Yes, Flagship is kitschy and downright touristy with the paper towel roll and flag atop the metal pole (attached to the table) to get your server’s attention. Yet, mostly, the food was surprisingly tasty! Oddly, the staff prides themselves on the kitchen making fresh potato chips, tortilla chips, and cornbread, yet we could easily tell not everything was made in-house.
Still, we’re not condemning them. We were told by a fellow foodie friend that the manager told him this new place is owned by Compass Health (who also own Mr. Rick’s, Custom House, Ventura Grill, Wooly’s, and the Oyster Loft). Flagship was meant to be “Somewhere in between Wooly’s and the Oyster Loft.” Unfortunately, our friend said: “It was much closer to Wooly’s (meaning closer to fast food than it was to an upscale experience).” So we admit to arriving with low expectations when we visited Flagship for lunch the first visit.
Upon being greeted by a young host at the front desk, he warned us: “It’s our soft opening, and we’re still trying to get everything together.” We said we understood. But our expectations fell lower upon the first taste of the clam chowder bowl (cup/$5, bowl/$6, and bread bowl/$8). It tasted overwhelmingly of raw flour. That’s because the cook didn’t allow the roux to cook long enough, and that bitter flavor of raw flour overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the clams and potatoes, as well as the overly thick sauce (from too much flour).
With that “soup” in mind we had doubts about our upcoming orders. Happily, the rest of our order totally impressed us. In fact, that was the best ahi steak sandwich I’ve had, despite not liking the pickled ginger within it. I simply removed the ginger from the sandwich and ate it separately.
Dan had the “jerk salmon,” which wasn’t blackened as described but it was a deliciously fresh, grilled salmon filet over a tasty salad of greens with pineapple-jicama slaw, avocado, toasted almonds, and a ginger vinaigrette ($16).
The second visit he had the salmon again but with the Asian salad, which was very fresh. The gigantic salad had plenty of greens, red and green cabbage, almonds, Mandarin orange segments, green onions, and crispy wonton strips, all tossed in a sesame dressing ($14). Dan couldn’t finish either salad but the salmon disappeared. He said later he preferred the jerk salmon salad, but both were very good.
Our friend Steve dined with us the first lunch, and he had the chowder and the poke bowl from the “favorites” list on the menu. He gave me a piece of the ahi poke to taste, and it was delicious, perfectly seasoned with their poke dressing ($14). I must say it was big enough to satisfy anyone for lunch with the greens, red onion, avocado, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, all atop sticky rice. Dan ordered the Stephen Ross Pinot Noir on tap, which we shared with Steve. As of then, the bar only featured a limited number of local wines, all on tap, but it’s a full bar for cocktails and craft brews on tap.
To our waiter Brandon’s credit, when he saw that we didn’t eat the undercooked chowders he had the manager take it off our bill without requiring us to ask. We rewarded him well for that in the tip. And he did come up to us after lunch while we were talking to the manager. He shook Dan’s hand, and said: “Thank you, sir!”
On our second visit for lunch the next day, we tried the crab cakes made up of lump crab meat, jalapeno, and cornmeal, served atop way too much lemon aioli with the pineapple-jicama slaw on top ($15). The cakes had a very spicy edge, likely to be Old Bay seafood seasoning and I thought it was too strong. It wasn’t a fave.
Because I liked the poke dressing the first visit, we tried the tuna poke ($12) in the appetizer section which comes with the freshly-fried tortilla chips and potato chips. It was very good but had enough chips for a party of six. I still liked it, and the ahi portion is generous.
The last dish I ordered was the fish tacos with Alaskan cod, grilled instead of tempura-battered and fried, on crisped flour tortillas ($13). They were topped with cabbage, pineapple-jicama slaw, and chipotle cream. I didn’t like it very much at all. Even worse was the tinny-tasting salsa, which I was so glad they put in a ramekin. I told them so on the soft-opening card, and described it as inedible.
We’d give it three stars out of five, so far (after all, they are in the soft opening stage). We hope they continue to improve, we could really use another “good” restaurant in Pismo Beach!
1601 Price St. (in the former Steamer’s space)
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The webpage address is www.pismoflagship.com, but currently it only tells they are hiring for kitchen and front positions.