Featured Artist: Keith Ogren

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Keith is a digital media artist, painter, furniture designer and fabricator who was raised in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Electronic Media from The Evergreen State College in 2001. He began his art career at the age of five compulsively drawing buses. 

Keith spent the last 13 years in Los Angeles working for network television as a motion graphic artist, producer, graphic designer, creative lead, and art director.  His current work reflects his love of the outdoors, the natural world, beach culture, and life in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Bautista Farms: A Family Affair

IMG_4259At Novo Restaurant much of the ingredients you’ll find on our menu are sourced from local farms here in our own back yard on the Central Coast. Our produce buyer, Matt Kubat, shops at local farmers’ markets five days a week to provide the freshest produce to Chef Ben (and sister restaurants, Luna Red and Robin’s.) We recently had the opportunity to talk with third generation farmer, Jacinto Bautista, son of farm owners, Manuel and Apolonia.

Manuel came to the US at fifteen years old. He arrived in Chicago and made his way to California where he found work pruning grape vineyards. He soon was able to buy his own plot of land where he originally grew peas, commercially. His wife, Apolonia, found opportunity in selling them at local farmers’ markets; something she enjoyed but also found lucrative.   As their farming business grew and new crops were added, the couple decided to transition out of commercial sales. They started focusing on selling privately to local restaurants and at farmers’ markets. This decision allowed them to pick as they grew without waste and provided steady money flow for the business.IMG_4276

Today they grow (seasonally) carrots, kale, chard, parsley, cilantro, spinach, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar peas, English peas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and green beans. The farm is now 25 years old and family run with an additional 10 workers on the team. Jacinto handles all of the orders, the planting, growing and cultivating. They practice conventional farming, meaning they only use pesticides as a last resort and plan to be completely organic within the next 5 to 10 years. And you can bet on the freshness of any Bautista product! Most crops are harvested and sold on the same day, which gives them a much longer shelf life than grocery store-bought produce.

IMG_4314As Jacinto takes on more responsibility for the family farm, along with his two sisters, he is focusing on getting as much information out of his father’s head as possible and down on paper. “He’s been doing this for 25 years and all of his knowledge is up here,” says Jacinto. Using technology to assist the day-to-day fieldwork is clearly a tool for Jacinto’s generation of farmers. Systemizing their processes is going to allow the farm to work smarter, not harder, in the future.

And what does Jacinto speculate about the future of farming in our area? He says he’s optimistic. He believes his generation (the mid-30 something’s) care about what they eat and where their food comes from. He says with Cal Poly being so agriculturally based and with our community being especially environmentally and health conscious, farming will continue to grow in this region. As long as there IMG_4252_1continues to be a demand, local small farms will thrive.
So how can you support Bautista Farms? Take a bit of extra time to see which farmers’ markets are near your area and shop local. For excellent tasting produce, buy what’s in season. You can find Bautista Farms at 13 different farmers’ markets from Vandenburg to Paso Robles.

The following schedule is where you can find them throughout the week:


February News

Beef EmpanadasIMG_3727
Warm up your winter with our new menu addition, Beef Empanadas. With a crisp, flakey outer shell, the middle is filled with a mixture of ground beef, roasted pasilla chilies and queso fresco, with just kick of spice to complete each savory bite. Enjoy with two different dipping sauces, a chipotle aioli or citrus cilantro sauce. The perfect appetizer or happy hour small plate, you won’t be able eat just one!

Featured Team Member: Pedro AndradeIMG_3954
If you’ve enjoyed any of our fresh and flavorful dinner salads, chances are Pedro Andrade prepared it for you. Originally from Aguascalientes, MX, Pedro moved to the U.S. 15 years ago and joined the Novo team shortly after in 2003. Along with his second job at Eureka Burger, Pedro is also on the Sunday Novo brunch crew. He’s an asset in the kitchen with versatile skills and always ready to jump onto other stations, such as the grill or sandwich station, when needed. In his free time Pedro enjoys going to the park with his one and a half year-old daughter and wife. He’s also an avid runner, which helps him get through his 15-hour workdays. The next time you visit Novo, Pedro recommends you try his personal favorite, the Salmon Salad. #nowyounovo




January News

IMG_3576Featured Team Member – Sam Cowitz

Sam Cowitz started his first restaurant industry job at Novo over 4 years ago.  A long time friend of the Covey family, he was grateful for the opportunity to get his foot in the door as a busser, promoted to food run and serve. After bar backing at Novo, he finally found his niche as food expo.  Throughout the years Sam has many fond memories of seeing long time friends and other SLO locals enjoying meals at Novo.  He’s proud to be a part of the Novo team, mostly because he gets to be himself.  He accredits Robin Covey’s philosophy of letting people’s individual personalities shine, that makes for a great work environment and fun co-worker relationships.  Currently Sam is in school at Cuesta as a political science/history major with possible plans to attend Cal Poly, gaining a teaching credential.  When not in class you’ll find him hiking, backpacking, fishing or shooting some hoops.  In 2016 Sam turns 23.  He’s “got some mixed feelings about this” but acknowledges there’s certainly a lot to look forward to.

IMG_3606Featured Cocktail – The Latin Linen


With muddled cucumber and Serrano chilies, the Latin Linen packs all the heat you need to stay warm during January at Novo Restaurant + Lounge. Consider this your winter coat- wrap yourself up in the smooth flavor of Casamigos Blanco tequila, St. Germain Elderflower liquor, and club soda, all brought together under a smokey float of Xicaru Mezcal.




1 3/4 oz Casamigos Blanco Tequila

3/4 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

1 slice cucumber

2 slices Serrano chili

Soda Water

Splash Xicaru Mezcal

Splash Agave Syrup

Muddle cucumber and chili in mixing tin. Add tequila, agave, and liquer with ice and shake. Pour into glass rimmed with Black Salt and fill with soda water. Add splash of mezcal and enjoy!

December News

IMG_3287Featured Dish – Farmers’ Market Ahi Nachos

Available exclusively at our walk up street booth every Thursday night at Farmers’ Market, Novo’s Ahi Nachos are a must.  Savory, crispy wonton chips covered in chunks of fresh ahi tuna and sriracha sauce, you won’t be able to eat just one.  (only $10)


IMG_3356Featured Employee – Juan Montero

Juan Montero has been supplying a splash of creativity to our Novo family for almost 3 years. A part of the kitchen staff, he has worked his way around the back of house from a dishwasher on up to the prep line. You can see his artistic touches on the menu in our daily specials. Juan personally develops and curates each dish according to seasonal flavors, Novo tastes, and his own imagination. “It just kinda comes to me,” he says, of his daily creations.

 But his creative influence doesn’t stop at the food, Juan also is a tattoo apprentice, developing his artistic craft to eventually one day become a tattoo artist. His tattoo art can even be found on some of his fellow Novo co-workers. According to Juan, it started with one tattoo on a fellow employee and has since snowballed to several sporting his illustrations. He enjoys working at Novo because of the camaraderie. He says the environment and the people make it a great place to work. His favorite dish, though? He loves eating “Chef Ben’s family meal,” a non-menu staple for all restaurant employees, cooked especially for hungry workers at the beginning of a busy shift.

 When not on the clock you can catch him perfecting his boxing skills as a Muay Thai fighter or chasing after his son who turns two this December!

November News

IMG_3084Featured Dish –

The Chow Returns as…
Lo Mein!
A fresh new twist.
Introducing Lo Mein, a Chinese stir fry of seasonal vegetables, your choice of protein and fresh wheat noodles flavored with garlic, ginger and soy sauce.

Featured Dish –IMG_2955

Lox Style Arctic Char
This is our take on Lox with an Asian twist.  We house cure Icelandic Arctic Char (a sustainable fish in the salmon family) and pair it with tamarin and braised lotus root.  This is a great light and refreshing starter dish.  Enjoy anytime of the day!  Available on the lunch, dinner and brunch menus.

IMG_2597Featured Cocktail- The Fall of Prohibition

A throwback to the Champagne Cocktail created by “Professor” Jerry Thomas in his book, Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862).  Substituting classic champagne with Bradley, CA produced Mission Trail Cider, The Fall of Prohibition sips crisp like an autumn evening with wonderful apple notes from both the cider and support from Germain-Robin Apple Brandy. Enjoy a new spin on a classic on our patio today!

Featured Employee: Vanessa MelendezIMG_2660

The Novo family consists of many faces with a common thread, a lot of heart and passion for service and hospitality.  Vanessa Melendez, a Novo fixture for the last 6 years, is the perfect example this.  Whether she is serving and feeling the rewarding experience of happy customers enjoying great meals or managing Novo’s weekend late night scene, you can bet you’ll see her with a genuine smile on her face.

But the most rewarding experience, she says, is always when customers are excited to come back to Novo. Whether you’re a frequent patron or you’re from out of town returning because of a fond Novo memory, she loves when customers share how happy they are to be back. “We treat all of our customers like our families.  We don’t just give you your food and take your money, we want you to sit and hang out with us for a while.”

You can catch Vanessa every Friday and Saturday night managing Beleza Nights.  A rockin’ late night ultra lounge that starts at 10pm, with a full bar, dance floor and rotating resident DJs.  “When the lounge is full and people are laughing and smiling, that’s when I’m happy.”

So be sure to ask for Vanessa the next time you visit Novo or SLO, for that matter. Ask Vanessa about her favorite things to do or wineries to visit.  She can’t wait to share SLO with you!

October News

IMG_2193Featured Team Member – Natalio Villar

Natalio Villar has been a fixture in the Novo kitchen for 5 years. He takes pride in his work as a prep cook and juggles it with his other full time kitchen position at Big Sky. His favorite part about working at Novo is his co-workers. He likes working as a team and he says it feels like a family. Speaking of family, when Natalio has time off from his two jobs, he is spends time at home with his wife and two young children. Laughing, he says he’s very busy but he enjoys all of it!



IMG_1675Featured Dish – Tombo Tuna Lettuce Wraps

This month’s must-try featured dish is the Tombo Tuna lettuce wraps made with butter leaf lettuce cups, fresh market vegetables, roasted peanuts, served with house made dipping sauces. Gluten-free and packed with flavor, this makes a great starter or a light lunch dish. Other protein options for lettuce wraps include tofu, beef, shrimp and chicken. Stop in today to enjoy!!

FullSizeRender-14Wine News: End of October List Changes

The weather is cooling, we are welcoming back our students, pumpkin spiced lattes are back, and our local winemakers have not had a day off in weeks…. all signs that autumn and harvest is upon us!  Autumn is one of my favorite wine “seasons” because the craving for refreshing wines has subsided and instead, we desire to sip on comforting wine.  Tropical and citrus fruit flavored whites are being traded for wines with great floral tones and rich minerality; lighter red wines are being swapped for spicy, earthy, and bold reds.

In celebration of the season, we will be bringing in some great new wines available by the glass and bottle.  A few noteworthy new wines are a pretty fantastic Chablis (chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy, France) with all of the shell & limeston-ey goodness that we want out of wine from that region;  a local Malvasia Bianca from Clesi Winery which is fairly showy with great honey, pear and jasmine aromas; a Nebbiolo by local winemaker Ethan Lindquist who sourced this fruit exclusively from the small amount of Old Vine Nebbiolo available on Stolpman Vineyard in Sta. Ynez, and a great Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, France.

Come on in towards the end of the month to check out these great wines along with all of the other autumn wine selections!

IMG_2402Featured Artist – Kurt Waldo

Kurt Waldo is an artist with dynamic energy and creativity: as a mixed-media artist, he layers and distresses the surfaces of his works with a frenetic style, resulting in richly textured, multifaceted surfaces that evoke the spirit of 1950’s and 60’s expressionism, all while maintaining his unique aesthetic.

Kurt’s unique style comes from his combined use of several different media — oil, oil pastel, acrylic, colored pencil, crayon and house paint — and conventional and unconventional tools: brushes, sticks, pallet knives, scissors, and nails. However, Kurt’s love of music is the key to his method – it enhances his personal sense of rhythm, which gives each of his pieces a unique cadence. His work also demonstrates his passion for landscape photography and architecture, yet you will see very few representational elements in his works. These pieces exist to enhance the space they occupy – he desires that viewers create their own sense of meaning from what they see.

Many designers have recognized his work as the perfect accent to include in 1950’s-1960’s post-modern IMG_2407homes. He has fulfilled commissions for many clients, both for private residences and professional office spaces, including two pieces created for the boardroom of the Theatrical Union of New York City. But his work also has a general, far-reaching appeal: it has been featured in the television series Gossip Girl and The Carrie Diaries, and his work was featured in a spread within the West Elm Furniture Catalog as well as at the San Luis Obispo Art Museum’s “Brushstrokes” Show.

Kurt’s strengths as a commissioned artist lie in his ability to communicate effectively and understand his clientele’s objectives and needs; he does this all while creating works that capture his unique, energetic style. His ability to transform objective concepts into abstract works leads to the creation of truly captivating pieces. Kurt Waldo can be contacted through his website www.kurtwaldo.com, which provides further insight into his philosophy and highlights a selection of his works.”



September News

IMG_1541_AubreyFeatured Employee – Aubrey Escalante

Aubrey Escalante joined her Novo family about a year and a half ago as a host. In a short time she moved her way through the ranks from host to busser to food runner to her current position, server.   You can find Aubrey during a sunny and relaxed lunch service on our creekside patios. “I absolutely love serving! It’s a more intimate exchange with our guests, as you are giving them an experience and making sure they have a great time.”

While she says lunchtime is her favorite shift to work, the weekend is fun because of the busy hustle & bustle and people are usually celebrating something. In her spare time Aubrey is all about arts and crafts. A self-described “artsy person” she sews, she sings (for select audiences only), she plays guitar. It’s no wonder she fits right in with the artistic & eclectic Novo vibe! On that note she says, “I feel lucky and privileged to say I work at Novo.” J

Pork Belly RamenFeatured Dish – Pork Belly Ramen Bowl

Come in and try our pork belly ramen bowl for lunch or dinner.  While some ramen dishes are composed with a broth, our ramen bowl focuses on the pork and fresh ramen noodles.  We sauté our slow roasted pork belly with shitake and woodear mushrooms, fresh ramen noodles, green onion and Thai basil.  The dish is finished with house made broccoli, sambal pickles and crispy bean curd.


Featured Cocktail – The Dark Alley

The Dark Alley is a mysterious cocktail sure to entice both newbies and veterans alike to the wonderful world of aged Rum. Showcasing a complex aged Reserva Rum from Diplomatico, a sharp Aztec Chocolate bitters from Fee Brothers, and a perfectly balanced Lucano Amaro, this drink stands up like a rich, chocolatey Manhattan to appease even the most discerning whiskey drinkers. Its beautiful amber color and velvety texture lends itself well against the single rock of ice keeping the boozy libation cold without dulling any of the unique flavors that culminate into a simply seductive experience.  A perfect way to ease into fall, the Dark Alley is best enjoyed on a brisk evening out on the patio at Novo. Cheers!

1 ¾ oz. Diplomatico Reserva Rum

¾ oz Amaro Lucano

2 Dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Bitters

Add all ingredients to mixing tin and add ice. Stir gently until cold. Strain into rocks glass with large rock of ice.


August News


IMG_1402Featured Employee – Crecensico Villar

Crecensico Villar has been cooking local favorites downtown for nearly 15 years! A back of the house employee shared by Novo and Big Sky, Crecensico feels lucky to be in two “great kitchen environments,” he says.

Under the direction of Novo’s Executive Chef Ben, Crecensico recognizes the care and direction shared by the kitchen staff. Something that he says is essential for the success of their team. Bouncing back and forth between the two kitchens can be a change of pace, but he doesn’t mind the extra hours, he admits. The proud father of a Cal Poly student, he stays busy to support his 21 year-old daughter as she attends school.

Come Crecensico catch him at Novo during the weekday lunch hour to enjoy his fresh prepared salads on the patio!


Featured Dish – Tombo Tuna

One of our new additions to the menu this summer is the Tombo Tuna and chilled Somen Noodle Salad.  Fresh Tombo tuna pan seared rare and sliced over chilled Somen noodles with market carrots, radish, oyster mushrooms and pea sprouts.  Served with a side of black vinegar soy dressing and Amaranth sprouts. Perfect as a shared starter or as a meal day or night.





Sommelier and Novo Wine Director, Samantha Payette weighs in on our recent Wine Spectator Honor

“The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence is a special accolade for restaurants.  The publication has a really focused following of people who love wine and to dine out, so these awards are a perfect way to communicate which restaurants are not only going to satisfy their appetite, but also their interest in a great wine selection!  Similar to that of wine scoring, Spectator uses dollar signs to indicate if the wine list is overall, inexpensive or expensive to give guests an idea of what they will spend.  We are classified as “affordable,” which is right where I want to be.  This, to me, says we’re on track with our guests and our community.

Joes-Wine3-2We were selected for this award because our wine list has a great representation of stellar local wines of both AVA pioneers and small and up and coming producers.  Plus, we are very lucky to have a strong following of regular, local and wine industry guests who prefer to try something unique and hard to come by, which is why we also offer a wide diversity of wines from around the world!  I love our local producers, but sometimes it’s fun to try something different!”

Featured Artist – TD Caldwell


TD Caldwell – Fine Art World Class Laborer

Tim Caldwell grew up in Huntington Park, one of the ninety plus suburbs in search of a city, in Los Angeles, California. Tim moved to San Luis Obispo County 32 years ago where he was employed as an account manager for the local title companies. He has always enjoyed the arts and is a self-taught painter.

He started painting with acrylics six years ago, mentored by Atascadero artist Richard Summers. All he asks of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of his own importance. He claims to live in a world of his own, but says visitors are always welcome. He is too busy to have time for anything important. He can do without the essentials of life, but must have his luxuries. When not converting useless oxygen into valuable carbon dioxide ,he is busy contemplating the domestication of the dog. Some of the things that will live longest in his memory never really happened. He has been quoted as saying, “Try to be the best at what ever you do, even if what you do is not good. ”Tim is the type of artist who doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel when he has a spare in the trunk. As Picasso said, “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”