Hapy Bistro – Pismo Beach, CA | Restaurant Review

Finding a Hapy Home

My search for the perfect Greek cuisine leads me from a Pasadena hole-in-the-wall, through the streets of New York to a wine bar and restaurant in Pismo Beach.

2008: Pasadena, CA

The front of house is about the size of my living room. A thin countertop runs parallel to the order counter, happy customers perched atop each available stool, with hungry patrons standing in line to their backs. Bodies are crammed in one top of another and all the tables are full. The remaining outside tables, situated on a small patio about the same size as the interior, are quickly filling up. The line — full of students, businessmen on lunch break, friends and local families — is rapidly growing out the door. A menu hangs over the order/pickup counter, but there is really only one thing to order…the kebab plate.

The plate is overflowing with different elements that work together to create a flavorful, textural, delightful meal: tangy tzatziki full of garlic; thick hummus nestled under a slab of warm pita bread; a rough-chopped Greek salad bursting with fresh tomatoes, cucumber and generous hunks of salty feta cheese. Rice pilaf spills over the dividers in the styrofoam container. And the juicy, perfectly spiced, brimming with flavor kebabs. The staff here furiously churn out one kebab plate after another, filling orders almost as fast as the line grows.

This is my favorite hole-in-the-wall Greek cafe off the main streets of Pasadena. This place has no front entrance. Enter through the back door, the one that faces the parking lot, not the street, and indulge in this experience.

It is here that I fall in love with this kebab plate, this cuisine, these flavors. It becomes a part of me, connecting with some ancestral thread leading back to my familial roots in the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. This is food that I crave deeply. I move away from Pasadena for college, never to return to this local gem.

2012: New York, NY

I’m living in New York during college, on a student’s budget and, of course, on a student’s schedule. Weekends consist of late night food runs, meandering back to the apartment after a night of exploration. Weekdays bring the desire for something outside of the norm of readily available cafeteria, as comforting to my wallet as to my hungry stomach — and stat! Speed is key in New York City, where everyone moves at a mile a minute.

Food carts are as integral to Manhattan as the horse-drawn carriages that gallivant around Central Park. Here, I find my next love of Greek food – the glorious Gyro sandwich.

Here it is — a perfect, handheld meal that holds, in my mind, as worthy of a rank as a burger or the quintessential New York bodega bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich. The glorious Gyro sandwich gives me all the best parts of the kebab plate in a portable, cheaper vessel. I don’t want to go to a restaurant for this here. I want the nearest food cart, the one that can make it the fastest, because I know, no matter what, it will always be this good.

After college I flee the harsh winters of the east coast in favor of my homeland, the sunny, perpetually dry land of the California coast.

2018: Pismo Beach, CA

Three and a half years into living in San Luis Obispo County and no glorious Gyro to be found. Surely, someone, somewhere has to open an eatery as a testament to the highlights of Greek cuisine. Where is my Gyro? Who has my kebab? My search continues, fruitless.

I hear of a new wine bar & restaurant that’s opened on Oak Park. It’s called H-A-P-Y. What happened to the second P? I don’t drink wine, and am apprehensive. Ultimately, curiosity grips me. I go.

Perusing the menu, I see lamb, beef, chicken, baklava, hummus and bacon wrapped dates! Could this be it? Could this be the Mediterranean paradise I’ve been missing in my life here on the Central Coast? I flip a page in the menu and see it — the kebab plate. One more — the Gyro. The glorious gyro.

And so I order. I take the chance. Will this be a worthy replica of the street Gyros of yesteryear? Craveable Greek food has yet eluded me here. That is, until I order the Hapy Gyro.

If first one eats with their eyes, I am already satisfied. The pita, impossibly soft and fluffy, yet withstanding the generous helping of lettuce, tomato, tzatziki and meat. I scoop it up and take a bite. Incredible. This tastes as good as the authentic food cart gyro sandwich found in the streets of Manhattan. And somehow, its better.

It’s better because situated in the offset corner of a retail shopping complex, this slice of Greek delight resides. Innumerable bottles of wine line the shelves behind and in front of me. Off to my right, a humidor full of cigars. The ceiling above the bar twinkles with the most creative LED light display mimicking the empty sky at night.

I leave, ecstatic.

Most recently, I had the Beef Kebab plate at Hapy, made with filet mignon. I chose for my sides Greek salad and rice pilaf. Again, simply incredible. The generous portions of beef on each kebab were at once, charred to perfection, kissed with the black lines of the grill, and perfectly tender, moist, easy to eat and completely saturated with spices.

I found the tzatziki pleasantly packed with fresh garlic, and the Greek salad leveled up from its usual three ingredient garb, dressed with capers and fresh baby lettuces.

Hapy proved itself two Greek favorites, the Gyro and the Kebab plate, with class, finesse and creativity. After this, I knew I had found my Hapy home.

+ + + + +

Hapy Bistro features a variety of dishes with Greek influence. We recommend:

  • Ahi Tuna Bruschetta
  • Bacon Wrapped Dates
  • Baklava
  • Kebab Plates
  • Gyro
  • Lamb Burger

You can visit Hapy Bistro:

  • Sunday-Wednesday 11 am – 9 pm
  • Thursday 11 am – 9:30 pm
  • Friday & Saturday 11 am – 10 pm

821 N Oak Park Blvd + Pismo Beach, CA + 93449 + 805.270.4327

https://www.hapybistro.com/

La Bodega – Pismo Beach, CA | Restaurant Review

La Bodega, (meaning The Cellar in Spanish) is a tapas restaurant & wine bar located in downtown Pismo Beach.

On a sunny summer Thursday night, the wait at well-known Giuseppe’s is 45 minutes long. Stroll down the block and across the street to La Bodega, an oft overlooked gem, hiding in plain sight.

La Bodega is fairly new to Price Street in Pismo, celebrating their one year anniversary this past April. The vibrant restaurant is frequented by faithful locals and curious tourists alike. Talented live musicians draw a crowd every Wednesday from 6-9 pm and Sunday from 4-7 pm.

Most recently, we visited on a Thursday around 6:30 pm, and it was relatively quiet, a few tables occupied and no more. Throughout the night, the place filled up as couples and friends alike wandered in for some delicious small bites and cocktails.

La Bodega’s menu changes monthly, highlighting local and seasonal produce. As a local foodie, I greatly support this monthly menu change, as it means I can come back time and time again and try something new!

The plates are small, as tapas should be. The lighter portions are intended to be slowly enjoyed between sips of your favorite wine, cocktail, or house special White Sangria. However, the ratio of each component placed on the dish is simply impeccable.

Take for example, the Layers of Dungeness crab cakes. The cakes stand tall, and are packed to the gills (pun intended) with fresh, flaky crab. They sit atop a bed of fire cracker slaw. There is just enough crab and slaw on the plate to eat together in every bite, and the perfect amount of sweet honey ginger sauce on the plate to drizzle on top. Nothing is leftover, and no bite must go without one component of the dish as a whole. This, my friends, is no small feat. Of course, it is up to you to eat with intention the perfect plate set before you.

The empanadas (your choice of beef or vegetarian) are a constant on the menu, and a classic in Spanish cuisine. As a first time visitor, start there.

Next, you’ll find an array of small protein-driven bites. On the July menu, we tried the Pork Tenderloin Bites, wrapped in Bacon served with a Cherry Port Reduction. With the feel of a five-star entree, sweet halved cherries adorn the juicy pork accompanied by fried polenta and the fresh crunch of green beans. Each bite so balanced it borders on the edge of bliss.

Order a signature flatbread, like July’s “Fig and Pig”, featuring Fresh Black Mission Figs, decadent chunks of prosciutto and a creamy, dreamy, goat cheese spotted bechamel base.

La Bodega is a tapas bar, one of high caliber, and to that end they succeed exceptionally well. A playful, unique menu full of quality ingredients, an extensive drink list and live music to entertain. However, dessert typically falls short of the standard the tapas plates set. It is a high standard indeed.

The tapas of La Bodega are playfully executed and wonderfully balanced with a flair for the experimental. Whether its in a drizzle of honey with a swirl of balsamic vinegar or the perfectly fried basil leaf atop a bed of burrata and warm grilled peach. Each plate is executed with utmost quality, crafted with a calculated consideration for each facet of the palate.

La Bodega has undoubtedly found its place in Pismo Beach — casual enough to stroll in from a day at the beach, comfortable enough to frequent with friends, and intimate enough to visit on date night. The atmosphere is as warm and inviting as the owners themselves, who make it a point to visit each table to ask -genuinely- about the food and your evening. They make you feel welcomed, and individually cared for. It is clear that La Bodega is a product of care and passion for quality. In that, they succeed exceptionally well.

La Bodega + 790 Price St + Pismo Beach + 93449 + 805.595.5400 + labodegapismo.com