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Driving from SF to Montecito: great spot for lunch half way?

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BF and I are driving to Montecito from San Francisco on a Thursday and want to stop halfway for lunch. Will be on 101. Looking for fresh, California fare, preferably somewhere we can sit outside. We're also open to good picnic supplies/venues en route. Will be eating at Juliennes for dinner in SB so don't want to overdue it too much, but rather have a nice spot to unwind mid route with good food and perhaps a glass of wine. Seems like either SLO or Paso Robles is best, but overwhelmed with the choices! Would love some recommendations!

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  1. Paso Robles with all their wonderful choices makes a lot of sense for a stop on 101, but others will have to help you with those recommendations since we don't make the stop there ourselves when we go the opposite direction.

    But we do stop on our way up and down that route, it is either the very casual and hearty Mo's BBQ in Pismo Beach for our favorite Philthy Phil pork ribs.

    Or, the funky but worthy Madonna Inn just outside SLO for simple, well-prepared basics in their delightful and corny over-the top pink and kitsch palace. I like their half BLT with blue cheese dressing house salad at the Copper Cafe counter and if you were not going to Julienne that same evening, one would also recommend topping that off with their very scrumptious Toffee Cake. All fresh and homemade, but retro food, not foodie food.

    Julienne is a wonderful choice and if you are around for lunch the next day you might like trying Scarlett Begonia - the breakfast/lunch equivalent of Julienne. Or Renauds -- or a dozen other SB favorites.

    12 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      BTW: King City I believe is technically the "half-way" point --- keep driving is all I can say!

      1. re: glbtrtr

        Good to know! We'll make sure to drive past King City straight to Paso Robles!

        1. re: annieplanner

          Actually King City is the place to go for very good and authentic Mexican food, and well worth exploring if that's your interest. If not, keep going, but it would be foolish to dismiss it out of hand.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Agree with Melanie. I was really surprised to read glbtrtr's admonition to drive by. We drive from north bay to southern cal pretty frequently, and Mexican food in King City is a go-to half way point lunch for us.

            1. re: Kathleen M

              Happy to retract my admonition - comes from many decades of making this drive and calling this the vast chain wasteland road stop. Please share your favorite places in town -- and perhaps it is the lack of novelty for us in So Cal that never put these small restaurants on the map for us in King City. But always happy to give great small town establishments the nod. I also failed to find anything chow worthy in Soledad as well, though it too had some interesting local spots and they get a lot of points for their recent downtown urban renewal efforts.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Previously you'd posted that you don't go into downtown King City. That's where you'll hit the mother lode of Mexican restaurants, not next to the freeway.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834473

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Missed your latest King City reports while I was out traveling - Please withdraw my prior post telling folks to just drive on past KC. A chow worthy diversion after all. Melanie knows her stuff.

                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    yes she does! Kudos to you for being able to admit you perhaps made a error in calling King City a drive-by....tomorrow is a new day!

                    1. re: OldJalamaMama

                      I have always found it interesting that while King City is remarkable for really good and authentic Mexican food, nearby Gonzales is really not. What's in a name, anyway?

        2. re: glbtrtr

          Scarlett Begonia looks like an absolute must, also want to check out the famous croissants at Renauds!

          1. re: glbtrtr

            King City?? now now, no fine food to be sure, but plenty of Hispanic choices that are lip smacking. Little neighborhood joints that really satisfy, when you don't need a full-blown fancy meal. If you haven't stopped, glbtrtr, you're missin some good chow. Broadway "uptown" is the place.

            1. re: toodie jane

              Point me to the La Simpatia wanna be in King City, and I am ready to retract my prior dismissals.

        3. We really enjoyed our recent lunch at Artisan in PR, the Rock Shrimp salad was excellent and wife enjoyed her Lamb French Dip, no outside seating however. Il Cortile has a patio but not sure if they're open for lunch. In SLO I would check and see if Luna Red has finished the move into their new digs.

          www.artisanpasorobles.com/
          www.lunaredslo.com/

          6 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Thanks Polar for this very interesting sounding Luna Red in SLO - However, always surprised when a restaurant web site does not offer a map or driving directions.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              Just learned they are open in their new location, probably haven't had time to update the website.

              1023 Chorro, across from the Mission, iirc they have patio seating by the river.

              1. re: PolarBear

                Sounds like a winner on all counts. I can pick my way across their menu very nicely for a road trip snack.

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  Luna Red is dircetly across the plaza from the Mission front doors and will likely be a rather laid back place--lack of parking really handy will make this not much of a 'snack' place for a road trip, but fine for lunch when you're spending a leisurely day downtown SLO.

            2. re: PolarBear

              Artisan was on the list, will check out Il Cortile and Luna Red. Thank you!

              1. re: annieplanner

                Thomas Hill Organics in Paso is another option. They have a great courtyard when it's good weather.