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CA Coast Trip Restaurants

I'm taking my SO for his first exploration of the CA Coast, from LA to Big Sur and am looking for advice on great places to eat.

We have 2 nights in Cambria, 3 in Big Sur, and 1 in Los Olivos (I love Los Olivos Cafe, and the market, so I think we're set there). Want both suggestions of where to drop the big dough for a great meal (Ventana? Post Ranch Inn? Nepenthe (sp??)?, and other suggestions for great eating w/o having to spend our whole budget.

We love great food and wine as well as a great diner w/homemade pie.


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  1. Well, here are some links that are pretty recent discussing some of your many options in Cambria/Los Olivos.

    A personal fave of hubby and I is Wild Ginger in Cambria, here is a write up:

    As for Big Sur, I'm no expert, here is a recent thread. I think it is slim pickings there...

    1. I'll second gbg's suggestion of Wild Ginger in Cambria, also fond of Black Cat Bistro in the West Village. Sea Chest on Moonstone Dr. has good seafood, no reso's and cash only, iirc. Sow's Ear in East Village is probably the most upscale and pricey in the area, good food though.

      Big Sur depends on where you're staying and how much driving you want to do.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PolarBear

        Second PB's rec for Black Cat Bistro. Had dinner there this weekend and loved eveything!! It is very limited on seating so make a reservation.

        January it is restaurant month in SLO county, $30 for three courses, worth checking out:

        If you feel like taking a 15 minute drive, Hoppe's in Cayucos has an amazing menu. Brunch is fantastic, so fantastic that we went to dinner that same night because we were so impressed.

      2. We just did a similar trip - SD to Big Sur, and it was amazing. Are you doing Santa Barbara at all? If so, I'd recommend the Hungry Cat - great food at pretty moderate prices. There are a few posts on here about it if you do a search, and I wrote about it on my blog here - http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2007... It was my favorite meal (actually two) on the trip, and we went to the Post Ranch Inn as well. It was pretty great too, so if you're looking for a splurge I'd say go for it.

        Also in Big Sur don't miss the Big Sur Bakery or Deetjen's - and Nepenthe for the view. I wrote more about Big Sur here - http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2007...

        We also really liked the food at the Madonna Inn - the coffee shop has great breakfast and all the diner with homemade pie atmosphere you're looking for. They do have their own bakery and do actually make their own pies. Our steak dinner in their crazy-fancy dining room was very good too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Alice Q

          Great tips, thanks -- here's a question though -- we are eloping in Big Sur and not staying at the Post Ranch or Ventana -- where should we eat that night? Is Big Sur Bakery nice enough for a post-nuptial feast or do we need to go to Cielo or Sireea Mar

          1. re: florwoman

            It just depends on what you want - Big Sur Bakery is casual but intimate - if you're ok with that, and don't want to spend a lot it would be fine. Post Ranch is spectacular and I'm sure Ventana is good too - but they'll run you about $500 for two if you go all out.

        2. I would reccomend Hoppes in Cayucos for a Sunday Bruch. Great restaurant with a good wine list. The Sunday Brunch specila is $20 per adult, $19 per children and is well worth tthe money. It also comes with a glass of wine.

          Here's a link

          1. We had a wonderful lunch at the big sur bakery, and we really enjoyed robins in cambria. Have a great time, its just lovely there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jennywenny

              I love the food at Robins in Cambria as well

            2. I'd also like to recommend Big Sur Bakery. Wonderful, wonderful food.

              Nepenthe can be pricey, but you can't beat the view. My SO and I had soup and split an appetizer for a beautiful and light lunch.

              1. You might want to jump off the freeway going either direction for a nice break in Avila Beach, just a minute or two north of Pismo Beach. Far enough from the freeway (unlike most all the other towns between LO and Big Sur) that you are alone with the ocean, no freeway noise)

                Nice wide beach for strolling and plenty of cafes and winetasting shops to be a nice respite. Park downtown at the beachside and stroll the promenade for your choices. Good coffee at Joe Mamma's. (Clover brewer)

                Joe Mommas
                310 Front, Avila Beach, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: toodie jane

                  Thanks TJ for the info about the Clover brewer at Joe Mommas, it is good to know for our future trips over to the coast. Sometimes I am just dying for some good coffee in the area and didn't know where to go.

                  1. re: glazebrookgirl

                    If you like Illy, theres a nice shop out in Morro Bay, Blue Bean Espresso Bar, across the side street from Taco Temple. Run by a nice young couple, very comfortable, an ocean view if you stand on tippy toes. Great coffee and espresso drinks.

                    Blue Bean Espresso Bar
                    2700 N Main St, Morro Bay, CA

                2. Flor, if you like seafood, you should not miss dinner at the Sea Chest. I take my family over about once a month. We get in line at about 4:30 (4:00 on weekends) they open at 5:30, take a lawn chair and a bottle of wine. You enjoy watching the sunset while you wait. I love the 'devils on horseback"- oysters with bacon, a ton of garlic and fresh bread to soak up the juice- it doesn't get much better than that! They are cash only operation- (I found out the hard way years agoaand had to write a check, which they graciously accepted). Another fun, inexpensive meal is Taco Temple in Morro Bay on N. Main by Spencer's market. Don't be fooled by the name, it's a seasonal Cali cuisine place, and the desserts are all homemade and to DIE FOR!

                  1. Recent thread on Carlock's, a bakery in Los Osos. Worth a stop to pick up snacks for the drive.


                    1. I had my first Post Ranch Inn meal in December - we stoped for lunch on our way to Carmel and while the kobe burger was juicy and delicious, the $22 ahi was chewy and flavorless. I've had WAY better many times including P.F. Chang's. Having said that, I would stop there for lunch again for the views and burger - especially if it's a nice day because they have a patio. Rocky Point Restaurant, which is north of Big Sur proper but short of Carmel, has an amazing patio as well with views south including one of highway's famed bridges. But, they don't have good food. Only a suggestion for cocktails and the garlic cheese bread!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: hungryinaz

                        If you do go back, I would really suggest you try their tamales. The manager/owner told me they buy them locally and they are homemade-very delish! We finally found something we like there after many unsuccessful tries.

                      2. If you want to go to the kind of taqueria that doesn't exist in the DC area, then on the way stop in Carpinteria, 10 miles short of Santa Barbara. This is what I had to say:

                        First - a completely life affirming taqueria in Carpenteria, next to a 7-11, Rincon Alteno. Holy Moley, this place had my head spinning, I couldn't believe it. Four of the tacos were each as good as the other other: pastor, cabezas, tripas, carnitas. The carnitas were amazingly rich. If you think you don't like tripe, or would like to try it for the first time, this is definitely the place to go. The best tripe I've ever had. Tacos de lengua were also very good. I ate there for both lunch and dinner; I simply had to return.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Steve

                          Taqueria Rincon Alteno

                          Taqueria Rincon Alteno
                          4414 Via, Real Carpinteria, CA

                        2. Nepenthe in Big Sur is a fun place with a good wine list & good food. Wonderful place to watch the sun set. I had an outstanding meal at Post Ranch a couple of years ago. The restaurant at Ventanna (Ceilio?) was good but it was Valentine's Day and I'm not a fan of Valentines Day in restaurants.