by Laura Gurreau
As the guide of the Paso Robles Food & Wine Tour, a stop at the Paso Robles Inn is a “must” for a variety of reasons. In that I’m a bit of a history nut, I’ve considered it imperative that I share the bona fide reason for the town’s existence … and it all winds nicely back to the hot springs and the stage coach stop of the same name. Later, this very successful and busy stagecoach stop renamed itself the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel.
On this location three hotels including the present day Paso Robles Inn have evolved since its start in 1864. The hotel’s rich and interesting history is mostly forgotten, except by those who chance the luck of peeking behind the present day facade perched staunchly on Spring Street. Note: even the name of the main drag in town alludes to the history of the town’s beginning: (hot) spring.
I’ve been to the Paso Robles Inn maybe 100 times since I started the food tour last year, and every time I visit I find something new and wonderful to capture my attention and imagination. I can honestly say people who have not ventured behind the structure that serves as the hotel’s check-in have no idea of the treasures that rest beyond.
In addition to wide eyes of surprise, the most frequent comment I get on our visit to the Inn is, “I had no idea all this existed!” As if unveiling a new treasure, with a wink of an eye and a knowing smile, I nod my head in understanding. As my guests gaze upon the luscious greenery, century old redwoods and olive trees, the meandering path through the grounds beckons them on to explore. However, first I say, “we eat – then we walk.”
As I turn my group toward the garden patio dining area, I witness another breath of “aaahhhs.” I guide my group to a welcoming table set with a white linen tablecloth, china and wineglasses. In fact, while talking and gazing at the gardens, our wine glasses are filled, now calling for us to sit and relax. Smiles all around … I can tell that once again the setting enchants.
I explain to my guests that by way of its exterior coffee house appearance, the Steakhouse is often undiscovered by visitors. But, I whisper, it’s a real find. Since Kevin Hyland was hired a few years ago to spiff up the food and beverage experience at the Inn, we’ve witnessed a whirlwind of enhancements including the hiring of Chef Kevin Fryburger, a new menu based on fresh, local product, and “chef gardens” growing an assortment of herbs and vegetables throughout the grounds.
If you were to ask either of the “Kevins” both would probably say that meat, particularly their Prime Rib is the highlight of their menu. And in all fairness, the Prime Rib is absolutely delicious (and what we serve on our food tour). However, I regularly frequent the Steakhouse with friends and have ordered an assortment of menu items and found all similarly outstanding. Below are a few of my personal favorites:
- The Iceburg Wedge – classic, simple, crispy fresh;
- The California Salad – a much better take on the traditional tostada salad. I love the spicy creamy dressing;
- The famous Prime Rib Sandwich – their spin adds aged white cheddar and fresh avocados;
- The Gorgonzola Grilled Chicken Sandwich – always a winner;
- The California Lettuce Wraps – this is mom’s favorite (and she’s a tough customer).
After dining and enjoying our wine, I rouse the group for our walk through the Inn’s gardens. The cooler and refreshing atmosphere is a treat as we wind our way through the green canopy of trees and shrubs. There’s tons of history to the grounds and hotel, but I’d spoil all the surprises if I shared them here. Just know that you’ll be pleasantly surprised and enchanted by taking the time to explore the hotel, its grounds, historic ballroom from 1891 … and most especially the food being dished out at the Steakhouse.
About Laura: Laura Gurreau is the owner of Central Coast Food Tours. A longtime 'local', Laura shed her career as a management consultant to follow her passion for food and wine. She enjoys meeting the farmers, chefs, winemakers and artisanal food producers who make Paso Robles a premier destination for fine foods and delicious wines. Laura can be found sharing her 'finds' with guests of her Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Farm-to-Table Food Tours.