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New Inn at the Pier chef Stefen Shatto's menu gives locals a reason to head to the Pismo Beach hotel's rooftop restaurant 

For SLO County locals, the dozens of hotels dotting the Pismo Beach shoreline are normally thought of as something for the tourists. But locals and visitors alike will enjoy the hidden gem that is Inn at the Pier's restaurant and bar.

The Rooftop is best experienced on a warm summer night, drink in hand, taking in the expansive Pacific Ocean views. I happened to pick one of Pismo's signature chilly evenings to make my visit, but sitting next to a cozy fire pit table kept me plenty warm.

click to enlarge CHEERS Enjoy a view of the Pismo pier with a drink in hand at The Rooftop. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF INN AT THE PIER
  • Photos Courtesy Of Inn At The Pier
  • CHEERS Enjoy a view of the Pismo pier with a drink in hand at The Rooftop.

I started the night with the Hotline Bling cocktail, a tropical mix of Vida mezcal, mango, lime, and ginger beer. The smoky mezcal cut by the sweetness of mango made for easy drinking—topped with a pink orchid, the drink was visually appealing too.

The bar staff here must enjoy a good pun, because One in a Melon (Midori, Hendricks gin, lemon, vanilla meringue cookie), Rum to the Hills (Copalli rum, Licor 43, passionfruit, coconut, lime), and Te-quilling Me Softly (El Jimador tequila, Aperol, watermelon, lime) are among the other fruity choices on the drinks menu.

If you're into a warm beverage, there's plenty of punny drinks on that side of the cocktail menu, too. Just Chai It features chai-infused rum, Licor 43, and honey, while the Dublin Down! combines Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey with Dorda sea salt caramel liqueur and Mr. Black espresso liqueur.

Once you've made your way through the drinks menu, the appetizers await. Go for the ahi poke nachos, coconut shrimp, crab arancini, or grilled pineapple barbecue ribs if you're feeling the beachy vibes as you watch the ocean crashing into the sand from your perch.

I opted for a classic: burrata with tomato garlic confit, pearl balsamic, micro basil, and grilled sourdough. I assembled myself the perfect bite: a piece of sourdough; a layer of the light, delicate burrata; farm fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic; and topped with the balsamic pearls (they look like caviar) and basil. It was fabulous and fresh.

click to enlarge INGREDIENTS MATTER New Inn the Pier Chef Stefen Shatto said his personal cooking style is all about flavor, color, and seasonal ingredients. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF INN AT THE PIER
  • Photos Courtesy Of Inn At The Pier
  • INGREDIENTS MATTER New Inn the Pier Chef Stefen Shatto said his personal cooking style is all about flavor, color, and seasonal ingredients.

Inn at the Pier's new executive chef, Stefen Shatto, said incorporating the freshest ingredients into his dishes is integral to his cooking philosophy. He spent his childhood on an Iowa farm, learning from his parents how to till the land.

"My personal cooking style is all about flavor, color, and what's in season," Shatto said in a statement. "I want everything I prepare to be exciting and interesting, even if it's something we're all familiar with."

That approach certainly shined through with the burrata. It's an appetizer I've ordered countless times at different dining establishments, but Inn at the Pier's take on the classic dish was particularly memorable: from the quality of ingredients, to the fun twist of the balsamic caviar, the dish was my favorite of the night.

Shatto's past experience working at restaurants in Rome became evident when I tried his vegetable pappardelle. This type of long, flat egg pasta originates from the Tuscany region. Paired with smoked shiitake mushrooms, broccolini, tomato confit, and basil pesto cream, it was a showstopper.

Venturing into the upscale American side of the menu, I also tried the angus beef burger. Obviously, I had to get the "hangover style" option—with an over-medium egg, caramelized onions, and applewood smoked bacon (all my favorite things!).

For the fish lovers out there, Inn at the Pier has chili-glazed king salmon with couscous, pepper confetti, pea puree, citrus salad, and furikake (an umami-filled Japanese seasoning made with toasted sesame seeds and nori) or pan-seared sea bass atop spring gnocchi, sun-dried tomato cream, bacon lardons, and micro basil.

The restaurant also offers plenty of lighter meals to choose from—salads, sandwiches, and tacos. The seasonal winter salad looked particularly tasty, with butternut squash, apples, quinoa, kale, arugula, pecans, and pomegranate dressing. Tacos come with a choice of chicken, steak, or shrimp and are topped with chipotle crema and pineapple pico.

click to enlarge EAT IN STYLE Inn at the Pier's The Rooftop offers a dining experience that's as tasty as it is beautiful. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF INN AT THE PIER
  • Photos Courtesy Of Inn At The Pier
  • EAT IN STYLE Inn at the Pier's The Rooftop offers a dining experience that's as tasty as it is beautiful.

When it came time for dessert, I had absolutely no room left, but I was still plenty tempted to try the chocolate torte with hazelnut crumb, dark cherry coulis, and whipped cream. If chocolate isn't your thing, there's the warm bread pudding with cranberry, ginger, Madagascar vanilla, and crème anglaise. Or, keep it local with a Doc Bernstein's ice cream trio.

"Chef Stefen's creativity, experience, and flair for culinary presentation is a perfect match for Inn at the Pier's dining experiences," Adam Marquis, president at Pacifica Hotels, said in a statement. "We couldn't be more excited to offer guests new and delicious menus at our hotel's dining establishments." Δ

Staff Writer Malea Martin is sipping another Hotline Bling at The Rooftop. Reach her at mmartin@newtimesslo.com.

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