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Pismo Beach / San Luis Obispo - what's best?

We will be spending three days in the Pismo/SLO area exploring the various wineries in this region. We are looking for the three best restaurants for dinner. Prefer American, French or Italian food...probably not Asian (we get great Asian at home!). Where would you eat?

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  1. Go to the Splash Cafe and order their clam chowder.

    1 Reply
    1. re: al bundy

      Where is Splash Cafe? I'll do it for lunch, but I am looking for the three best spots in the area for dinner.

    2. Years ago I ate at Giuseppe's in Pismo and it was pretty good. I see there's also one in SLO.

      World famous clam chowder at Splash Cafe. It's on Pommeroy about a block from the beach. So famous they ship it frozen all over and even sell at the Costco's in the Central Coast.
      197 Pomeroy Ave
      Pismo Beach, CA 93449
      (805) 773-4653

      Best Santa Maria style BBQ is at Jocko's about 10 minutes away from Pismo in Nipomo. BBQ pit is open after 4pm. Get there early or call for a reservation...gets busy.

      Jocko's Steak House
      Old Hwy 101, Nipomo, CA 93444

      3 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Three thumbs up for Jocko's, but only for dinner which is the only time they fire up the oak grill. I drive from LA to Nipomo for Jocko's steaks. And it's the only place where I've seen an actual bar fight where patrons were throwing each other out of the place. A gem.

        1. re: TomSwift

          My fav is the large steak sandwich. A one pound rib eye.

          1. re: monku

            I tend to go for those big ole pork chops but it's all good and plentiful. Go there hungry, OP. You'll be stuffed and still have enough leftovers for two or three more meals.

            And I agree with the idea of either going early or making a reservation (but you might still have to wait). If that's the case, the bar will make your wait so much more interesting. It's the real deal.

      2. Not for dinner.
        For coffee and the best cinnamon rolls "Old West Cinnamon Rolls" in downtown Pismo Beach.

        Old West Cinnamon Rolls
        861 Dolliver St
        Pismo Beach, CA 93449
        (805) 773-1428

        1. In Avila Beach (near Pismo), try McPhee's Grill. This is the second location of McPhee's that recently opened at the Avila Golf Resort. It has an almost identical, and equally terrific, menu as the original location in Templeton.

          In SLO, Buona Tavola for excellent house made pasta dishes and The Park near the Amtrak train station for wine country cuisine. Both have very nice wine lists as well.

          1. IMO, Splash Cafe is overrated - their clam chowder is so thick, your spoon stands up in it - I don't care for it at all. Honestly, Splash Cafe and Giuseppe's are both pretty casual and from the OP, I'm guessing maybe not what they're looking for, they said "best" restaurants. I agree with Buona Tavola, I've had great meals there. My daughter recently at at Novo in SLO and gave it high marks, altho I haven't eaten there myself.

            Novo Restaurant & Lounge
            726 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

            Buona Tavola
            1037 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

            2 Replies
            1. re: nancyhudson

              Go to Avila Beach- and go to the pier at the far west end of town- walk to the almost end and walk into Petes Pierside. Order crab enchiladas. Grab a beer. EAT AND ENJOY!

              1. re: nancyhudson

                I understand your concern about thick clam chowder. Some places add enough thickening to it so that, as you say, a spoon stands up in it and gives it a pasty taste. Which is not to say that all thick chowders are bad.

                We did a taste test in Pismo of several restaurants' clam chowders and Splash was the winner.

                To the OP, nh is correct that Splash is pretty casual. In fact, it's a dive. If you are looking for fancy/gourmet it's not your place. If you are looking for good food in a casual, chaotic, crowded, loud atmosphere, then it is your place.

                Well, now that we've scared off the tourists, we can resume our bowl of clam chowder.

                And then there's Sylvester's in Los Osos for great burgers. :)

                Good food is where you find it, and it's often not fancy. Or expensive.
                That's the Chowhound motto.

              2. Buona Tavola is top notch and one of our favorites, another fine experience is CioPinot for seafood in SLO. Many enjoy E. Koberl at Blue for fine food, and The Park is among the best dining experience in the county. http://theparkrestaurant.net/

                1. I vote for the Hitching Post in Casmalia, good food. A little out of the way being down by Santa Maria.

                  Hitching Post
                  3325 Point Sal Rd, Casmalia, CA 93429

                    1. Novo in SLO is always a good spot. Great atmosphere and food- http://www.novorestaurant.com/

                      1. Mo's BBQ in downtown Pismo Beach on the main street is the best for ribs - sweet, hot and falling off the bone ribs with great side dishes.

                        1. I second the suggestion to eat at Novo. Awesome food, awesome wine list. As for Italian, I'd suggest Buona Tavola in downtown SLO. Great northern Italian foods (so if you're a seafood fan, maybe not the best) - see if you can eat out in the back patio. I don't think there's much (if any) French food in SLO.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Scotcho

                            I have heard good things about Giuseppe's in Pismo. Do you think that Buona Tavola is better?

                            1. re: josephnl

                              i haven't been to Giuseppe's in Pismo, only the one in SLO, and i think Buona Tavola is better. Maybe wait for someone who's been to the Pismo location to weigh in. If one of your nights is a Thursday, make sure to check out the awesome farmers market in SLO.

                              1. re: josephnl

                                I've been to both - two totally different restaurants. Giuseppe's is boisterous, Buona Tavola is intimate. And, visit their websites to see the menus - totally different from one another. Giuseppe's is northern Italian; BT is southern. Personally, BT all the way.

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  The food at Guiseppe's in Pismo is okay - service can be an issue, especially depending on the time of night you go there. They don't always take reservations either, so you could be waiting a LONG time.

                                  I vote for Mama's Meatballs in SLO - I have never had a bad meal there - LOVE the "fettucini alfredo con P" and their traditional Italian cheesecake is to die for!

                                  Mama's Meatball - Fine Italian Restaurant & Catering
                                  570 Higuera St Ste 130, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

                              2. If you're on the central coast then you should make sure to stop off at one of the abalone farms. It's great fun to take the tour plus you can buy some abalone steaks to take home; abalone used to be one of California's great regional foods but unfortunately disease, over fishing, and pollution took their toll. With luck, the sustainable aquafarming movement may help us all get this famous regional specialty back on the table.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: oerdin

                                  If your willing to drive these are some of the best in the area Cayucos - Cass House, Hoppe's
                                  Cambria - Black Cat Bistro, Sow's Ear
                                  Paso Robles - Artisan, Guitano's

                                  1. re: kaoticfoodie

                                    Not familiar with Guitano's in PR, could you elaborate? TIA

                                    BTW, last visit Cass House had no menu posted outside and didn't appear to be open.

                                    Hoppe's in Cayucos, and BCB in Cambria always good choices, also check out Deborah Mok's Wild Ginger in East Village Cambria.

                                    1. re: PolarBear

                                      Sorry it's Gaetanos. It's on Spring St. a couple of blocks up from the park

                                    2. re: kaoticfoodie

                                      A Cambria post with no mention of Robin's? Blasphemy!

                                      1. re: Scotcho

                                        With all due respect, we've found Robin's remarkable for only a few items.

                                        1. re: PolarBear

                                          I guess i've been lucky - i've made it out there only about 4 or 5 times in the past few years and i've always been pleased with the food. Plus, I'm a big fan of the weirdly small/oddly laid out dining room.

                                          1. re: Scotcho

                                            You make a really good point, the seating options are nice during the right seasons, and their use of local, fresh sources gives one a nice spectrum of choicres. You have to admit this has to be one of the toughest markets to crack. i.e. you're paying premiumcmonthly rent but need to make your yearly operating capital within 3 months (Jun-Sep)

                                        2. re: Scotcho

                                          I was in a hurry sorry. I like Robins for lunch (great fish tacos), but can't believe I forgot one of the most important The Sea Chest .

                                    3. We like Novo, but have only been there for tapas/lunch. It is actually owned by the same people as Robin's.
                                      Steaks @ The Madonna Inn, worth it for the atmosphere alone

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: ErikaK

                                        Robin is no longer associated with Robin's Restaurant. He owns Novo in downtown SLO and I understand has ownership of The French Corner Bakery in Cmbria, whose excellent Euro-style pastries are featured at both Robin's and Novo.

                                        1. re: toodie jane

                                          Robin Covey only owns NOVO now, he sold French Corner a few years ago, and Shani Covey owns Robin's now. The pastries at NOVO are made by Russell Thomas of SLO (he's co-owner of Honeymoon Cafe SLO & Two Cooks Catering of SLO). I'm not sure where their breads come from these days.

                                      2. My opinions: Deborah's room is absolutely the best of all places mentioned here. My vegan friends loved Artisan and although I hate garbonzo beans, I loved the fresh ones here. Ever heard of that? That's how artisan is. Thomas Hill Organics has some so so stuff and some excellent things but not so much flexibility. Cass House is excellent, Park, Black Cat Bistro, Hoppe's and Novo, too -- all those places are serious enough to have vegetarian food. Might try the Range in Santa Margarita for quality -- not sure about vegetarian. Splash Cafe = canned clam chowder in a dive tourist atmosphere and I agree with the person who said Big Sky is like 70s food -- very uninteresting. Same for Odyssey in Paso. Also have had vegan friends love Bistro Laurent in Paso but forget what they ordered (one was actually tempted by the venison). BUT, there are a couple new elegant places in San Luis to check out... Just can't remember their names.