PASO ROBLES — Just between the Hotel Cheval and Powell’s Sweet Shoppe there lies a lovely little patio, dappled with sunlight, shaded with old oaks and connected to the tiniest kitchen on the park — Andrea’s on Pine.
Tiny but mighty, the strength in its fresh ingredients and delightful presentations stand up to any more formidable venue in town. As soon as you step inside the fragrance of flaky buttered crust embraces you. Actually, upon recollection, it was most likely the aroma of freshly fried, handmade tortilla chips, made every day to go with one of Andrea’s 36 original, handmade seasonal salsas.
Having moved here from the Bay Area last year, salsa was actually owner Andrea's original claim to fame. After an injury that required her to give up on her “real job,” friends encouraged Andrea to sell her own salsa at the farmers market, which grew to become a very successful small business and eventually a catering company as well.
On this particular day there was mango, tomatillo and a fiery pineapple, which I just happen to be nibbling on as I write this. I’m not a big salsa girl but I couldn’t stop going back for more and even grabbed three on my way out the door. I even overheard a guy at the table next to me swoon, “ Are you kidding me? I could drink the salsa.” It’s that good. It’s no wonder the restaurant's Salsa Flight Saturdays are so popular.
The snacking continued. As I waited for the main courses to sample I was presented with the loveliest little Bacon and Jalapeño Deviled Egg ($12/half dozen) I have ever laid my eyes on. So fresh it reminded me of my family reunions every summer in Indiana with the exception of the kick of the Jalapeño on the finish.
Just as I heard some Bay area visitors at the table next to me exclaim, “this is the most beautiful salad I have ever seen,” my own salad was laid before me and indeed, with vibrant hues of reds, fuchsia, yellow and violet tossed over a bed of bright, delicately dressed greens, the comment was no overstatement. One of the most popular salads on the menu, according to Andrea, the Asian Chicken Salad ($19) with glass noodles and the locally sourced Eden Flower mix from Mt. Olive, is not your typical “go to” lunch salad. A sight to behold, it's just as fun to look at as it is refreshing to eat.
Another popular menu item, the Breakfast Tacos ($11), has so many ingredients it requires a fork and knife lest you lose half the goodies to the plate as you lift it to your mouth. A welcome compromise, though, as the eggs are fluffy and light, and the roasted potatoes and Aidell’s chicken apple sausage make it well worth the effort or the mess.
And finally, being a chicken salad aficionado myself, the tarragon chicken salad was delightful. The flavor or tarragon was present but not overwhelming and the various textures of creamy balanced with the crunch of chopped celery and apples is a solid classic and worthy of being accompanied by a Derby Rose or any one of the various local whites available.
Andrea’s on Pine is an organic evolution, combining the salsa enterprise with the catering and now a delightful little bistro, offering the romantic ambience and combination of hearty and delicate plates that epitomize the quintessential brunch place. Open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays or by private booking, Andrea's on Pine is located at 840 11th St. #104 in Paso Robles.