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Good Stuff in the Central Coast

  • d

A few good finds in the San Luis Obispo area...

In Pismo Beach (south about 10 miles):

- Guiseppe's (italian) is solid, with brick oven offereings, locally courced ingredients. Interesting specials and menu, not just a 'red sauce and garlic bread" place. Definitely NOT a beach town-feeling joint, which is nice. Great little bar, and open later than ANYTHING else in town for food.

- Longboards is a burger / fries / shakes place in Pismo with good quality and indoor / outdoor seating with a wind break. It's right off the 101, and worth a stop if you're driving by (MUCH beter food than the chains

- Way hip little Asian market (no food, just ingredients, but rare / hard to find stuff) also in Pismo right on Price street by the 101.

- Sea Venture hotel has a very good tapas bar and restaurant on the 3d floor, with views of the sea. Probably the best food in town. They do close early-ish (9:00) so be warned.

SLO (san luis) itself has tons of great restaurants, but the Mission Grill (right by the Mission, duh) was *Terrible* on last visit. Miscooked fish, slow service, expensive, overhyped menu that did not deliver. Avoid.

- Tserugi's (sp?) is a good sushi restaurant in the old Creamery building (near Tortilla Flats). Quite good. They also have a sister restaurant in Paso Robles, and one in LA.

- Grapalo (more Italian) is quite good in S.L.O. with terrace dining by the creek, and a pretty hip little bar downstairs, with loungy / electronic music and good drinks. A rarity in a college bar kind of town, and easy to miss if you just pop in to the restaurant.


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  1. Giuseppe's also has a little take-out about a block down the street from the restaurant. The food is excellent - pastas and pizzas - but the surroundings are quite humble (plastic chairs and umbrellas, mostly outside) and you order at the counter. It is good when you need a Giuseppe's fix and can't wait in the long lines. Save room for dessert!

    I lived in SLO for 20 years. I miss Big Sky Restaurant on Broad near Higuera so much. It was good, fresh, consistent food. American/Pacific Rim, with good daily specials and fish.

    The grilled japanese eggplant sandwich was a favorite, as well as the filled pancakes at breakfast (berries, cranberries and orange zest, bananas & walnuts, or swiss cheese) - I always ordered the swiss cheese pancakes with a side of salsa, though people thought I was nuts.

    The other do not miss in SLO is Buona Tavola, next to the spectacular art-deco Fremont Theater on Monterey Street near Santa Rosa. Very nice Northern Italian. The saffron agnolotti are an addiction, and they always do a nice piece of fish of the day served with delicious vegetables. And the raw artichoke salad...I could go on.

    Buona Tavola also has a Farmer's market booth with $5 calzones and lentil soup and bruschetta on Thursday nights near the corner of Higuera and Osos.

    Cafe Roma up near the train station is another good option for Italian.

    Linnaea's Cafe on Garden between Higuera and Mill serves light lunches, good desserts, and has the nicest little patio out back, with flowers and a fountain.

    And last but not least, Utopia, the Dutch bakery on Broad next to Staples is fabulous when you need a butter and carb hit. Kees, Stacy and the boys know how to do it up right. Try anything - it is all good, and no, none of it is low-calorie or low-carb.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sue Davis

      The best bakery I've tried, and I have lived in Europe and various places in the States.

    2. Is the Asian market new? The only ones I know of are the San Luis Oriental Market in SLO and a new place in Grover Beach (can't remember what it was called. It's a female Japanese name).

      1. I'd love to know more about the Asian market. I live in SLO but am not familiar with it. Nor am I familiar w/ Longboards. Mission Grill seems to be hit or miss. The atmosphere is pleasant but the food is iffy.
        I agree the Big Sky is probably the best bet in town. Consistent food and pleasant service.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sgbslo

          Debu Market. It looks like a little house and has posters all over the front windows. It is on the east side of Price, I missed it many times until I found it. They even have shrimp with the heads on. They might only have the seafood on the weekends. Don't miss the awesome Asian veggies in the back.

          1. re: sgbslo

            Debu is actually a Filipino market, they have another store in Santa Maria off Broadway.

          2. I heartily agree with Big Sky Cafe recommendation. My wife and I went back to SLO last weekend and ate there twice.

            Dinner special the first night was grilled lamb marinated in red wine w/lentil stew. My wife had salad with salmon and enjoyed it. But the dessert may have topped it, the Sourdough bread pudding. Heaven. My wife had the beignets, also excellent. We never order a dessert wine, but something made me try this muscat from Bonny Doon Vineyard. It was amazing. I know I'm going heavy on the superlatives, but this was one of my favorite meals in a long time. Had lunch there the next day, a grilled veggie/goat cheese pizza, pretty good. The burgers also look excellent here, as well as vegetarian dishes.

            The reason I mention the wine was we stumbled upon the Bonny Doon winery the next day on our way out to Cambria through Hwy. 46. Found a number of good wines there, very unusual varieties. For someone who doesn't drink wine often, it was a very good find.

            Another favorite restaurant is Mo's BBQ in SLO. The owners travelled across the country and visted more than 100 bbq joints before opening this place, and they did their homework. I had the ribs this weekend, have also tried the bbq sandwich, very tender and flavorful. Be sure to try all four of their regional sauces.

            Okay, that's enough. I'm hungry again.

            1. Having been to SLO this last Monday and having grown up in the Central Coast area, I'm absolutely amazed at the quantity of eateries. There are almost too many downtown, in fact.

              Big Sky certainly gets a lot of mention everywhere. Blazing Blenders across the street looks interesting (an early merchant in this same spot was, I believe, the precursor to Jamba Juice -- you know that Cal Poly "learn by doing" thing). Old Country Deli was good of course (the bathroom was icky, tho!). A bagel place (not Noah's Bagels) is next door to Big Sky and was friendly and had pretty good bagels (you toast 'em yourself!). Luna Rustica on the other side of Big Sky is intriguing and will be on my list of "musts" when I go home again.

              Much to my disappointment, Avila Grocery in the little beach town of Avila Beach is out of biz as is most of the strip of businesses that have been affected by the Union Oil contamination/clean up over the last few years. Avila used to have a funky mix of fast food, snow cone, pretzel, seafood and California Cuisine-ish places to enjoy but now: it is too LA for my native coast self that still longs for the simplicity of the little town atmosphere rather than closed in mall-feeling/scalloped steps down to the sand/palm tree-lined street (what's up with that?!?). Fat Cats in Port San Luis, just down the road, is still pretty good but sometimes a notch down from where they used to be (overdone fries, yuk!). Old Port Inn (name?) out on the pier seems to please the tourists. My choice has always been to try to catch the small cafe at the edge of the pier when it is open for fresh chowder and seafood that can be packed on ice and taken back home.

              Pismo is too touristy to me (having grown up in the area), the Madonna Inn is gross (having grown up there you n-e-v-e-r really go there) and what you have left is a kaleidoscope of places to eat up/down Hwy 101. Now that Linn's is no longer in downtown SLO, I'll drive up to Cambria anytime for their incredible ollaliberry pie (I brought a frozen one back for my daughter this week, in fact).

              Happy eating in an absolutely beautiful area that will always tug at my heart.

              1. t
                Terry Belmore

                Rosa's Italian Restaurant in Pismo Beach serves my all-time favorite clam chowder. Better than Splash Cafe's. Vieni Via on Higuera St in San Luis Obispo is at the top of my Italian restaurants. Get the tri tip sandwich at Firestone Bar and Grill in SLO. The best Chinese restaurant in SLO is Manderine Gourmet in the Laguna shopping center.

                1. Shawn's on Main in Morro Bay is my favorite. Simple ,"wine country" fare. My favorites are the abalone (always cooked perfect) and grilled artichoke. Shawn runs it with this wife and they are really cool people.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: desdemona

                    I'll also add in a shout for Utopia. The only place in SLO where I can get Peet's coffee. :)

                    1. re: tavmark

                      Peet's now has a coffeehouse/storefront downtown between Higuera and March, in the Downtown Center.

                      But the pastries are much better thought pricey at Utopia. They have also gravitated more toward American tastes and selection. Not as many euro-style pastries, and the cookies are very sweet. Ingredients are still top-notch.

                      1. re: toodie jane

                        There used to be a chocolatier in SLO but I forget the name. Is it still there?

                        1. re: P Macias

                          Sweet Earth chocolatiers (organic and fair trade)i s located in the same building as Splash Cafe, corner of California Blvd and (upper) Monterey. Now that Cal Poly is starting Fall Quarter, the place will be hard to get near. laughlingly small parking lot. Park a block away and walk over.


                          sorry, places dialog boxes not showing, can't create a link

                  2. I hardly ever stop in Pismo Beach, though I pass by on 101 daily, but I was passing by about lunch time, with no other opportunity for a meal till late evening.

                    The chowhound lightbulb went off, and I quickly took the Wadsworth exit on 101 north. Turned left, went under the freeway and pulled into the parking lot at Longboard's, a tiny bugers-'n-more stand on the corner of Price (main drag) and Wadsworth.

                    The perfumes of grilling meats wafting out of the screened kitchen door as I passed prompted me to inquire "what smells SO good?" and the grinning young man at the counter replied "Everything!" After a quick intro to the menu by the host/owner, I ordered a Baja Burger, and fries.

                    The burger came on a typical but sturdy lightly grilled bun. The patty size was generous, the meat well -seasoned and -grilled . A very fresh deep green frill of lettuce leaf peaked out from the bun edge. Chipotle mayo, guacamole, pepper jack cheese, pickled jalapenos and fresh tomato salsa dressed the burger. Every bite was heaven. (I ended up taking off the jalepenos as the salsa and the spicey mayo gace the burger with the perfect amount of heat, and the vinegar of the jalepenos distracted me from the rich meat flavors).

                    The fries serving was very generous; they were thin, crispy and hot, with a very light hand on the seasoning; perfectly delicious.

                    Overall, a great meal for about $9. I will be back to try some of the fish (ahi tuna steak and salmon filet) sandwiches. And to make sure I really did like the fires all that much. Gotta be sure, you know.

                    The work crew was having fun and seemed to know almost everyone who came in. There are three small tables inside, two outside under a patio roof, and several in a glass-enclosed patio. Parking is very handy and seemd adequate during the lunch rush on a weekday. Might be tighter on the weekend during tourist season, but a short walk in Pismo is never a hardship.

                    Longboards carrries a good assortment of Amercian and Mexican beers, sodas, ice tea, & milkshakes. Open 7 days. Two thumbs up.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Just back from Mo's on the quaint old downtown street in Pismo Beach - funky, counter service BBQ place. Tender, tender pork ribs with three different types of classic sauces. Had the "Mo's" special which was sweet tomato based with a tang of vinegar, just about perfect to play off these delicious pork ribs. Sides included were also top notch: perfect cole slaw, incredibly tastey beans, and sweet and tender corn bread muffin.

                      Very casual dining, but rich with history and love for the craft of southern style BBQ. Map on the wall of apparently Mo's trip around the south Kansas City to Memphis and points north and south to visit what appears to be hundreds of roadside BBQ spots -- and he came back with the best, even though their had to be three ultimate sauce choices because they were all good.

                      Bottled sauces also available for sale and a great gift pack of four of them, including an extra hot one.