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California or Bust!

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First off, I want to thank all the regulars on this board for so many varied and informative posts! I am planning a trip up the coast in Oct and spent hours searching and reading this board. Very helpful for an east coaster (NYC).

I have finally settled on our "meals itinerary," which I'll list below. What I'd love to get feedback on, would be any "don't miss this dish" or "most known for" items. In general or specific; for the restaurant or the area. For example, I've heard that calamari is a must have in the Monterey area, sourdough is great in Santa Cruz--that sort of thing. Obviously, we'll wind up ordering what sounds best to us at the time, but we love being armed with recommendations.

We start in LA, Little Next Door for lunch and Chaya for dinner.

Through Santa Barbara for lunch. Most likely Brophy Bros or SB Shellfish. (I actually considered changing our whole schedule so that we could have dinner here at Jade--it sounds like the kind of place we would love. Several of our runner up options weren't open for Monday lunch. If there's something I've missed, please let me know!)

Dinner in SLO at Koberl on Blue. (Most likely grab breakfast the next morn at Big Sky Cafe)

Lunch: Nepenthe in Big Sur.

Dinner: Pacific Edge in Carmel.

Lunch: Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove

Dinner: Soif in Santa Cruz

Then in SF, we're having dinners at Coi and the Dining Room at the Ritz and plan on hitting Zuni for lunch.

It's going to be a whirlwind trip and while it may seem like we're basically driving from meal to meal, that won't prevent us from stopping along the way if we pass a stand or shack that looks inviting!

Thanks again!

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

Red House Cafe
662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Brophy Bros
Breakwatr, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

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  1. Sorry, but I personally never include Brophy Bros or Shellfish on any SB list for anything special, but I would pick SB Shellfish between the two at least for the location if it is a pretty and clear day. Just being on the end of the wharf and seeing the SB panorama is worth it. SB Shellfish has its fans so this was not an unreasonable choice to make.

    That being said, having lunch in SB is a challenge because we are more of a dinner dining town when it comes to the more special restaurants. Lunch is more just for food, which makes getting the scenery thrown in for free at SB Shellfish even more appealing.

    One other lunch possibility if you want to see the downtown area at its best is Petit Valentin in our lovely La Arcada Courtyard - but maybe you already learned if they are open or not for Monday lunch. Yes, that is a limitation. Tre Lune in Monecito is also a good lunch favorite -- Monday? - Don't know.

    And since lunch will be more "just food", there is nothing wrong with stopping at the Cliff House Shoals restaurant for "just food" in La Conchita on Highway 101, about 20 miles south of Santa Barbara restaurant for their spectacular and surprisingly private ocean and poolside setting that just screams Southern California Coastal, palm trees and surf in the nicest possible way. http://www.cliffhouseinn.com/index.htm

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Sounds like you have alot of wonderful places planned! SB Shellfish Co. in Santa Barbara is very good, we love the lobster bisque there and it is such a scenic area, right on Stearn's Wharf. At Nepenthe, the Ambrosia Burger is very good. Pacific's Edge is awesome and Red House Cafe in PG is so cozy with wonderful food. Enjoy! :)

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      Red House Cafe
      662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

      Pacific's Edge Restaurant
      120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, CA 93923

      1. re: glbtrtr

        Additional reviews and photo for Santa Barbara Shellfish: http://www.santabarbara.com/Dining/re...

      2. If I'm in SB for lunch, it's La Super Rica. If you've never been, it should be at the top of your list. Get whatever is on special and anything else that sounds good. A unique place that every 'hound should experience at least once.

        Definite thumbs up on Nepenthe. Been quite awhile since i was there, but the food was way above average and the views unlike any place else on earth. Enjoy!

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        La Super Rica
        622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

        1 Reply
        1. re: GroovinGourmet

          LSR is always high on my list and a perfect mid-day meal spot but was concerned they might run into lines and the wait might not be good for their onward driving trip. But it would be a very unique choice for Santa Barbara and its mexican food heritage.

          #15 Tocino Especial is my own favorite: melted cheese and bacon poured into three fresh tortillas topped with scoops of fresh pico de gallo from the counter. And while I have not tried it I bet the same dish done with chorizo would even be better, but don't know what the number of that combo is - chorizo is a bit of a national specialty spicy sausage that makes everything it touches extra special.

          So agree, it is at least worth a try and easy to drive past on Milpas Street exit from Highway 101 to see how the lines are, before heading back to SB Shellfish the wharf at the end of State Street. And if the downtown Historic Arts District between 1000 and 1200 State Street look too intriguing to pass by, then again Petit Valentin in La Arcada Court is a great outdoor cafe choice. Or Renaud's in Arlington Court in the 1300 block of State Street for a light bite and some perfect French croissants for the road as guilty nibbles.

        2. Why else travel other than to try new food???

          I'd suggest breakfast at Neon Carrot in SLO. Not a hash house, but filling, fresh and imaginative food for early in the day. Order at the counter, food is served at your table. Not your usual breakfast-place atmosphere. It's been a winner so far for all my visits.

          Open 8:00 am to 3 pm. Happy hour Friday 4 to 8. 805-545-0000

          http://theneoncarrot.com/The_Neon_Car...

          Their online menu is temporary (they've only been open a few months) and shows lunch only, but gives an idea of the imaginative food offered.

          A call this morning noted these b'fast menu items:

          Neon Carrot B'fast: two eggs any style, toast, home fries, and bacon
          Blintzes with ricotta filling and home made jams
          Breakfast Burrito with braised pork, seasonal veggies, home fries
          Fried egg sandwich with creme fraiche, tomato, lettuce and other veg add-ons
          Veggie tart with flaky pastry, seasonal vegetables, mushroom puree
          Homemade granola and seasonal fruits

          Extra care is taken to serve locally-sourced fresh foods.

          Coffee from Coastal Roasters "next door"

          and.. for b'fast in Monterey, try the Wagon Wheel on Carmel Valley Rd about 2 miles east of Highway 1. Great food and a colorful Old Carmel "Ranch" decor. Or if you're carbs-in-the-morning fans, Bagel Bakery on Lighthouse, or Red's Donuts downtown, both in Monterey .

          If for some reason Soif in SC doesn't work out, you can't go wrong with Ristorante Avanti, 1711 Mission St (Hiway 1) Classic country Italian entrees and a wonderful wine bar. 831-427-0135.

          don't forget the battery charger for the camera.

          1. Sorry, but I cast my vote for Bon Temps Creole Cafe for breakfast in SLO over Big Sky Cafe, and, if you hit Morro Bay around the lunch hour I recommend the calamari at Taco Temple...YUM! TJ...so funny you mention the battery charger. Good call. Chatting with a friend today who did the CA coast trip last week (north to south) and the camera battery died just when they arrived to Santa Barbara!

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            Bon Temps Creole Cafe
            1000 Olive St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

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