Jewel of India – Restaurant review

Tucked off the intersection of Broad and South Street sits an Indian restaurant cooking up family recipes from scratch.

jewel of india restaurant sign

When you say a restaurant is a hidden gem, it typically means it’s a place not many people know about, whose reputation does not do it’s food justice. In this case all of that remains true, though perhaps even more so in the fact that Jewel of India is not so easy to find. It’s not a restaurant you’d see walking around the streets of downtown. It takes a bit of seeking out. Though I think the journey makes the gem all the more precious, does it not?

We arrived for dinner at Jewel of India, met with an unfussy dining room and comfy booths. A wave of spice hits you as you walk in the door. It’s the kind of smell that makes you go, “This food is going to be GOOD.”

butter chicken
Butter chicken – a popular favorite.

Jewel of India is a family-owned restaurant, cooking up family recipes. When I say everything is made in house — I mean everything. Yogurt, sauces, paneer (a type of cheese), all of the roti (breads), curry and spice blends — it’s all handcrafted according to family recipes. Not only does the time, dedication and care shine through in the food, but it’s atmospheric. This is a homecooked, made-with-love meal that happens to be served in a restaurant.

The meal starts with Papadum, a traditional type of crispy bread dotted with cumin seeds. Enjoy them with the provided sauces, a spiced cilantro sauce and a sweeter sauce tinged with molasses.

Appetizers include Samosas as big as your fist, a platter of Onion Bhaji (a kind of onion fritter), and chicken pakora spiced with ginger and garlic paste. The Samosas are more than generous in size, filled with peas and potatoes. The onion bhaji are fried in sunflower oil, rendering them deliciously crispy without being heavy. No canola oil is used here, and Jewel of India’s emphasis on quality ingredients is a commitment you can taste.

onion bhaji and vegetable samosas
Onion Bhaji (left) and Vegetable Samosas (right)

For entrees the options are extensive, but the menu doesn’t feel overwhelming in size. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and the cooks are accommodating to any dietary needs you may have. Jewel of India uses a housemade almond, pistachio, and cashew cream base for their cooking so dairy dishes can be easily made dairy-free. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are cooked separately from meat dishes, ensuring utmost purity in every meal.

I enjoyed the Bengan Bhartha entree, fresh eggplant roasted in the tandoor over charcoal and then cooked curry style with fresh tomatoes. The depth of flavor, the layering of spices created in each dish is a cornerstone of great Indian cuisine, one Jewel of India executes with ease.

bengan bhartha and basmati rice
Bengan Bhartha and complimentary Basmati Rice

Now, I must say when we saw the small size of the entree bowls, we both thought, “That’s not very much.” I promise you, neither of us were able to finish our entrees. Don’t doubt their small size, the flavor is mighty and extremely filling! Order a side (or two) of naan to enjoy with your meal. Choose from butter naan, garlic naan, or my personal favorite, jalapeno naan.

jalapeno naan
Jalapeno Naan — Yes it’s as tasty as it sounds

The Pickle Tray is essential with every meal, including a chutney that can vary seasonally (we enjoyed the Sweet Lemon chutney) and a type of pickle relish, finely minced pickled vegetables that are at once bitter, savory and a hint sweet.

pickle tray
Pickle Tray – half eaten because I got carried away and forgot to take a picture sooner 🙂

For dessert, try Kheer, basmati rice cooked with sweet milk, cream, nuts and raisins or Gulab Jamun, freshly made savory cheese balls, deep-fried to a rosy brown in purified butter and gently cooked in light, rose flavored syrup. Only sugar in the raw is used in desserts, no overly processed white sugar.

kheer
Kheer for dessert

Truly, the only negative I have to offer is the fact that I didn’t visit Jewel of India sooner. Since every aspect of your meal is house-made, expect to spend some time at the restaurant. By no means is this a “quick dinner” spot. Instead, it’s a go-slow, try new things, and take time to savor type of restaurant. Serving up perhaps the best Indian food on the Central Coast, I believe Jewel of India is well worth the wait.

For hours of operation, visit the Jewel of India website.

Follow Jewel of India on Instagram!

The Unknown Mexican Chef

Sometimes in life, you meet a taco that changes you forever. One Sunday, in the parking lot of a country market, I met that taco. This is our story.

me and my taco
Just a girl and her taco.

On the Central Coast, there is a chef who simply goes by the name “The Unknown Mexican Chef.” Though primarily a private chef and caterer, once a week on Sunday mornings, he runs a popup taco stand outside the Los Berros Country Market. This is where I found the taco of my dreams.

At 10:45 am, 15 minutes before the stand opened, a line was forming. Grill’s burning hot, giant pots of beans and taco consume bubbling on the outdoor stove top. The scent, euphoric. For these are the tacos of legend. The Queso Taco.

queso taco combo plate with rice and beans
The tacos in question.

The Queso Taco is exactly as it sounds. Copious amounts of cheese are applied directly to the surface of the tortilla, which is then slowly melted before ~the flip~. Now, the cheese meets the surface of the hot flat top, searing to a crisp crunchy coating around the exterior of the taco.

Incidentally, I can’t eat cheese. My body just doesn’t tolerate it. So I ordered my Queso Tacos “sin queso” (without cheese). The result? Still totally, utterly delicious.

This, I’m sure, is because of the filling. Choose from carne asada, chile colorado (chicken), birria (pork), or al pastor (pork). My default is always al pastor, and this one one of the most delicious al pastor tacos I’ve ever had.

Thick chunks of pineapple provide a light sweetness to offset the rich pork, bites of onion and cilantro, the heat of the smoky chipotle salsa and a dash of acid from the squeeze of fresh lime. A perfect bite.

queso taco number 2 with beans and rice
Glorious Queso Tacos

I’ve tried countless tacos in my life, many off a taco truck on the streets of LA. This taco reminded me of those –authentic, delicious, made with love — but it gave me something more.

A container of consume (like a thin, saucey dip) in which to dunk my perfect taco. These tacos require a level of detail, the passion in which you can taste in each bite.

Too on the menu is a giant quesadilla. No, it’s not a cheeky name. It’s quite literally a GIANT quesadilla. Filled with your choice of meat, rice, beans, cilantro, and onion, it’s reminiscent of a burrito, flattened into a rotunda of tastiness.

giant quesadilla
The giant quesadilla

Finally, the pozole. Oh, pozole. Pork, hominy, that luscious broth. Top it off with some onions, cilantro and a spot of fresh cabbage. Like the tacos, and giant quesadillas, this pozole is worth writing home about.

pozole
Pozole topped with onions, cilantro, cabbage and a dollop of sour cream (not Daisy).

In this life full of turbulence, of tragedy and uncertainty, we must gather joy wherever we find it. I found joy in these tacos. This perfectly messy, dynamic, thoughtfully constructed food.

With food this good, The Unknown Mexican Chef is destined to become well-known before too long. Perhaps, someday, we’ll call him the Master Mexican Chef instead. These magical tacos, each made to order, are deserving of such recognition and appreciation.

If you’re on Instagram, give the Unknown Mexican Chef a follow. There I learned he is a man who cares passionately about his work, family, faith, and those glorious, glorious tacos.


You can find the Unknown Mexican Chef at Los Berros Country Market in Arroyo Grande on Sundays at 11 am. Check his Instagram page for more information about private parties and catering.

SLO Creek Farm | Activity in San Luis Obispo

Visit SLO Creek Farm for a fun outdoor farm experience. Orchards grow freely, abundant with organic apples ripe for the picking. Frolic in the flower fields that provide gorgeous photo opportunities, or take the chance to pick your own bouquet as a special gift for a loved one. At SLO Creek Farm, you’ll find something for the whole family.

Pick Your Own Organic Apples

I visited SLO Creek Farm in September, intent on picking my own delicious organic apples. Rows of apple trees line the south end of the property. Stop by the cashier booth to the north of the driveway entrance to pick up an apple basket then get to picking! Apples are purchased by the pound, so feel free to bring your own basket, bag or other container as well.

Holding a freshly picked apple in the apple orchards, apple trees grow abundantly on either side surrounded by tall wild grasses.
Freshly picked apple complete with beautiful apple blossom.

Tall wild grasses line the rows of apple trees. The grasses are easy enough to navigate through, though I do recommend wearing jeans or some other long pants, and boots or other shoes that can withstand moisture. After the apple picking adventure, we all wound up with a slightly sappy, seedy coating on our pant legs from the grass. It was a bit of a mess, made much less so by us wearing leg coverings (unlike Dad, who decided to wear shorts, unaware of the sticky danger the grass posed) however it was not enough to stop us from having a great time.

There were a number of families at the farm when I was there. Once you venture into the orchard, its easy enough to separate and find a few secluded rows to call your own.

These apple trees pose no particular threat to the vertically challenged. While over six feet tall, most of the fruit is easy to reach for the adult of average height. Most trees also contain low-hanging fruit within grabbing distance for the kiddos.

Overall the apple picking took maybe about half an hour — not nearly as long as other U-Pick adventures, like blueberry picking. The apples are large and heavy and it doesn’t take long to fill a basket to your liking.

Once satisfied with your organic apple bounty, head back to the cashier to weigh and pay for your loot. From here, it’s on to flower and herb perusing, with maybe a few to take home as gorgeous tokens of time well-spent.

Organic apples ready to be washed and eaten! Applesauce, apple fritters or apple pie are all equally delicious options.

Flower Fields Forever

Rows of dahlias, sunflowers, lavendar, pumpkins and more adorn the other side of the farm opposite the apple orchards. Flowers are available for picking (priced by the stem), but even if you aren’t planning on bringing any home, I highly recommend taking a stroll through the flower field. You never know, you may encounter a sunflower taller than you, with a bloom twice as big as your head!

Let’s be real — no matter how you cut it, 2020’s been a hard year for us all. What better way to feed your soul than a walk through a field of bright, joyous flowers. They serve as a small reminder that despite the hardships, despite the utter feeling of doom a day in 2020 can bring, life is still overflowing with small beauties.

Take a seat in this comfortable grass couch, kick up your tired feet and remember what it’s like to approach the world with optimism and wonder. If all this sentimentality isn’t enough to convince you, I’ll let the flowers speak for themselves.

You can visit SLO Creek Farms from 11 am to 5 pm at 6455 Monte Rd, San Luis Obispo. Visit their website for more information.

La Locanda Restaurant Review | San Luis Obispo, CA

all images via lalocandaslo.com

Off a quiet side street in downtown San Luis, La Locanda provides a quaint and relaxed dining experience.

The restaurant is small and leaves you feeling you’ve had an incredible meal at a close friend’s house.

We visited on May 12 (Mother’s Day) as a family outing. The pizza oven was in need of repairs and was inoperable for the night. Initially we were disappointed (we love pizza!) but as we browsed the menu and heard the multiplicity of nightly specials, all was soon forgiven.

To start: the burrata caprese, beef carpaccio and escargot. The burrata cheese was extra creamy with a hint of tang. Peppery arugula and sharp Parmesan cheese served as the classic complement to beef carpaccio. On a personal note, I do not eat escargot, however, those in my party who did highly recommend it!

Dinner was a mix of classic Italian pasta (Lasagne, Gnocchi and Cacio e Pepe) and French-influenced entrees (Duck L’Orange, Rack of Lamb with mustard sauce and Baked Salmon).

The pasta at La Locanda is fresh and handmade. You can truly taste the difference! Cacio e Pepe is a simple dish, and when done right like at La Locanda, simply irresistible. Sharp pepper, smooth cheese and fresh al dente tagliatelle. A delight!

The gnocchi is served in your choice of sauce, in this case a Gorgonzola cream. The pillows of gnocchi were impossibly fluffy. Lasagne is served with a whipped bechemel and bolognese sauce adding a layer of depth and richness. I recommend an order to share for the table, just to try it.

The special entrees were well-executed and equally delicious. For a first time visit, I highly recommend the pasta dishes.

Dessert was, like dinner, a mix of Italian and French influence. The chocolate mousse towered above all else, soft and rich.

For something out-of-the-box, try the poached pears for dessert.

We are looking forward to going back to La Locanda to try the rest of the menu — and a pizza or two!

La Locanda + 1137 Garden Street + San Luis Obispo, CA + 93401 + 805.548.1750 + http://www.lalocandaslo.com

Flour House Restaurant Review | San Luis Obispo, CA

Authentic Italian with a Coastal Vibe.

Flour House is unassuming — it’s name and dĂ©cor is simplistic, sleek and modern. A stark contrast to the food, which is, as a whole, vehemently steeped in Italian tradition, executed with compassion, care and obvious knowledge of the cuisine.

This place does not look like your run-of-the-mill ‘upscale’ Italian eatery, because, simply put, it’s not.

There is a bar complete with sports TV, where you may sit and enjoy a cocktail, and a fair-sized floor for table seating as well as a heated back patio. I recommend eating inside, primarily because of the two glass-paneled sections where you can watch the creation of pizza and the fabrication of pasta, respectively.

Yes, you can literally watch your pasta being made, pressed and carefully cut all before you eat it. Pizza making on display is not uncommon — but the making of pasta is a different story. The fact that Flour House takes the time to handcraft their pasta is something they should, rightfully, be proud of.

I recommend ordering like you really should at any Italian eatery — family style. Share everything, that way you can try more.

For four people, we ordered the Pane al Forno (pizza bread, basically), Arancini to share and the Carpaccio di Bresaola salad for starters. The Arancini was crispy on the outside and luxuriously cheesy inside, just as expected.

The Carpaccio di Bresaola salad was a highlight. Thin slices of Bresaola (wine-cured beef) topped with arugula, tomatoes, Parmesan and a light lemon pesto dressing. Refreshing, salty and absolutely delicious!

a meter of pizza at flour house slo
A meter long pizza, one of their specialties. Try different toppings on each section of pizza!

For Napoletana pizza, we ordered two: the Americana and the Capricoisa. Both were great, though I favored the Americana, with sopressata and basil. The pizza selection is generous, and there is something to satisfy everyone’s appetite.

A note on Flour House’s pizza: as the menu explicitly states, it is in the style of Naples pizza. That means fired in a 1,000 degree oven. The fresh mozzarella — a prerequisite of any pizza on the menu, clearly sitting at the edge of the pizza prep table, slowly draining in a giant colander — is left melty and moist, so the bottom of the pizza is not firm. It may not be what you are expecting, or used to, but it is how traditional Naples pizza is made. And in Naples, they are dead serious about pizza.

On to the pasta. You can try whatever you fancy at Flour House, but please, you must order the Paccheri. Handmade pasta stuffed with crispy cured meats (mortadella), a decadent cream sauce and topped with pistachio crumble. It is possible one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had — ever. Yes, I’d rank it next to the handmade gnocchi I ate in a back alley of Florence, Italy. It was that good.

In general, the pasta dishes at Flour House have a creative edge. Not your standard meatballs and marinara, Flour House balances Italian tradition with culinary creativity.

meatballs at flour house slo

But wait, dessert! The tiramisu was moist, with a perfect balance of espresso bitterness and sugary sweetness. The Millefoglie with pistachio and Chantilly cream was equally delightful.

millefoillege at flour house slo

Overall, Flour House was a worthy experience. The waitstaff was friendly and cheerful and the experience of watching our food made by hand was at the same time fascinating and familial.

One last note: order a Chinotto (Italian Coke). It’s a San Pellegrino beverage with hints of orange and anise. Palate cleansing and complimentary to the heavy cheese-laden Italian dishes, it’s as unique as the experience Flour House offers: classic Italian cuisine, prepared with respect for antiquity and just a dash of modern experimentation.


690 Higuera Street
San Luis Obispo, CA, CA 93401

Please visit the Flour House website or call directly for the latest COVID-19 hours, delivery, and pickup options. Thanks for supporting local!