by Susan Stewart

Just steps away from the imposing Carlton Hotel on Traffic Way in Atascadero, a tiny 12-seat bistro is quickly capturing the hearts of good food lovers everywhere. Fig Good Food opened this fall with an eye toward serving simple meals with big bold flavors that can only come from fresh, locally grown, locally made ingredients. Launched by Christina Dillow and Greg Perello, who can both be found on premise most days, Fig  succeeds in bringing the vibrant tastes of the season to the table creatively and inexpensively.

photos by susan stewart

The fare at Fig defies definition by any one “type” or “style.” The delicate yet decadent Frenchie sandwich I ordered – Brie, greens and fig chutney on house-made focaccia – came just ahead of my friend’s Cuban pulled pork with honey-apple slaw. The Peruvian Chicken Salad tosses crisp pear with tender butter lettuce, toasted almonds and roasted banana aioli, while the hearty rustic potato salad features roasted vegetables and a sweet-tangy cider vinaigrette. That evening, a simple butternut squash soup was featured on the same specials menu with rotisserie roasted leg of lamb, redolent with garlic and rosemary.

“This whole rotisserie thing is new to me,” said Perello, turning a skewer of perfect rust-gold chickens from certified sustainable purveyor, Rocky Jr.  “But it’s a great way to slow-roast meats and we can use the drippings to make stock.”

That’s the philosophy at Fig. Use what’s in season, organic and local wherever possible, and waste nothing. Dillow and Perello shop at local Farmers Markets all over the county and have cultivated their favorite farmers there.

“Maria has some of the best produce around,” said Perello, “and she dried her mission figs for us.”

Mount Olive supplies sprouts, squash and persimmons. Cisneros sold them grapes so good they froze them for future use. Rocky Canyon gave them the last of the summer eggplant and tomatoes. And WindRose Farms provides potatoes, greens, Russian and Tuscan kale and Mutsu apples – all organic and all local. Even the honey they use comes from Stoltey’s, sold at the Templeton Farmers Market.

A giant pasta maker sits just under the blackboard on the left wall, testimony to Christina’s homemade fettuccine, spaghetti and ravioli. The focaccia and sandwich rolls are also in-house as are the desserts. Today, these include a light and luscious lemon pie, a rich and spicy pumpkin pie, cunning carrot cupcakes and a deep dish apple crisp made with See Canyon apples.

“People keep thanking us for opening,” said Dillow. “It’s gratifying knowing that we’re filling this need in Atascadero.”

“The City of Atascadero has been so welcoming,” said Perello. “Both officially as a City and personally as with our customers.”

Dine in or take out in environmentally-conscious containers, of course. Putting flavor and freshness first, Fig Good Food is a mindful eatery that respects both food and farmer, both the eater and the environment. As Christina Dillow says, “It’s a thoughtful way to cook.”

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Susan Stewart has been writing about the history, people, events and issues that affect San Luis Obispo County for 15 years. She is grateful to the people she interviews who have taught her about everything from the cultivation of exotic mushrooms to the evolution of solar energy.