Odyssey World Cafe: Serving world cuisine, fostering local connections

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Odyssey World offers comfortable indoor and outdoor seating.

Odyssey World offers comfortable indoor and outdoor seating.

Odyssey World Cafe, located in downtown Paso Robles, is a reflection of the rich lives of its owners, Dawn Gregory and John Hawley. Gregory and Hawley are both originally from upstate New York, and both spent much of their lives living abroad. They lived and worked in Greece, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. And from these experiences they both took away strong opinions of what made up a good meal, no matter where they ate.

Years later, when they decided to open a restaurant together in Paso Robles, they put their heads together to decide on what type of restaurant they would most like to run. Gregory and Hawley agree that the meals they enjoyed most in their travels overseas were not the most fancy or expensive, but rather the meals that connected them to the local culture and people.

They site meals in “tavernas, trattorias, cafes and bistros” as the ones that most inspired them. In creating Odyssey World Cafe Gregory and Hawley have designed a menu that encompasses their travels and an atmosphere that reflects memories of some of their favorite meals worldwide. Odyssey World Cafe is named for the lives that Dawn and John lived—lives they liken to the journey of Odysseus.

Gregory details a few of the Odyssey World Cafe highlights: “In the daytime we are known for sandwiches, salads, tacos, and burgers and soups. Our salmon salads and salmon tacos are very popular. Our toasted turkey sandwich is one of our most popular sandwiches. We make our own soups and we make our own bread every morning. The bread is high in protein made with chia seeds in it.” She also says that since customers pay at the register when they order they are able to be able to get back to work quickly, without having to wait for the check. Servers bring the food to the tables when it is ready.

Gregory says that the nighttime Odyssey World Cafe offerings have a few additions to the lunchtime menu, “At night we host nightly dinner specials which sell out quickly. Monday through Wednesday nights we include a glass of house wine. Our salmon and rib eye steaks are very popular and prime rib is big on the weekends.”

Odyssey World Cafe was originally opened as a take-out restaurant, but Gregory and Hawley soon realized that the Paso Robles community wanted more. They switched to being a dine-in restaurant, but kept the casual approach. They slowly brought in tables and chairs from home, which resulted in a homey feeling that still exists today. Odyssey World Cafe seeks to provide both local Paso Roblans and visitors to the town with a dining experience that combines good food with a no-frills atmosphere. No dress code exists for dining at Odyssey World Cafe, and families are welcome.

Gregory says, “We are known for being a place where friends and colleagues meet for lunch or dinner. We have lots of room so people can conduct meetings while also having lunch. We have many book groups, birthday parties, bridal showers and gatherings.”Dawn Gregory

Gregory describes Hawley as “the foodie” and says that he is in charge of creating the menus and working with the cooks in the “back of the house,” while she is in charge of the “front of the house.” She says of the Odyssey World Cafe staff: “We have a talented crew of cooks in the kitchen.” She continues, “Wilbert is our full time kitchen manager and he manages food costs and kitchen staffing. Lolin is talented at creating specials on a nightly basis. Both have nerves of steel and keep calm when the pressure is on.”

They also site daytime general manager of front of the house Jill Cook as an indispensable part of the Odyssey World Cafe team. Cook also manages catering and has been with the restaurant for all but the first year of its existence.

A recent “facelift” has opened up the front of the restaurant, adding to the inviting atmosphere that Gregory and Hawley have created. John says that they seek to be an alternative to the wine-oriented, high-end restaurants in town, for times when people want to eat out but are looking for a casual, comfortable experience. He says that they think of themselves as a “casual eatery.”

Gregory and Hawley are proud that their restaurant serves as a gathering place for locals, and embrace visitors to the town as well. In this way Odyssey World Cafe is reminiscent of the places they most enjoyed in their travels. Beyond a good meal, a trip to Odyssey World Cafe offers a chance at becoming a part of the community that is at the heart of the restaurant!

Odyssey World Cafe is located at 1214 Pine Street in downtown Paso Robles, and is open from 11am – 8:30 Sunday – Thursday and 11am – 9pm on Friday and Saturday. Visit www.odysseyworldcafe.com or call (805) 237-7516 for more information.

–Kate Joyce

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