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Jul 1, 2012 10:42 AM

SLO trip report on the Central Coast Flyer vintage train for lunch in San Luis Obispo

Chow hat tip to Toodie Jane for the San Luis Obispo Railroad Plaza recommendation of the DEL MONTE CAFE who knows how to deliver the quick SB-SLO day train trip turnaround lunch for those taking the 10:20 out of Santa Barbara and hoping to return on the 1:55pm leaving San Luis Obispo.

Just mention you are here on one of these quick stop turnarounds and they hustle your meal and bill right away and tell you to stick to the cold sandwiches for the fastest service, but include their delicious BLT among their cold sandwich choices ..with hot fries.

DH had the chicken salad sandwich which was plump, moist and tasty and sadly I ordered only the half BLT on their haunting sweetish whole wheat bread and wished too late I had order the whole thing. For those that have more time to spend at the DelMonte Cafe, it looked like their chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy was the popular choice. Extremely pleasant service here. Thank you Toodie. Another central coast winner.

The Del Monte Cafe was also vintage railway with wooden booths and counter stools in the 1901 restored building that now includes a very pleasant outdoor covered patio where you can view the quiet charms of SLO"s Railroad Plaza complex of other shops and restaurants. High recommendations were also offered for the MEZE deli in the RR complex building itself., but we did not have time to see for ourselves.

We got the full 55 minute stop when the wonderful restored 1950's first class lounge car Central Coast Flyer railway car hauled on the tail end of the regular Amtrak Surfliner pulled into SLO and then did its turnaround trip back to SB. This charter trip also included onboard snacks included in the full RT ticket price ($66 each) and they were very nice: bagels and cream cheese, fresh veggies and dip, crackers and cheese and on the return a nice sheet cake dessert, accompanied by a very good acoustic guitar singer for background music and train songs.

Hot and cold beverages were also complimentary in this charter package - great, but super-heated fresh brewed coffee so watch out for that. Other snacks and drinks also available for slight charges including packets of Aplets and Cotlets because the vintage train onboard "conductor" found these advertised in an old Southern Pacific ad and thought they added to the overall historic ambiance of this beautiful old railway lounge car.

Others on the train brought their own picnic spreads with wine and enjoyed them right in the lounge car at the tables for four that were interspersed between the cozy lounge chair seatings. Caution: some times the trains are late coming into SLO so having some back-up food with you might be necessary in case there is no time to have lunch in SLO, though the snacks included in the ticket price would be adequate for an in-house light lunch.

A totally delightful day and the scenery along the way was drop-dead gorgeous as well passing remote ocean side ranch properties and the vast Vandenburg military base all of which are off limits for drivers going up Highway 101. For more information about the next Central Coast Flyer vintage rail car trips to SLO and back from SB - so you can "do lunch" in SLO visit this link: Ours was the "Overland Trail" car and these trips also offer longer stops if you get off earlier in Grovers Beach where you will be guided to the downtown shopping and restaurant area there. Then the Central Coast Flyer picks you back on on its way back to SB a few hours later.

They also run a vintage Vista Dome car and do food-themed trips for wine and cheese in these vintage cars, which also brought in passengers from LA to SB for the same sort of turn-around day trips for wining and dining lunch stops in SB. And then picked up this group after our final departure in SB at the end of our SLO trip.

Seeing this central coast countryside from the train put the remote FAR WESTERN TAVERN in Gaudalupe and the HITCHING POST restaurant in Casmalia into an entirely new perspective as former old railway towns that could support these dining establishments as well as the room rentals, often by the hour, that they provided in these outposts as well. It was a great day.

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  1. I think I have my birthday present to myself and my daughter- SB to SLO and back tickets! I have lived my whole life on the Central Coast and would love to see the entire Hollister Ranch/VAFB and enrirons while relaxing~ and sipping!

    3 Replies
    1. re: OldJalamaMama

      The train people said middle of March is when this trip can be most green and glorious with mustard flowers blazing. But it was pretty darn good even in the middle of summer. Be sure and get the Overland Trail car, if you don't take the Vista Dome, because it was the most cozy for sitting and sipping.

      They have another train car when they run the Overland Trail trip I think called the Pennsylvania Craftsman and it is not as spacious feeling as the one we were on, but has separate two chair compartments instead, which would be very private.

      Nice group of fellow travelers and very nice people running this operation. It will be a very fun trip and yes, all those ranches, the homes out there, the remote private beaches, and the military installations are all up close and personal on this run.

      1. re: glbtrtr

        I was actually think Oct, as it is the best weather we get all year IMO- but agree the March trip would be great with the greenary. And yes- the bubble topped car would be the way to go!

        1. re: OldJalamaMama

          They let the first people to sign up pick whether they ride the dome seats on the way or or back as everyone shifts places for each part of the trip. The morning route north was clearer and fresher than the way back down on our last June trip so you might want to sign up early to get the best views on the way up.

          June Gloom will certainly l be long gone by October and agree it should be a clear, sparkling time to get great vistas from your Vista Dome car. There are peeks at the newly planted vineyards up this way too, which should also be a color treat by then as well. I don't know if they have the wider tables to spread out any picnic items in the Vista Dome top layer like they did in the one level club cars.

          The "Vino" Vista Dome train that makes the route between LA and SB takes the passengers on the SB Urban Wine Trail during their stopover in town which is the "vino" part of this option. They are also planning a Cheese Train using C'est Cheese from SB and even include a cheese-making demonstration on board.

          Looking forward to your trip report.

    2. glad you enjoyed the Del Monte. And thanks for the low-dwon on the Flyer. I just wish they did the opposite trip. I want to do the Urban Hikers' guide to the arts district near the depot. Your idea of stops in Guadalupe and Casmalia are intriguing as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: toodie jane

        If you can get a group together you can rent the vintage car - maybe they can let you do the opposite route?

        Again, thanks for the Del Monte tip - we saw it coming in and knew where to dash in our short-time layover. Perfect spot and kept the whole vintage RR mood going. Even the biscuits and gravy and chicken fried steak would have been 1950's period-perfect if we had had more time.