Venue Review: Clubhouse at This Old House
This Old House has seen numerous restaurant tenants come and go through its creaky wooden walls over the past few years, from AJ Spurs to Pinky Carmine's. But the old structure nestled below Bishop's Peak on Foothill Boulevard has one thing that will likely never go away -- its ghost.
Owner Andrew Adams knew about the specter when he purchased the building and revamped it into The Clubhouse. He actually liked the place better once he found out about the resident spook.
But the chances of having a creepy one-on-one encounter with the ghost may be slim if Adams is successful in making it a local hot spot.
The Clubhouse is open daily for lunch and dinner, and the bar stays open until the wee hours of the morning with its array of live music, televised sports games and other festivities. A shuttle is available to take customers in and out of San Luis Obispo to prevent drunken driving.
I recently checked out the place on a Wednesday evening hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost while enjoying some good old-fashioned grub.
The Clubhouse has kept the rustic Western saloon feel despite its new amenities. A long wooden bar is an inviting spot to enjoy a beer brewed especially for The Clubhouse by Central Coast Brewing Co. or Firestone. Old lanterns add to the tavernlike ambience, but there may be a few too many -- it was a little brighter than it needed to be.
The dining room is the next room over, and it is a wood-lover's haven, with wood panel walls, wooden tables and booths, and wood fixtures. A large fireplace sat unused in the corner but could make a cozy spot to sit by when the weather cools down.
Dinner doesn't disappoint
Lunch and appetizers at the restaurant looked tempting and affordable, but I opted for dinner. With some entrees priced as high as $34, I was curious how This Old House would fare against some of the area's other barbecue eateries and steakhouses.
Appetizers sounded delectable, from the coconut shrimp ($12) to the chicken satay ($8) to the caprese ($8). I skipped over those, however, to try the warm chevre flutes ($7) and the baby back ribs ($10). The chevre (goat cheese) flutes were described as "gooey creamy egg rolls" on the menu, and the description was right on. I'd suggest sharing, however, because the strong chevre flavor in the wonton wrappers made for a rich dish.
The baby back ribs were juicy, tender and bursting with smoked oak flavor. The house-made barbecue sauce was tangy and spicy, making this dish an immediate favorite. A couple of ribs were on the pink side, a little too rare for my liking. Even so, these are some seriously tasty ribs.
Surf and turf
For the main course, I had a side salad with pesto basil vinaigrette and the Caribbean-baked tilapia. The salad was a mound of colorful vegetables including cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, radish and lettuce. The dressing was fresh and flavorful, making the dish taste healthy and satisfying.
The tilapia filet was encrusted in macadamia and coconut and served with a side of mango chutney and vegetables. The fish was fresh, light and flakey, and the sweet chutney made a perfect dipping sauce. Beware: The fish was listed as baked, but it seemed to be breaded and fried.
The goat cheese salad ($12) was served atop a bed of greens, sun-dried tomatoes, candied walnuts and basil. The flavorful salad was piled high and came with more goat cheese flutes, which I had already had my fill of.
A thick-cut rib-eye steak was covered with Provencal butter and came with a side of gratin potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The smoky oak flavors from the grill seeped into the meat, making it moist, tender and delicious. It was cooked to a nice medium-rare, but the the side of gratin potatoes could have used some spice and perhaps more cheese. The steak wasn't the county's best, but it held its own. Next time I'll likely try the prime rib or give the baby back ribs another shot.
There was little room left for dessert but I couldn't resist trying the apple tartlet served a la mode. The warm, crispy cobbler was a perfectly rich dessert to finish off an equally rich dining experience.
Well, rich except that I didn't see the ghost.
Reach Dawn Rapp at 781-7946.
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The scene: Old Western dinner house and sports bar
The cuisine: Classic American dishes including sandwiches, salads, steaks, and seafood