HOME > Chowhound > California >


Best of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Shell Beach, Arroyo Grande, or Oceano?

We just moved to Pismo Beach and my in-laws live in Nipomo and Arroyo Grande so we eat out in the whole 5-cites area. We've found a few great places but we have spoiled taste buds so we need more great places to call our favs. Can anyone help us find our new family favorites?

We are in dire need of:

-Best Tacos (real ones with onion and cilantro not lettuce and cheese)
-Best real Pizza (NY or Thin crust with real cheese. We enjoyed Doughboys in Grover but we did not like Del's, Klondike, Fattes or Mesa Pizza)
-Best Deli Sandwich (we LOVE High Street in SLO, something closer would be great though)
-Best Burger
-Best Curry
-Best Chinese (We liked Golden Moon in AG but wonder if there is better)
-Best Bowl of Pho...haven't seen any Vietnamese food in the area so far
-Best French Fries
-Best Hot Fudge Sundae (We liked Doc Bernsteins in AG but is better?)
-Best Pies (Avila Barn is OK but is there better?)
-Best Coffee (We enjoy Cafe Andreini in AG but Starbucks is our only alternative so far)

So far these are our favorites...if you can beat these, we'd love to hear more great places to try:

-Steak at Tanner Jacks in AG
-Pulled Pork at Rusty Pig in AG
-Breakfast at Jack's in Orcutt; Custom House in Avila; McClintock's in AG; Huckleberry's in Pismo
-Fish and Chips at Cracked Crab in Pismo
-Crab at Cracked Crab in Pismo
-Katsu-don at Yanagi Sushi in Pismo
-Fish Tacos at Pizmo Taco in Pismo
-Burritos at Pizmo Taco in Pismo
-Bagels at Broadway Bagel in AG

Take care!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Kendra,
    Realistically our area doesn't have that much to offer.

    A few of my favorites.
    Sandwiches from Arroyo Grande Meat Co. in the village of Arroyo Grande are amazing. He cures all his sandwich meat in house.... very good stuff. Make sure to also try his TriTip sandwich sometime. Whenever my family is having a nice dinner, we always get our steaks from him; its shocking the quality difference over supermarkets.

    The Tacos and Mole from La Tapatia Market on 13th st in Grover Beach are the most authentic you will find, and are very good. I recommend the al pastor tacos.

    To my knowledge the nearest pho is in north county (Paso Robles or something)

    I dont know if you are going to find authentic NY style pizza around here. A recent surprise was the excellent pizza i had at "Adelina's Bistro", in the new Monarch Dunes golf development. http://www.adelinasbistro.com/

    My favorite curry can be found at, Little Thai Cuisine, at 968 Grand Avenue in Grover.
    Its a little hole in the wall, but the food is excellent.

    Try the coffee at The Steaming Bean in Shell Beach; its the best i have found short of driving to SLO. I find the quality of Adreini's coffee and espresso drinks to be spotty.

    Right around the corner from Jack's in Orcutt, is Kay’s Country Kitchen. They server the best southern style breakfast in the area. I love the fresh squeezed orange juice served in mason jars, their home made jams and jellies and biscuits. Be sure to try them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chickendud

      ChickenDud - Oh MY! We love Steaming Bean....thank you, thank you, thank you! The kids toy corner, eclectic decor, collection of locals and of course the great coffee just made our morning.

      1. re: chickendud

        Can any of the Pismo or Arroyo Grande residents tell me of a restaurant or catering that will do a take out or deliver Christmas Dinner with Prime Rib/Turkey potatoes, gravey and veggie dishes. Need for his comiing Christmas season, to feed 12-15.- thanks-
        Barbara Jane BJLee

      2. I live in Nipomo, here are my couple of recs:

        Pizza: Pi-Whole Pizzeria in old towne Nipomo. Don't know if it qualifies for NY style but I highly recommend their Mt. Olympus (shrimp, chicken, artichoke hearts, feta and olives) and their garlic bread.

        Breakfast: I second another poster's rec for Kay's Orcutt Country Kitchen; CJ's Cafe in Arroyo Grande - killer french toast; Fat Cat's Cafe in Avila Beach.

        1 Reply
        1. re: emmisme

          Pi-Whole is deliscious...I also reccomend the krakatoa! AMAZING.

        2. I used to love the Rusty Pig, last visit there were new owners, took forever to get an inedible burger from the open grill out front and I was the only customer. It appeared that it was a family operation and they were first timers in the business. Recall hearing that a brewpub had gone in across the street which may have sparked the former owners to bail.

          6 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Wow, thanks Chickendud, Emmisme and PolarBear for the great info and recommendations...I'm getting excited to try new places.

            Chickendud - I hear you on Adreini's quality, it really is hit-or-miss and I hate the cups, it's a bring your own cup kinda place for us. Thanks for the Steaming Bean, we'll try it this weekend.

            Emmisme - Is breakfast at Fat Cat's better than lunch or dinner? We've only been for lunch and dinner, based on those meals I didn't plan on going back. Should I give it a second chance? Thanks for Pi-Whole, we'll try it next time we have pizza with the in-laws.

            PolarBear - Ohhhhhh, darn it...sorry about your bad experience at Rusty Pig. We had a great experience at Rusty Pig with the new owners, but we didn't expereince the old owners so I cannot comment there. I had the tri-tip sandwich and hubby had the pulled pork. After one tiny bite of the pulled pork I wanted to switch sooooo bad but he didn't budge and he didn't even leave me bits on the plate. If you're willing to give them one more chance, just try the pulled pork and let me know, I don't really recommend the pizza or tri-tip. Just a warning, if you don't like vinegar or juicy pulled pork, you may not like it.

            1. re: Kendra Kinnan

              I will have to go back for the pulled pork, also hope they'll be able to survive given the remote location and all.

              Might want to put Thai Talay in Pismo on your list, we've had a couple of excellent dinners there where they handled our rather raucous group of 8-10 extremely well.
              Also glad to hear that Pizmo Taco is doing well, they seemed like really nice folks.

              In Avila be sure and hit Pete's Pierside for their fish tacos.

              1. re: PolarBear

                Pete's is not "real" Mexican but it is great grub and I love to sit on the pier in the sun.

                1. re: Snackish

                  Pete's: only two tables left in the sun. A huge metal roof shades the rest of the patio. Might be nice in the rain, but otherwise a bit overpowering.

                  As part of a recent foursome there, I was a liitle dissapointed. Both the fish and the chips were a tad overcooked. (I LIKE brown chips-these were dried-out brown) It was busy at lunchtime; I think they'd just stayed in the fryer a bit too long. Flavor was good.

              2. re: Kendra Kinnan

                Re: Fat Cat's - I've only been there for breakfast so I can't compare it to lunch or dinner.

                1. re: emmisme

                  I've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner at Fat Cat's - I'm not sure what the major draw is. I'm not a favor of this type of diner food, so I don't go there if I have a choice.

            2. I think our area has as much to offer as any small isolated population can expect, and a bit more! We're most of us here becausee it's NOT metro, so I don't complain about lack of dining opportunity, but revel in the small gems that we can find!

              Santa Maria is a great destination for casual food. If you haven't ventured across the county line, I urge you to do so. Lots of chains, and not much in fine dining, but casual food with a Latin flavor abounds. You can even get Bul Kogi at Santa Maria BBQ across form the OSH center on S. Broadway.

              Pho and a bit of Lao food is available at Saeng's Kitchen in the Town Center East on Broadway & Main (where Mervyn's is. Next to Rite Aid. We go often in winter for a steaming bowl.

              Atari Ya is our destination for Japanese food. Since 1989. Great katsu don and sushi, & most traditional dishes.

              Chef Rick's in Orcutt for casual fine dining with a Cajun twist. Good wine list. Lunch is a good bargain. In the same center, there is a new Italian deli with good pizza and a small but wonderful cheese selection. Open M-S from 11-5, closed Sunday.

              Tacos- at any taco truck, and there are many, but my faves are El Chino which parks daytime on the Frontage road near the Speedway in Nipomo, near 166 interchange. Great $1.50 tacos with anything you want, including grilled serranos & lime wedge. Many other Mexican specialties as well--lots of seafood.

              A bit further south is my favorite truck, 'Tichita', on E. Betteravia near Rosemary Rd. Two sisters run a great truck. Rosa is always giving me samples of items I haven't tried. Big samples. The lengua is amazing. Rosa is always smiling. She will also do catering-sized amounts of prepared food.

              El Bravo foods on W. Main at Blosser has every kind of prepared meat for takeout. They also have a tortillaria.

              Just east a block or so on Main is Panaderia San Juan which makes outrageously good flan.

              In Grover, Carmelita #2 bakery is at 13th and Farroll. Great pan dulces and the little piggies Puercitos are very traditional. Good Tres Leches cake. They open at 5:30 a.m. for before-work goody runs.

              Gualdalajara Market at Grand Ave and 14th (in the Kragen Center) has a terrific meat market with all the bulk Mexican dairy products. They don't have a deli, but great prices on meats there. Butchers are very helpful.

              Village Grill in AG village across from Guitar Joe's for burger and shakes. Very good.

              Breakfast at McKlintock's in AG village, just over the bridge on Bridge St. (Sets back) Go early to avoid the rush.

              Scotty's B&G in Pismo for breakfast. They have a good heuvos rancheros. Sports bar so if you want a quiet b'fast, avoid prime televised event days like opening of football season or world series. Gets raucous! Otherwise fine.

              Cracked Crab for.... crab

              Great Pizza at a deli (sorry, no name but run by the family that owns Guiseppi's). They also have gelato.

              Doc Bernstien's is the best ice cream (and parlor) in the county. Unless you like Cold Stone which is up next to Tradre Joe's off W Branch.

              Avila Barn has the best pies in 5C's since Lil's closed in AG village. They are a bit sweet for me. El Rancho Mkt in Santa Ynez has the best commercial pies on the central coast.

              An LA hound recently posted about a pizza joint in the OSH center on Oak Park. Said it was NY style and fantastic. Gotta try it and see.

              BBQ (w/ traditionally long-smoked meats) is available at Rancho Nipomo near the 166 interchange at he south reaches of Niipomo. Take the 166 exit from 101 southbound, turn right, go through the intersection, and it's just on the left, next to the brewpub. Live music on the weekends on the patio. Great desserts and burgers besides the "Q".

              Jocko's for burgers at lunch. Forget the wait at dinner unless you reeeeally want old-school steaks. Jock's is more of a cafe atmosphere than a dinner house. It is always teeming with locals, and if you're not 'recognizable' you can get a cold shoulder from the staff. (The oak grill pit doesn't fire up till dinner) The better steak house is Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe.

              5 Replies
              1. re: toodie jane

                TJ -Thanks for the great info! My daughter and I popped in at the pizza shop near OSH for a quick lunch after reading your reply, sorry to report it was average. So just for kicks, we went to Doughboys in GB for lunch the next day. Doughboys was better quality and better prices, we shared a giant slice of pepperoni, salad and soda for $7.
                Just found their website...it was hiding :) http://www.doughboyspizzeria.net/orde...

                1. re: toodie jane

                  I have lived on the central coast for 46 years......a local at Jocko's so it isn't a problem to be seated with a reservation. Best steak is the small Spencer cooked rare but charred on the outside.
                  I loved the Far Western Tavern for years but have had poor service and poor meals the two times we were there.
                  Love the pulled pork and tri tip at Rancho Nipomo but I think my favorite is the shrimp cocktail.
                  I also like the Hitching Post in Casmalia but it is a long way down a dark road at night. The lobster and the artichokes barbecued over red oak coals are worth the drive.
                  Cold Stone Creamery in the Trader Joe's area in Pismo/AG is closed.

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Am spending a month here in Pismo. Chowhound is my go-to website while traveling.

                    Toodie's recommendation above for Tichinita Lunch truck (camioneta in spanish) is right on. Rosa, the owner, is delightful. The chile verde burrito was big, delicious and just the right amount of spice. Her tacos are excellent. Ask for the "cebollitas asadas" - grilled onions on your tacos.

                    Went to Mo's BBQ last nite. Eh. The pork sandwich was OK, not great. The meat was moist, but had zero smoky flavor. I wonder if they actually smoke this meat. Their standard BBQ sauce was good but I would have liked it more if they had cooked it down to make it thicker and intensify the flavor. But it did have a nice balance of sweet and vinegar. The coleslaw ( thank goodness it wasn't sweet) and potato salad were standard issue.

                    Tacos de Acapulco in Grover beach is great. The huge menu on the wall as you walk in the door is easy to read. Place your order. The guy calls out your order when he's ready and you tell him what to put on the burrito. It's a great concept. The salsa is a bit spicy but good. The jamaica drink was killer! This agua fresca is normally too sweet or watered down. This glass was neither. It was intensely flavored, fresh and not achingly sweet. Of course, the mariachi music was playing. A great mix of customers. I'm looking forward to going back and trying other meats.

                    Splash Cafe in Pismo is good too. I liked the clam chowder. Lord knows how much heavy cream they use or how many calories were in that bowl, but the flavor was good. A bit salty though. Their Ahi Tuna burger was also decent. Nice caper sauce if a bit overpowering on the tuna slab.

                    I love this website. Most recommendations are right on. Thanks ya'll.

                    1. re: docjosh

                      Sorry you did not order the Phlithy Phil ribs - those are our standard order items and why we love this place so much we make special road trips just for those ribs. No comments on the rest of the menu as we have never tried anything else. Still our favorite worth a journey dining destination in Pismo - and we buy the Philthy Phil BBQ sauce by the jug to take home.

                      1. re: docjosh

                        Doc--you might want to venture up to Neon Carrot in SLO, on the south side. Take Los Osos Vlly Rd exit on 101 northbound, turn right onto LOVR, then left onto South Higuera. Go past the second signal (Tank Farm) about 100yds to a small strip mall next to Meadhead Movers (on the left). Killer food in a casual bistro atmosphere. Fri night tapas are wonderful. Otherwise, open M-F 8 to 3-ish. The puddings are like velvet.

                    2. I'd like to suggest Mr. Wong's for Best Chinese. They're located on Pomeroy St. in Pismo Beach. They're across the street from Mo's BBQ. Very good Chinese food!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: slodiner

                        r u kidding? Mr. Wongs. We found the protions small, expensive and terrible. I was wondering where this guy learned to cook. There are SO many better choices. Have you tried Golden Moon in Arroyo Grande (greasy spoon but great) or Mei's in Pismo. Both have been around for 15-20 years, which means something around here.

                        1. re: tjy57

                          BEST PIZZA

                          Try Manhattan Pizza in Santa Maria, beats all the others hand down. It is the most authentic NY style Pizza I have found aound here.The owner is Egyptian and spent many years in New York or vicinity. Its located in the old LIdo place on South Broadway.

                      2. Burger - You already found Tanner Jack's but they also have an awesome burger on their lunch menu which can also be ordered for dinner for about 10 bucks. Very much worth it!

                        Chinese - I havent had golden moon, but the golden gong in grover beach has very generous portions and is also very tasty!

                        Mexican - Not for any one specific type of mexican food I must reccomend Old Juan's Cantina in Oceano. Excellent food all around, great chips and salsa, good atmosphere, and overall a fun place to eat. For tacos/burritos alone, my personal preference goes to Tacos de acapulco in Grover beach on 13th and Ferrell, but its more of a take it and go place, and not as much a sit down with the fam place.

                        Breakfast - Seaside cafe in Shell beach has VERY good fresh made pastries and a decent breakfast menu on top of that. The Coffee is also good. Also the Breakfast Buzz in SLO has what I consider the best breakfast burrito of all time... I have never brought myself to order anything else so thats all I can comment on.

                        Hope this helps!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: corman1283

                          Old Juan's Cantina for the specifically unremarkable orange cheesiness type of Mexican food. Almost any local taqueria serves more complex authentic Mexican flavors, though they're not high on atmosphere. The real Mexican food is down on Santa Maria, at the deli-markets.

                          Gibson Brothers BBQ in the Spencer's center has real manfood-type grilled BBQ and very good sides. Mostly takeout. Could use brightening up, but I think it's supposed to read "Mancave".

                          Red Dirt Coffee House (think red dirt of Hawaii) serves great coffee and average commercial pastires in a cozy, lounge-worthy shop, also in Spencer's center.

                          Neon Carrot cafe in SLO on lower Higuera is excellent; sparkling entrees, sandwiches, salads, desserts using only high quality and local ingredients. Excellent customer service skills across the board. Open for b'fast through lunch Mon-Fri, happy hour tappas and drinks Fri 4-7.

                          1. re: toodie jane

                            Gibson Bros BBQ has expanded and is spiffed up a bit to pass the Grandma test for cleanliness. Expanded menu, more room for larger parties, brighter light, etc. still good food but more choices. Breakfast now, too. In the 1400 block of Grand in AG, in the Spencer's center behind TGIFriday's.

                            1. re: toodie jane

                              Behind Applebees you mean... (I wish it was a TGIFridays!)

                              1. re: corman1283

                                isn't it about the same quality and type of (neither fresh nor local) food? enlighten, please.

                                1. re: toodie jane

                                  I see your point... In general I would say I have had better experiences with both the food and wait staff at TGIFridays than at applebees. Looking at the menu though, they are pretty similar. ;)

                          2. re: corman1283

                            +1 for Seaside Cafe & Bakery, don't miss their Eggs Benedict.

                            1347 Shell Beach Rd (btw Wawona & Esparto)

                            Seaside Cafe & Bakery
                            1327 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              hey PB I finally tried Seaside for breakfast and was underwhelmed at their pancake expertise. Rubbery, dense and yet undercooked in the middle. Jazzy sounding embellishments, but the cakes were very flat in flavor and texture. I maygo abcka nd try a french toast or other, but the high price and low quality left a bad taste in my mouth.

                              1. re: toodie jane

                                Sorry to hear that TJ, iirc my wife had a pancake and was pleased but I can only speak for the eggs benny (the Greek style) and plan to go back and try their traditional version. Hope your experience was an anomaly.

                                1. re: PolarBear

                                  I've been spoiled forever by the 'cakes at Apple Farm. Light, fluffy, flavorful, real syrup soakers. Couple that with the boysenberry sauce and well...

                            2. re: corman1283

                              The Golden Gong is probably one of the better Chinese places in that area. Lunch specials are very reasonable and service is good.

                            3. It's a drive from Five Cities, but Hush-Harbor Artisan Bakery in Atascadero has the best sandwiches I've had anywhere around here. NY (or Philly) pizza? Fuhgeddaboudit. Top notch Chinese food? Nope, not happening. Great pies? Madonna Inn. Excellent bagels? House of Bagels in SLO. Steak? Jocko's is very hard to beat, especially for the price. Unfortunately, the primary curse of living in this area is needing to drive a lot to get what you want/need.

                              Madonna Inn
                              100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Pzz

                                Try Manhattan Pizza in Santa MAria for the best Pizza around. Not cheap, but very good. The owner is an Egyptian who lived in NY for like 20 years.

                              2. Best clam chowder is at the Jetty in Santa Maria on Broadway...hands down. On Tuesdays, it's all you can eat giant snow crab legs for $19.95. Comes with salad or clam chowder, side order, and garlic French toast.
                                For Japanese, Ichiban also on Broadway is my go to favorite. Little bit pricey but you get what you pay for. For sushi half price specials, the Crab Cove is pretty reasonable.
                                The Jocko's hamburger special on Tefft Road is totally obscene. Two half pound burger patties fully dressed along with thick cut fries and salad plus Santa Maria beans is barely finishable (little over $8). For dinner, the small Spencer steak or my favorite grilled tender lamb chops is unbeatable (around $20). Make an advanced reservation and avoid the hour and a half wait.

                                1. Last visit my pal in Arroyo Grande mentioned that he'd heard that the original Rusty Pig folks had opened, or were in the process of opening, another BBQ place in the newish center across from the original up on the mesa. Anyone sniffed around up there lately?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PolarBear

                                    No, but I'll do a drive by and report. It was never a smoked meats BBQ place, just an oak griller right?
                                    Tanner Jack's in the center does some ribs, but not ware they had a smoker. Also, JJ's Mkt (at the center since it opened about 10 years ago) had always done tri tip and pork ribs out front on a small crank-up grill, over oak.

                                    Tanner Jacks
                                    2796 S Halcyon Rd, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

                                  2. Try Zorro's in Shell Beach for a great breakfast (locals love it) and a very decent lunch. Dinner isn't so great.

                                    Coffee Cove in Grover is newish (opened in 2010) and has the friendliest staff, cool setting and excellent tasty selection of light menu items. Worth a visit in the AM.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: teachtec

                                      had a meh? lunch at Zorro's; tiny litchen and overworked staff, seems thier table space overpowers the kitchen at lunch. Will try it again some time at off hours.

                                      Another very good (relaxing) coffee house is Red Dirt Coffee in the Spencer's Center @ Grand and Cortland. Hawaiian family run the place, very good coffee and pleasant eager-to-please staff; live Island music, and often dance, on the weekends. Had a Hawaiian plate lunch there; while not weight watcher's fare, it was delicious. Great iced coffee too, on a hot day.

                                    2. Hmmm....no mention of the A-maz-ing Tri Tip sandwich at the Arroyo Grande Meat company? Have I just commited a major sin, are we supposed to be keeping this place a secret?