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Dec 15, 2006 09:57 AM

Santa Maria: light/non-fancy dining?

Hello, thanks to the central coast treasure, T.Jane, we're going to the tamale place on our way out of town, but after a fair bit of looking, there doesn't seem to be many options for evening dining in/near Santa Maria, other than the red meat palaces (jocko's, far western,, gourmet regional(Rick's in Orcutt), or Atari-ya (Japanese). Is there a better than o.k. 'sit down Mexican' place, or is the flatbread 'pizza' place open for dinner more than just Fri/Sat. these days? We're tolerant of many kinds of foods(partial to fresh veg's),thank you, the ever-friendly c.coast 'hounds!

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  1. Well, there's always the generic Chinese places,i.e.,Ming Dynasty (Family Fitness Shopping Center and North China (only so-so last time) as last resort sit down joints.

    There's a new eating place in old Orcutt that supposedly falls into the goumet regional category, though I haven't eaten there yet.

    I would agree there's a dearth of good sit-down places in Santa Maria that fall outside the meat places and Chef Ricks
    (which I like a lot). The only Indian restaurant that ever existed in Santa Maria is now the Spearmint Rhino ( Lap dance type place). There was a Mediterranean restaurant that opened
    near Mervyns and quickly disappeared,the list goes on and on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kaki3152

      We just ate at a newish Mexican restaurant near Mervyn's and it was sooooo good. Fresh-fresh-fresh, hand-made, and plentiful. Restaurant is called El Paraiso, and the number is 805-614-2883.

    2. I don't live on the Central Coast anymore so I'm not sure if its still there anymore, but there was a pretty decent sit down mexican restaurant across the street from the mall in the shopping center where the Mervyns is (was?). There's actually 2 mexican restaurants in there, one was near the Big 5 and the other is to the north of Mervyns more. The one I'm talking about is the one to the north. Maybe someone that lives in the area can give you the name of the place.

      1. Right now there really isn't a restaurant that meets your description in Santa Maria.

        I highly recommend the Los Olivos Cafe, (it is worth the short drive). Their salads, pasta, and pizza are all very enjoyable for lunch or dinner. See:

        The Natural Cafe (their Santa Babara location often gets recommended on Chowhound for their salads and fresh food) will be opening a location in Santa Maria in January.

        I believe that the restaurant Milew is referring to above is the Mexican restaurant Maya. I agree that it the best sit down Mexican food i have found in Santa Maria. High quality and fresh with good service. My favorite Mexican restaurant is Tonos in Nipomo, they are a bit more casual (order at a counter), but the food is good and the prices are low.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chickendud

          thanks, all of you, for the kind replies. We enjoyed the los olivos cafe on an earlier trip; looking for a place as close as possible after driving all day to get to SM. I think we went by Tonos when we drove to the Far Western in Oct., so it's in consideration with Maya for now. enjoy your winter holidays,all

        2. Wow, the Natural Cafe is opening a branch here. Awesome!

          1. such kind words. But dining in our area sure doesn't pose the choice challenge that the big metro areas offer. So take it for what it's worth. Something that seems amazing to me might be a yawner for someone from a more populous area. (275,000 and counting in SLO county now.)I just try to explore my neck of the woods (south slo co.)and report because I hate to see travelers resort to the chains strung out along 101 if there is a better alternative.

            Don't forget Wine Cottage in Old (west) Orcutt, farther west down Clark from Rick's into Old Town Orcutt left on Broadway 1 block. Next to The Loading Dock (fair sandwich place). They specialize in wine & food pairings. Had lunch there and were very pleased. Attentive staff and very good food.

            In the Town Center Mall (Mervyn's plaza) there is a promising looking bistro (sorry, don't know the name) I keep hoping other area Hounds will report on it. Near the Asian restaurant, on the west end of the building.

            There is a nice sit-down restaurant in Lompoc, Sissy's Uptown Cafe in the old downtown area. It gets good reviews from locals, but I haven't eaten there in many years; it's off my beaten path. Perhaps some north county hounds could remark on it.

            I think most of the sit-down Mexican restaurants in our area are geared toward the Gringo palate, nothing like the wonders of the Watsonville scene. Lots of melted cheese and varying degrees of red sauce. The best Mexican food is at the market deli-Mex's, mostly takeout. I'd love to hear about something stellar, but haven't. We often eat at Paco's in Nipomo, where the dishes are Americanized, but care is taken and the food is always well-flavored. (sometimes the pozole is too salty) The daily special soups are very good. Very attentive and friendly service. Good chips and salsa. The baby back ribs and the grilled chicken breast w/chili and grilled onions are our go-to favorites. Very serviceable (but not authentic) Mexican dishes. Closed Monday.

            3 Replies
            1. re: toodie jane

              We had lunch at Sissy's about three years ago. It was good considering the area. My husband had quiche while I had a turkey sandwich. The cafe is across the street from the Chamber of Commerce so that is how we stumbled across it. About six months ago while visiting Vandenberg AFB we decided to return to Sissy's only to find the cafe area was closed but the back portion of the building was open for fine dining. The dining area was so stuffed with small tables and way too many chairs we felt claustrophobic. The kitchen...hmmm not sure where that was because the waiters were coming and going out of the restraurant we thought maybe it was in the cafe area across the outside breezeway. The service though was excellent - our waiter eagerly offered wine pairing from a local wines list. Apparently there was some town big wig a few tables over that the waiter was trying to impress and continually had loud conversation with his party across the room. I thought the prices were much too high for the quality of food. The pork tenderloin medallions tasted like hocky pucks. I would never recommend Sissy's to anyone -- this was a "wanna be" fine dining and it missed the mark big time.

              1. re: mewho

                I wouldn't go for dinner myself b/c there are some super restaurants in the area including The Ballard Inn and Brother's Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern. Lunch was nice at Sissy's. Great grilled sourdough sandwiches.

              2. re: toodie jane

                Paco's is now closed. A town treasure lost to redevelopement and Cal Trans bungling.