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Central Coast Update Wanted -- Pismo/Arroyo Grande/Avila Beach et al

Many of the posts on the Pismo Beach area are older, and likely outdated.

Planning to be in Pismo for a few days and looking for decent Mexican food, hamburgers, or other sandwiches for lunch plus perhaps some Chinese for a takeout dinner. (Have largely given up on seafood, which all seems brought in from someplace else and/or frozen.) BBQ/oak grilled always a plus.

Happily willing to drive around to other neighboring towns such as AG, Grover City, etc. for lunch, and would like to have an update on the Rusty Pig -- did the old owners open a new spot and have the new owners made a mess of the original place?

Have had excellent meals at the Sycamore Inn in prior years, is it still terrific?

Also, any lunch recommendations for San Luis Obispo, prefer some good Mexican food, such as a taqueria, or a comfortable sandwich stop.

(We're already set for our steak expeditions to Nipomo and Casmalia.)

Hope to do some winery-related cruising through AG and Edna Valley to SLO, and another run south to the Los Olivos area, so any suggestions along those lines would be appreciated, including lunch or picnic stops. (I know about the 2,000 tasting rooms in Los Olivos, plus the co-op spot and tapas bar west of the fwy in Buellton.)

Thanks to all.

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  1. Heading that direction tomorrow morning.

    On the finer dining scale, I reported recently that Lido in the Dolphin Bay Resort has a new chef and my pal in AG was impressed. No word on where Chef Evan Treadwell ended up as yet, SLO maybe?

    Latest on Rusty Pig in my May 18 comment here, still no first hound info:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/536255
    Will head up to the Mesa and sniff around if time allows.

    Pizmo Taco is gone unless there's been a revival, always end up at a little Mexican market in Grover City, La Tapatia Market on 13th. One large picnic table in the market and a couple of small tables outside with shade covers. Zero atmosphere, over the top authentic home cooking.

    Less than impressed with Pete's Pierside (under new ownership) last visit. Picked up some of the calamari salad from the fish market next to the Olde Port Inn and some fresh oysters from the vendor near the base of the pier.

    Will most likely revisit Red Luna in SLO (tho it's strangely lacking much feedback here) and CiaoPinot gets a lot of love.

    Please report back on what you find, it's very helpful to the pack.

    Cheers,

    Dave

    -----
    Pete's Pierside Cafe
    39 Avila Beach Road, Avila Beach, CA 93424

    Olde Port Inn
    PO Box 40, Avila Beach, CA 93424

    9 Replies
    1. re: PolarBear

      Who is the new chef at Lido? I am taking my niece (very well-behaved child) down south next weekend, and we're staying at Dolphin Bay. I'd be willing to pop for something exceptional, but not glorified surf and turf hotel food.

      Thanks for starting this thread, MRMoggie. I rarely get down to SLO/Pismo and environs.

      1. re: Leely2

        Lido's new chef of @ 6 weeks or so is Brian Collins who worked with Alice Waters at Chez Pannise and left his most recent gig at American Flatbread in Los Alamos to work with Evan at Lido. Chef Treadwell has moved on to Colorado according to our waitress.

        1. re: PolarBear

          Thanks, PolarBear. We did end up having dinner at Lido this past weekend since we were staying in the hotel. We were pleased with the food, the service and, of course, the view! Standouts for me were the corn/zucchini soup and the duck breast.

      2. re: PolarBear

        Thanks for all the resplies so far....

        Had two miserable meals at McLintock's in Pismo and never went back, have had a good time at HP1 though the meat quality isn't quite what it used to be, IMHO. Their fries, however, are superb.

        A couple of Santa Maria locals, independently, said they considered HP still No.1, followed by Jocko's with the Far Western Tavern about the same as Shaw's...(except everyone thinks their steaks are the best from their own backyard.)

        So, if I want a Santa Maria-style steak dinner (not apps), where do the Chowboard locals head if they aren't cooking at home?

        This will be a dinner with at least six people, so apps at the bar won't work. And we do plan to try one other spot besides HP to compare.

        -----
        Far Western Tavern
        899 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA

        1. re: MRMoggie

          Santa Maria style tri-tip BBQ is a bit different from a Santa Maria "steak dinner", so be sure to search for each of them, depending upon which one you want. Have not been there myself, but apparently in downtown Santa Maria on weekends, local service groups put on tri-tip dinners from portable grills. I think there have been threads on these in the past. SM tri-tip is always a yummy treat - great cut of meat, seasoned well, slow-cooked over open coals and served with traditional sides: beans, salsa and garlic bread.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            glbtrtr -- From comments elsewhere, the weekend service club tri-tip BBQ's in Santa Maria are a thing of the past, killed off by local restaurants lobbying the city to clamp down over health issues.

            We know the difference between trip tips and classic Central Coast barbecue/grilling. That's why I always order top sirloin, which is the original red meat of choice, from what I've read. Pretty definitive feature in the LA Times a few years ago, including the pinquitos.

            1. re: MRMoggie

              MRMoggie- drive up and down Broadway on any Saturday or Sunday- and there are more tri tip bbq's than you can shake a stick at.

              1. re: MRMoggie

                SMS refers to the METHOD of cooking: outdoor, open pit, over oak COALS, not flames. With only dry S&P rub. Sides are iceberg salad, garlic bread, and round pink (sometimes called pinquito )beans and fresh tomato salsa. That is SMS BBQ.

                The original meat used inthe 20's was whole top block strung across the pit on steel rods. In the 50's or ealry 60's a local meat cutter started pushing tri tip for backyard grillers, and aren't we lucky? A delicious, inexpensive new cut of meat was 'discovered'.

                IMO, SMS BBQ (or any open grilled meat) is served best right off the grill, cooked to order. That's why it's almost impossible to get good tri tip at a restaurant, or even the streetside vendors. It sits around toolong, is overcooked sitting in steam trays to keep warm. Nothing worse than tough, overcokked tri tip. Forget about ordering tri tip sandwiches anywhere. You will be dissapointed.

                If you want the very best SMSBBQ, either do it yourself or have it catered on site by a professional. There are many locally who do a great job.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  The "secret sauce" for one of my favorite Tri-Tip BBQs at an annual local political party rally claimed they did it with (Morton's) Season All, not just S&P. Yum. Thanks for the details and history and precautions when trying to get the real thing.

        2. Number one for us in Pismo Beach is always Mo's BBQ on the main street, but only for Philty Phil's ribs. We drive up there for any excuse to have them and have never been disappointed. Other menu items haven't lit my fire in the same way, but .......... "Mo's knows BBQ but he don't know fish and he don't know chowda."

          Number two is sitting at the bar at McLintock's and ordering their steak pieces and potato skillet "appetizers". Can you say a full meal? Yes, and a great way around the crowds, the high prices, waits for a table and overkill portion sizes. Plus the grand old three sided bar is a great setting to take in the always busy local scene with some good draft beer.

          Back from an exceptional meal at Ballard Inn Restaurant ($$$ - this is your special occasion place) just a tiny bit south of Los Olivos in the tiny non-town of Ballard. Grappolo in Santa Ynez is worth a look too. Jocko's (Nipomo) and Hitching Post (Casmalia) are not our favorite places - more volume than quality. The local legend Chef Rick is now at the new Far Western Tavern in old town Orcutt, but not sure it is open yet.

          There will be some great local advice to follow this post - a few Chowhounders here really know this exact turf - look for the Toodie Jane posts to set you in the right direction.

          -----
          Hitching Post
          3325 Point Sal Rd, Casmalia, CA 93429

          The Ballard Inn & Restaurant
          2436 Baseline Ave, Solvang, CA 93463

          Grappolo
          3687 Sagunto St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

          8 Replies
          1. re: glbtrtr

            IIRC, Chef Rick will be at the *new* Far Western when it opens in old town Orcutt, I believe sadly that the old Guadalupe location is RIP, hopefully not La Simpatia as well, would sure miss those chile rellenos.

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            Chef Rick's
            4869 S Bradley Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455

            La Simpatia Cafe
            827 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA 93434

            1. re: PolarBear

              Chef Rick is indeed already cooking at Far Western that is still in Guadalupe, it won't be moving until next year- if I am correct. He is working with the current/leaving in 6 months or so Chef- so he can "learn the ropes & recipes".

              -----
              Chef Rick's
              4869 S Bradley Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455

                1. re: OldJalamaMama

                  Thanks for the update too. Checked out the FWT website and they will keep us up to date on the pending details under their news and announcement tab. next mystery, what will happen to that wonderful location/destination. Please, please, please powers that be keep the former allure of this beloved block of Guadalupe dining destinations.

                  1. re: OldJalamaMama

                    You are correct, OJM. Spoke with the bartender at FWT on Thursday, Chef Rick is indeed in the kitchen and will be there until next April when they move into the new digs in Old Town Orcutt, he told me where but sorry, the memory fails me. He also confirmed that La Simpatia is retrofitting and planning on reopening.

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                    Chef Rick's
                    4869 S Bradley Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455

                    La Simpatia Cafe
                    827 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA 93434

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      RE: La Simpatia Please tell me they are reinstalling the the funky tuck and roll yellow naugahyde booths. PolarBear you are officially required to go back for another dinner at Chef Ricks and find out -- somehow I don't see any way to replicate the charm of that old interior. The counter, the stools, the booths and the stuff hanging on the walls all with the patina of age and good use. I want it all back just the way it was. PS Thanks for the update - very welcome news.

                      -----
                      La Simpatia Cafe
                      827 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA 93434

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          Gracias Gracias Gracias for the La Simpatia news!!! I go to Santa Maria twice a month and never seem to get out to see whats up out there in Guadalupe! Grateful to hear its almost ready- I want it like it was before too, witht he art and the fink, but am willing to deal with it being different if THE FOOD is still the same!!!

                          -----
                          La Simpatia Cafe
                          827 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA 93434

              1. some newer local favorites as well as old timers:

                Fiero Bakery Cafe in SLO for baked goods and sweet treats (incl. homemade marshmallows and the unusual flavors of locally-made 'Bella Pops' popsicles. Good salads and sandwiches, but not earth-shattering. Some of their daily specials are very good. Open M-F only for b'fast & lunch. Fun and funky location near the airport. Nice folks.

                Taco de Mexico in an old A&W drive in on Santa Rosa St (Hiway 1) just off 101 in midtown SLO. Great tacos: moderate selection of traditional meats rich in flavor. Rich & thick hot sauce and grilled trotillas, not steamed. Moderate pricing draws a big lunchtime crowd but kitchen works fast. Can't rec any sitdown Mexican rest. in SLO, nor anywhere but Efren's in Oceano on Beach St., near the intersection of Railroad and Cienega (Highway 1). Good food at very reasonable prices. A locals hangout. The best of the lunch wagons are in the Santa Maria valley area... although SM's 'El Chino' actually parks over the SLO county line in Nipomo near the 166/101 intersection. Their meats and seafood items are fantastic.

                Neon Carrot on South Higuera near Trade Joe's for inventive salads, Hearst Ranch Bruger on housemade brioche bun, sweet and savory tarts, soups, and a great quinoa salad, etc. Desserts are casual but stellar. open for b'fast and lunch M-F with small plates dinner on Fri 4:30 to 8:30. Most everything is under $10 but it can add up. Good beer and wine list.

                Del Monte Cafe for all three meals; on Santa Barbara St in the Railroad district near downtown SLO. They''ve been doing it right since the 80's, expanded dinner chioces and specials. Decadent desserts and friendly service. Nice funky cafe atmosphere, in an old c. 1900's neighborhood grocery building (remember those? about the size of a modest home). Beer and wine and good shakes.

                For fresh local seafood,I think Morro Bay tops the list. Giovanni's take-out, eat-on-outside-deck seafood is fresh never frozen. They close early for dinner (7?) . On the Embarcadero near the fihsing boat tie-ups. Just up the street is Tognazzini's. They have a sitdown, and a take-out/deck-dining spot next to the Coast Guard pier. Again, fresh fish only. Windows on the Water gets some good mentions also--they have a premier view room overlooking the bay a few blocks south of Giovanni's. More of a formal dining room, while the others are t-shirt friendly, in case you've spent some time on the sandspit or on the fantastic wild beach north of the Rock.

                The rusty pig is no more--it is now the Central Coast BBQ Co or some such. Have not tried it, as I'm usually just rushing through the neighborhood on errands.

                There is a new French cafe, Le Petit Bistro, on Grand Ave, across from Spencers in the 1600 block of Grand inAG. Had a decent lunch there, would like to go back and explore more. Seems to be getting more traffic every week, by the looks of drive-bys.

                Giant Grinders does good east coast style sub sandwiches on good crunchy rolls, open for lunch through late afternoon. Very nice proprietors who moved here form SoCal and had a couple of grinder shops there. Big sanwiches, even when halved. All the good deli sandwich meats cut to order. On Broad St in SLO, between downtown and the Railroad district (South St).

                Hope you can find some pleasing grub. Please report back!

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                Del Monte Cafe
                1901 Santa Barbara Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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

                1. Had another taco feast at La Tapatia Market on 13th in Grover Beach this past week, all were excellent, the carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, and the lengua. I had hoped to have buche but they were out that day so went back for a second lengu, which just might be the best I've ever had, so tender and flavorful.

                  La Tapatia Market and Deli No. 2
                  646 S. 13th St

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                  La Tapatia Market
                  504 Brown St, Napa, CA 94559