Robin's in Cambria was a wonderful choice for us. We were just there a couple of months ago. Varied menu, some middle eastern, some california cuisine, fresh, organic ingredients, lovely.
Splash Cafe! Right on! The chowder in the buttered bread bowl is like a chowder sandwich. It's so good. And so inexpensive. We had a really great grilled yellow fin tuna salad there as well to balance out our chowder fiesta.
You can always search from the chowhound home page...I have posted my SLO/Pismo favorites recently.
I did forget to mention Viene Vai, on Higuera near Broad in SLO. The food is good but not exceptional Italian, but the warmth of the wood-burning oven and the charming service makes up for any other lack.
That said, you will probably still find me at Big Sky (Broad near Higuera) or Buona Tavola (next to the Fremont Theater on Monterey) when I am next in SLO.
Here's a handful of ideas from a "local"...
Cambria: Robyn's for lunch or dinner is right across from Seekers which has fantastic art glass. Linn's Fruit Bin has great desserts and standard American fare that's good. I've heard good things about the Sea Shanty but haven't been there.
Morro Bay: Bayside Cafe is a tiny quaint place in the Morro Bay State Park on the bay... good for lunch and dinner with a varied menu. The Hofbrau is right on the bay also and both have great hamburgers. Bayside also has good fish and a nice dinner menu. By far my favorite though is Harada's for Japanese. The Great American Fish Company and Dorns are more traditional seafood restaurants.
San Luis Obispo: Blue Sky, Cafe Roma, The Upper Crust and the Japanese restaurant next door to it. Fish Daddy's is new but I've heard good things... also Ben Venuti's (sp?)... it's not my first choice but many people love it.
Los Osos: Salty Pelican - good fish - nicely prepared but nothing fried & Rodney's across the street
Guadalupe: Far Western Tavern for steaks - out of the way but a true experience! And yes again to Jocko's in Nipomo.
There isn't a lot of information on this board about the San Luis Obispo/Cambria area. If you're in SLO on Thursday, the Thursday night farmers' market is a must. There are lots of booths there serving Santa Maria barbeque. But the best places for Santa Maria barbeque are Jocko's (in Nipomo) and the two Hitching Post restaurants. Use the Chowhound search feature (type "Santa Maria" in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the main Chowhound board) for further information on these places. I like Whale's Tail in Morro Bay for uncomplicated pasta and seafood dishes (e.g., fish and chips). Hoppe's in Morro Bay used to be pretty good for more elaborate dishes, but I haven't eaten there in a long time. There are some good places in Cambria, but, alas, I can't remember their names. One is right across the street from an art glass gallery, and has both outdoor and indoor seating. Ask in Cambria where the art glass place is located, and then look across the street for the restaurant. If I can locate the names of the places I like in Cambria, I'll tack them on by means of a supplemental post.
re: Tom Armitage
re: Tom Armitage
Just returned from a weekend in Morro Bay, and need to amend my previous suggestions.
Friday night dinner at Whale's Tail in Morro Bay was disappointing. This place used to have pretty good pastas, fish, and simple things like fish & chips. This time an oily batter spoiled the fish & chips, although the fish inside (fresh rockfish) was moist and tasty. The uncrisp fries didn't help either. A companion's blackened snapper was overcooked.
Saturday night, my wife and I ate dinner at Hoppe's Hip Pocket Bistro, which also was a disappointment. The meal started off well enough with a nicely dressed salad of green beans, walnuts, and blue cheese. The abalone appetizer was also properly cooked and nicely sauced. But a seafood soup in saffron broth lacked any intensity of flavor, and a smoked duck pasta was marred by soggy overcooked pasta and a lack of flavor except for the bits of extremely smoky duck.
The worst experience of the weekend, though, was waiting in line for fish & chips on Sunday afternoon at Giovanni's Fish Market. The line moved so slowly (only one person taking orders, one at a time, and one person manning the deep fat frier inside) that I went inside to see what was taking so long. I then saw the cook drop some fish on the floor, pick it up, and drop it back into the deep fat frier. Yes, the hot oil undoubtedly killed all the bacteria and whatever else was on the floor. But, no thanks! Anyway, the fish looked even oilier than what I'd had at Whale's Tail.
Thank goodness for Sunday dinner at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara, which redeemed an otherwise forgettable weekend of eating.
re: Tom Armitage
Just a quick note on a "newish" restaurant: "The Park Restaurant" is out of the main downtown area, so you may not run into it as easily as some of the other restaurants, but it is quietly excellent. Run by a family, it has a short, but well-executed menu of very solid, delicious choices. Pay attention here to the quality of the ingredients; dry-cured chorizo from a small sausage maker in the Central Valley, local greens and fruits, perfectly roasted coffee served in a french press. The cheese course is a must, carefully selected artisinal cheeses from some of the best affineurs from the United States and Europe. Last summer, they offered a patio menu early in the day, with great Tapas selections, house-cured olives with orange zest, dry-cured spanish sausages, and more. The wine list goes beyond just the local scene, with carefully selected wines from Spain, Italy, Napa, Germany, Sonoma, as well as several top local selections. Definitely worth a stop, just to see how food is treated with the respect and consideration of origin that it deserves!
re: Tom Armitage
Some other places in the area...
for a good burger and amazing pulled pork sandwich, salads, fries and lots of beer on tap try Firestone on Higuera and Osos.
The best sushi in SLO is Ynagi on Marsh near Johnson.
For excellent sandwiches (The Lincoln Ortega is SO good) try Lincoln Market, on Lincoln and Broad St. at the Broad St. exit if you're coming from Atascadero.
for Amazing Everything, try Taco Temple in Morro Bay. The Crab Cake Tacos, Asada Tacos and all the desserts are consistently flavorful and fulfilling. A little pricey for the blah decor and ambiance, but worth it for the flavor and quantity.
Oh, if you're in Atascadero, you have to stop at Nardonne's (cash only) Pizzaria. Their pizza has a thick crust but perfect sauce/crust ratio! Also in Atascader, Thai-Riffic, terrible name, extraordinary Thai! Try the Sweet Basil Tofu, Lemon Grass Chicken, Spicy Garlic Seafood and Mango and Sticky Rice for Dessert. YUM! The Thai-Riffic in San Luis isn't as consistently good as Atascadero.
In Pismo Beach, Guisseppe's is great Italian. No ocean view, but tasty food.
In Los Osos, Sylvester's has big, juicy hamburgers and garlic fries that are perfectly seasoned.