Attended a birthday dinner at Jocko's in Nipomo recently (not to brag, but I know people so I don't have to wait as long as you). Much to my chagrin, things looked a little different on the outside.

Apparently someone decided to throw some fresh paint–of a different color, mind you–on the building, put in a new bench, add a weird barrel-and-wood fence, and add some metal signage to the side of the building.

Compare to this old Yelp photo from 2010 and you can see the diff:

Change is Bad, Today's Music Sucks, Get Off My Lawn

I kid. I'm trying to be open-minded. But part of what makes Jocko's great is it defies genre and aesthetic and time. It's weird and wooden and wonderful inside. I don't really know how to describe Jocko's to the uneducated other than to say,

It's an old, funky steakhouse where you wait a long time for your table, the servers are sometimes rude, and you start with a relish tray and saltine crackers. But then they cook you a giant ribeye on an oak pit in the back and serve it with a baked potato and the best beans you've ever had. Oh, and they serve good cheap cocktails from a bar that has a brand of vintage you can't create.

I guess what I'm trying to say is–when I see all the changes to the outside of Jocko's, I start to worry things might change on the inside.

Oh, and they took down the sign.


That was a sign that used to hang out front. Yes, it was ridiculous and phonetically spelled. But it was inviting and it was perfectly Jocko's. Am I no longer allowed to monkey around?

If the sign had to go, what else? Are you gonna sous-vide my steak charge me $58 for it? Are you gonna puree my potato in a vita-mix? Do I still get a cartoon paper placemat?!

Inside We Go

Started at the bar and everything seemed to be in place. TVs with football? Check. Dead animal heads? Check. Cheap Coors Light from a friendly barkeep? Check. Ok, so far so good.

On to our table a few minutes later (did I mention I know people?). We got our relish trays. We got our saltine crackers with salsa. I got the placemat. They menu appears is the same. Ok, so far so good.

I generally get a large spencer steak (Jocko's-speak for ribeye) but on this occasion opted for a small. After ordering, I had to take the kids to the back and make sure the oak pit still existed.

Still there and still mesmerizing

Our food has arrived

Okay, I put my pitchfork under the table. Partly because I'm hungry but mostly because everything on the inside seems just fine. Got my basic iceberg salad with blue cheese and a sliced beet. My medium-rare small spencer (which actually isn't small) was thick, grilled perfectly, and delicious.

The beans were perfect as usual. The bread. The potato. It was all there. It was all the same as [insert any year since great depression]. Our server was nice but, hey, can't win 'em all.

After all, I guess nothing important changed at Jocko's. You still grasp for words to describe the vibe. You still get a great, giant steak for about thirty bucks. As they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just slap some blue paint on it."

I'm still mad about the sign but I'll keep going–and you should too.

A Brief Sidebar About Pinquito Beans

Those beans I mentioned. They're an heirloom variety known as pinquito beans. Two very important things you should know about these beans. First, they're only grown here on the Central Coast. Second, I served them at my wedding.

You can read more about the history of them here.