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Apr 14, 2008 05:12 PM

lunch between Los Angeles & Big Sur

We'll be driving up on Friday, leaving LA early in the morning, and we're wondering about chowhound-y lunch stops. I know there's the pea soup place- is it really exceptionally good or just famous? Anything else worth considering?


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  1. The pea soup place (Andersen's) wouldn't be my first choice but it's close to the highway and you'd probably get in and out fairly quickly. If you don't mind spending a little more time, I'd suggest the Los Olivos Cafe. It's a charming place with good food and an excellent wine selection. The little town of Los Olivos is fun to walk around and there are several other places you could eat and a number of tasting rooms as well.
    If you leave LA very early you might not be ready for lunch until San Luis Obispo. If that's the case you might enjoy seeing the downtown and have lunch at either Big Sky Cafe or Novo (if it's a pretty day you can sit on their deck)

    2 Replies
    1. re: sgbslo

      thanks, though since I posted my original query I've realized we might end up taking the 5 past Bakersfield and then the 46 over to the 101 (which should be a little faster than the 101 straight up, right?) Any suggestions along that route?

      1. re: mcsmcs

        Take the 101 straight up. There is nothing on the 46 until you get to Paso Robles, and the road from LA to Bakersfield is borrrrring. You won't save any time by doing it that way anyway.

        Skip the pea soup. I second the rec for Los Olivos Cafe. If you want something beachy you could stop for lunch in Shell Beach at Spyglass--it's just off the highway (Spyglass Rd exit, easy on/off), beautiful ocean view. Food is good but nothing special. It's all about the view.

    2. Sounds like you'll be positioned for a lunch stop in SLO or Cambria - there are lots of recent threads on those areas that should give you some ideas. We really liked the coffee shop at the Madonna Inn when we did the same trip last fall - it's not exactly adventurous food but it's kind of an attraction, and certainly convenient to the road. Much better than Pea Soup Andersons.

      1. If you'll be stopping in SLO for lunch, I'd rec almost anywhere else for lunch than Madonna Inn. Tour it if you're curious but don't waste a meal there. Very ordinary food; the attraction is the kitsch.

        Search 'San Luis Obispo' on this board for innumerable posts about the scene here. Everything from good Deli to fine world cuisines. Or ask for a specific here: Burgers? Thai? Sushi? Deli? International? Organic? Veggie? etc.

        I'll mention my favorite taco truck on the central coast, Tichita, at Rosemary Rd and East Betteravia, two minutes from the freeway in south Santa Maria. Mon-Sat 11-3. Rosa and her sister at the grill. Damn good posole, albondigas sopa, tacos, burritos and quesadillas con todos. Smiles and twinkling eyes, free. Deft hand with the seasonings.Or stop at the Tamale Shop, on West Betteravia and Blosser for great tamales to eat in or take out. $1.50 each.

        For a several notches up the dining scale, take the Clark Avenue exit west as you apporach Santa Maria. Cross the siganl at Bradley, then turn into the center on your right. Both Chef Rick's (sit-down, leisurely lunch with Cajun inspired dishes) and La Rocco's Italian Deli (Sicilian pizza, calzone, grinders, hot and cold sandwiches with Italian meats, handmade desserts, espresso) should fit the bill for something *special*.

        Chef Rick's
        4869 S Bradley Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455

        Santa Maria Tamale Shop
        2115 Blosser Rd, Santa Maria, CA

        Tichita Taco Truck
        Rosemary Rd and E Betteravia Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93454

        La Rocco's Italian Deli & Grocery
        4869 S Bradley Ste 18B, Santa Maria, CA

        2 Replies
        1. re: toodie jane

          I actually thought the food was better than average at the Madonna Inn. Certainly better than a chain coffee shop. We had breakfast there.- they have their own bakery and the biscuits were excellent - good thick bacon, etc. I'm sure your other recommendations are more interesting - but it's not a bad option by the road.

          1. re: Alice Q

            Be sure to drink lots of coffee at the Madonna Inn so you won't miss seeing their over-the-top restrooms.

        2. What part of L.A. are you departing from? From the SFV, it takes me 3 hours to get to Paso Robles, from either 101 or the 5. If you take the 5, maybe you could check out a basque place in Bakersfield? I don't know of any, but I have been wanting to do so, so maybe one of our Central Valley hounds will have a rec. It is a pretty boring drive, tho and this time of the year, the fertilizer smells abound. If you wait until you get to the 101, you can have yummy onion rings at Good ol' Burger. I also love the tri tip sandwich, but you can get burgers and chicken sandwiches too. There are few other chainy places there too- Red Brick Pizza, Tortilla Town (same owners as Good ol' burgers).

          Now, if you take 101, your lunch options can take you from Santa Barbara all way to Big Sur it will be very hard to choose a stop! I hope you have a great trip.

          Good Ol' Burgers
          1145 24th St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

          2 Replies
          1. re: paso_gurl_100

            thanks, we'll be leaving from Silver Lake so the 101 and 5 are both easily accessible. Mapquest suggests the 5 route is a bit faster, but who knows? The Basque idea actually sounds fantastic and might sway us towards the 5 if someone hase a particular suggestion. (Though there are only two of us-- aren't those Basque restaurants pretty much for groups only?)

            Thanks so much for all the responses.

            1. re: mcsmcs

              Pea Soup Andersens- though not gourmet- fits the bill for a good lunch- and a timely one at that...When we need to eat before movie, it's Pea Soup for lunch/late afternoon vittles.

              Their chocolate shakes are great, the Monte Cristo rocks, the soup with sides (ham, cheese, green onion, sour cream etc.) is great, and they have great salads too.

              We love the Pea Soup in Santa Rosa too.

              Los Olivos Cafe is great- but it is packed everyday for lunch and afternoon dining- packed. And they are filming some kinda of movie/commercial this week- not fun to visit around! Tons of "look how important I am" types - urghhhhhhhh.

          2. Boy, I agree with the "don't take the 5 " crowd. I make the San Diego-Paso run, and taking the 5 saves me an hour but I can't do it! Excruciatingly boring, smelly, hot....bleh. Take the coastal route and make the drive part of the trip. It is a beautiful time of the year to be driving thru the Central Coast.

            The pea soup? Meh. Madonna Inn, I think, is better for breakfast than lunch. I live Novo, too, in SLO. Paso? Berry Hill Bistro, Crooked Kilt? Something along the park.

            Do you have any feeling about where you will be when you want lunch?