Lompoc’s Off Base at Hangar 7 is a wood-fired heaven

Photo courtesy of Off Base at Hangar 7
PEAR NECESSITIES: Arugula, bacon, and pear are among the ingredients featured on one of chef Paul Kwong’s wood-fired pizza specials, offered on a rotating basis, at Off Base at Hangar 7 in Lompoc.

Pepperoni. Pineapple. Prime rib. Pear slices. Curry sauce. Some wood-fired pizzas at Off Base at Hangar 7—a cozy pub and wine bar in Old Town Lompoc—adhere to age-old topping norms, while others are adorned with less traditional trimmings. 

The lounge-style eatery’s rotating menu of pizza specials, designed for patrons to pair craft brews and other libations with, allows room for chef Paul Kwong to experiment with a plethora of ingredients. 

Born and raised in England, Kwong is well-known locally as the owner of Mee Heng Low Noodle House in San Luis Obispo and for his prior roles at other restaurants in the area. A graduate of the renowned Birmingham College of Food, Kwong has worked with various types of cuisines throughout his prolific career and schooling, with the exception of his latest endeavor.

click to enlarge Lompoc’s Off Base at Hangar 7 is a wood-fired heaven
Photo courtesy of Off Base at Hangar 7
SWING FROM THE CHANDELIER: Located on Ocean Avenue in Old Town Lompoc, Off Base at Hangar 7 is a stylish lounge eatery that serves wood-fired pizzas, craft beers, wines, and more.

“Even with that experience, he said he’d never done pizza before,” said Leslie Gullikson, Kwong’s partner since 2010 and the owner of Off Base at Hangar 7.

Gullikson bought the venue originally known as Hangar 7 from its previous owners during the summer of 2023, and Off Base had an official ribbon cutting ceremony in November.

“[Hangar 7’s founders] really created something special, and I feel really fortunate that I fell into it,” Gullikson said. “It was kind of serendipitous that it happened.”

The opportunity to buy Hangar 7—and inherit its wood-fired pizza oven—coincided with Gullikson and Kwong’s hunt for a new place to live. The couple originally considered moving to Atascadero from their last home in San Luis Obispo but ultimately decided on Lompoc, where Gullikson was born and raised.

“It was like coming home to me to be able to do this,” said Gullikson, a retired nurse whose father ran a barbershop in Old Town Lompoc for about 60 years.

Kwong was also technically retired, from cooking at least, when the chance came about to help his partner reboot Hangar 7 and spearhead Off Base’s food offerings.

click to enlarge Lompoc’s Off Base at Hangar 7 is a wood-fired heaven
Photo courtesy of Off Base at Hangar 7
PRIME TIME: Off Base at Hangar 7 periodically hosts special dinner events with meals not normally available on the menu, such as this plated prime rib special that was served during a wine pairing and live jazz event in February.

“He really encouraged me, and I wouldn’t have done this without him,” Gullikson said of Kwong, who still owns Mee Heng Low while his son Russell manages it.

Between 2017 and 2020, Kwong’s Noodle House regularly hosted live jazz events, which Gullikson organized on the restaurant’s second floor space. Put on hold during the pandemic without fully resurfacing yet, the program seems to have followed Gullikson and Kwong to Lompoc, as Off Base occasionally hosts live shows with the Ray Chang Trio, led by jazz trumpeter Ray Chang.

The three-piece band will hold its next concert at Off Base on April 15, and is under consideration for a bimonthly residency at the pub.

“If it’s well received by the community here, we’re going to continue to have them on the second and fourth of every month,” said Gullikson, who hopes to expand the event offerings at Off Base in the future by hosting more live music gatherings as well as collaborations with local vendors and fundraisers for nonprofits. 

As part of its grand opening back in November, Off Base hosted a wood-fired pizza fundraiser to benefit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national organization with local chapters dedicated to providing beds for children in need. Within a four-hour stretch, the pub sold 65 pizzas and was able to raise $650 for the nonprofit.

click to enlarge Lompoc’s Off Base at Hangar 7 is a wood-fired heaven
Photo courtesy of Off Base at Hangar 7
LET THEM EAT CAKE: Off Base at Hangar 7 periodically collaborates with Central Coast-based bakery REDefined Cheesecakes to supply desserts during dinner events and fundraisers.

“It was a lot of pizzas in a short amount of time,” Gullikson said before adding that the venue’s oven only allows for one wood-fired pizza to cook at a time. “That [65 pizzas in four hours] was pretty much our capacity.”

One of Gullikson’s favorite small joys about running Off Base, only a few blocks from her and Kwong’s home, is being able to bike to and from work. When the two first met, they were neighbors in SLO who began bonding over their mutual affinity for bicycling.

Halloween 2010 marked their first dinner date at Gullikson’s place.

“I had no idea he was a chef at the time. I knew he had his restaurant, but I didn’t know he was a classically trained chef. … I would have never invited him to dinner [had I known],” Gullikson said with a laugh, before describing their meal as a bit overcooked that night. “When I found out what he was and his background, I was mortified.”

Send tricks, treats, pizza, and noodles to Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood at [email protected].

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