Tuesday, July 16, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 19
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Lompoc's newest eatery pushes the boundaries of familiar homestyle fare

NICK POWELL

Some weeks, you just need some ridiculously rich, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food to try and make the feelings go away. I’m not going to get into all the messy personal details here, but last week was just about my worst yet, filled with family drama, alcoholism, and deep despair. I’d never wanted a bottle of booze more in my life, but that seemed like a bad solution to this particular problem. So, I turned to my second-favorite substance to abuse: cheese.


Classic for a reason
Old Town Kitchen and Bar serves classic American comfort food with an emphasis on good service and quality ingredients. Stop by 319 E. Ocean Ave. for some good ol’ fashioned eating, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on daily specials.

TOPPED AND LOADED
This “build your own” macaroni and cheese got away from me right quick. Every topping sounded more delicious than the last, so I think I got it all tri-tip, bacon bits, fried jalapeños, caramelized onions, chicken tenders, and grilled peppers. What more could you want?
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

When I saw that Old Town Kitchen and Bar, Lompoc’s newest restaurant, served a “build your own” macaroni and cheese with a laundry list of topping options that no reasonable home cook would ever dream of piling on top of the world’s simplest side dish, I knew I had to try it. If this concoction couldn’t make my sadness go away, I might actually have to face my complex emotional trauma head-on ... dammit. 

For a minute, this dish did the trick. You simply can’t eat it and be sad at the same time. Its cheese is too righteous. Local psychiatrists should prescribe it for temporary relief, and Big Pharma should invest millions trying to distill its essence into a pill. But good luck. This thing had flavor for days.

It started with cheese sauce options—classic cheddar, Alfredo, basil cream, or sun-dried tomato cream. 

My wife and I couldn’t choose just one, but the lovely server didn’t make us. Mix and match, she said, so mix and match we did. We got the cheddar and the tomato cream, then we ticked off toppings like a pair of greedy toddlers sitting on Santa’s lap. Crispy crumbled bacon, battered jalapeño crispies, sauteed peppers, caramelized onions, chunks of juicy tri-tip—we got everything except for blackened shrimp, which is probably why the sadness came creeping back while I was licking my spoon clean. Whoops.


OOEY-GOOEY
Did I mention the cheese? Look at all that gooey goodness!
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

After all the add-ons, one bowl of mac and cheese cost us $25, but it was more than enough to fill us both and bring some home for later. And it was fan-freaking-tastic, especially the perfectly cooked and wonderfully seasoned tri-tip. 

Owner Tony Magaña told us his goal for the place is to fill a void as Lompoc’s only high-end steakhouse. While we didn’t try any steaks, it’s clear his crew knows how to handle some beef.

“There hasn’t been a steakhouse in town for a while, and people really miss it,” Magaña said. “The quality of our fillet mignon is excellent. You could cut it with a butter knife.”


KEEPING IT CRISPY
These heavenly Old Town Corn Bites are a unique appetizer of fried, cheesy corn served with housemade poblano ranch, plus a lil’ something spicy up in there.
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

Magaña took over the location where Lompoc’s last steakhouse used to live before it closed down in December. In the interim, he renovated the decor, creating a classy and comfortable atmosphere with black-and-white photos of Lompoc’s historic buildings. Magaña said that in the two months Old Town Kitchen and Bar has been open, he’s been working with chef Vilay Saikeo to streamline and simplify the menu. 

They offer local wines and craft beers to pair with a few entree options—chicken, steak, seafood, and pasta. The individual dish descriptions sound utterly delicious, and the waitstaff was incredibly friendly and helpful. I’ll definitely be back for a proper dinner.


DIVINE WITH WINE
I didn’t eat this chicken and cannot confirm that it tastes as good as it looks, but it sure looks amazing.
PHOTO COURTESY OF OLD TOWN KITCHEN AND BAR

Magaña said he’s enjoying the experience so far and appreciates the support of the community.

“It feels really good being able to provide additional jobs in the community,” he said. “That first time signing payroll was really an excellent experience.”

Stop on by the Old Town Kitchen and Bar for your own excellent experience, whether you’re down in the dumps, ready to celebrate, or simply hungry for some top-notch, classic cooking.

Contributing writer Nick Powell still has more feelings to eat. Send pairing options to npowell@santamariasun.com.

Powell’s Picks


SANTA MARIA INN
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

• I’m a sucker for a brunch bar and gab-fest, but I haven’t been seeing a lot of brunchy options since I moved to the area. Perhaps it’s because no one feels they can compete with The Century Room at Santa Maria Inn. Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they lay out a buffet fit for royalty with unlimited oysters, prime rib, eggs Benedict, an omelet bar, charcuterie, fruit, salad, and amazing desserts. It costs $29 per person but includes unlimited mimosas or bloody marys. Pick up next week’s paper for a more detailed review, or check it out for yourself at 801 S. Broadway in Santa Maria. 

• Classy wine sipping meets hip food-trucking every second Sunday at Foxen Vineyard, with live music to boot. On July 14, singer/songwriter Bradley Tyson brings the jams while Fire and Wine serves up wood-fired pizzas from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Not a bad way to finish the weekend. Email evants@foxenvineyard.com for more information, or head out to 7600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria.

• I hope tickets are still available at the time of this publication, or else I’m creating a thirst I can’t quench, but Figueroa Mountain Brewing’s Lagerville festival is happening July 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its Buellton headquarters. More than 40 craft breweries will be bringing their best versions of the world’s most refreshing summer suds. General admission costs $50, with options for busing to the event and discounts for designated drivers. Proceeds benefit Los Padres Forest Watch. Visit lagerville.com for more information. 

• Head north with the family this weekend for a fun day at the park and good food for a good cause at the Freedom Calling BBQ Fundraiser on July 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Grover Heights Park in Grover Beach. Lunch tickets cost $10 for kids, $15 for adults, or $45 for the family and include barbecue chicken, hot dogs, salad, beans, and bread as well as access to a bounce house, face painting, and balloon sculpting. The event is raising money to found a housing program for adult survivors of sex trafficking. Email info@freedomcalling.org for more info. 

Contributing writer Nick Powell can’t wait to dive into that buffet brunch. Remind him to pace himself at npowell@santamariasun.com.




Weekly Poll
How should Lompoc respond to the lawsuit claiming its ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live is unconstitutional?

The city should fight the lawsuit in court.
The city needs to repeal the ordinance and settle the lawsuit.
Most cities in California have already repealed similar ordinances.
Keep the ordinance. Residents need it for public safety.

| Poll Results