Feb 19, 2013 7:35 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
It's not an easy task adding new energy into an old mainstay. You risk a lot changing the face of a business, or an entire community. But that's just what the small town of Orcutt has done, and in the process served up some fun new proof There's No Place Like Home.
In a time when small old towns can easily become ghost towns in our fast-pace, chain-heavy world, its nice to see just the opposite happening on the Central Coast. If you haven't paid a visit to the little town of Orcutt lately, you're in for a treat when you get about 2-and-a-half miles off highway 101 on Clark Avenue.
Orcutt was born a boomtown in the early 1900s when Union Oil was king around the Santa Maria Valley. Orcutt was a major trading center for the area.
The town isn't much bigger than it was when it was founded. It's just a hop skip and jump through town, but it's pretty phenomenal all there is to discover these days in this little jog off the beaten path. "It is! It really is a boomtown, like back when they struck oil." says Renee Righetti-Fowler, part owner of the new Far Western Tavern.
The Far Western Tavern is one of the big draws these days on the main drag. It moved from it's longtime location in Guadalupe to Old Town Orcutt at the end of last year. It was a scary proposition for the longtime owners. "Every major celebration in our family had taken place in the restaurant in Guadalupe, so it was very emotional to close it down." says Righetti-Fowler, who's grandfather Clarence Minetti co-founded the original restaurant.
It was scary for longtime regulars too, but the Minetti family has managed to make the transition without losing a feel of familiarity when you walk in the door. There are touches of the old place all over the new one, from the rawhide and red flock wallpaper to the big game and big bar where longtime friends still gather. "It was really important for us to incorporate as much of the old building in the new one so that when you walked in, you felt like you were walking into the building in Guadalupe."
The new Far Western is just one of the new infusions in Old Town Orcutt. At the other end of the main drag you'll find crowds daily at Pasion. "I would call it gourmet Mexican." says Drew Senior, who greets you when you walk in the door. "It's definitely not your traditional Mexican. We add a lot of different things in terms of entrees. A lot of things you won't find at different restaurants. It makes this place very unique, but very popular."
With an edgy twist to Mexican fare, a wide variety of beers on tap, and a festive environment, Pasion is proving a draw for multiple generations. It's always busy, it seems, no matter what time of day. But in the evening's it's really hoppin'.
Old town Orcutt is scattered with lots of evidence of well old town Orcutt but there's definitely a newer hipper vibe now and the past and present have come together kind of nicely. "It's such a diverse type of restaurants in this area. There's Uliveto, there's Italian food, there's pub food at Rooney's, there's Kay's diner, Jacks, there's a couple of Mexican food places, there's something different and just the last couple of years it's been incredible." says Righetti-Fowler.
Out-of-towners exploring a new route north or south no longer do a drive-by through town, but tend to stop and stay awhile. Right in little old town orcutt and right in our own backyard.