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Cambria, Paso Robles and the drive up. [moved from L.A. board]

Going to Moonstone Beach for a quiet NYEve weekend getaway with the SO. Looking for restaurant recs for the drive up/back and while there, including NYEve. Also any winery suggestions for that weekend. Guessing all closed on NYday.

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  1. i enjoy the seared ahi sandwich and the clam chowder at splash cafe in pismo beach.

    1. I've made numerous treks up to this area in recent years. The wineries will indeed probably be closed NY Day and will probably close early NY Eve.

      Los Olivos has good tasting rooms for multiple wineries, if you want to pass thru there. It's a pretty drive - take Highway 154 north of Santa Barbara. Also, Brander is a winery near Los Olivos that is worth visiting. There's a great sandwich shop in "downtown" Los Olivos, and some other good decent spots, too. They're not hard to check out because the town is only about two square blocks.

      Further north but closer to the 101 is the Edna Valley (east of Arroyo Grande) with its eponymous winery as well as Talley and Domaine Alfred among the best bets. (There are a lot of other wineries in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties -- I'm just listing some of my favorites.)

      Restaurantwise in the Moonstone/Cambria area, I have found the Treasure Chest to have the best seafood (simply prepared, but fresh - with an oyster bar). However, the place doesn't take credit cards or reservations, so go early with a wad of cash or be prepared to wait, sometimes interminably.

      The Black Cat Bistro in Cambria is trying hard to be a good, innovative restaurant. The night I ate there it was uneven, but I'd give it another try. Avoid Brambles, Mustache Pete's and Robin's. The Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill, just north of town, is a great place for a drink but the food is lacking.

      The best restaurant in the general area is McPhee's, in Templeton, near Paso Robles and about a 30-minute drive from Cambria.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Mr. Cookie

        "I have found the Treasure Chest to have the best seafood ..."

        I believe you are referring to the Sea Chest on Moonstone Dr.

          1. re: PolarBear

            Some other places in the area...
            For a good burger and amazing pulled pork sandwich, salads, fries and lots of beer on tap try Firestone on Higuera and Osos in San Luis.

            The best sushi in SLO is Ynagi on Marsh near Johnson IMHO.

            For excellent sandwiches (The Lincoln Ortega is SO good) try Lincoln Market on Lincoln and Broad St. at the Broad St. exit if you're coming from Atascadero.

            For tasty food, try Taco Temple in Morro Bay. Everything I've tried, I've loved. My favorites are the Crab Cake Tacos, Asada Tacos. The desserts are consistently flavorfully delicious. A little pricey for the blah decor and ambiance, but worth it for the flavor and quantity.

            If you're in Atascadero, you have to stop at Nardonne's Pizzaria (cash only). Their pizza has a thick crust but perfect sauce/crust ratio! Also in Atascadero, Thai-Riffic, terrible name, extraordinary Thai! Try the Sweet Basil Tofu, Lemon Grass Chicken, Spicy Garlic Seafood and Mango and Sticky Rice for Dessert. YUM! The Thai-Riffic in San Luis isn't as consistently good as Atascadero.

            In Pismo Beach, Guisseppe's is great Italian. No ocean view, but tasty food.

            In Los Osos, try Sylvester's for big, juicy hamburgers and garlic fries that are perfectly seasoned. It's a tiny hole in the wall, w/an even tinier patio.

          2. re: Mr. Cookie

            I had a great meal at Robin's. The food and service were fabulous.

          3. We're frequent visitors.

            En route, we usually stop in Orcutt at Chef Rick's:

            Near enough to Cambria to make the drive from Moonstone Beach if you don't stop on the way, and my pick for the best choice in the Cambria area, Hoppe's Bistro in Cayucos:

            Both have these have been consistently good in recent trips.

            For upscale in Morro Bay, Windows on the Water:

            If you take San Marcos Pass, Cold Spring Tavern can be fun (lots of bikers, good burgers, historic stagecoach stop):

            Also in Cambria, Wild Ginger:

            Have a great trip!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Babette

              A stong second for Chef Rick's in Orcutt just south of Santa Maria, Hoppe's and Wild Ginger. Would also add Taco Temple in Morro Bay for their unique take on south of the border cuisine, and Chapala Rest. a couple of blocks north for the more authentic dishes.

            2. I respectfully disagree about Robin's in Cambria and recommend it highly:


              Also, Linn's Fruit Bin has opened a small little place just north of it's main restaurant location (currently closed due to fire). Great baked goods and comfort food:


              And for the ride up or back, the Hitching Post in Beullton is just off the 101:


              1 Reply
              1. re: okie

                No offense, but I'd avoid Linn's, too, at least for breakfast. What used to be good breakfasts there years ago went downhill and further downhill to the point where my wife and I stopped going altogether. Their baked goods are so-so.

                Robin's is one of those places with no real food focus, seems to be trying mostly to please tourists with dishes from a variety of countries/styles/cuisines, none of them very successful, IMHO. But the OP can check out the menu for himself.

              2. We went to the Buono Tavola in Paso Robles (there is another one in SLO) for dinner after a day of wine tasting, and I can honestly say it was one of the best Italian meals I've ever had. Everyone loved their dish (and I come from a family of foodies), and the service and prices were perfect.


                1. On your drive up take a detour into See Canyon off Highway 101 to see the apple farms and by all means explore the back and highly scenic Peachy Canyon Road and its walnut tree groves leaving from the western edge of the city of Paso Robles out to the Cambria area (check a local map carefully for this road off one of its numbered streets 12th/15th??).

                  1. McPhee's Grill in Templeton, just 5 mi south of Paso Robles. 101 south from 246, Vineyard Dr exit, go east to Main, then left on Main. Right downtown. Wonderful Sunday brunch. Nice atmosphere, menu.

                    Make reservations asap for NYE wherever you decide to go. Perhaps not much open NY's day for b'fast or lunch except resort hotel restaurants and chains. Sidewalks tend to roll up in the county except for Latino and chain restaurants on big holidays. But lots of picnic spots make up for it!

                    There are a couple of great very casual but muy autenico taquerias in east Paso. Take 13th St east past the large shopping center (the only one) and continue as the road swings to the right. Pass the school on the right, and about 1/4 mile or so past, there is an older strip mall center on the left. Don't recall the name, but taqueria is next to a Mexican market. Very good. It was an all-woman staff when I was there. Not too salty!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: toodie jane

                      We also ate at McPhees when we went, and everything was delicious. But I still think the Italian restaurant in my other post is tops if you have to only pick one place to go :)

                    2. For my money, being able to stroll along the seashore to a restaurant is better than driving anywhere. The Sea Chest would be my pick if I were staying on Moonstone Beach.

                      McPhee's in Templeton is a great choice for a nice dinner, same with Hoppes in Cayucos, but driving miles to those places on New Year's Eve, I'd have to love my ride.

                      Stops up and back: Cold Springs (noted above) is great, and you might find a winery or two open around Los Olivos in the San Marcos Pass. Bon Temps for breakfast in SLO. Gourmet Grub for a sandwich in Morro Bay.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: cplourde

                        thinking of hitting hoppe's for lunch on the way up and then strolling to the sea chest for dinner - so as not to get back in the car. so the question becomes nyeve dinner - thinking villa creek, mcphee's, buona tavola or no one has mentioned a place that someone at work told me about...chenoa restaurant...anyone?-

                        1. re: cinzia

                          I had a delicious dinner at Chenoa, about one year ago. It was good enough that I can still recall what we had-short ribs, and a squash risotto with roasted figs. Both were so huge that we brought home enough for a full second dinner. Very pleasant service, reasonable prices, lovely interior, and good food. We even ended up talking with the folks at the next table, who were locals celebrating a birthday. They said they were regulars.

                          I'm planning a return to Cambria in January, and I absolutely plan to go back to Chenoa.

                          1. re: jillyju

                            I think it may be closed - I tried to call yesterday and the number gave the disconnected message! The dinner you described sounds DE-LISH!

                            1. re: cinzia

                              That would be very disappointing. I can't tell anything from looking at their website:


                              1. re: jillyju

                                Chenoa has closed (this time I think for good). It previously had been Bistro Sole but reopened under Chenoa about 1-1/2 to 2 yrs ago after restructuring. Closure was approx 6-8 weeks ago.

                        2. re: cplourde

                          Minor quibble, if the OP is staying in Cambria, the drive to Hoppe's in Cayucos is a very pleasant 15 min. cruise down Hwy 1.

                          1. re: PolarBear

                            Try it on a bicycle! A lovely trip, but sometimes windy. Food tastes better at the end, though. ;-)

                        3. For the last 14 years I was the biggest fan of Robin's. It was consistent, interesting food that featured much Pacific Rim variety. I hate to say it but since the ex-wife of the original owner has come back to run this restaurant with a different chef it has gone downhill. The interesting dishes have changed and the prices have gotten higher. If you want to dine where the food USED to taste like Robin's go to Wild Ginger who is the sister of Robin's owner and eat well. You will not have the ambiance or the level of service that you had experienced but the food overshadows it.

                          1. Not advertised much but once featured on Huell Howser's California Gold show is Hoover's Beef Palace - on Main on the way into Templeton from the north off 101. Nondescript on the outside and serving just breakfast and lunch - it is a local's restaurant for sure. The last time we drove right past - we knew where it was and we were looking for it at the time and still missed it on the first pass.

                            Servings are large; being at the stockyard, beef is their specialty and every sandwhich we've tried has been great. It's not fancy - just good road food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: editortr

                              The Beef Palace is a kick - definately a road house. Don't let eyes deceive - that wizzened cowboy with the scruffy boots and rodeo belt could well be one of the good ole down home boys worth 10 or 15 million - a month ago it could be a group of vitners coming in for some carbs after picking 4 or 5 tons of grapes.

                            2. As a frequent visitor to Cambria, I've had some great dinners at Hoppe's, Chenoa, and even (sometimes) the Black Cat. One small but memorable spot is Shawn's on Main in Morro Bay. Shawn is the original Black Cat chef, an innovative perfectionist, and he offers small plates and a great selection of local wines.

                              In Cambria, the original owners of Bistro Sole are back in the former Chenoa space under the name "Indigo Moon." Very casual but great food, and a large selection of wines by the glass. They're open for lunch.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ekaterinak

                                One place you all haven't mentioned is Bistro Laurent in Paso. Wow, pricey but great food. You can see the chefs preparing your food, always a plus I feel. Very good french cuisine. After an afternoon of wine tasting, check this place out.

                                On a side note, the taco place your referring to in east Paso is delicious if you like authentic Tijuana style tacos. Its in the same strip mall as Senor Sanchos. There are actually two small taco shops. One is called Tacos Jalisco and I forget the name of the other. Go to the one on the left as your facing it. They also put out a taco stand on El Camino Real in Atascadero in front of Big Bubba's Restaurant in the Albertson's Shopping center from 12-9 on Fri-Sun. Best tacos around the central coast for sure.

                                1. re: CHPcadet

                                  Sounds like you mean Tenexpa for the taco place. Great tacos. I love their al pastor. Also enjoy the taquitos when they have them on the special menu.

                              2. Go to the bar at McLintocks in Pismo Beach and order a single order of their (1) 11 0z Steak Sampler and (2) Potato Skillet appetizers and prepare to enjoy a very generous, dinner for two - with speedy service and no waiting for a table.

                                1. Well fellow chows, a San Diegan here. Fiance' and I just had dinner at Sierra Mar. I had the Ribeye, with the rib meat, garnished with foie gras. I have experienced the divine combination of love, music, and food. For those Chowhounds doing research on Big Sur, hit Sierra Mar on your travels.


                                  5 Replies
                                    1. re: Dagney

                                      Daqney, are they in their new digs? The last I heard they were in temporary space until the renovation was over.

                                      1. re: Gail

                                        Alice and Gail-

                                        Yes, the Sierra Mar is officially in the new space, and it is DIVINE. Alice, I forgot you were coming up this way, I am so excited for you. The food climate changes from a barren desert to a triple canopy forest the moment you pass thru to the Central Coast.

                                        So far we have eaten at La Super Rica in Santa Barbara, the Black Cat Bistro and the Redwood Diner in Cambria, Emil's in Carmel, and Sierra Mar here at the PR (where we were just married!...;}).


                                        1. re: Dagney

                                          I started this link forever ago - it's great to come back and see that it's still going! On the trip (w/ the now-ex) we hit Hoppe's for lunch (divine scallops); Sea Chest for dinner (wish we'd sat at the bar & stuck w/ apps but a great nite regardless); and the had New Year's Eve dinner at Villa Creek which I think is highly underrated due to its proximity to Bistro Laurent. And their wine is great too - check out Robert Parker's article on his favorite Paso Robles wineries (Villa Creek; Linne Calodo; etc.). All I'm saying is, maybe don't drive so fast through the Central Coast!

                                          1. re: Dagney

                                            Congratulations - that's very exciting! We eloped to Whidbey Island in Washington State, and haven't regretted it for an instant. I am excited about our trip too - we're planning to go to Super Rica and I would like to check out the Hungry Cat, and maybe Plow and Angel or Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch. I wonder if anyone has feedback on which one, or whether to bother? I seem to be hearing mixed things.

                                      2. Big Sky in SLO.
                                        Wineries - I have been wanting to visit Adelaida because I have had some good wine from there and have heard good things.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: pantani

                                          Well, we were going to venture off property for dinner tonight, but then my spanking new husband skipped down to Sierra Mar and picked up a menu. Foie Gras CREME BRULEE????? Oh dear. I'll take a gallon of that. I must say, I love foie gras, I think it's a shame foie gras is being slowly "outlawed". I know how careful one must be to cook foie gras properly; 5 seconds too long and it's ruined. The talented staff at the Sierra Mar has NAILED their foie gras for three days now.

                                          So anyway, we will be dining here AGAIN, as I am helpless to escape the magnetic force pulling me to this great restaurant. Alice- my apologies for not providing you with a more varied list of reviews, I just can't help myself... ;>


                                          1. re: Dagney

                                            Dagney, you and your "spanking new husband" have a great time. What a spectacular honeymoon place, don't blame you for not leaving. If you do decide to venture out, Nepenthe is a great lunch place. Just a couple of miles south and fun. If you're into wine, ask for Angus, a nice guy who knows wine.

                                        2. Well, my dear north-central coast Chows, spanking new husband and I just finished our 4th night in a row at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch. Love Love Love. Food is excellent. Service is excellent. And I mean, old school, quiet, low key, unobtrusive, calm, awesome service. As I write this, new husband is having a melt down over the lack of excellent food in San Diego. He is currently going on about how Carne Asada Burritos are taking over the world. I can't type as fast as he is talking, this is so funny. Now he is apologizing...

                                          Anyway, you dear people north of LA have lovely manners, you are all most courteous, and the food, oh my, THE FOOD. We are signing off the central coast Chow Board for now to reluctantly crawl back to our small hovel in So Cal. Husband says we are going back to Applebees and Jalopeno Poppers with crappy Ranch dressing. Chilis. Claim Jumper. Olive Garden.

                                          Thank you, chefs and line cooks of the Central Coast. You take pride in your work, and in the QUALITY of your products. We appreciate your efforts. New husband is now saying things about SoCal food that would get me banned from this website.

                                          Alice- have fun on your trip, can't wait to hear about it.