Diving the Coast from Santa Barbara to Mendocino
We will be driving the coastal route in early September from SB all the way up to Mendocino and then down through the wine country. Along the way we're looking for good inexpensive to moderate places to stop for lunch and dinner. We love eating outside or places that are just funky and easy. Seafood, Mexican, Italian, American, Asian, you name it we like it.
Some of the places we'll be are:
Pacific Grove (Monterey Area)
Boulder Creek (Big Basin Area)
In Pacific Grove a dinner at Passionfish is highly recommended. Creative dishes using sustainable seafood are the specialties there. Also great salads and appetizers. Extensive, interesting, and reasonably priced wine list.
If you are in PG for lunch, Red House, Taste, or Grill at Point Pinos are all good choices.
For Pt. Reyes and the wine country you'll need to post on the SF Board. For the others a search on this board will give you tons of specific recos for those areas. That said, in Santa Barbara La Super Rica, Altamirano's, and El Bajia (all on Milpas) are great inexpensive Mexican cuisine, Brophy Bros. at the harbor for moderate seafood, also a place at the end of Stearn's Wharf which I can't recall the name at the moment.
In Cambria, the Main St. Grill in West Village for burgers, ribs. My other favorites are Black Cat Bistro (WV), Wild Ginger in East Village, or Sea Chest on Moonstone Dr. for seafood.
Before Cambria you'll go through Morro Bay, Taco Temple is the fave on this board for innovative CA-Mex, up the street is Chapala for authentic inexpensive Mexican. Hoppe's in Cayucos is a nice dinner place with a good wine list.
Since you're heading up Big Sur, there's been several recent threads on that area.
Have a great trip and be sure and report back.
A word of warning since it's the height of tourist season. I tried to stop for a cup of their chowder yesterday (Sat.) around 2pm thinking the lunch hour(s) might have settled down, wrong. Traffic was close to gridlock, did find a parking spot about five blocks away, but the line at splashes had 30-40 people in it, some saving spots for rather large groups. It was 45 min. by the time I got back on Hwy 101 to Arroyo Grande, with no chowder. Will save this for the off season in the future. A friend here tells me that the place across the street (Brad's?) serves the exact same chowder, can anyone corroborate thate?
Also, there is now a Splash Cafe open in San Luis Obispo on Monterey Street. While busy, it is not as busy as the one in Pismo and is bigger and cleaner. Probably doesn't have exactly the same atmosphere as the Pismo location, but does have the same food if that is what you are after.
1491 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
For Santa Barbara, based on your description of fun & funky & moderate to inexpensive.
I would go for La Super Rica or El Bajio mexican on Milpis. If one just for uniqueness I would pick La Super Rica.
Seafood: Santa Barbara Shellfish on the end of the pier or substitute Brophy's if you want more of bar.