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It's a lot to ask but please help me plan my first ever trip to California LA to SF

9 days/ nights on Road Trip from LA to SF in August. This will be my first impression and taste of California and I am very excited. I am listing our Inns if that helps you. We would like to mix it up, some casual (food trucks are even okay) and a splurge or two but our guys won't be wearing jackets. Our goal is to get a good taste of the area where we are visiting. My vacation memories are mostly of what I ate. We choose qualty over quanity, we avoid chains. We enjoy fine wine as well as microbrew. Foodwise we enjoy good food be it Sushi/Dim Sum/Tapas/Farm-to-Table. We love stopping for a good snackie snack anytime.

Sat/Sun - LA Area

Mon/Tue - Morro Bay Area (Anderson Inn)

Wed - drive up to Monterey (Seven Gables Inn)

Thur - drive up to Santa Cruz (West Cliff Inn)

Fri - drive up to San Fran

Fri/Sat/Sun - SF Area (Red Vic Inn, Haight Area) for the Outlands Festival

I value ya'lls opinion. What are our Must see?.. Must Taste? ..Must Drink? for these areas. and if there is a place that make a good drinking chocolate I would be so very happy. I will definately tell you where we go once it is decided.

Thanks in

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  1. For LA and SF you will need to post your request on those boards. Are you going to keep to the coastal areas or try to also include the Sierra Nevada?

    For coastal areas inbetween search this board for Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, San Luis Obispo (SLO), Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria, Paso Robles, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz.

    For the mountains Visalia and Fresno are gateways to the giant redwoods (Sequoia and Kings Canyon), the gold country (south to north) would include Jamestown, Sonora, Jackson, Sutter Creek, Amador City, Plymouth, Placerville, Lake Tahoe (north and south shores) Auburn, Grass Valley, and Nevada City.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PolarBear

      ...also, look just below this post, and you'll see a list of past discussions. Good reading! You'll get a better idea of the geographical areas--the coastline is not flat, but mostly mountainous--and the climate zones. The Central Coast is universally based in food production year round: wine growing, fruits of all sorts, vegetable farming, fishing, shellfish production, artisan dairy production, etc. This is a very casual area : sunblock, T shirts, shorts, a windbreaker and zorries make up our summer 'uniforms', but you will find very nice dining options should you need a jacketless special occasion dinner.

      After reading some of these road trip posts below, you can further refine your search by posing addtional questions in new posts: "Breakfast in Santa Ynez Valley", (I hope you have scheduled time for visiting that lovely wine tasting region, even if you're not drinkers) "Dinner near Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo after hiking Montana De Oro park" " lunch in Big Sur?"
      "Best farm to table restaurant with good wine list in the Monterey Bay area?" " Best farmstand pies in Watsonville area?" "any local sausage in the Santa Cruz area?" you get the idea...

      By reading previous posts, you'll have a framework which commenters here can embellish with their personal favorites. I'll start with mine:

      The taco trucks of Sata Maria, specifically Tichitas, on Betteravia, east of 101 about 3/4 mile, near the strawbewrry fields. All the meat tacos are wonderful and Rosa's tamales and quezadillas are great. Lengua is my personal favorite.

      Doc Bernstein's Ice cream Lab in the village of Arroyo Grande, 1/2 block east of 101 at Grnad Avenue. Super-premium ice cream, some unusual flavors. Doc's Java (intense!) my fave.

      Neon Carrot cafe at the southern end of San Luis Obispo. Take the Los Osos Valley Rd exit (the scenic route to Morro Bay) but turn right rather than left. Go a block to South Higuera and turn left; go past the third light and turn into the strip mall on the left. Near Coastal Coffee Roasters. Great bistro food (try the Hearst Ranch grass-fed burger) from 8 to 3 daily and small plate dinners on Friday 4-7:30.

      Lotus Thai in the village of Los Osos, near the southern shore of Morro Bay. Great simple Thai dishes bursting with flavor and fresh local veggies. Mom & son in the open kitchen, Dad at the counter. Mostly take-out, but three two tops. Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat.

      Fresh wild salmon at the seafood cafes along the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. The fish & chips are good too, but usually not local fish. Local farm- raised abalone and oysters.

      The dining room at Cass House , a B&B in Cayucos. Fine dining in a historic Vistorian 1 block from the pier.

      Robin's, Wild Ginger, Black Cat Bistro and The Sow's Ear in East Village in Cambria, for dinner. Robin's has great take-out items for a picnic at Leffingwell park on the breezy, driftwood-strewn beach. And, OMGosh-cookies from Red Moose Cookie Co., in the "tin village" along Santa Rosa Creek off Burton Drive in East Village (West Village near Highway 1 is mostly tourist trinkets)--follow the signs. Large and "cinn-fully" good.

      Sebastian's Store in the hamlet of San Simeon Cove, opposite the visitor's center for Hearst Castle St Park. Another historic building, great casual sandwiches and salads, coffees.

      Late summer along the coast can be breezy, damp and cool, but go inland 4 or 5 miles and it can get HOT. Think layers. and backup camera batteries.

      Lotus Thai Cuisine
      2060 9th St Ste A, Los Osos, CA 93402

      Wild Ginger
      2380 Main St Ste G, Cambria, CA 93428

      Black Cat Bistro
      1602 Main St, Cambria, CA 93428

      Cass House
      222 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA

      Sebastian's General Store-Cafe
      442 Slo San Simeon Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452

      Sow's Ear
      2248 Main St, Cambria, CA 93428

      DOC Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab
      265 Town Ctr E, Santa Maria, CA 93454

      Neon Carrot
      3536 S Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

      1. re: toodie jane

        I just returned from a much shorter CA jaunt...from as far south as Big Sur up to Santa Cruz. I wish I had seen toodie jane's advice above about battery backup for the camera. i don't think i've ever run out before, and did in only 4 days. Further, I note you're from TX, and as a traveler from SC, I'll tell you...bring warmer clothes than you think you need.

        My favorites were Big Sur Bakery (and if I had it to do over, I would have had dinner there instead of breakfast...or preferably both), Passionfish in Pacific Grove, and Penny Ice in Santa Cruz. Enjoy!

        701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        Big Sur Bakery
        47540 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

    2. Morro Bay = Taco Temple!

      Taco Temple
      2680 Main St, Morro Bay, CA 93442

      1. We really enjoy lunch at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur..stunning views and great food.
        Carmel/Pacific Grove..love Passionfish for dinner..casual and great seafood and wine list.


        1. Thank you for taking time to reply, I think I see what you mean. I will repost more specific requests after I do a little more site research, of course taking your suggestions.

          Thanks again (I am such a newbie to this site)

          1 Reply
          1. re: selletson

            If your schedule changes and you can end up in San Luis Obispo on Thursday evenings you will greatly enjoy the downtown farmers market. Parking is good and because they close down traffic you can freely wander around the streets. It is best explained here at...


            Have a wonderful safe trip.

          2. Definitely the Thurs nite mkt in San Luis if you can make it.

            Harada's in Morro Bay for sushi -- expensive, but the best sushi on the West Coast.

            If you're in Cambria for the evening, I'd say The Sea Chest. Just fish, and simply, but well prepared in front of you (if you get counter-seats).--they take cash only. Sebastian's is good for lunch, but closed on Mon/Tues. Might try the tri-tip sandwich at the Main Street Grill in Cambria.

            Santa Cruz...Best carnitas tacos at any of the three or four Taco Vallerta's.-- Great prices also.
            Linda's on Seabright for breakfast. Seabright Brewery for pub food. Crepe Place is good for late nite hunger. Mediterranean/Persian food at Zameen's (uses fresh local ingredients).

            SF.. Should do the Saturday Market at the Ferry Bldg.

            Main Street Grill
            603 Main St, Cambria, CA 93428

            Seabright Brewery
            519 Seabright Ave Ste 107, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

            Crepe Place
            1134 Soquel Ave Ste Frnt, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

            1 Reply
            1. re: stan D

              Although tri tip is a CentalCoast BBQ tradition (grilled, not smoked) it rarely shows off to its best rare-and-hot form in local sandwiches, alas! An exception may be the Thursday night Farmer's Market which has a furious turnaround in grill time. Almost anywhere else, it will be overcooked and tough from sitting in a covered steam pan.

              A nice farmstand in Arroyo Grande, just south of SLO, is Rutiz Farms on The Pike, off Halcyon Rd. (Grande Ave exit in Arroyo Grande, left to Halcyon, about 3 miles south of Grand. They do sustainably-farmed u-pick strawberries in spring and summer. Raspberries too. If you like chocolate, there are twoartisan chocolatiers in SLO. One is downtown on Broad near Higuera, and one is next to Splash Cafe on upper Monterey St @ California Blvd. (this one is fair-trade only)

              A couple of farmstands in Santa Cruz county are Gizdich Ranch on the eastern outskirts of Watsonville--delicious boysenberries and apples; available in pie form, too. Nearby is the hamlet of Corralitos and the wonderful Corralitos Market selling their Eastern-European style smoked sausages. In Watsonville there are many hole-in-the-wall taco joints--try the carnitas (crispy roast pork) and the pastor (spit roasted, stacked spicy pork slices). Try them in a torta, ("toar'-tah" ) which is a Mexican sandwich on soft eggy French bread.

              Swanton Berry Farm north of Santa Cruz is an institution for u-pick strawberries or ready to eat berries and jams, pies too.

              For microbreweries, I'd rec starting a new thread with a title to attract the suds-heads. "California Coastal Micro Breweries" or something like that. They are quite a few good ones.

              Something to bear in mind for your scheduling is that Highway 1, once you are north of Morro Bay in SLO county, is a scenic and slow 25-50mph 2-lane road, subject to much summertime repair work (updates at caltrans.ca.gov), so plan for the time it will take to get where you have planned, so as not to miss out on any chow dates.

            2. With 9 days to get from LA to SF I would also recommend a detour in to see Yosemite Valley and have at least one meal at the newly improved, and drop dead gorgeous Ahwanhee Hotel dining room. You can leave Highway 101 at Paso Robles to head towards Yosemite, and then come back via Merced to rejoin your onward journey to SF. http://www.yosemitepark.com/Dining_Ah...

              1. You might want to post on the LA board as well for the Sat/Sun portion of your trip. You've mentioned that dim sum, sushi, tapas and farm-to-table as well as snacks are high on your list. While tapas as defined by Spanish cuisine aren't an LA strength, all other categories rank very high. And if you broaden your definition of tapas to small plates with drinks, you will get quite a few responses.

                As you can tell, I'm in LA but am enamored with so much of California. The focus on food and drink in this state has made leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades. We love Santa Cruz as it's just the right-sized town, its laid-back nature, and the great (and seemingly overlooked) food and drink scene. Since you are only spending one night there, I'd spend some time around Swift Street Courtyard on Ingalis. Its previous incarnation was a series of agricultural warehouses, then business and industrial park - some of the surrounding area still is - but is quickly growing into an assembly of great food and drink purveyors. Kelly's Bakery and ice cream, , the numerous wine tasting venues, Bonny Doon's Cellar Door Cafe, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, shops specializing in crafts and local artisan products and the newly opened El Salchichero butcher and charcuterie shop (haven't been yet but it will be one of our first stops when we visit again this summer). You could easily spend a well-paced afternoon and evening there.

                Here's a short video (dated 2006) on just some of the offerings at Swift Street:


                El Salchichero
                402 Ingalls St #5, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                1. In Cayucos (which is about 5-7 miles up the coast from Morro Bay), I second toodie jane on the Cass House. We have had a couple of delightful meals there. Four course prix fixe in a lovely old home, great service...and about a third the price of comparable meals in LA. Also in Cayucos at the opposite end of the spectrum, the gas station on the main street (across from the Cass House) has unbelievably good cinnamon rolls (they have a bakery counter inside--totally unexpected) have these for breakfast while you walk out on the pier. They do sell out early--our last trip we had breakfast at one of the cafes down the road. It was fine. We should have gotten up earlier.

                  Cass House
                  222 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lrhr

                    last time I stopped, in March, the station bakery & deli had been taken over by new owners--not much looked inviting. How long ago was your visit?

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      We found exactly what you described on our visit a couple of weeks ago TJ. Very sad.

                      1. re: PolarBear

                        I'm thinking the previous owners decided to retire--they'd just revamped everything, then the economy took the first awful slide. I hope they're enjoying their retirement--we'll miss those goodies and scrumptious soups, sandwiches and stews.