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Aug 30, 2009 07:38 PM

Need advice for first-time trip (Santa Barbara, Cambria, Monterey, Yosemite, LAX)

My husband and I are DC hounds visiting Southern California for the first time in mid-September. Would like chow recommendations for breakfast and dinner (we usually skip lunch). We will be staying 1 night in Santa Barbara (Marine Beach Hotel), 2 nights in Cambria (Blue Dolphin Inn), 1 night in Monterey (Monterey Bay Lodge), 4 nights in Yosemite (Yosemite Lodge at the Falls), 1 night in Courtyard Marriott LAX so ideally restaurants that are walking distance from those hotels. We are interested in American, French, Italian, continental, and seafood. Not as interested in ethnic as we already have great ethnic cuisine in the DC area. We don’t need to slum, but don’t need to go to Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant either. I’d say limit of $20 for a dinner entrée. Breakfast needs to include eggs as my husband disdains "continental breakfast". Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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  1. Marina Beach is a good choice. Have friends that stay in their kitchenette suites for over month each winter. You will be within walking distance to the harbor and the Cabrillo restaurants and for only a day that may be all you need to visit.

    You will get a continental breakfast at the Marina Beach, but one of the best breakfasts is Anderson's Danish Bakery which has wonderful outdoor tables and is great people watching on the 1100 block of State Street - you would need to drive there for breakfast. But you are close to the original Sambo's Restaurant just a few blocks away on Cabrillo Blvd if you want a bit of history and some plain cooking. No longer a "chain" since it is now the only one left. Another breakfast place close by is the Cabrillo Bath Pavillion across from the MarMonte Hotel for more causal dining on the beach, but with cooked items.

    Emilio's around the corner from you on Cabrillo Blvd has been very nice for Northern Italian. And there are good reviews lately for the new Harbor Restaurant on the wharf for more formal dining with great views or the Santa Barbara Shellfish Factory on the end of the wharf for more casual dining.

    The views of the city and mountains from the wharf are spectacular so don't avoid this because it is primarily touristy, we like it too.

    If you want to explore Mexican food (having lived in DC many years ago, they had yet to understand good Mexican so I add this "ethnic" choice because we do some of it very well in this town), there are many great choices on Milpas Street which intersects with the beach side Cabrillo Blvd.

    Our restaurant row area is all around the 1100 - 1200 block of State Street where most of our best restaurants are and our best variety of good restaurants in a small area are located. There are shuttle busses (25 cents) that take you up State Street to this area during the day which is really our "downtown", but it is many blocks long. Might be too much to walk the whole length from the beach, but some of us do it all the time.

    There is also a Woody beach shuttle (25cents) along Cabrillo Blvd that can take you to Coast Village Road in the Lower Village of Montecito where there are many good restaurants as well on a walkable main street. Or drop you off by the zoo and walk to the wonderful Stella Mares at the Bird Refuge also close to the water which is French Country.

    You might want to take the more formal tour Santa Barbara Trolley to get the big picture overview of the whole city since you only have one day.

    And since you will have a car, you can also try our local favorite Jade in the San Roque section of Upper State Street, away from the tourists, low-key and get a feel for what we Santa Barbarans do when we go out to eat and want something just a little special and friendly.

    Dining in Yosemite will be expensive and not very good. Be prepared for basic food to fill yourself up for this part of the trip but you will get drunk on the scenery and the fresh, pine-scented air.

    If you get a city map, a lot of this will make more sense as to locations and proximity to where you are staying. Don't overlook the Gourmet Dining Room for either lunch or Thur/Fri night dinners at our local Santa Barbara City College Culinary Arts Department, which is just up the hill from where you will be staying. Some of the best dining in town takes place here.

    4 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Here is a link for the Cabrillo Blvd place on the beach called East Beach Grill you may want to consider for breakfast, hopefully you will be here not on a weekend because it sounds pretty crowded then:

      1. re: glbtrtr

        Any Lodging in Yosemite is pretty isolated and you will be restricted to what they have to offer. There is a store in Yosemite Valley with a bit more options, but nothing any foodie would rave about. If you are willing to drive a bit there are some great local restaurants in Oakhurst, Mariposa, and Groveland. Since I do not know which route you will be taking into the park it would be hard to give you advice on where to stop, but you will have to go through one of those 3 areas. Just post again and let us know.

        1. re: GregH1965

          Wonder about the value of taking time away from the virtues of Yosemite by driving to dine outside the valley. Personally, I would save the time and money on dining in Yosemite and simply drink in the scenery while you are there. It is a stunning place to just be. If anything, drive over Tioga Pass and go to "WhoaNellie Deli" on the other side in Lee Vining. One of the most spectacularly scenic drives in the world. And going both ways offers totally different perspectives on the scenery.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            While I realize the OP's trip was in mid-
            September, any one considering driving over Tioga Pass should check road conditions:


            or call: 209/372-0200 (press 1 then 1) for the most up-to-date conditions (the information below only reflects planned or long-term closures).

      2. With 2 nights in Cambria, try the Sea Chest on Moonstone Drive for great seafood
        (no credit cards) and another at the always reliable Sow's Ear or Robin's.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bruce in SLO

          SB- El Bajio on Milpas. Best tamales ever.

          Monterey- Sea Harvest. Best fish & chips ever.

          1. re: JalamaMama

            I guess I missed the don't want ethnic- sorry...
            Brophy Brothers in SB- might not be the bestest food- but the vibe/view/cocktails are great. Good oysters & clams/mussles.
            SBShellfish- the best crab sandwich-everything is fresh here. Great place to sit outside and be just be happy to be in SB.
            While in Cambria- why not back track just a bit and go to Morro Bay- on the waterfront is a place called Giovannis. It ain't much to look at- but the cold case has delights we can barely get outside to eat- the smoked salmon collars alone are worth the drive. They have a window to order from and outdoor seating- 6 oysters- dungeness crab salad - fish & chips- and a beer can be had for less than $30.00. The window opens at 11am- the line starts a little after 10:30.

            Please have a safe trip and report back on the wonderful trip you have!! Enjoy!!

            1. re: JalamaMama

              Hey JM, what do you think of Tognazzini's (sp?) little fish market and patio on the water a little further north?

              1. re: PolarBear

                have never tried it- I am a creature of habit- darn it!!! On twitter there are a few fishing boats and whatnot from Morro Bay- will look for them -we will be going up soon- made my husband PROMISE me we would get out of SYV at least every 6 weeks to go to MB for kayaking/food/fun.

        2. For breakfast I'm going to pass along Ed's rec for Tico's in Marina, just about 5 minutes north of Monterey on Highway 1.

          I also like the Wagon Wheel on Carmel Valley Rd about 3-4 minutes east of Carmel, in the Valley Pines center. A local coffee shop, it's full of ranch memorabilia and serves a mean banana pecan pancake stack. Good burgers too.

          5 Replies
          1. re: toodie jane

            Tico's is especially good on the weekends.

            1. re: toodie jane

              I have really enjoyed the crab cake benedict at Tico's so I coerced Mom & my husband to go this last Sunday. My half-order of crab cake benedict with country potatoes was all I had anticipated. . . tasty crab cake, runny egg yolk, good holandaise.

              Unfortunately, Larry's pecan waffle with maple syrup was so hard the table shook when he tried cutting it with a regular knife. Also it was cold -- butter never melted so the pecans sprinkled atop the belgian waffle just sat is globs of butter.

              Mom got the apple fritters with grill sausage (two very thin small patties); her food was fried past golden and was definitely dark brown. She may never want to back again . . . sigh.

              Afterwards, Larry said he would have preferred Wagon Wheel on Carmel Valley Road. Next time, I guess.

              1. re: Stephanie Wong

                That's terrible news. I wonder what happened. I've never had a bad meal -especially a breakfast - there. But it has been 3 years since my last visit.

                1. re: Ed Dibble

                  I have never been that impressed with Tico's - I've gone three times, each time saying - that was ok but never saying wow that was great.

                  The Wagon Wheel on the other hand never fails to delight me. Breakfast the way it is supposed to be...

                  1. re: Ed Dibble

                    my last visit was more like three or four weeks ago...and it was as good as always, but hubby had the crab cake benedict and I had the huevos rancheros. and then, I have never had waffles there; I wonder if they were good previously?

              2. Consider Hoppe's in Cayucos just past Morro bay on your way to Cambria. It has consistently been a favorite in recent trips.

                1. While in Cambria, you will be minutes away from the Paso Robles wine country, and some good dining choices there. Here are a few threads or links about that area:




                  Hope to hear from you about how the trip went--be sure to post a report on the 'Calif Board'.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: toodie jane

                    My family owns a home in Cambria so I am there visiting often. I'm a pretty casual person so I am just giving some casual, inexpensive options. I would highly recommend for lunch in Cambria a sandwich shop on Main Street called Sandy's. It's across the street from the Shell Gas station. We used to go to the Main Street Grill, but found this place during our last visit and it was delish. I had the tuna sandwich which was the best one I've ever had. It had sunflower seeds, grated carrots and sprouts which made it so tasty. Other diners had huge salads and other great looking sandwiches as well. The bread was fresh and soft as well.

                    For breakfast my favorite spot is the Moonstone Grill which overlooks the ocean. The view is incredible...not to be missed! I always order the omelet with bacon, cheese & avocado...YUM! I believe they only serve Sunday brunch now. Another 2 options we enjoy for breakfast are Linn's and Creekside Gardens. Both ofter pretty tasty breakfast options.

                    1. re: BShoemaker

                      I believe this location once housed Courtyard Deli (?) whose owners now run the great cafe at Sebastian's Store in San Simeon St Park. (at the beach) That cafe is a good bet too, although not open much longer as the Hearsts have bought the property and plan to 'improve' the building.

                      Thanks for the tip on Sandy's.