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Pismo for first timers- please give us your recommendations!

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Hubby and I and fur kids are heading down to Pismo for an early Memorial day weekend in hopes of avoiding the crowds ( May 25-27). It will our first time there. I checked old threads for dining recs but most of them are outdated by several years. Any suggestions for casual dining? So far it looks like Splash Cafe for chowder, Cracked Crab for buckets and Giuseppe's express for pizza and salads (can't find a menu for their express locations, I am assuming the pizza and salads on their regular menu can be ordered at their express location as well). We are also thinking about heading over to Jocko's in Nipomo for a good steak. Have we missed anything? We are not looking for fancy....just good!

Cracked Crab
751 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

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  1. Drive over to San Luis Obispo on Thursday night for the farmers' market. You and the kids will enjoy it. There are lots of food vendorsplus music, entertainment etc. The recs for Splash Cafe Cracked Crab and Guiseppe's are still valid. Lots of people love the Honeymoon Cafe for breakfast. The Avila Valley Barn is a short drive from Pismo and is always a fun place to visit--produce, bakery items, ice cream, and an assortment of animals.

    Avila Valley Barn
    560 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

    Cracked Crab
    751 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

    1. Make sure you call ahead and make a reservation at Jocko's otherwise you'll be waiting an hour and a half. Love their Spencer steaks or grilled lamb chops.
      Don't know if the Pier Pounder is still there at the Pismo Pier. I knew of someone who got their name up on the wall for finishing their Pier Pounder challenge. A pound of burger, a pound of fries and all the sides that go with it!

      1. We love the Philthy Phil ribs at Mo's BBQ on the main downtown street. Then going down to HotLix afterwards for some coffee flavor salt water taffy or other great homemade candies they have there- the pecan rolls are especially tempting after Mo's succulent ribs.

        Other menu items on Mo's don't get the same rave reviews from us as their Philthy Phil choice of ribs, but we think the ribs and that sauce are so great we make any excuse whatsoever to make another road trip up there just to get some more. Mo's is a block up from the Splash Cafe which always has lines around the block, so it those lines seem too daunting for the wait, do think about Mo's instead if you are in the mood for casual and funky BBQ.

        We found Jocko's to be a volume restaurant and not necessarily a good restaurant. A better "steak" tip is to sit at the great big open bar at McLintock's in Pismo area (Shell Beach) and order their potato skillet and steak pieces appetizers and you will be very well-fed indeed, just not with a knife and fork. Plus you will get in a lot faster than waiting to sit down. http://www.mclintocks.com/locations/i...

        1. Thanks for all the tips. I would LOVE to go to the SLO farmers market but I understand they don't allow Fur kids so probably won't make it this trip. Bummer! Any good outdoor dining??

          1. I have to add Ventana Grill. I was wary going there on a friend's recommendation since it seemed like one of the usual ocean view locations with mediocre food. But after having been there twice now for lunch and one happy hour, this has become our new Pismo Beach/South County favorite. The space is sleek with stunning panoramic views, but still casual.

            The menu has a Latin twist. We've enjoyed the Mahi Mahi sandwich, poblano steamed clams, the burger with a bit of chorizo mixed in and cotija cheese on top, and a nice ceviche.


            Definitely go to Jocko's, nothing fancy, but a great Spencer steak cooked on their red oak grill. I love to get Spumoni ice cream (if they have it that night) for dessert. Even with a reservation, you'll have to wait for your table, but make it fun by going into the bar and getting a beer while you wait.

            Ventana Grill
            2575 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

            3 Replies
            1. re: PattyOh

              "make it fun by going into the bar and getting a beer while you wait"
              --which they count on by over booking heavily.

              just so you know

              McKlintock's in the village of Arroyo Grande on Bridge St. also serves good steaks at dinner, and the venue is so much nicer than Jocko's dingy room.

              1. re: toodie jane

                Hmm, to each his or her own. IMO, the steaks are better at Jocko's. The place is old and nothing to look at, but it is clean.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Been to McKlintock's a long long time ago with the kids when they were little. Nice settings along the coast but didn't care for their extra dry buffalo burger I ordered. The kids loved the table server who poured their drinks like a Turkish tea waiter. Very courteous service is what I remember. Food not that all memorable though. Jocko's is still my favorite steak house even though the decor is not all that fancy. Still meaning to try the Hitching Post one day for their steaks.

                  Hitching Post
                  3325 Point Sal Rd, Casmalia, CA 93429

              2. Oh, when I read fur kids I thought it was a misprint for four kids! You're right dogs are not allowed at farmers'markets. I have heard that the Honeymoon Cafe has a pet friendly patio. In SLO, Firestone Grill is very casual and has good tri-tip sandwiches and burgers and a nice outdoor area where fur kids are welcome.

                Firestone Grill
                1001 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

                6 Replies
                1. re: sgbslo

                  Haha sgbslo. That is what I figured. Thanks for the patio dining recs, those are really helpful.
                  I am really interested in trying Jocko's but honestly a little nervous about the drive and the wait, and I have heard the service is a little sketchy. This will be for my husband who is a "steak " guy. He doesn't care about fancy but it has to be good!

                  1. re: EAH

                    Jocko's is a much talked about place by travelers headed up and down along the central coast. Never ever had a problem with service unless you're absolutely rude and/or obnoxious. The busboys are super courteous and will get you anything you want unless when they're super busy serving customers. It always helps if you have a reservation but sometimes you'll still have to wait a little bit. The ambience is very homey very similar to a sportman's lodge and at times can be very noisy. But the oak grilled steaks are the best, especially the Spencer or filet mignon. Each meal comes with an appetizer veggie platter plus salad, garlic bread, and baked SM beans. Most probably you'll be going home with a "doggie leftover box" in most cases just like we always do. Have fun.

                    1. re: Clinton

                      Well Clinton, ya sold me! Jocko's it is.
                      The sketchy service was in regards to the hostess, not the servers, my apologies.

                      1. re: EAH

                        We found Jocko's to be a place to eat food. Funky, noisy and obviously well loved. But it was not a dining experience of any merit. Glad I went there once. No reason to return. But we also feel the same way about the Hitching Post in Casmaila as well. Funky and well-loved oddity in an odd place - worth a single experience but not anything to go out of one's way for any repeat business. However, we get no endorsements here for our own choice Mo's BBQ in Pismo (Philthy Phil ribs), so that gives you a clue how varied dining tastes are amongst us all.

                        Hitching Post
                        3325 Point Sal Rd, Casmalia, CA 93429

                        1. re: glbtrtr

                          Glbtrtr, I saw an older post where you mentioned Mo's. I love good baby back ribs but can you recommend anything else on the menu as husband is not a rib man?

                          Also has anyone heard of Hoagies Sandwich and Grill? They were rated really high on a travel website I found. Anyone been there?

                          Finally- does anyone have any experience with Giuseppe's Express menu? I can't find it online and I am curious if they offer the same pizza and salads at the Express shop as they do at the main restaurant??
                          Again, thank you all for your feedback and recommendations so far. It's been very helpful to us.

                          1. re: EAH

                            Mo's BBQ: Have tried their pulled pork sandwich and like others have found it not particularly interesting. We also tried all of their four sauce choices and locked in on the Philthy Phils version (which I believe they claim is a South Carolina version, but I am not sure of this at all). So I am afraid our own recomendaton is just for the ribs and this particular version of the ribs. What do we like so much: sweet, tender, fall off the bone, flavorful pork kicked up just the right degree with the sauce that does not take away the pork flavor. Good quality meat that is cooked perfectly in our opinion. We also find the included sides to be equally fresh and flavorful: cole slaw, BBQ beans and corn meal muffin. Not crazy about their potato salad choice so we always pick the fresh and crunchy cole slaw instead. I often find one great menu item and keep going back for that one thing when I fall in love with a restaurant and that might give the misleading impression the restaurant is great overall, when in fact my attachment is to a singular item as in the case of Mo's BBQ. We also buy the Philthy Phil BBQ sauce by the jug when we go for home use.

                2. I find it really difficult to recommend Cracked Crab. We had the crab bisque and big bucket for 2. The crab bisque is much too creamy and peppery, and because of this, if it had any taste of crab, I wouldn't have known. It was also an off-white colour - I've never had a crab bisque that's off-white! There was quite a bit of crab flesh in it, but I couldn't taste it.

                  For the bucket we chose olipio crab (half the legs and a bit of the body), crawdads (crayfish) and domestic wild shrimp. The corn on the cob was the nicest thing in it (it was genuinely goos - super sweet and crunchy). The crayfish had a plasticky taste, the crab legs were super salty and the shrimp was pretty bland. And the whole thing had so much Old Bay seasoning on it I felt like I tipped a whole box onto my tongue.

                  Service is super friendly, but for a seaside town to serve mediocre seafood is pretty disappointing. Won't be back (and we had to pay $115 to find that out. Ouch.)

                  Cracked Crab
                  751 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

                  1. After spending last weekend in Pismo Beach, I thought I'd chime in on a couple of the spots where we had some Houndworthy meals.

                    Our first breakfast we got a recommendation to try Zorro's Cafe, but we kept going South and found the Honeymoon Cafe. Lots of organic and healthy options to choose from, but we were undaunted. She ordered the breakfast special which was a Greek scramble, with peppers, spinach and feta cheese served with toast. It was very good, as was the Cowboy Breakfast Burrito that I selected, which had turkey sausage, bacon and ham, (which I omited), with onions, cheese and cottage fried potatoes. Really tasty and would have been perfect if I had remembered to order my bacon crispy. They also served a very good Cafe Americano and a hot Chai. The menu is well priced too.

                    We also had a good meal at the Ventana Grill. The Halibut ceviche was served in a unique way, like a lettuce cup, served on a tortilla chip. Lovely presentation and delicious. We also ordered two carnitas tacos which we shared. I love carnitas, and search for the authentic stuff in the Bay Area, I thought that the flavor of this pork was outstanding. Again, I would love a bit more crisp texture, but I would go back for those two dishes again.

                    We did make it to Zorros for a subsequent breakfast, and though it was okay, the breakfast burrito there, with bacon and potato contained too much potato (they did serve the bacon nice and crunchy on request).

                    We also had a couple of items at the Marisol restaurant since it was convenient to our lodging.
                    They have a nice happy hour weekdays at 4 PM which is worth checking out. Friday was 1/2 priced appetizers, including oysters, calimari, nachos, sliders and other items. Oysters were good, calimari was meh. We also had a dinner where we shared the chopped salad and a potato crusted salmon. Both were good if not great and satisfied the two of us without being too much food.

                    Honeymoon Cafe
                    999 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

                    Zorro's Cafe & Cantina
                    927 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

                    Marisol At the Cliffs Resort
                    2757 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KatoK

                      Thanks for the report - always helpful to get feedback as well as learn about new places ourselves.

                    2. Made it back to Pismo for a long weekend and hit Marisol for their happy hour on Friday. Half price appetizer menu which included an oysters Rockefeller spin that I haven't seen before. Spinach and Hollandaise as usual but crispy bacon bits, (my Kryptonite), and it was very tasty. Hollandaise could have been a bit tighter, but overall a success for us. $7 for a half dozen, $14 for a dozen during the HH.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KatoK

                        We recenlty stayed at The Cliffs for 5 nights and dined at Mirasol many times. The food is very good there and you can't beat the views. Our favorite menu item was The Raviolis with Chanterelle Mushrooms. We ordered this twice during our stay there. I had some Ahi Tacos that were OK. Our new favorite find in Pismo is Ventana Grill. I cannot say enough great things about this place! We dined there for dinner and returned the next day for Tapas and wine so we could take in the incredible views. The food is some of the best on the coast and we have been travelling alot the past 6 weeks all over the West Coast. The Halibut Ceviche is not to miss. We also love the Smoked Sea Scallop Salad, the Prawns, Rib Eye Steak and the dessert as to die for! My husband had the Mud Pie and I had the Chocolate Fondue which was beautifully presented. And no cork fee if you bring your own wine in which we did for dinner. :)

                      2. definitely guisseppes.
                        and thai talay ... simply amazing.
                        and yanagi for sushi.