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Mar 20, 2008 07:14 AM

1st time visit to Central Coast - recs for most of the area...

Santa Barbara (probably lunch), San Luis Obispo, anything near inland wineries.

Two single 40something women. While we want good food.... a fun bar scene, nice outdoor patio and near water are all huge plusses. We're not looking for the most awesome food ever in a little funky dive, you know?

We're coming from the East Coast, so I'd just as soon pass on Italian and would prefer to concentrate on west coast seafood, Calif cuisine, good local produce, etc.

We're flying into LAX and are hoping to drive as far north as Nepenthe. Any suggestions for us? Any don't miss wineries?

Thanks so much!

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  1. Landing at LAX in the am? It is about a 2-21/2 hr drive up the coast to SB- do you know the route you are taking? 101 is probably the fastest, but I do love the LAX/Lincoln blvd/Hwy 1 to 101 route. That would take you thru Malibu and the coast is great this time of year- I am not familiar with any foodie stops in that area.

    I would do Santa Barbara Shellfish- located on the Strearns Wharf- a little pricey, but so good (crab sandwich, steamed clams) and awesome views, beer & wine only. The Harbor Restaurant is also on Stearns Wharf- and has a new team in the kitchen- the tasting menus at night look fantastic...Brophy Brothers- located across the way at the "boats" would also be a good choice. Brophys has a bar scene.

    If you are trying to make it to Big Sur in one day- after are going to be putting in a long haul. Is that your destination, Nepenthe? If so, you can reach that and then in the following time hit the wineries.

    Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo are 1 1/2 hrs away from eachother. Both have great wineries, but you can't do both areas in one day.

    What is your time frame here?

    3 Replies
    1. re: JalamaMama

      *gulp*...arrive on a Thursday, leave on a Monday morning. Monday flight to return home leaves LAX at 11AM, so we planned to stay somewhere in LA so we weren't fighting the commuters. I assumed that since our flight from PVD to LAX got in at 11:00AM on Thursday, we'd have missed the morning commute and it'd be a 1.5 hr drive - no?

      I figured Thursday (arrival day) we'd have lunch in Santa Barbara as a pit stop, and head to SLO for our overnighter, then hit Hearst Castle the next morning, continue on to Nepenthe for a late lunch, then back down to SLO or Paso Robles to sleep Friday night. Saturday hit some wineries, afternoon back to Santa Barbara .....dinner/overnight there. Sunday wind our way back down towards LA w/a glimpse or two of Malibu, then into LA itself for our last night. Realistic?

      1. re: JaneRI

        I'm concerned about your Friday plan - you probably don't want to drive the 1 from SLO to Big Sur and back in the same day - and Hearst Castle is at least a two or three hour proposition in and of itself (well worth it though.)

        I'd suggest Thursday - drive to SB and either stay there, or have lunch and head to the Santa Ynez Valley for the overnight (say Solvang or some such.) Friday do a few wineries and spend the night in SLO. Saturday drive from SLO to Big Sur and stop at Hearst Castle on the way. Sunday drive back from Big Sur to LA, stopping in SB again for lunch. Either that, or you could skip Big Sur and spend more time in the wine areas or Santa Barbara!

        1. re: JaneRI

          Not Realistic at all. There is NO WAY you would enjoy all the rushing yuo would have to do.

          You would be better off just driving up to Santa Barbara, and doing the wine thing in the Santa Ynez valley. Plenty of good wineries, nice places to stay, and it gives you plenty of time to relax and explore. Then you could drive back to LA and feel you had a good time, and be relaxed.

          You would love to eat in Los Olivos or Solvang or Ballard..lots of chowish places there! Santa Barbara has great eating and visiting spots!

      2. Definitely try the Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara! I think there are also several relatively recent posts on here about Santa Barbara and the Central Coast, so a search using Central Coast or Santa Barbara would probably be a good idea. Paradise Cafe might also be up your alley.

        In the Santa Ynez Valley, I'd say head for Los Olivos - Patrick's Sidestreet Cafe, Panino, Matteis, etc. those are the most often recommended places in that area that I know of. Robin's and the Sow's Ear are pretty good in Cambria. There's not much of anything between there and Big Sur (other than Hearst Castle).

        In Big Sur, I'd say stop for the view in Nepenthe (or better yet at Julia Pfeiffer Burns St. Park) but eat at the Big Sur Bakery, Ventana or Post Ranch Inn if you get a chance. Another thought - the massages at Esalen are out of this world - and you can eat lunch there if you time it right!

        Here are some blog posts I wrote about a similar trip last summer - we had a great time!

        Have fun!

        1. For good food and a great bar scene, Paso Robles is your place on the weekend. There is a brand new Courtyard by Marriott with a heated pool (and many other nice hotels in town). Have dinner anywhere downtown on the park- the Crooked Kilt is a bit of a dive but the food is pretty good. Their seafood is great, they own a few other restos in the area including a seafood on the coast and after 9 on weekends they have a d.j. There's another small seafood place downtown called Chico's cafe and it is associated with the Sea Shanty, also on the coast. After dinner, head over to the basement in the new Acorn building- Level 4 has live music (I danced 'til 1 a.m. last weekend), great 35+ crowd, it's the happening place right now. The P.R. Inn has live music on weekends as well- but they close early. Do a search and read about the lots of other great restaurants in SLO county, but the nightlife is definitely in Paso. If you're looking to hook-up, besides Level 4, you should check out the bar at Villa Creek, Vinoteca (wine bar, closes kinda early) but a good place to meet good looking wino's. :-)

          1. Thanks SO much for these great posts, I'm saving them to my favorites (trip is in June - we just booked flights yesterday, plenty of time to figure out the details).

            1 Reply
            1. re: JaneRI

              Your trip sounds realistic, it would be too much for some, but if you are prepared to be on the road- why not? June means fog along the coast sometimes.

              The Sunday drive back into LA will be rough. If you can put it off till 8pm or get a early start, you'll be better off. It is a a good 2 hours to SB, from LAX. Another 1 to 1.5 to San Luis Obispo- with another hour to Paso Robles.

              Sounds like the wineries of Santa Barbara County will suit your plans best. If you only had 2-3 hours, and that means 2 wineries max.....Well you could take Alisos Canyon rd off 101 and get onto Foxen Canyon and choose from Zaca Mesa, Fess Parker, Koehler, Firestone, and Curtis. You could hit Beckman and Bridlewood. Kalyra and Sunstone. Babcock and Melville. Our local vintners association has a website with maps.

              Malibu has some really fun low key eatting places- check the other appropriate boards for recs., that could be fun before getting a LAX hotel.

              Have a super time!

            2. I think you are a little ambitous. By the time you get your luggage and a car it will probably be 12 or so, and the westside traffic always bites. You can get a great late lunch on SB see some of the other recs, and then I would probably taste in Santa Ynez and call it a day. Highway 1 past san simeon can be dicey if you are tired. Enjoy youself and take your time. There are some great places to stay and eat in Santa Ynez. A couple of places are Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivios and The restaurant at the Ballard Inn.

              1 Reply
              1. re: littlestevie

                Thanks so much to all of you for taking the time to look at my plans so carefully.

                Steve, I def didn't plan on getting too far north that first day - sleepover in maybe SLO or PR, next morning heading up to San Simeon/Big Sur.

                That last night I think we'll stay in Marina Del Ray for airport proximity.