Dinner & A Movie
By Teri Bayus
I wish lunch would last forever. There is nothing more pleasing than a leisurely lunch with fantastic food, wine and company.
Lunch is always my biggest meal, as I only nibble and nosh for dinner. The new kid on the block in Downtown SLO is Mint+Craft Café and Mercantile. I was extra pleased to walk in and see one of my favorite chefs, Kristina Duffy.
She is a dazzling chef with many wonderful tricks up her sleeve. Mint+Craft is the fifth Central Coast eatery for owners, Robin Covey and Shanny Covey, who also operate Robin’s Restaurant, Novo Restaurant and Lounge, Luna Red and Café Fiero.
The fast-casual menu of Mint+Craft sources high-quality local ingredients for breakfast and lunch toasties, cassoulet-inspired dinner dishes, fresh deli goods, pastries, and meals made to go or enjoyed on the open-air patio. The mercantile features a curated collection of over 600 small batch, handcrafted goods sourced from over 60 artisans.
My first taste was the Shishito peppers a favorite, palette opening start for me. These were seasoned impeccably and wonderful to crunch. I went on to the Salade Nicoise, a treat I have not had since Pairs.
This was as pleasing to the eye as the taste buds, a beautiful combination of green beans, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion-caper relish, dukkah crusted and seared rare albacore, soft boiled egg, house marinated olives.
Sitting out side on the patio with a crisp Gewürztraminer wine, I was instantly transported to the City of Lights. My dining companion had the delectable Monte Cristo with an egg battered brioche, stuffed with baked ham, Swiss cheese, Dijon, micro mustard sprouts. I took one bite and came back the next day for one I could inhale myself with a bottle of crisp Rosé.
My next visit I tried the Saigon sandwich with spicy pickles, fresh herbs, nuoc mam (a Vietnamese fish sauce), sambal (Shrimp paste) aioli on Cubano roll, while my companion had the market vegetable cassoulet, a warm inspired clay pot of heirloom bean and market vegetable stew, with seasoned bread crumbs.
My sandwich was spicy and dense, the perfect amount of pork belly for a savory and tart combination. I had it with roasted white beets, pecan and goat cheese salad that was outstanding.
Mint+Craft Café is an exceptional choice for lunch in Downtown SLO and it has an assortment of grab and go items such as non-alcoholic beverages, local cheese, fresh produce, packaged snacks, as well as, a wine and beer shop.
I asked Kielly Lewis, the restaurant group’s assistant wine director, about her unique selection of wines and beers. “Our ‘wine + beer shop’ may be small and humble, however, the items selected are nothing short of extraordinary,” she said. “For our beer selection, there was no need to look outside of California; the wines, no need to look outside of the Central Coast. In all cases, we looked for smaller producers who take their craft seriously, yet offer up their products with levity and a bit of whimsy.”
Mint+Craft is overseen by Executive Chef, Shaun Behrens (of sister restaurant, Luna Red), who is putting a personal touch on breakfast.
With that I brought back three girlfriends for a Saturday breakfast with sparkling Cava and we were all delighted with our choices. I had the The French Connection with duck confit, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and spinach Hollandaise on a soft brioche. It was Heavenly.
We all shared a bite of each other’s meals, and my other favorite was the The Moroccan featuring braised lamb, market greens, California chevre, dukkah, and whole-wheat flatbread.
But equally good was The Eurasian with pork belly, spicy pickles, fresh herbs, nuoc mam, and a coconut-oat crepe, which texturally and aromatically blew all our minds. I would suggest you get there soon. I still owe Mr. Bayus a date there and will be doing that shortly.
The Grand Opening of Mint+Craft Café and Mercantile is on Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The café will host a number of vendor demonstrations, along with live music and free product samples throughout the day. Vendor demonstrations.
Mint+Craft is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Located at 848 Monterey St., in San Luis Obispo. Call them at (805) 632-9191.