccable by Mr. Dessert.
I started with a Frog’s Leap Cabernet served on tap. This is the best way for bars like this to serve finer wines and I was elated. Then I went for the lobster corn dogs. You read that right — lobster tail meat dipped in a corn dog carnival batter and fried. Accompanied by a Creole remoulade sauce this was a happy circus in my mouth.
They don’t skimp on the lobster meat and the three skewers were astoundingly clever and delicious. I also tried a delectable soup, Habanero butternut squash bisque, with a honey drizzle. The sweet and hot flavors combined to make this the best soup I have ever slurped.
Gary then tried a barrel-aged cocktail. They are crafting drinks by mixing and aging the spirits in oak barrels. This allows them to blend and integrate harmoniously, giving them time to mature and smooth out harsh edges.
He had a “New Amsterdam Negroni with Campari,” made with New Amsterdam Gin, Carpano Antica and a smoked orange twist. He couldn’t wait to try more of these inventive and delicious cocktails.
We moved on to the Brussels, which are fried, sprinkled with cotija cheese, Fresno chili peppers, and avocado and a cilantro aioli swirled on the plate. It was wonderful and came with bread from my favorite farmer’s market vendor, Little Red Hen. Her sourdough surpasses everyone’s.
Next we had the Ahi Tartare with center cut Ahi, shaved fennel, cucumber and apples, with a ponzu dressing and a tomato reduction. We shared the double thick pork chop that was brined in sweet tea, sitting on a polenta cake with a delectable habanero apple and onion jam. We loved every bit of this new addition to the Village and the atmosphere, drinks and food make this a grownup’s wonderland that I will be visiting often.
Drop in where country meets chic at this casual, neighborhood gastropub, Mason Bar and Kitchen. Located at 307 East Branch Street in Arroyo Grande, at the corner of Mason and Branch. Open daily from 5-10 p.m. and the bar is open Friday and Saturday nights to midnight.