Recently spent 3 days in Cambria. I have now learned, that other than the hotels, the majority of restaurants do not take American Express. Onto the chow.
Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. We were tired after the drive, and this place was within walking distance of the hotel. I went with low expectations. The food wasn't horrible, but it wasn't terrific either. The view of the ocean is very nice and it is what you are paying for. Your money would be better spent downtown. Started with fried clam strip appetizer, they did have some good clam flavor.
The chef seems to be obsessed with sauces, just about everything came with some kind of sauce, and I'm glad the pistachio butter sauce that came with my bacon wrapped filet was on the side. The filet was surprisingly large - at least 6 ounces, but wasn't really thick like I expected. It was decent, but not really tasty, but I think I have now learned filet is not the cut of beef for me. The pitachio butter sauce was thin, and tasted of ground pistachios and perhaps some pistachio oil. It was tasty on its own, but when you put a little on the steak, it overwhelmed the flavor of the steak. The menu also said it came with new potatoes with garlic sauce. There were 2 very small red new potatoes, cut in quarters with some sauce. I was really hoping for quite a few more potatoes and was disappointed.
The other entree was grilled halibut. It was a decent size piece of fish, and my dining companion said it tasted good (I don't eat fish - but he knows his fish so I'll trust his judgement on that) The halibut was atop a mandarin orange ginger cream sauce, which was also overwhelming for the fish. Luckily, it wasn't poured over the top. My advice if you eat here, would be to ask for the sauces on the side.
Linn’s – They are still rebuilding the main restaurant and hope to have it open in 2007. They opened a store for the goods and a small café up the street. We had lunch at the café, it is a small menu, sandwiches and salads and a few pies. The sandwiches are on the smaller side, but we had a BBQ’d pork and an Avocado wrap. They were both decent, but nothing special. The new location is on Bridge St.
Allocco’s – If we had known you could get sandwiches there, we probably would have skipped Linn’s and eaten here. I picked up pizelles filled with nutella, 2 kinds of biscotti and a warm mini pumpkin pie. We wanted pumpkin pie at Linn’s and they didn’t have any, I am so glad they didn’t. Allocco’s pie was great, I wish it was closer to get pies from there for Thanksgiving. They have a website at alloccos.com They are on Center street. To find it, go down the street by Robin’s and turn left at the corner.
Lombardi’s—also on Bridge Street, across from the Liquor store. This is a small Mom and Pop type Italian restaurant. Nothing fancy, but very delicious food. We ended up eating here twice, once for lunch, and once for dinner. They have the closest recreation of an East Coast toasted sub that I have tasted on the west coast. The bread was nice and crunchy, with good oil and vinegar dressing. The only thing missing was some lettuce, but it was very tasty without it. They also have a great creamy house Italian dressing, very tangy and tasty. I also like their eggplant. I had it as a sub and as an entrée for dinner. The sub had roasted red peppers and provolone on it, and the entrée it was layered with mild Italian sauce and topped with roasted red peppers. The peppers tasted like fresh roasted peppers to me, they didn’t have the off taste of jarred roasted peppers.
The cheese ravioli was also good, it was smothered in marinara, topped with cheese and baked. Their marinara has a nice tomato flavor and isn’t too sweet or too tangy. Both entrees were served with garlic bread made from the rolls they use for the subs and heaped with fresh chopped garlic. There is nothing like this near where I live, and it was nice to have tasty Italian food like I used to be able to find in the North End when I lived in Massachusetts.
Rainbow Bean Coffee & Ice Cream – they had McConnell’s ice cream, which we had never had, so we stopped in for 2 cones. Huge portions, I’m so glad I only got the 1 scoop.
Sow’s Ear – we didn’t have reservations but they said they could seat us. We didn’t think there were that many people in town, but its obvious quite a few locals are repeat customers, because the maitre’d kept saying “Nice to see you again” to quite a few people. It was a lot smaller inside than I imagined. Even though we did not have reservations, we were told to take our time and enjoy dinner. Boy did we enjoy it. The short rib was perfectly tender, no fat with a wonderful port reduction sauce with a creamy, delicious pile of mashed potatoes. The lobster pot pie,(Maine lobster) had a few too many mushrooms, had quite a generous portion of lobster. 3 small claws and what appeared to be lots of leg meat. We had never been here before, but we will be back, and make reservations next time.
I will have to try the Sow's Ear the next time we are in Cambria. My husband and I ate at Madeline's last time and enjoyed the meal. It's a small restaurant (only 12 tables) shared with a wine shop. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and well presented. If anyone goes, don't miss the Bananas Foster which they bring flaming to the table. It's a large dish easy to share.
We were disappointed at Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill in May, too, when we went. Especially at the prices one pays in Cambria. But the view did make up for a lot.
We've had two very good meals at the Old Stone Station - I'm an unabashed filet mignon every-single-time kind of person, and they never disappoint. My husband had the prime rib once and a fish dish once and was happy with both, and we love the ambience.
We, too, haven't made it to the Sow's Ear yet.
We made a last-ditch, spur-of-the-moment visit to Sow's Ear after finding Wild Ginger closed Thursday nights, Robin's (a previous fave) dissed by a recent poster and feeling a little unsure about Black Cat, which I regret. Sow's Ear was packed, though they seated us within 5 minutes. The host told us "nice to see you again", though in fact, it was our first time there (not a problem).
I wasn't all that hungry and ordered a small salad (good dressing) and the "scampi" appetizer (ok). The menu said it was cooked with "whipped butter", which is always a bad omen, imo. After I had ordered, (it was the only thing on the menu I wanted),I queried our server, wondering if this meant margarine. She checked with the kitchen and reported back that it was part margarine (trans fat, yuck...), which turned me off. I ate the shrimp, but skipped the sauce. It was served with their signature bread baked in a clay pot a la 1970's, but quite moist and tender.
My partner had the chicken and dumplings. He said the dumplings tasted like canned biscuits---not the real deal. Our by-the-glass wines were served in tiny glasses, flled to the brim (a pet peeve). I assumed this was inevitable, until I noticed our server presenting another table, who had ordered a full bottle, with proper glasses--hmmm...
Local's may go there, but so do lots of tourists, after all, this is Cambria. They have pretty agressive coupon promotions with many of the hotels in town. You could do worse, but I had hoped for something more creative. The most appealing restaurant I can think of in the general area would be tiny Deborah's Room at the Justin vineyards, although it's a drive (but a very scenic one)out Hwy. 46 and through the backroads of Paso Robles wine country that requires advance reservations. What a gorgeous destination!
P.S. -- Completely by accident, we stopped in at the Cambria wine shop that shares the room with Madeline's -- I might give it a try next time. We were told that one of the former wine shop's partners left to marry Fifi of Fifi's Bistro in Pacific Grove, and they now co-run the bistro together.