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Apr 20, 2008 04:34 PM

Chocolate and Candy on 101 between LA and San Jose

I'm making a trip to Oakland/SF next week. I usually just drive straight up the 5 from Los Angeles. It's boring but it's quick. The big problem is that there's no place to stop along the way for a foodie.

This time I decided to take the more scenic and hopefully more tasty route up the 101.

I've created a Google Map with a few places I'm considering stopping at.

(The purple pins are the prime contenders, the others are ones that I found in searches


I know my way around SF/Oakland/Berkeley just fine when it comes to sweets. It's LA to San Jose that I'm looking for help.

Here's what I have so far, feel free to chime in with your suggestions (or warnings!):

Robitaille's Fine Candies - Carpinteria
Chocolate Maya - Santa Barbara
Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates - San Luis Obispo
Dulceria El Guero - Salinas
Cocoa Bon - Los Gatos
Holland's Best (actually for Licorice) - San Jose

So has anyone found a little gem of a candy/chocolate shop along the way?

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  1. Chocolate Maya is a lovely little place, worth a stop. I'd skip Robitaille's in Carp in favor of a new french chocolatier that recntly opened there - I can't recall the name.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sbgirl

      Thanks for the confirmation on Chocolate Maya, I have high hopes for the shop.

      Is this the place you meant in Carpinteria?

      Chocolats du CaliBressan

    2. I was a bit surprised to see Dulceria El Guero in Salinas on your list as a candy/chocolate stop on your route. I visited it again this afternoon for the first time since last summer to see if anything might have changed. Nope, it still has ice cream cones (Bud's) and some fresh fruit for making bionicos. But no candy or chocolate as far as I can tell, so I don't think it meets your criteria. If you do make the stop, I would suggest some tacos from the attached taqueria ($1.15 each) rather than the desserts.

      Santa Cruz has a fine chocolatier not on your list, Richard Donnelly.

      Taqueria El Guero
      834 N Sanborn Rd, Salinas, CA 93905

      Donnelly Fine Chocolates
      1509 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA

      2 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I'd read one of your previous posts, Melanie, and you'd mentioned their sweets area ... I just assumed that Dulceria meant the candy kind of sweets.

        I am going to make a separate trip to Santa Cruz this summer ... 30 miles is a bit too far out of my way for this trip (and I really want to hit that Dutch shop in San Jose before they close).

        1. re: typetive

          Glad I checked in, would have hated to send you on a wild goose chase. For spots in the San Jose area, you might want to post on the SF Bay Area board where that region is discussed.

      2. Going out of your way off the freeway seems to me like a good way to make a long trip longer. But you do have a novel idea. I often make the same trip, but from Santa Barbara. I find going to the family run Mexican restaurant at the south end of town in Soledad to be my diversion treat on this chainfood city route.

        Right off 101 is the Madonna Inn before you get to and they ususally have good fruit pies and that over the top coffee shop and restrooms is a real pick me up about half way.

        Another stop right off the road if you take the shorter Highway 154 Lake Cachuma route out of Santa Barbara is the Los Olivos Store which has a lot of imported and fine goodies.

        Chocolate Maya entails a bit of a diversion off the main highway -- not bad - take Garden Street and then re-enter on Castillo, Parking can be scarce around this shop.

        Hope you do a trip report when you get back. Great idea to explore your well-travelled route. The hills are still green and the wildflowers are out as of a few weeks ago. Actually I never tire of this route when listening to books on CD/tape and appreciating the full sweep and variety of this wonderful state. A lot simply has not changed at all along this route. And this is a good thing in growing and bursting at its seams California.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          While i agree that stopping at chocolate maya would entail some freeway on/offramp shenanigans, parking would surely be easily available in the 100 or so spots in the lot directly in front of the story. Like everywhere else in downtown sb, first 75 mins are free.

          1. re: tex.s.toast

            Thats what I thought- isn't Choclate Maya right by Ablitts- across from the City Parking lot?

            Then its an easy hop right back on the freeway if you go one block N on Chapala and then left on Haley- and there you are, on the 101!

            Solvang has alot of good chocolate, but sounds like you are set for this area!

            Don't forget to bring your wet wipes!

        2. I find Sweet Earth's chocolates to be disappointing, pretty roughly crafted, flavor and texture is OK but just not over the moon. Perhaps give them time.

          I would rec Doc Burnstein's Lab in Arroyo Grande, south San Luis Obispo area (Grand Ave exit in AG, right two blocks, on the left.) Excellent super-premium ice creams in many unusual and well as standard flavors. Full (antique) soda fountain.

          7 Replies
          1. re: toodie jane

            Out in Morro Bay (10 minutes northwest of San Luis Obispo on Route 1, is Morro Bay Mud Fudge. Super-creamy fudge in many 'artisanal' flavors. Second owner has taken it a step above the previous incarnation.

            Worth the 1/2 hour rd-trip detour! You could take beautiful Hiway 41 northeast from MB to rejoin 101 at Atascadero. (20 minutes).

            Herrmann's Chocolate Lab in downtown Templeton (Vineyard Dr Exit, go east 2 blocks to Main St, turn left, on the left 3 blocks down) Small shop with standard favorites. Also carries 3-4 flavors of Doc Burnstein's ice cream in rotation. Not over the moon, but a nice stop in a cute old town.

            Morro Bay Mud Fudge
            898 Main St, B Morro Bay, CA

            1. re: toodie jane

              Hey TJ, we really enjoyed the fudge at Avila Barn last visit- the pumpkin was to die for, as were all the chocolate types we purchased!

              Avila Valley Barn is right off the 101 Freeway just North of Pismo Beach.

            2. re: toodie jane

              Thanks for the personal review on Sweet Earth.

              As for the other rec ... I can't eat ice cream, but I'll keep it in mind if I'm traveling with others in the future.

              I've had MB fudge before! I vacation there every year ... I was looking for stuff that was actually along the 101 to break up the trip, but not too far off the road.

              Jalama - pumpkin fudge! that sounds pretty interesting. I might be able to swing a stop in Avila.

              Avila Valley Barn
              560 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

              1. re: typetive

                They had many flavors the last time we went in- and that was in the last 5 months. I am a chocolate fudge person, maybe a little mocha or peanut butter, but for the most part- I keep my chocolate simple.

                My gal friend pushed me to sample it, and goodness gracious it was delicious!! So good- she bought at least $30.00 worth.

                Since it is a 5 minute detour off the 101 (unless the of ramp is still being worked on- then you have to pass and take next off ramp and come back- takes maybe 10 minutes)- I give you permission to stop and sample the goods!

                What a fun trip idea- for me it is tacos- I'd drive 20 miles out of my way for a good plate of tacos- and a Jalama Burger! too!!

                1. re: JalamaMama

                  Yes, the ramp is still closed, but simply take the Spyglass exit, turn left under the freeway and make a right onto Shell Beach Road. Nice bonus is the ocean view. Proceed about 1/2 mile to Avila Beach Rd, turn left and the Barn will be on your right about 1/4 mile.

                  Must try the fudge. Not impressed with their SLO MAID ice cream, though. Rich but bland. I'd save the calories for something else. Like a olallieberry pie at the Barn.

                  JM: for tacos, try my SM favorite at E Betteravia and Rosemary Rd. Rosa serves great roadside tacos at Tichita taco truck, M-Sat 11-3 ish. Her posole is to die for if she's got it.

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Thanks for the tip- I read this rec from you about a week or two ago- I hit the Home Depot/Costco/ run at least once a month- this is on my short list of things I must do!! We are going to the Strawberry Fest this Sat- don't know if I'll have any room to try out a new place, darn it! I wonder what Tichita means?

                    1. re: JalamaMama

                      JM--no doubt every cc in your tummy will be reserved for strawberries!

                      I think Tichita is a diminuative for Beatrice, or another similar name. Rosa is the counter lady, and she's definitely got the personality for it. She works with her sisters, so maybe it's a family nickname? For me it stands for 'good eats here!'

                      Saturdays she's only open for the lunch period--she closes up by 2:30 or 3 unless the business is still strong. Most of her business is area truckers (sand & gravel and farm/winery trucks and local haulers) and workers from the adjacescent fields (now strawberries)

                      I try to pull well off the shoulder to give the trucks space to pull off the road. It's a busy place at noon. Have fun at the festival!

            3. Well, I hit a snag with this plan. I need to be in SF around 5 PM, so that meant leaving LA around 7:30 AM ... which meant that nothing was open in Carpenteria/Santa Barbara.

              I ended up stoping at Splash Cafe in San Luis Obispo (very easy on & off the highway) to pick up some of their organic/fair trade goodies (I haven't eaten any yet). Cocoa Bon in Los Gatos closed their cafe. So I stopped in San Jose at Holland's Best and did get a lot of licorice.

              I'll be up in Santa Barbara later this summer for some whale watching adventures, so I'm going to try to make it to all those shops in that area. And maybe a trip up to Morro Bay will cover some others.

              Thanks to everyone for the help!