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Meat prices are soaring, but SLO County eateries plan to provide delicious holiday dinners for all budgets 

If you've already started shopping for Thanksgiving dinner this year, you may have noticed two things: bare shelves and high food prices.

Shopping for the approaching holidays is shaping up to be a more difficult and costly affair, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc (IRI). The market researcher said in October that the latest data from its supply chain index shows high out-of-stock rates for Thanksgiving-related food categories across stores nationally.

IRI noted that stocks of all goods—baked, frozen, and refrigerated—have dipped to roughly 85 percent of standard levels. Supplies of frozen pies, cranberries, and stuffing are particularly scarce.

From September 2020 to September 2021, overall meat prices increased 12.6 percent, according to unadjusted data from the Consumer Price Index. While poultry prices rose a palatable 6.1 percent, pork saw a 12.7 percent increase, and beef surged 17.6 percent. Within the pork and beef categories, bacon prices skyrocketed 19.2 percent, pork roast jumped 19.3, and some products, including beef roast and steak, saw a staggering 20 percent-plus increase.

According to the USDA, the hefty price tags stem from strong domestic and international demand, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and high feed costs.

Here in San Luis Obispo County, restaurateurs are working tirelessly to offset increased product prices.

click to enlarge ROTISSERIE DONE RIGHT SLO Provisions in San Luis Obispo features roasted meats such as chicken, family-style dinners, deli products, baked goods, and wine and beer. Customers can dine in or carry out. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO PROVISIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO Provisions
  • ROTISSERIE DONE RIGHT SLO Provisions in San Luis Obispo features roasted meats such as chicken, family-style dinners, deli products, baked goods, and wine and beer. Customers can dine in or carry out.

"We are dealing with the high cost of meat in several ways," according to Steve Bland, co-owner of SLO Provisions in San Luis Obispo. "In some cases we have adjusted the prices of a few special items while trying to still offer value to the customer. We've also changed some of our specials from what might have been a meat-centric dish to another alternative. For example, last week we had a butternut squash ravioli special.

"While not necessarily the case with meat, we try to stay seasonal with much of our produce, so what's plentiful at certain times of the year will often be a better value," Bland added.

For Thanksgiving, Bland and co-owner Dwyne Willis will offer customers whole- and half-turkey take-out options with mashed potatoes, gravy, gingered cranberry sauce, rolls with salted honey butter, and a selection of side dishes and optional desserts.

The eatery will provide customers with everything they need "for a fantastic meal" at home, Bland said. "In most cases, all they have to do is heat. And if there's any cooking involved, we give them detailed instructions."

The last day to order is Saturday, Nov. 20.

"But we encourage people to order early because quantities on some items are limited," he added.

Meal pickup is on Wednesday, Nov. 24, from 3 to 5 p.m., as the eatery will be closed on Thanksgiving.

For customers who prefer to dine out, many other restaurants will keep their doors open for the holiday.

click to enlarge SAVORY SWINE White cheddar grits, apple-thyme chutney, and wilted greens complement the pork shoulder dish at The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar in Paso Robles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HATCH ROTISSERIE & BAR
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar
  • SAVORY SWINE White cheddar grits, apple-thyme chutney, and wilted greens complement the pork shoulder dish at The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar in Paso Robles.

"We see a number of travelers who are going from one place to another for various celebrations, and a lot of couples who don't want to sacrifice having a true, classic Thanksgiving dinner, but also don't want the hassle and fuss of cooking it just for two people," according to Maggie Cameron, co-owner of The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar in Paso Robles.

"Our bar just happens to be a good respite for those who just spent a long holiday with a lot of family and need to 'take a minute.' We make it festive and fun and cozy—picture a 'friendsgiving' vibe—so our guests can get in the holiday spirit without having to deal with the pressure, crazy relatives, culinary fiascos, or massive cleanup typically associated with big holiday dinners," she said.

Cameron and partner Eric Connolly recently opened their second eatery Della's adjacent to The Hatch and will be seating overflow diners there. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

The fixed-priced menu will feature tea-coriander-brined and grilled breast roulade turkey, autumn salad, savory bread pudding, mashed potatoes, French green beans, and pumpkin pie.

click to enlarge GIN FOR THE WIN Proprietors Maggie Cameron and Eric Connolly, and executive chef Cory Bidwell, center, helm Paso Robles eateries The Hatch and Della's. The Hatch dishes up comfort food and cocktails, while Della's specializes in wood-fired pizzas and a mix-and-match gin and tonic bar. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HATCH ROTISSERIE & BAR
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar
  • GIN FOR THE WIN Proprietors Maggie Cameron and Eric Connolly, and executive chef Cory Bidwell, center, helm Paso Robles eateries The Hatch and Della's. The Hatch dishes up comfort food and cocktails, while Della's specializes in wood-fired pizzas and a mix-and-match gin and tonic bar.

As far as dealing with product price increases, "we've established good relationships with our vendors and rely on them to give us notice when they anticipate price fluctuations of some of our more popular items," Cameron said.

"We absorb what cost we can so we can avoid raising and lowering menu prices, but ultimately it does become a shared expense between the restaurant and the guest. By and large our consumers are well enough educated to understand the 'why' when we increase menu prices from time to time."

In San Luis Obispo, Hotel SLO's Ox + Anchor, as a steakhouse, has been particularly impacted by high meat prices.

However, "the route we chose when dealing with the increasing price of meat was to source the best butchers' cuts we could find," said Daniel Rivas, general manager of restaurants for the hotel. "These cuts refer to our hanger steak, flat iron, and top sirloin. Instead of increasing prices, we expanded our selections.

click to enlarge BETTING ON BEEF Myriad steak options at Hotel San Luis Obispo's Ox + Anchor include prime New York, above, as well as prime top sirloin, hanger, bavette, Kobe flat iron, filet mignon, and rib eye. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • BETTING ON BEEF Myriad steak options at Hotel San Luis Obispo's Ox + Anchor include prime New York, above, as well as prime top sirloin, hanger, bavette, Kobe flat iron, filet mignon, and rib eye.

"We are electing to make ... in some cases a small loss in order to keep our prices reasonable. It all balances out if you manage to stay busy," he said.

Starting at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Ox + Anchor—as well as Hotel SLO's Piadina eatery—will be offering a turkey dinner, "with all the trimmings," in addition to its regular menu, Rivas said.

"Making a large dinner on a special occasion can be a big stressor with little room for error with how scarce products have been as of late," he added. "[With] dining out, that pressure comes off your shoulders and onto ours."

Many more restaurants throughout the county will be providing holiday dining options—Visit SLO CAL, the county's tourism board, will post a listing of participating restaurants on its website by mid-November. Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte is down for eating out. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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