A Beautiful Breakfast at Big Sky Cafe
As one who has been gluten-free since 2009, I know all too well the struggle that it used to be. When I was starting out in my transition there was one market and one pizza parlor I could rely on. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for folks doing this lifestyle diet twenty years ago. Yet, several chefs and restaurant owners were extremely cutting-edge. Offering a menu filled with vegan. vegetarian and gluten-free options. One of these gems? Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo.
I’ve shared often lately about my love for this “SLO” (get it?) college town. Their tree-lined main drags are filled with divine restaurants, cafes and bars and Big Sky Cafe is one of the Central Coast city’s highlights.
Founded in 1994 by Charles Myers, from day one, Myers offered a menu to appeal to diners both carnivore and vegan. And, even gluten-free. Having owned over 20 restaurants during his career, Myers left Los Angeles behind and bought a beach house nearby and launched Big Sky Cafe. Boasting “Fresh Market Cuisine”, Big Sky is another golden example of the growing demand for “farm to table” dining. Only difference is, most chefs and restaurants are following Big Sky’s suit.
“It’s very much a learned thing for me” explains Greg Holt, who bought Big Sky from Myers in 2015. “There’s a lot of people around here that are very health conscious. If you’re open to learning, it’s very easy to. I was focused on learning farm to table. I had to learn to cook from scratch. I’d never bought from a farmer before. Yes, we need to get strawberries and romaine to places like Minnesota but when you live in a place like this there’s so many opportunities.”
While Holt and his wife, Mirjam (“I fell in-love with a girl from Holland” Holt told me proudly), may be relatively new to the ownership life, they’re in no way strangers to Big Sky.
It’s 1994 and Charles has just opened his breakfast and lunch cafe on Broad Street. Around the same time, the Holts are welcoming a new baby and Greg is performing so well as Carrows’ kitchen manager that they want to make him a night manager. “They said you aren’t good enough to be a kitchen manager. We’re going to make you a night manager” says Greg. “I said no you’re not I have a brand new baby and i cant work nights! Charles ran an ad for a kitchen manager. I applied and I was his second choice. He hired me in and I worked here for eight years. Then I left for six to explore some stuff and I’ve been back for another ten.”
While Greg admits that the Big Sky’s menu is not necessarily his diet lifestyle, it would never show in his dedication to the cafe. “It’s not that difficult. The economics of it are still challenging. But it’s becoming the new normal in our world now. When you see blue lake green beans on the menu you know you’re not getting something out of a can or frozen.”
The plates certainly speak for themselves. I was in the mood for breakfast (aren’t I always?) and my server, Riley, could not have been more accommodating in helping me find my perfect plate. I decided on the pesto chicken sausage scramble. While all too often a ‘scramble’ plate is glorified scrambled eggs with some veggies thrown in, this was the real deal. The secret? I think it layed in the mozzarella cheese. So fresh, as was the Asiago fennel chicken sausage. And, being the gluten-free friendly kind of spot they are, the toast was fantastic. Complete with peach jam. This mouth-watering plate paired with an organic iced latte is why Holt is committed to keeping Big Sky an “everyday” cafe instead of a “special occasion” place.
“It’s more fun to see people all the time. We want to be more than just feeding people. We want to be a sense of community and we’ve been able to do it this far.”
The Big Sky Cafe also has an impressive wine and beer menu. All from wineries in nearby California vineyards like Edna Valley and Monterey. Another way to tell Big Sky is doing something right? Much like knowing the best donut shops are those frequented by local law enforcers, Big Sky is a favorite among the local wine makers. Says Greg, “We’re a cozy place. We’ve tried over the years to be a neighborhood type of place.”
From my humble point of view, I would say that Big Sky cafe is succeeding.
Visit their website HERE and plan your visit! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Big Sky Cafe on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own and it’s a remarkable cafe! Thank you, Greg, for your hospitality.)