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A star rises in Atascadero 

Fig Good Food serves impeccable treats made from seasonal produce sustainably grown

click to enlarge EXPERTS :  Chris Dillow and Greg Perello have been wowing crowds at their new North County restaurant. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • EXPERTS : Chris Dillow and Greg Perello have been wowing crowds at their new North County restaurant.
I first read about Fig Good Food on Facebook, and many people were excited about this impressive new restaurant in Atascadero. I looked them up on Yelp and found such great quotes as this: “We have waited a very long time for a restaurant like this to open in Atascadero.” That certainly revved up my interest, and I immediately went over to check it out when I learned the chef is Greg Perello. I’ve known him and his wife Molly for many years, who owned and operated the popular 1865 Restaurant in SLO (closed, alas) and enjoyed many memorable dinners at their steakhouse. Now, locals are raving about fresh, Farmers’ Market cuisine Perello and his partner Christina “Chris” Dillow are serving up, and they are describing Fig as “a special find.”

 Fig Good Food is all about quality: fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms and artisans; freshly made foods—from the house-made pasta and freshly baked breads to the rotisserie roasted meats and seasonal fruit desserts. On my first visit, Perello didn’t spot me despite the tiny dining room. They were too busy cranking out the food to a lunch crowd that day. With only 14 seats, it doesn’t take many to fill the place, and its popularity is growing as their neighbors discover them. The good news is that they stay open all day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and it’s easier to get in at 2 p.m. They are only open Monday through Friday, but also cater and will accommodate private parties on the weekends.

 I ordered the linguini pesto, $10, which comes with two slices of toasty garlic bread, and it was deliciously impressive. One of my favorite dining out pals, Linda Lewis, came with me on that first visit. She ordered the tri-tip beef soup of the day ($4 a cup, $6 a bowl, $10 a quart) and a salad: poached pear with mesclun, toasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles, and sherry vinaigrette, $9. We tasted each other’s dish and thought everything was delicious. I must say, the sherry vinaigrette was excellent, made with a delicate touch that didn’t overpower the salad. She was only slightly disappointed because she was hoping it would taste like the prime rib soup she loved at 1865 Restaurant, but it wasn’t the same recipe. Nevertheless, she said she really enjoyed the new version. And judging by the responses of other diners in the tiny eatery that day, everyone was happy with their choice.

- FIGGIN’ GOOD::  Fig Good Food is located at 5945 Traffic WayAtascadero. - Telephone  460-9900.  FigGoodFood.com -
  • FIGGIN’ GOOD:: Fig Good Food is located at 5945 Traffic WayAtascadero. Telephone 460-9900. FigGoodFood.com
When I returned two-days later, the moment I walked through the door, delicious aromas of Rocky Jr. organic chicken roasting in the rotisserie greeted me. I hungered for it and thought I could devour the entire, tender little chicken.    During my second visit, I learned why that simple pasta dish was so delightful: Dillow has been making fresh pasta for 20-years with her professional pasta machine, producing spaghetti, linguini, and fettuccine.

Dillow formerly owned the Harmony Pasta Shop in the old Harmony Creamery Building (circa 1869) with her husband Dennis. They ran it from 1986 until 1993. She was also a manager at 1865 Restaurant when it was opened in 1973 by the Binkley family, who eventually lost it. (Molly and Greg Perello bought it in 1994.) When the Dillows closed the Harmony Pasta Factory, she took a job as manager at Big Sky, hired by founder and owner Charles Myers.

 “Charles taught me a lot about whole grains and cooking with olive oil instead of butter; he was a mentor in that regard,” Dillow explained. She worked with him 12 years before leaving to start her own unique restaurant. “It was time to start a restaurant of my own,” she smiled. “I had a premonition this would work,” she said of her concept for Fig.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Perello and Dillow didn’t start out as partners. She happened to be looking for a good location at the same time Perello was scouting the county for a new site. They ran into each other while checking out a former deli in Templeton. After discussing their plans, they decided to team up and build upon her idea for Fig Good Food. “It was serendipity bumping into each other,” Dillow said happily. “We’re responding to our clientele and the community and making adjustments according to what is available locally. We’re trying to be organic as much as possible,” Perello added. “We’re not going in a straight line up; we’re going in every direction with Fig.”

 Dillow was raised in Cambria where her mother opened the popular Café Porta Via. She and her brother Don Dockstader grew up around the restaurant business. When Dillow and Perello began preparing to open Fig, Dockstader worked diligently to get them going at Fig and helped with their catered events.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Dillow and Perello bring a lot of restaurant history with them, and those who previously dined in their restaurants will find many treats at Fig that bring back good memories. Perello’s Mediterranean salad of pasta, artichoke hearts, black olives, parmesan, and tomato vinaigrette, he explained, “is reminiscent of the 1865 house dressing.” He prepares a citrus glaze of orange juice, lemon juice, and ginger on the seasoned chicken, which can be purchased by the half, $7 alone or $10 with one side dish, or the whole bird for $12 alone or $18 with two side dishes. Perello also uses the rotisserie to roast tri-tip, leg of lamb, and other meats used in the delicious sandwiches and soups.

 Perello wanted me to taste several things, so he created a mini-sampler. I loved the chimichurri aioli roast beef with white cheddar on the house-made focaccia. The “Frenchie” sandwich, $7, surprised me: A combination of fig chutney, brie, and baby greens, it was both unusual and delicious. He also makes a tasty Cuban pulled pork, $9, with honey-apple slaw on their freshly baked roll, that’s yummy. I also liked the Tuscan sun sandwich of pulled chicken (yes, it’s the Rocky Jr.), sun-dried tomato, and tapenade with provolone melted over the chicken, $8, a house favorite since Fig opened.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Service is friendly and accommodating, although it’s a bit slow when they’re crowded. That’s to be expected when the kitchen is putting out such hand-crafted foods. I loved the house-cured olives, made by Perello’s mother, who’s 81 years old. My favorite side dish was Perello’s roasted and crusty rosemary potato wedges, $3, grown by Windrose Farms.

 “This is a great neighborhood, and we’ve been well-accepted by the city and by the locals. There are several art galleries down the street,” the passionate Dillow noted. “I want people to come and eat; even if they only have $5, they can get something good to eat.”

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com

 

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