New Times San Luis Obispo

Stay, dine, and hang at the new Cass House Cayucos

Beach shack revamp!

Hayley Thomas Cain Oct 5, 2017 4:00 AM

You can keep your dark days, bitter winds, and itchy wool scarves. Fall can only mean one thing on the Central Coast: Grab your surfboard, let's hit the beach!

This time of year, our coastline is blissfully abandoned even as temps continue to soar. If seaside strolls, epic sunsets, and salty bonfires are on your autumn to-do list, there's one particular beach shack you should consider cozying up to.

Photos Courtesy Of Cass House Cayucos
COASTAL COOL With a bakery, outdoor restaurant, event space, and five-room boutique hotel, the newly revamped Cass House Cayucos might be a game-changer for the coastal town.

I use the term "shack" pretty loosely here: Anyone familiar with the Cass House knows that it is, indeed, a beautifully restored home built by Cayucos founder James Cass around 1875.

Since then, this historic structure has been known as a garden-to-table restaurant and gathering place—and now, as the new Cass House Cayucos—fully transformed into a unique setting to stay, celebrate, and dine.

Under the guidance of current owner Traci Hozie of Brown Butter Cookie Co., the five-room boutique hotel hosts events amid the venue's dreamy, flower-scented garden.

That's also where the magic happens.

"When people first visit us, they assume the restaurant is inside," Cass House Director of Service and Marketing Jenna Hartzell said. "It's fun to show them that no, it's all happening outside."

That's right, folks. Across the street from the Cass House, a dirt lot has been transformed into the new Cass House Pavilion, a dining area equal parts coastal cool and artfully antique. Looking over an expanse of blue ocean, the vibe is chill and the food is satisfyingly simple.

"You get that feeling of being in the garden, yet you're protected from the elements," Hartzell said of the whimsical space. "We made sure to keep that attention to detail, creating a 19th century architectural space, with archways, pavers, and screens."

Photos Courtesy Of Cass House Cayucos
GATHER IN THE PAVILION Monday community nights are a good way to get reacquainted with the old house's new offerings. Expect lawn games, live tunes, and wood-fired food cooked simply.

Haven't been by yet? Community nights, held each Monday from 4 to 8:30 p.m., are a casual way to get introduced to this new hangout. In between challenging your friends to lawn games, you'll experience wood-fired eats you can grip with your two hands courtesy of Executive Chef Cory Bidwell.

Think charred Neapolitan pizza with fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella, or a ground strip loin burger topped with Irish cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, house-made Thousand Island dressing, heirlooms, red onion, and market greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

"Our custom made 6-foot oak-burning grill adjusts, allowing us to cook many different dishes at different temperatures. It's really great to sit up at the bar because you can actually watch the chefs cook the food," Hartzell said. "The focus is on local produce and bringing out the natural flavors of everything. Olive oil, salt, grill. Obviously, our chefs take great care in the food, but it's still very pure, very driven by the bounty of the Central Coast."

Into baked goods? An onsite bakery is open Thursday through Monday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring such glorious morsels as bacon and white cheddar egg tarts, lemon scones, blueberry muffins, popovers, sticky buns, and quiche. Grab a snack on the way to work—what's more casual than that?

If shaking things up is more your speed, live bands take the stage Oct. 16, 23, and 30, and Nov. 6, and Thursday Meet the Maker nights showcase local wines with appearances by the winemakers themselves. This Oct. 5 will feature the crafty minds behind Storm Wines, with sauvignon blanc, rosé, grenache, and syrah for the tasting.

This is relaxed, beachfront dining as it should be. No white table cloth, no snooty waiter, just the beauty of the coast and a welcoming bed-and-breakfast feel. You might even want to stay over for a night or two (just make sure you book a room in advance; they get busy).

Of course, the haunt is open for proper lunch and dinner, too; but If you want to listen to music, gather with friends, and have a beer, get out on a Monday and see what's crackling over the fire, and, more importantly, who's gathered around it.

"You feel the sea breeze, see the sun setting," Hartzell said. "It's just a really lovely experience."

The beach? On a school night? In October? That's so Central Coast. Δ

Hayley Thomas Cain's favorite sea animal is the otter. She can be reached at