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Pismo Beach - Foodie Advice Needed!

Pennifer May 23, 2012 09:37 PM

Hi, Chowhounders!

My husband and I are taking our 1st real vacation, sans kid, in 2 years, and could not be more excited. We will be spending 3 nights in Pismo Beach. We've been to the area before and are familiar with some restaurants.

We are pretty set for lunch joints, with Splash, Mo's Smokehouse and Chacho's (actually in Oceano, but very close) all some of our favorite places to eat.

It's mostly dinner places we'd love some recommendations for. We will probably return to Rosa's Ristorante Italiano, which we ate at last time we were in town and very much enjoyed. We will proably NOT return to Steamers which was somewhat disappointing.

I read some reviews of a place called the Cracked Crab (I love seafood in general, crab in particular), and it sounds worth trying but the reviews were a bit mixed. Anyone have anything to add about Cracked Crab?

We don't mind driving about 15 or 20 minutes for a great dinner, so it doesn't have to be in Pismo proper.

Hit me with all your best ideas, please!

Thank you so much!

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    glbtrtr RE: Pennifer May 23, 2012 09:49 PM

    If you are feeling very casual for dinner, I can recommend ordering the potato skillet and steak pieces at the friendly, large horseshoe bar at McLintock's - -this obviously won't be a sit down dinner but it is a great way to get some tasty items without the wait and prices and overkill portions at the restaurant itself, if ever "meat and potatoes" gives you a call at the end of the day.

    There will be others who have recommended one of the resort restaurants that sounds a lot more like what you are looking for - a search of recent posts will give you the name.

    We ourselves always fill up for the day at Mo's and like their Philthy Phil ribs better than anything else they offer, and find HotLix down the street just the place for "dessert" - pecan rolls or their coffee flavored salt water taffy. So it is down home time when we hit Pismo, but we love it and return often.

    1. PolarBear RE: Pennifer May 24, 2012 07:05 AM

      Lido in the Dolphin Bay resort (Shell Beach) has been putting out some really good meals lately. Have heard the new chef at Gardens of Avila is good as well but haven't yet been back. In SLO we recently had some great food at Koberl at Blu and Luna Red.

      1. c
        Carol in California RE: Pennifer May 24, 2012 03:49 PM

        For the best Italian food in the area, try Tahlia's Cucino in Nipomo on the corner of Thompson Road and Dana. Just down the street from Jocko's but on the other side of the street.
        They use local fresh ingredients and make all their own pasta.
        My favorite place ever!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Carol in California
          PolarBear RE: Carol in California May 24, 2012 03:58 PM

          CiC, what do you like at Thalia's, any favorites or specialties of the house?

          BTW, website not longer valid

          1. re: PolarBear
            c
            Carol in California RE: PolarBear May 24, 2012 04:15 PM

            My husband is very picky about pizza and says the pizza is the best he has ever eaten (and he is 80)
            I had some sort of pasta with shrimp and scallops in a pink vokda sauce and I dream about it all the time. The portions are good sized and the service is great.
            Check them out on YELP.

        2. j
          jackattack RE: Pennifer May 25, 2012 04:55 PM

          Try the Oak Pit near Oceano this time, instead of Mo's. The cottage fried "oak chips" are gread with the tri tip sandwich. And don't forget to stop in to see Bea and Gerald for some "olde tyme handmade chocolates" in Grover Beach.

          1. Pennifer RE: Pennifer May 30, 2012 04:49 PM

            Hey, everyone! Pennifer here, original poster.

            First, let me thank everyone for their advice and recommendations! I also enjoyoed going back and reading some of the old threads regarding the 5 Cities area, so thank you for that as well!

            Husband and I are now on our last night here (boohoo!) and we have enjoyed some wonderful food so far:

            Rosa's in Pismo our first night for dinner. Had the wonderful shrimp/scallop saffron risotto special, and the spinach manicotti. Both lovely.

            Splash Cafe for lunch the next day, followed by Jocko's for dinner. Splash lived up to my memory of it - I don't get the debate about this place. It's absolutely divine clam chowder, and the seafood topping takes it right over the edge into nirvana. Jocko's was our first visit - yes, church basement atmosphere, but we didn't wait long for our (reserved) table, and our server was much more attentive than I had expected, given the reputation. Of course, it's true that the salsa-with-no-chips, butter-with-no-bread table offerings are strange, but you're coming here for the steak. And the steak is freakin' wonderful. No complaints whatsoever.

            Today, we did a food tour, eating a bit at each place, and taking more home with us. We started at Oak Pit BBQ (thanks, JackAttack!), and really loved both the tri-tip and the pulled pork sandwiches - the oak chips were so yummy on the side! We also got a homemade whoopie pie - to die for. Then we headed to Chacho's since we were somewhat nearby and Oceano was on our way back to Pismo. Ate a fish taco (amazing!) there and came home with burritos and echiladas. We realized we were going by Grover Beach on the way back from there, and so stopped by Gerald's (thanks again, jackattack!) to see Bea and get some old-tyme chocos. She treated us to some samples - so good, I can't wait to try the stuff we bought!

            So, we come to tonight. I've done more research than I should have and my head is all crazed with choices. I know we don't have a lot of time at this point - maybe an hour to make a decision. I'm just lucky it's a Wednesday - hopefully nothing will be too crowded even with a last minute choice!

            So, here are my final four dinner options for tonight. I would love as many people to weigh in as humanly possible in the next hour. I will come back to report on what won and how we liked it. Thank you in advance!! Choices:

            Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort (Shell Beach)
            Tahlia's Cucinca (Nipomo)
            Cracked Crab (Pismo Beach)
            Ventana Grill (Pismo Beach

            5 Replies
            1. re: Pennifer
              c
              Carol in California RE: Pennifer May 30, 2012 05:08 PM

              I would choose Tahlia's Cucina in a heartbeat. If you liked Rosa's in Pismo, you will love this place.
              It is about a block down from Jocko's and across the street.

              1. re: Pennifer
                PolarBear RE: Pennifer May 30, 2012 05:17 PM

                Lido for the food but you can't beat one of the window booths at Ventana. Haven't been to Thalia's, but would corss Cracked Crab off your final night's list.

                1. re: Pennifer
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                  glbtrtr RE: Pennifer May 30, 2012 07:06 PM

                  I'm telling ya, Mo's is a go - Philthy Phil's and lots mo sauce on the side.

                  1. re: glbtrtr
                    Pennifer RE: glbtrtr Jun 1, 2012 10:53 AM

                    Okay, hounders. My final report. Thank you all again for all the time you took to help us out.

                    So, the final night dinner was.... Ventana Grill! Slightly out of laziness (didn't want to drive too fara) and also because it was just the right time to enjoy the sunset. How can you beat a good view AND a good meal?

                    We were absolutely delighted with our experience at Ventana. We went in without a reservation and were told we had to wait 35 minutes. It didn't take that long, but in the meantime, we got some wine/beer from the bar and sat out on the wraparound balcony and watched the sun begin to set. Beautiful. When our buzzer went off, we took our drinks and followed the hostess to our table - luckily enough, we were at a window table, almost exactly where we were on the balcony, but on the inside, so we could enjoy the rest of the sunset.

                    We ordered two appetizers - the halibut ceviche and the red calamari caesar salad. The ceviche was as good as everyone has said. Absolutely delicious - my only complaint? NOT ENOUGH! Oh, my goodness, I could live alone on those little lettuce cups if they just kept coming and coming. The caesar was a new one on us - fried calamari on top of a delicious caeser. We loved it, and it was quite a nice portion.

                    My husband ordered a blackened/charred (can't remember the word on the menu) shrimp and scallop dish that was just amazing. I ordered the crab encrusted mahi mahi - also wonderful.

                    I don't really have a bad thing to say about Ventana Grill... well, I guess one thing was a little perturbing. Since I was going to take a lot of my entree to go, I let the waitress know when she went to wrap it up that I found the dish a little carrot heavy and a little spinach lite. I asked for a bit more spinach to be packed up with my meal. I also asked for a side of the yummy bacon-infused sauce. She asked if they charged me for the extra spinach, would that be okay. I said yes, but I figured they'd comp a little spinach. The extra sauce was never brought and they gave me a side of creamed spinach for $4. I didn't need a whole side of spinach, but at this point, I just wanted to move on and keep enjoying my evening. I asked for a side of sauce at the hostess desk on our way out, and that came out immediately and free. Hmm.

                    We DID end up at Mo's yesterday, for a little lunch on our way out. Yummy as always. I know glbtrtr is partial to the Philthy Phil's ribs and sauce, but my husband is from NC and loves the sweet Carolina sauce. We got some pulled pork and I used the Phil sauce, but husband stuck with the Carolina.

                    Next time we're back in the area, we intend to try Tahlia's for Italian instead of Rosa's (though we do love it), and to see what we think of the Cracked Crab. I'm sure we'll end up at Mo's at some point as well as Splash. This is the problem with loving so many places in this area - we only have so many days and nights!

                    Thank you all again for all your help. Though it may be another 2 years, I can't wait to go back!

                    1. re: Pennifer
                      g
                      glbtrtr RE: Pennifer Jun 1, 2012 11:31 AM

                      Who would guess Pismo has so many dining treats to offer in this Coney Island kind of town, but you proved it has an embarrassment of riches. Thanks for all your wonderful reports and bringing us along with you as your virtual table mates. The only way I know to enjoy both Mo's and Splash at the same time!

                      Ventana sounded like the best choice of all and so glad you got to "bid a fond farewell to XYZ, as the sun sinks slowly into the western sky" as all those good old travelogues used to end. (You gotta be a certain age to know about this one.)

                2. Pennifer RE: Pennifer May 30, 2012 05:30 PM

                  Thank you, CiC and Polar Bear!

                  We're still thinking (and enjoying the fireplace - soooo nice!), so please continue to weigh in if you're around the Chowhound Boards, until at least 6:30pm. Thank you all again... this is so much fun!

                  Pennifer

                  1. h
                    HaroldandMaude RE: Pennifer Jun 2, 2012 04:10 PM

                    Mmmm... my mouth is watering. We love Gerald and his chocolates, I don't think I've had any since they closed up their Solvang shop. And Bea is so sweet. They used to have a dark-chocolate covered pina colada creme, sounds iffy at best but after one sample we were hooked-amazing.

                    I hope you had a pecan roll at Old West Cinnamon Rolls!

                    1. s
                      sfdoc RE: Pennifer Dec 26, 2012 08:52 PM

                      FWIW, we went to Cracked Crab tonight (35 min wait at 6 pm) and thought it was fine but nothing to wait around for. Big disclaimer is that we just got into town and have no comparison in the area.

                      Staff was great and attentive but the atmosphere was utilitarian and if you want anything like a quiet, ocean town dinner, this is more of a boardwalk dinner. We would probably have liked it better for lunch, or would have probably liked Mo's better for dinner (not crowded and NO pretense of being much of a dinner spot!)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sfdoc
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                        glbtrtr RE: sfdoc Dec 27, 2012 08:10 PM

                        Just at Mo's last night and I do love those Philty Phil ribs - they even do wonders with their side of beans and cole slaw - yes, no pretense here at all except for the cute rustic theme. But this place does pork and I say, put more pork on my fork! Anytime.

                      2. s
                        sfdoc RE: Pennifer Dec 27, 2012 08:08 PM

                        More report: had lunch at Brad's today (Splash was a block long wait in the cold) which was quite nice. We got there around noon and it seemed like the main crowd was showing up closer to 1 pm. Had a lovely crab louie (half was the perfect size for me, but it was only $2 less than the $16 full size) and spouse liked his fish also.

                        Lido for dinner and that was a real hit. We were having an early dinner but came early for there 3-6 pm (winter) happy hour and enjoyed the view. Everything we had (except my garden salad which was a little lack luster by San Francisco standards) was fabuluos: abaolne, mushroom ragout, pasta carbonara. The best food we had in the area by far.

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