Dining Out: The Neon Carrot

May 11, 2010


I am but a poor media peon, so The Park was one of those wonderful San Luis Obispo restaurants normally out of my budget. I could go if others were paying, or it was a truly special occasion, but basically I learned to worship the food of chef Maegen Loring from a far.

No more. The Park closed, but Maegen is back in business with The Neon Carrot, a low-budget, high quality offering of organic farm fresh delights, destined to snarl traffic outside its new S. Higuera Street location.

Credit my friend and restaurant critic Kathy Marcks Hardesty for introducing me to Maegen’s new venture. Kathy came by the radio station recently with a strawberry rhubarb tart ($4.75) from The Neon Carrot. One bite was enough to send me in search of more.

The Neon Carrot moved into a space where a sandwich shop used to be, in that nondescript strip mall just north of the intersection of Granada and S. Higuera. They just opened, so the atmosphere is “evolving.” Hopefully, some artwork or acoustic tiles will lower the din.

Some might also not be crazy about the European style seating arrangement–two large tables dominate the center of the room and people just plunk down next to strangers.  Too bad there’s no outside seating to enjoy.

But make no mistake. The drawing power of The Neon Carrot, already being touted as a must-visit restaurant in town, is the food. Open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Maegen keeps it simple, tasty, and very affordable with an emphasis on locally and organically grown produce.

The most expensive item on the menu is the Pacific Rim Crab Cake salad ($9.25) topped with sesame ginger carrots. Most items fall into the $7-$9 range, including the popular Park Burger, made with Hearst Ranch beef ($8.50),  The Carrot Club sandwich ($7.95) and the Veritable Vegetable sandwich, stuffed with roasted broccoli and cauliflower ($7.95). Fresh soup ($4.50) will also be served up daily.

Save room for the pastries. That strawberry tart is killer, but the orange berry olive oil pound cake ($2.50) also sounds tempting. Carrot cake ($4.50) anyone? They’ve got it. You’ll want it.

Maegen’s philosophy that “Food is Love” spills all over the menu. I’m already planning to be a regular. It’s great to finally have a restaurant of this quality down on lower Higuera and I predict those two tables with fill up rather quickly. Get yours to go. No problem.

The Neon Carrot, 3536 S. Higuera, Ste. 206, San Luis Obispo, 545-0000. Open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

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Sounds fabulous! Do travelers a favor and get a review up on Trip Advisor.

Glad you liked it enough to write about it yourself! The prices have changed a little as Maegen and Jeff Loring are trying to keep it value-priced. And the menu will continue to change, as will new additions depending on what the people tell them they want to eat and drink. I love the community tables which give me the opportunity to ask the stranger next to me–how was it? The Neon Carrot is a great add for our community and the kind of place I just want to hang out in all of the time!