Dining Out: Sunday Brunch at McPhee’s
January 17, 2010
We’ve developed a new monthly ritual at our house — once a month, we hop in the car, cruise up to Avila Beach and enjoy Sunday champagne brunch at McPhee’s.
People on the Central Coast who enjoy good food certainly know about Ian McPhee by now. He graduated from Cal Poly, where he played football. Started cooking at the old Cigar Factory downtown (where Novo is today). Ended up with his own place–Ian’s–in Cambria, though it wasn’t really his place. That eventually led to a dispute with the owners and soon McPhee found himself opening up his own restaurant in Templeton in the mid-’90s. The rest, as far as I am concerned, is history. McPhee’s has always been one of the top restaurants in the county.
So those of us who live in South County were thrilled to hear about McPhee’s decision to open up a second restaurant on the golf course in Avila Beach. The doors opened last March. Same menu. Same great service. Same fantastic food.
We didn’t go. Not once.
To be honest, I don’t have a good excuse. We have cut back on dining out at more expensive restaurants. Avila seemed off the beaten path. Not getting off work until later in the evening threw off my schedule. Like I said, no good excuses. We stayed away.
Then McPhee brought his popular Sunday champagne brunch to Avila. He had dropped it from his Templeton restaurant a while back because of the economy, but he wisely decided to give it a try in Avila last fall. We heard about it shortly thereafter and came up in November to see for ourselves.
I’m no Julia Child, but I know what I like in restaurants and I was comfortable at the Avila McPhee’s from the moment I walked in. Plenty of skylights in the ceiling draws in the light and the fireplace keeps us warm. Hard to beat that view of the golf course and the bay. The restaurant is busy, but not overly so — it’s possible to have a conversation.
Plus, you typically get the service that McPhee’s has always been known for. Max, Ian’s son who grew up far too quickly, greets you at the door and escorts you to a table. If you’re lucky, Sandy will be your server. Elizabeth will be waiting for you at the main station, ready to serve up the salmon or the Mexican scrambled eggs.
Brunch is $25. A bargain. You get unlimited drinks, including champagne, to start. Wander over to the bar at your leisure, where the opening spread waits for you: dolmas, shrimp, scones, salads, lox and bagels, fresh fruit. Go ahead. Pile it on.
However, don’t eat too much. Have to save room. Proceed over to the main station and survey the menu. Order whatever you want: French toast, tri tip, garlic mash potatoes, fresh asparagus, salmon. They’ll fill your plate with as much as you want.
Then, if there’s any room left, it’s back to the far end of the bar for the desserts. I had the cheesecake this morning. Our friends devoured the chocolate raspberry tort.
Sundays at McPhee’s has turned into an easy habit for us. Some restaurants go overboard with their brunches, piling on far more food than you can possibly eat. McPhee’s keeps it simple, laid back, affordable and good. That’s all I need. Throw in the spectacular scenery of Avila. I’m sold.
While we were eating today, we came across some other friends who had driven all the way down from Atascadero to check out the brunch. They were impressed.
See you there in February. Save me some asparagus. And leave me the table by the fireplace.
McPhee’s Grill is located at 6440 Ana Bay Drive, on the golf course, in Avila Beach. Call 595-4001 for reservations and information.