The love story of Joanne and Ross Currie steamed up over a bowl of clam chowder.
At the time, more than two decades ago, Joanne — general manager at F. McClintock’s Saloon — and Ross — who worked for Budweiser — would sneak off during their lunch breaks to Splash Café in Pismo Beach for a bowl of creamy soup by the beach.
During one of the couple’s routine romantic lunch breaks, Ross let the owners know he and Joanne were interested in purchasing the restaurant.
His phone rang the next day.
“We were newlyweds, and we just wanted to work together,” Joanne Currie said.
The Curries took ownership of Splash Café in Pismo Beach in 1991. Now, 22 years later, Joanne and Ross just welcomed their first grandchild, and they are about to welcome a third location to the Splash franchise in downtown San Luis Obispo.
This next location will join Splash Café in Pismo Beach and Splash Café and Artisan Bakery on Monterey Street, which opened in 2005.
“We’re still in the same boat,” Currie said. “We just really enjoy doing projects together.”
This time around, the Curries have their eyes on downtown.
The restaurant, which will be called Splash Café Seafood and Grill, plans to move into the space formerly occupied by Mondeo Pronto, which closed in late January after 17 years in the location.
Although the restaurant’s closing came as a shock to many San Luis Obispo residents, Splash Café Seafood and Grill’s new neighbors are welcoming, Currie said.
“They’re really happy about it,” she said. “Chino’s and Pizza Solo seem very happy to have a vibrant, new business to bring more foot traffic to the Downtown Centre.”
Splash Café Seafood and Grill will continue the brand of the franchise with bright, bold coloring — and the famous clam chowder.
Splash Café Seafood and Grill will serve all the signature foods Splash Café is known for, including the clam chowder, fish tacos and bakery desserts, but the emphasis is moving from the fryer to the grill.
“We will have all the signature items, but we will emphasize more fresh fish and grilled fish items,” Currie said.
Future patrons should expect “fancy salads,” paninis and “healthier, fresher” cuisine.
Additionally, the bakery at Splash Café and Artisan Bakery on Monterey Street is creating more gluten-free options for the new location. They’re even perfecting a recipe for gluten-free sandwich bread.
As for a new signature, a steakhouse salad is in the works for Splash Café Seafood and Grill, and Currie has high hopes for the new menu item. Customers can choose steak or shrimp. The salad will be served in a sourdough bread bowl, like the famous clam chowder, and the core of the bread bowl will be sprinkled with garlic and parmesan cheese.
“I don’t know if it will actually end up being a signature item, but it certainly will be yummy,” Currie said. “Menu development is definitely part of the fun.”
The current Splash locations have strong sales, Currie said. Often times, people are lined up out the door. The restaurant makes approximately 40,000 gallons of clam chowder a year, Currie said. And on a busy day, Splash Café and Artisan Bakery will make more than 2,000 bread bowls.
The Monterey Street location has been “steady as she goes,” Currie said.
She’s expecting the downtown location to get busy as well.
“There’s not really casual seafood downtown,” Currie said. “It’s not like another burger place is coming; we’re something new.”
Earth sciences senior Nick Pisano said the new location is also more convenient for drivers.
“The parking here’s terrible,” Pisano said, motioning to the packed parking lot behind the Monterey Street location.
The Monterey Street location has made its impact on business administration freshman P.J. Gaur, who likes the clam chowder bread bowl topped with bacon.
Although the uptown location is closer to campus for freshmen like him, Gaur said, the downtown location lends itself to more of an outing.
“If I want to go someplace after, like Batch, I’ll go downtown,” Gaur said.
Splash Café Seafood and Grill will likely open mid-May, Currie said.