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Where to get good eats in the Avila Beach area?

We are planning a special get away to Avila Beach in about two weeks and I would love to hear about good eating places in the area. We will be moving about so don't limit it to Avila. We are celebrating a triple occasion (BD/Anniver.) so would like a "special" dinner. The rest of the meals can be just "good eats". Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. This is much more than a meal, it's an experience and I've only eaten there once, but we had a good lunch last week at Gardens of Avila, the restaurant at the Sycamore Mineral Springs hotel, in the hills just inland from Avila Beach. The whole place is beautiful with nature, so we ate outdoors on the old stone patio. My meal of salmon with jungle curry sauce on coconut jasmine rice and a glass of local Domaine Alfred Rose of Syrah was quite good. Hubby had their big grilled Reuben that came with an especially tasty salad of greens, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. The only downside to the patio is, if there's a breeze, some pine duff blows down from the trees, but sharing the space with only two hummingbirds, we felt it was worth the trouble.

    After lunch, it's nice to stroll the grounds. If you go, don't miss their meditation garden and labyrinth on the banks of the creek. The labyrinth's not a maze, but a path that leads you to the center and back out again--a relaxing walking meditation. I don't know if it was the lunch, the wine, the labyrinth, the fumes coming off the mineral springs, or all of the above, but after all that, sitting at the edge of the creek, I felt incredibly relaxed. You might enjoy it, too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Moka

      Someone in the busness told me just this week that Sycamore owners were trying to develope a spa cuisine at GofA....grilled Ruebens don't sound like it. Can you fill us in on more menu details? It IS a lovely setting. My BP goes down 20 points just getting out of the car.

      1. re: toodie jane

        At our lunch, there wasn't a spa menu, but the website does mention a Chef's Health & Wellness menu, so it may be a dinner option or perhaps that's the menu you were hearing about? The lunch menu is pretty basic, sandwiches, salads, pasta, crab cakes and my entree was the most "exotic" of the choices, I thought. But our dishes were nicely prepared and well-presented. I also remember them having quite a large number of quality local wines, which pleased us, and our server was well-informed of the menu and the wines, very professional. Let us know if you hear any more about the spa menu.

        Gardens of Avila restaurant:

    2. I know that Pete's Pierside Cafe and Market on the working pier in Port San Luis at the far end of Avila Beach is not to be missed. Here is a recent chowhound report:

      And another:

      Pete's is defintely casual, so it would be more of a "good eats" place rather than a special date place.

      1. I ate at Gardens of Avila about a year ago and would second it. The grounds are beautiful. You are between SLO (to the north) and Pismo Beach (to the south) so you might run a check of those cities. I know there are quite a few SLO threads. Also, Paso Robles is about a 40 minute drive.

        1. there's a new destination resort next to the Cliffs in Shell Beach called Dolphin Bay. The restaurant is The Lido,


          with Evan Treadwell executive chef.


          I haven't heard much buzz; perhaps some of the local hounds or regular hound visitors have been and can chime in?

          1. when i was in college, olde port inn was very good- does anyone know if it still is? i couldn't believe how avila had changed from my college days in the early 80s!!

            1. A few miles south on the 101 in Shell Beach is McLintocks, a great Santa Maria style BBQ steak and seafood house. Also, further south in Nipomo is Jocks's (don't let the looks keep you away) maybe the best steak and chops you'll ever have!

              1. We recently ate at The Old Port Inn at the end of the pier in Port San Luis, beyond Avila. The experience was not very good. At night it would be nice to sit in the bar, have drinks, and maybe an appetizer because the bar has a great view of the lights from Avila to Oceano. You don't see much from rest of the restaurant at night. The prices were really high, ($44 for steak and shrimp combo) as you might expect for a restaurant on a pier with a great view, but there was no view. The paint on the tables is old so our shirt sleeves stuck to the tables. The tables were unique in that they are windows to the underside of the pier, but there wasn't anything to see. The service was poor. Our server brought us our salad, said she made them large because the kitchen was backed up and it would be a while before our dinners came out. That was nice, but she never came by to see if we wanted more drinks, water, bread or anything. The food, when it did arrive, was only OK. No one checked on us after our meals arrived. There are better places in the area.

                1. Places in the area for special dinners: In Pismo Beach - "Giuseppe's" is the go-to place for a special meal; In San Luis Obispo try "Blue" (former executive chef for Trump in Atlantic City - the food and service show it); In Cayucos go to "Hoppe's Garden Bistro" (a local favorite - try the locally farmed Red Abalone); in Cambria the Black Cat Bistro is it(excellent wine cellar).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: cambriahound

                    I was told by a local that the husband-wife team of Black Cat had split and he (the chef) opened Shawn's on Main in Morro Bay. Word is that the food has gone downhill at BCB. Anyone have any more details, we were sad to hear it since we'd had a couple of very nice meals there.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      We were on Black Cat's doorstep a week or so ago, reading the menu and wine pairings, which both sounded good, until we came to a couple of what seemed to us like rather odd wine pairings, (like a beef dish paired with a rosé or something similar), which shook our faith a little. It was a Thursday night and the place looked almost empty. In hindsight, I wish we would have tried it, but after your news, who knows?

                      1. re: Moka

                        We noticed the same last Th-Sat, went by a number of times around the lunch and dinner hours, few if any customers to be seen.

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          I've just become aware that some of the information I provided was incorrect.

                          There was no husband/wife team, one of the two chef partners did leave, the other remains.

                          They are open for dinner only, which would explain the lack of customers during the lunch hours.

                          My apologies, looking forward to any current firsthound experiences.

                  2. I love Giuseppe's in Pismo Beach and Blue in SLO and agree that they're good spots for a special occasion. Also McPhee's if you'll venture up to the North County area (Templeton).

                    1. For "good eats" and the best Santa Maria style BBQ in the area is Jocko's in Nipomo (15 minute drive south on 101 from Avila Beach). Ask any locals.

                      BBQ pit opens at 4pm.

                      Make reservations or you can expect up to an hour wait any night of the week.

                      125 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo