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From San Francisco to LA--outside of SF Bay Area portion [Moved from SF Bay Area board]

[Note: this thread was moved by the Moderators from the SF Bay Area Board because most of the recommendations related to places outside of the SF Bay Area. Please keep your replies in this thread limited to recommendations outside of the SF Bay Area]

I've been going through the boards for a while now and its quite a chore to figure out what to eat, and what cannot be missed in SF
We are a foodie couple travelling from Montreal,
in SF for 4 days, Napa, then we we will be travelling down the coast ( 3 days ) stopping in Big Sur, Santa Barbera, Carmel, Monterey, etc.. finally spend 2 days in L.A. before heading back home.

I know there is alot of info out there, but if someone has done a similar trip and has suggestions of what are the must-eat cheap to expensive. We're happy as long as the food is good!

Also, it may be frowned upon, but any suggestions for places we must stop on our little road trip or what wineries we must visit..

Any tidbits of info would be soooo appreciated.
Thank you!

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  1. If you can get in, The Boulevard in SF is a favorite of ours. You can request a reservation through Opentable.com. If you stop in Pismo Beach, Mo's Barbecue is a favorite of our teenagers along with the Splash Cafe. Pismo is a cute, laid back little beach town. It's where we go to escape the heat. It's south of Big Sur and Morro Bay. Have fun! That's a beautiful drive you'll be making! Sometimes we forget how wonderful our coastline is!

    1 Reply
    1. re: mrsmegawatt

      A second on Splash Cafe. Love their chowder in that buttered bread bowl.

    2. Are you taking Hwy 1 all the way down?

      Gayle's Bakery in Capitola is a great lunch spot. Capitola is the town just south of Santa Cruz

      1. Passionfish near Monterey gets mixed reviews for its food. Check the board. I've never eaten there, but I suspect I'll like it. But if you like wine, Passionfish should be on your list of places to stop. Top notch wine at not much above retail. There's a link at the bottom of this page to download their wine menu.
        If you're looking for suggestions in Napa, I'd recommend Julia's Kitchen in COPIA. This area is covered on the San Francisco board.
        Talley in Arroyo Grande near San Luis Obispo is one of my favorite wineries. Check out their 2005 pinot noir. It's drinking well now.
        The board is stuffed with suggestions on wineries to visit in Paso Robles. Depends on what kind of wine you like.
        Is Cafe Cherrier still good in Montreal? I loved Schwartz's Deli, too.

        3 Replies
        1. re: SteveTimko

          You guys are all great -
          everything is being noted !!!

          yes we are driving down HWY 1

          yes cafe cherrier and schwarts are still going strong.
          Alot of great new bars and restaurants have been opening,
          our board is really brutally honest. I rarely disagree with reviews!

          1. re: jennina

            We just took that trip a few months ago. You are going to have a great time.

          2. re: SteveTimko

            Steve, I think if you check past reviews it seems most that were disappointed were due to a single dish that didn't meet expectations. Ten of us had dinner there Thurs. evening and all left very pleased and full. Myself and two others had the scallops with a custard risotto and red pepper sauce that were outstanding. BIL raved about the Pork Shank special, unfortunately I was seated at the far end of the table and didn't get a taste. Pal next to me had the Duck Confit and loved it. Lady PB went with the Smoked Sturgeon (first experience) and was most pleased. For apps had a couple orders each of the fried olives and fried asparagus, several salads, all perfectly executed, white bean and ham soup, couple orders of crab cakes (missed out tasting those as well which means they were too good to share), and a couple orders of the pork belly (got a few weird looks from the less adventurous in our group) that drew raves and some new appreciation from the uninitiated. We brought a bottle of Duckhorn SB and ordered a Merry Edwards '05 Pinot Noir (40) and a Sea Smoke Southing (55), total w/T&T came to about 100/couple, hard to beat even outside such a beautiful area. I should add, we had one dish that failed, the White Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese (baked) was dry and lacking in cheddar flavor, discovered later that my BIL had revived it with an extra side order of the garlic aioli that came with the asparagus.

          3. This was a list I had for someone looking for some good cheaper eats in the Monterey/Carmel/PG area

            Good eats:
            LouLous (on wharf #2)
            First Awakenings (Tin Cannery)
            Tillie Gorts (Pacific Grove)
            Breakfast Club (Seaside)
            Patissiere Bechler (Pacific Grove)


            Turtle Bay Taqueria (on Tyler one street below Alvarado)
            Wild Plum Cafe (on Munras near Alvarado, two thumbs up)
            Crepe's A Go Go (Wave st. one street above Cannery Row)
            Red House Cafe (Pacific Grove)
            Elli's American Diner (Del Monte Mall)
            Rio Grill (Carmel)
            Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley)
            Fifi's Cafe (Pacific Grove)
            Cafe Rustica (Carmel Valley)
            Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley)

            (most of the above are also open for dinner)
            Lallapalooza (Alvarado)
            Blue Moon (Cannery Row)
            Peppers mexican cuisine (Pacific Grove)
            Gianni's Pizza (Lighthouse Mtry, another two thumbs up)
            Passionfish (pacific grove)
            Joe Rambi's (pacific grove)

            I know it's a lot but these are my best picks for dining on a budget. If you are going to splurge go to Passionfish in Pacific Grove. They are very reasonably priced for cuisine and wine! Let me know if you would like any more detail on any of theses suggestions!

            1. Wineries in Carmel Valley to try:

              Heller (their Reserve tasting is well worth it)
              There are a couple of tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea go to Cima Collina there they are a newer Mtry County winery but have some really tasty wine!

              1. Wow you got some great choices here already... Fully agree with the Pismo Beach Splash Cafe.

                I have been riding and driving up the Hwy 101 and Hwy 1 for decades and over the years I have stumbled upon so many little gems and beautiful spots to linger. Also, I typically do not spend time in restaurants when driving the coast just because it is so beautiful and much better to get something to go and sit outside look out to the ocean or a park for a picnic. I can’t really recommend anything in Carmel or Monterey.

                First stop out of the Bay Area -
                On Hwy. 1 in Pescadero about 14 miles south of Half Moon Bay there is a great!! Taco to be had at TAQUERIA Y MERCADO DE AMIGOS right in the town center at a gas station on Pescadero Creek RD. Lot’s of beaches and parks in the area.

                Big Sur is stunning and really should explore some of the beaches.
                A must stop in Big Sur is the Post Ranch especially during the day or around sunset. You can stop and have a drink and appetizers no need to pay the price for a full dinner to have the experience of this place. The outdoor patio overlooking the canyon and ocean watching the hawks glide is a peaceful and relaxing experience. Breathtakingly beautiful scenery.

                If you are looking for a place to stay the Deetjens is a very special place and the Restaurant serves up Excellent food breakfast and dinner, dinner by candlelight, most charming and rustic place. This was the spot for many famous writers, artist and so on it has great old bones. Also, don’t miss the Henry Miller Library up the road. A bookstore, gallery garden, a nice place to stop and picnic.

                Click on “links we like for other great spots in Big Sur” lots of great spots to see-

                RUDDELL’S SMOKEHOUSE- in Cayucos north of Moro Bay- great fish tacos and other fine nibbles. I use to surf here and can smell them tacos right now. I am not sure if it was because I was so hungry after being in the water for so long or were they actually that good.

                Morro Bay is in SLO County and about 9-10 miles north of SLO- Go to Chapala Restaurant right on Main street, very small right next to a gas station. All of their tacos are pretty good and a fun spot.

                San Luis Obispo- I spent lots of time there in my youth and had friends that went to collage at Cal Poly. So not sure what restaurants are good... But find yourself a grilled tri-tip sandwich somewhere. They can be found in parking lots around the center of town. Where you see someone grilling outside with a large stainless steel BBQ and people in line stop!

                I would continue driving on the coast rather than detouring inland to Paso Robles, I like PR it’s just the coastal drive is beautiful, you can visit some wineries in Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/ Santa Ynez Valley -http://www.sbcountywines.com/wineries...

                Not sure how you are coming back but there are two ways to get to Santa Barbara, either continue on the Hwy 101 the stretch from Lompoc to Santa Barbara (well Hollister Ranch) is beautiful and it was my backyard growing up so I am a bit bias, it’s not as built up as some of the coastal area. Or you can cut over to hwy 154 San Marcus Pass near Buellton, and explore so many beautiful wineries and country side before heading into Santa Barbara.. If you are taking 101 back take 154 San Marcus Pass back and do the wineries at that time. If you are taking the dreaded Hwy 5 back then take 154 into Santa Barbara.

                Taking the 154 take the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, this is true California and stunning. the area where I boarded Clover (horse) RIP.. This would be the “not to miss area” and there are around 13 wineries on this beautiful road. Now there are some better wineries spread out over this area but this a one of the prettiest places. Firestone is one of the oldest and largest in that area great for Bordeaux-style blends, Curtis boutique winery sister winery to Firestone has Rhône-style wines and Syrah, I love Foxen Vineyard just plain charming good Pinot Noir, they do Chardonnay as well, Cottonwood Canyon has a beautiful view of the hills and Mountains. There are many more. There are other fantastic wineries in the area but as far as experience this is it. Drum Canyon is nice too

                Fun towns to stop in are Los Olivos and Ballard… Solvang never interest me even as a kid, although Brothers restaurant in Solvang is great. In Los Olivos Andrew Murray Winery has some great wines, some of the best white California Rhones. Matteis is near and dear to my heart one of the stagecoaches, nice place to stop in for dinner or drinks, the Los Olivos Grocery has good pressed sandwiches and things you could take for a picnic and Patrick's Side Street Café.

                Another must stop as you head towards Santa Barbara on San Marcus Pass Rd., turn on Old Stage Coach Rd to Cold Springs Tavern, a one of a kind place. This is a must for breakfast or lunch. Really special place. The second stage coach stop after Matties. Here is a link- http://www.coldspringtavern.com

                Santa Barbara is hometown and there are many great spots, I am not too familiar with new places because when I visit I need my fix of what I miss. I will highlight some places not to me missed-

                Italian Grocery aka Tino’s RIP- at 415 E. De la Guerra St- Order a Super Deluxe Sub with THE DRESSING!!! - this is one of the best sandwiches you will find in California.
                El Paseo Restaurant- 813 Anacapa St..Ok this is the worst food but a must see place, go for a drink and walk around the El Paseo its a little treasure..Downtown SB.

                Wine Cask – also in the historical El Paseo would be a nice place for dinner. Beautiful, good seafood, California style food and good wines.

                La Super Rica Taqueria- 622 N. Milpas St, because it’s Taco time or go and order anything from here. This is on the map of one of the best taco stands. Who knew when I sat there with classmates at lunch in the late 70’s early 80’s.

                Playa Azul Café-914 Santa Barbara St. This is the good life, just an adorable place with good Mexican food, sit out on the patio and have a margarita. Sigh.

                Paradise Café- 702 Anacapa St, fun spot for breakfast

                D'Vine Café-205 W. Canon Perdido- good breakfast and great sandwiches

                Sojourner Café 134 E. Canon Perdido- this remains one of my favorite places, vegetarian just yummy food and such a funky place, it’s been around FOREVER. Lunch or dinner very casual

                Brophy Bros-119 Harbor Way another SB classic, very casual spot, good seafood and fun view of the harbor. Fun atmosphere.

                Ok one more taco spot, yes I am single minded-
                LILLY’S TAQUERIA 310 Chapala Street, for the Real Deal.

                I don’t want to recommend the more upscale places except the Wine Cask only because it’s been awhile and would not want to lead you in the wrong direction. I have some favorites just don’t know if they are still great. However, one of the most beautiful and romantic places is with excellent food is Stonehouse Restaurant in Montecito.


                You can email me if you like for other things to see and do or places to stay.

                1. Jennina,
                  Whatever you do, AVOID the horrible roadside tourist trap Ragged Point Resort for lunch. When I was there, they had a large tour group they were serving and weren't able to seat anyone til 12:45 pm. Confusing and bizarre, as I saw many open tables.

                  We ordered not long after but didn't receive our salad, child's grilled cheese sandwich, and club sandwich for over 50 minutes. Two tables separate from ours and seated 10 minutes after we did received their orders about 25 minutes before we did.

                  Inexcusable. They tried to make up for it by comping us free beverages, but the upshot is that Ragged Point is a pleasant place to stop for restrooms and a coffee and a look around the pretty grounds. This place has no incentive to treat its patrons well as they figure they'll never see your faces again. Plus, the food is mediocre at best.

                  If you're heading south on Highway 1, you're only 16 miles away from Cambria (see that thread in California). Bypass Ragged Point and have lunch at one of the many perfectly delightful places to eat in Cambria. It's MUCH more charming and also about a stone's throw from the beach.

                  Munchy "I'm your karma, Ragged Point" Roadtripper