|Location: 1117 Chorro St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401|
Hours: 11a-2a (kitchen closes at 10p)
I first discovered this dandy of a pub two weeks after they opened next door to my favorite cigar shop. I thought, “What could go better with a nice Hemingway Short Story than a whiskey?” “Not much”, I answered myself, causing the people around me to glance my way in concern. A babbling psycho in a humidor does not a friend make.
So I meandered over. The Black Sheep (hereafter referred to as “the sheep” because typing out “the black sheep” every time is too labor intensive) is built as one main room fairly narrow and long with the bar on one side and tables along the other. At the back of a room a hallway leads to the bathrooms and to the outdoor patio. A stuffed head of a black ram hovers over the entrance to the bathroom just daring you to leave the toilet seat up. In the corner at the end of the room there’s a fireplace. It’s the closest thing San Luis Obispo has to a nice cozy pub and it turns out they have the one thing no self-respecting pub should be without. Guinness on tap. And it’s surrounded by every kind of whiskey the heart could desire and scotch of every color and stripe. Home, sweet home. I signed up to a Jameson because it’s my favorite, and because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the scotch!
I had heard a rumor in the cigar shop that they were okay with cigars on the patio, but was a little unsure about trusting it blindly. Seeing as how it’s California, smoking is like the modern equivalent of the Scarlet Letter. So with my whiskey and book in hand in strolled outside and was pleased to find 2 other people smoking cigars. Brilliant.
After I finished the cigar I decided to move inside and get something to eat. I started off by ordering a pint of Guinness because (as a sailor friend of mine says): It’s not “Why would you?” It’s “Why wouldn’t you?” It took them a full 4 or 5 minutes to pour the Guinness. Exactly the way it should be done. With pint in hand I started in on the menu. The Sheep menu is complete pub fare. Mostly fried, but it has some very notable exceptions. They have a pub mac and cheese that is amazingly rich and heavy enough to require an OSHA approved harness to carry it to the table. They have a fairly large selection of salads, and last but not least they have the Black Sheep official food mascot, the Guinness Burger. I ordered the burger, and it is exactly what a burger should be. When it got to my table it was still steaming from the grill, and you could smell the Guinness flavor in it. It was good enough to make me mark down the Sheep as one of my new favorite locations.
The great thing about a good pub is that it breaks down barriers between people. It should feel like safe place. The Sheep pulls his off marvelously. San Luis Obispo is a college town. And almost every single bar in town has succumbed to the college bar vibe. In other words, the bars are not usually places to hang out. They’re places to search out your next conquest. Several places have opened in town with the intentions of avoiding that vibe and they’ve all failed. The Sheep has avoided it completely. The crowd is mostly older, very mellow, and even includes families with kids during the lunch hour. The staff has changed fairly regularly, but it’s stayed stable enough for them to recognize my wife and me when we come in and have a Guinness on the way.
One of the only things I am consistently annoyed by is that they play music a bit loud. A good pub should be a hang out spot, like a coffee shop with alcohol and dinner food. Loud music is a sports bar attribute that forces people to shout and makes communication hard. Not at all what pub should be. But this is an American run pub, so what can you expect? Luckily it’s not so loud that you can’t have a conversation like most of the other joints in town, but it’s still too much. I regularly ask them to turn it down, and they always do. So I guess that’s a point in their favor. It’s other weakness is that it could stand to be at least double the size. But that’s just splitting hairs.
So come to San Luis Obispo, call me up, and I’ll meet you for a Pint. It will be worth it.