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Dec 27, 2009 10:00 PM

California Coast Road Trip - Any Suggestions?

We've got a few days off from work and decided to drive up the California coast. We're starting in Santa Barbara, and heading to Monterey for a night. Then up to Half Moon Bay for 2 nights and back down to Santa Barbara at our leisure.

Would love any chowhounder suggestions for the following:
- great stops between Santa Barbara and Monterey
- dinner and breakfast in Monterey area
- all meals in Half Moon Bay

We're open to some nicer ($$$) meals, and also open to casual, inexpensive options.


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  1. Rather than repeat everything, be sure to do a search on this forum for lots of our favorite suggestions, some tailored to driving Highways 1 and 101 on the Central Coast or search each city's name and you will find your winners.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      haha--does ANYbody search the Calif board??? They don't, mostly, and miss the best details ever.

      HINT: just enter the coastal town name in the Calif board search window and you get dozens of replies to each query.

    2. Be sure to stop at PASO ROBLES for fine fare & vistas pairing bombastic wines with Gary Eberle! Or, pack a hamper and picnic on the grounds! LOVELY! My VERY FAVORITE wines are Eberle wines! :-)

      Quite near to there is Templeton, CA., where "Allure" has some of the mose astounding award-winning (Silver in CA!) estate olive oil + wine vinegars + olive soap ~ A MUST-VISIT!

      In SLO: Skip the "Award-winning (State) BBQ joint (Won't even bother to look up the name) - QUITE a disappointment (And we sample ALL WARES, so it wasn't a "bad plate")

      In Watsonville & Santa Cruz: Pop in for the historic and famous hot dogs / tamales - the hot dogs & tamales are within blocks on each other on the same street in Watsonville.

      While in Watsonville, visit "La Fogata" (next street behind the main one) for exquisite "SOPES" in very simple environment reminding one of rural Mexico (authentic).

      If in Morro Bay, the ice cream shop across from Rosie's (I think it is - on the water & 2-story), is "worth it" for the gander of their extensive collection - (I think the crosswalk is right in front of it... entering, the ice cream shop's on your left, the other on your right.

      The "taffy place", straight ahead & to your right when arriving at Morro Bay is "worth it" for barrel upon barrel of their taffy & the fish & chips were without complaints...

      In Monterey Bay the best fare was right there, on the pier.

      In Salinas you may "lose a day" at the Stienbeck Center - OMGosh! - GREAT PLACE!
      When exiting (finally), the wine shoppe to your immediate left is well worth a visit :-)

      Solvang, of course - if you want some pastry with your on-the-road hot drinks - the drive to it and back is lined with old growth trees and fenced paddocks. Though we've been often, I don't recommend the buffet on the main drag - but there's a quaint 2-story shop one block to your right a bit up from there.

      Skip Split Pea Anderson's.

      This time of year, the Brussel's Sprouts are in their final 2 weeks of harvest - I'd snag some whole stalks (They'll keep VERY WELL in the trunk until you get home) - BEST PLACE: Dominique's (on your left) - just past the crest from Castroville to Watsonville (Old Little Red Schoolhouse on your right as you crest, maybe pop in) ... Try some raw, snapped fresh from the stalk - WOW! GOOD STUFF! :-)

      Watsonville for breakfast: Apple Annie's, or something like that - NOT TO BE MISSED! :-)

      SKIP: EVERYTHING along the route in Moss Landing -
      Worth A Stop: Turn in to Moss Landing proper and park at road's end to stroll the beach
      Worth A Stop: Zumbowowski (sp?) State Beach - free access - it's at the terminus of Monterey Bay - DO _NOT_ GO IN THE _DANGEROUS_ WATERS (PLENTY of signs posted), but just FEEL THE HUGE POUNDING WAVES "BOOM-BOOM-BOOM" - it's a unique experience... and the drive from "main drag" to there is interesting, too :-)

      Please post what you did and where you went upon your return! :-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

        Between Monterey and San Luis Obispo, Templeton, San Luis Obispo, and Pismo Beach have a few of my favorite local restaurants.

        McPhee's in Templeton has delicious mid priced meals from grilled chicken and pasta to butternut squash ravioli or a great steak.

        Big Sky cafe works hard to buy local ingredients direct from the farmer. Moderate to low priced meals with a heavy choice for vegetarians. Always filling and delicious.

        Rosa's in Pismo Beach serves traditional Italian without the line at Guissepe's down the street. Always wonderful.

        Big Sky Cafe
        1121 Broad St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

        1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

          Don't miss El Rancho Market in Santa Ynez on the main road from Bueltlon East. They BBQ Tri-tip daily have an amazing deli counter of house made dips, sauces, salads (dont miss the roasted corn) cheeses and meats. This is the place to go to cater your own winery picnic.

          El Rancho Restaurant
          821 W Valley Blvd, Colton, CA 92324

        2. Recently re-discovered the Madonna Inn Copper Cafe and like its honest, fresh approach to old American classics like sandwiches, salads and desserts. Over the top kitsch decor that makes a break in driving this stretch of the highway south of San Luis Obispo.

          Our road favorites in the central coast are Mo's BBQ in Pismo Beach for their Philty Phil's ribs and the chile rellenos at La Simpatia Cafe in Guadalupe on Highway One west of Santa Maria.

          1. Generally the board favorite for dinners in the Monterey area is Passionfish in Pacific Grove. The focus there is on sustainable seafood. The extensive wine list is also priced at retail. I generally enjoy the creative presentations. The best bets are usually the seafood items, but the duck confit is pretty tasty as well.

            1. Half Moon Bay: i remember a really nice meal at Pasta Moon in HMB - i think they're still around. The Ritz Carleton there is beautiful and we've stopped there for a drink and some apps - in warmer weather they have bands playing sometimes but not when you'll be there.