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LA to SLO for the Weekend

We are doing a weekend get away trip from LA to SLO and wanted to see if anyone had any recommendations to eat. We plan to stop once on our way to SLO to eat and once on our way back to LA on Sunday.

And if anyone has any suggestions for place to eat in and around SLO for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We are looking for diners and dives as well as higher end dining.

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  1. We liked the Del Monte Cafe in the Historic Railroad Plaza in SLO - people seemed to be enjoying their signature chicken fried steak - menu online.

    Lunch or breakfast at the funky over the top Madonna Inn just outside SLO is really a worthy option. Dinner may be more than you want, but it will be a once in a life time experience in the Christmas Tree Twinkle Light room. Their toffee cruch cake is worth a drive alone. Very good eggs benedicts there too.

    A good stop along the way is the ocean side outdoor tables at La Conchita Shoals Restaurant in the Cliff House Inn - food is fairly basic but it has such a terrific view and ambiance you forget totally you are just off busy Highway 101. This is between Ventura and SB.

    We love the Philthy Phil ribs at Mo's in Pismo Beach which would be a later road trip stop before you got to SLO and there are now several worthy chow stops in Pismo if you search the past posts.

    Of course if you wanted to make a more extended stop in Santa Barbara at a half way point, there is a pretty endless number of choices. An easy on and off at Milpas Street and Highway 101 is the legendary La Superica Taqueria.

    Or if you take the Highway 154 back road "short cut" outside Santa barbara as you drive north to reconnect to 101 again after the Santa Ynez Valley, you can take in Cold Springs Tavern off Stage Coach Road for lunch. Or a stop in Solvang, Los Olivos and/or Santa Ynez. People claim they save about 20 minutes taking this Highway 154 detour heading north compared to taking the oceanside 101 all the way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      If you want a righteous clam chowder be sure to stop at Brad's in Pismo Beach. I rank their's at a par with the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. In Santa Barbara a stop at the Montecito Hotel will result in a lovely luncheon in their restaurant adjoining the lobby.

    2. Just got a very enthusiastic endorsement for Cafe Roma in SLO from someone who frequents there often when in town doing business, and even drives up from SB to SLO just to dine there for a day trip- also in the Historic Railroad Plaza.

      1. Be aware of major road construction at the Gaviota Rest stop. Check Highway patrol for updates.
        I would use 154.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Bruce in SLO

          Thanks for the road delay tip - that makes one more reason then to visit the historic Cold Springs Tavern off Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass - Lake Cachuma) for a midway lunch stop between LA and SLO. It is also a California designated Scenic Highway. Be very careful driving this road however as it also carries drivers who have enjoyed a day of wine-tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley or who impatiently take chances on this winding two lane road.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

            I had always wanted to stop by Cold Springs Tavern but have been pretty skiddish about driving winding roads until I made the drive to Hana on Maui. Having recently overcome that phobia, I think I will definitely make that trek. Though the thought of being on the road with a bunch of wine tasters is not a pleasant one.

            1. re: funkycold

              DRIVE 154 DEFENSIVELY-- it is a high-statistics road. The issue you brought up about wine tasting is now germain in SLO, particulary around Paso Robles on the weekends.

              My favorite hole-in-the-wall is very tiny--seats 8 or so, mostly take-out: Lotus Thai Cuisine on 9th street in Los Osos, near Domino's Pizza. Take Los Osos Vly Rd out to LO, turn right at third stoplight. In the middle of the second block, just past Domino's, on the right, down a driveway. (you can't see it from street level). Great casual Thai food, Nu in the kitchen with her son Thom, and husband Mike is genial host. Brown rice on request. Thai tea & sodas, no beer or wine. No CC accepted--unless Mike knows you, cash only. Lunch through about 7:30 or 8 pm. Closed Sunday only.

              Taco de Mexico is the best Mexican in SLO, like eating at a Taco truck, but in an old A&W rootbeer place. (sorry, no roller skating servers anymore) . Good solid DeliMex offerings. Beer, horchata, sodas. CC accepted. On Santa Rosa 1 block north of highway 101 overcrossing, near Olive St. (which is home to Bon Temps Creole Cafe--a great spot for breakfast). Open daily lunch through dinner. CC.

              THE best (and the only authentic) Mexican food in Northern Santa Barbara county/SLO area is in Santa Maria. Almost every med-sized Hispanic grocery store has a full, 'live' butcher counter and a commissary kitchen from which the local food trucks work. Thus, they produce good, solid, Inexpensive workingman's food (all your favorites) and most do Menudo and made-to-order tortillas on Sundays. Some serve beer. Some Spanglish is helpful but not absolutely necessary. CC . Try 'La Mia' behind 7-11 on North Broadway. Across the street is Food Maxx. Just south on Broadway about 5 block is La Linda Michoacan, a local paletas palace. Very fresh.

              Nature's Narvest and Nursery in Templeton has a good selection of fresh juices, farmstead cheeses, produce and fruits as well as crackers, breads, cookies, for picnicking; their kitchen also makes good sandwiches and some hot dishes--mostly vegetarian but not exclusively so.
              225 So Main St. 805-434-3062 Open daily . CC

              Also in Templeton, across the freeway in the parking-challenged Trader Joe's center, is Pier 46 Seafood. They have a wide array of fresh fish at the counter and serve lunch through dinner 7 days, I believe. Very good quality and decent pricing. Beer & wine served. CC. Casual, three or four wire mesh tables. Next door to J&R Custom meats...if you have a cooler, grab some ice and some of their unusual frozen game meats and sausages.

              **I would rec Kreutzberg Cafe downtown SLO--inventive sandwiches and good coffee drinks--BUT the last time I was there it was so dirty it grossed me out. Grime and crumbs 'everywhere' is camo'd by the funky old furniture (Grandma's castoffs-cum college apt. castoffs) but by the time I left I was using a napkin to touch any common surface. Just. Ick.

              COOL TREATS:
              Best ice cream hands down in SLO county is Doc Berstein's Lab in the heart of the village of Arroyo Grande, two short blocks east of 101 at Grand Ave offramp. Super-premium ice creams, sorbets, all made on premises, full antique sodie-fountain and toy train circuit. "Whoo-Who-o-o!" There are a few DB's outlets in other areas that sell Doc's but the main fountain is the best experience. NO CC but ATM in lobby.

              For Gelato, I like the offerings at New Frontiers Natural Mkt in SLO, on Los Osos Vly Rd near 101. In the Froom Ranch center near Home Depot. Hand made in Paso Robles, the gelato is like silk and they offer 6 to 8 flavors on a rotating basis. CC

              Downtown SLO has an iced juice parlor, on Broad St, between Marsh and Higuera downtown. Refreshing, just rich fresh juices and sugar, frozen to an ice. CC(?)

              If you are a pops fan, Bella Pops is a local handmade popsickle maker

              http://www.mybellapops.com/Home_Page....

              tehy sell their imaginatively- flavored treats at Los Osos Fitness Club on LOVR, next to Miner's Ace Hardware, and at the Avila Bay Club fitness center behind Woodbridge Market & Deli, at Avila Bay Estates, near the intersection of Avila Bay Dr and San Luis Bay Drive (next to the popular Bob Jones Hike & Bike trail).

              Please report back on anything you find or try. We need your feedback to stay current!

              **Oh, and FREE popcorn at any Ace Miner's Hardware store on Sat and Sunday. They use peanut oil to pop, salt-yer-own.

              1. re: toodie jane

                Not sure when you are leaving but be aware of the CalTrans work on the 101. All North bound lanes are closed at Gaviota and traffic is being routed both ways on the South bound lanes. As you can imagine, there are delays. This started yesterday is expected to take rhree weeks.

                1. re: mike0989

                  Good news is San Marcos Pass can be used an alternate route. Bad news is San Marcos pass will now be used as an alternate route. Ouch.

                  1. re: mike0989

                    plus locals are reporting heavier than normal truck traffic on this steeply graded road. Evidently GPS' are advising tourists to take 154 as an alternate route, so use will be heavy.

                2. re: funkycold

                  Compared to the Hana Road, San Marcos Pass is like I-5 from Kettleman City to Stockton. But do it during the day light, always drive as if anyone coming down or behind you is totally nuts. Just leave a wide berth between you and other cars so you can react if you have to. And pull over if any one gives you speed attitude and let them pass.

                  If you go up the winding part out of SB, you are on the right side of the road and then past the Cold Springs Tavern and across the Santa Ynez Valley to reconnect with Highway 101 on to SLO, it straightens out a lot and is a lot safer, plus you get some double lanes.

                  Mid-day week days is a lot better than early or late and weekends. Do not do this road at night. But for lunch mid-week it should be just fine and a wonderful treat. We love going up there so while we recommend caution, it is 97% okay. 3% are lousy odds though to look out for so never not be vigilant.

                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    Very sage advice, hopefully the many visitors (and regulars) to our beloved coast heed these observations.

                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      Thanks for the advice.

                  2. re: glbtrtr

                    the 20 minute time save vs the 101 is ridiculously not true- it is worth noting if you live in/are visiting Buellton you SAVE 20 minutes not sitting on 246 when the Farmer's Market is happening or the High School is letting out....slow down and enjoy the view, either way you travel!

                    1. re: OldJalamaMama

                      JM how is the time if you are leaving 101 at the Los Olivos turnoff, and not going to B'ton and through Solvang? I agree about the bottleneck in Solvang--I've started to cut around mostly just because of the frustration factor. (I am careful to observe neighborhood speed limits) I often travel to B'ton for work and then stop in at New Frontiers' deli for lunch, so have to go through Solvang.

                      Hey! did you hear we are getting an El Ranco Market up here in Pismo? Taking the spot of closing Scolari's Market in the Pismo Coast Plaza at 4th St. and 101. Can't wait to see if the merchandise is the same or diff. Not quite as upscale a neighborhood there.

                      Did you ever get up to Neon Carrot before it closed?

                      1. re: toodie jane

                        Never got to the Neon CArrot- I am sad to say.

                        STOKED for Pismo and the El Rancho addition- this is a wonderful sign of our local economy getting stronger!!!

                        I live in the Roblar/154/Los Olivos Grocery area and work in Buellton- it takes me 8-10 minutes to get to work via the 154/101. When I need to go to SB- I ususally take the Pass there and depending on the last stop in SB/Goleta- I decide on the route home...My daughter is doing Jr Guards currently and no problem on the bus from Refugio YET due to the culvert situation @ Gaviota.

                3. So had a late start on Friday so had lunch in LA at La Cevicheria. Amazing ceviche if anyone in California is reading this and plans to be in LA. Its a hole in the wall but the seafood is fresh and you will never look at ceviche the same way.

                  Traffic was horrible getting out of LA. It was stop and go on the 101 from Thousand Oaks all the way to Ventura!! Then it slowed down again in Carpinteria. What the heck?

                  Stopped by Isla Vista and grabbed a Woodstocks Pizza. It was good when I went to UCSB but now its just a plain old pizza. Probably the last time I'm going to have it.

                  Back on the road and decided to brave the one lane through the Gaviota Pass since we were in Goleta and I do like that drive by the ocean. It was probably an hour delay. I didn't mind since all I did was stare at the ocean while sitting there. Got to Pismo by Sunset had a glass of Wild Horse cab at the hotel and it was amazing with the cold pizza.

                  On Saturday went to the Copper Cafe at the Madonna Inn. Had the eggs benedict which was really good. I can say that the hollandaise sauce is the best I have ever had. The problem I had was the ham was huge you lost the whole taste of the english muffin. My wife had a vegetarian Madonna frittada which was really good. Took a slice of the toffee crunch cake which was awesome. I dont like desserts so when I find something I like I rave about it and this cake was worthy of a return visit.

                  For lunch we went to Morro Bay and had the clam chowder and the combo with chips at Giovanni's at the boardwalk. We decided on the place because of the line. The chowder was watery and filled with a ton of potatoes. The fried fish was good but not worth the wait. The fried shrimp was overcooked, the fried scallop too salty. The saving grace was the fried calamari and the fries.

                  For dinner we were back at Pismo and got the Splash clam chowder which was perfect. Nice and creamy and oh so good. Brought back a tri-tip sandwich from Mo's to eat at the hotel with a Tolosa syrah. Excellent sandwich paired with a perfect wine.

                  Sunday brunch was at Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo. I had the fried chicken salad and turkey chili. Both very solid choices. My wife had the New Mexico pozole which was like soupy salsa verde with pork. Not good at all.

                  On the way home grabbed In-n-Out which I like to do on any road trip.

                  Overall, a great culinary adventure to the central coast. I wish I had a few more days to check out some other places. That area is really becoming a wine making region with some really great wines. I'll be back.

                  I forgot to mention that we skipped the 154 because of the post I read here saying there was not time saved but the delay through Gaviota was not bad. What was horrible was from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria! Ugh! Construction that is going to last until 2016!?!? Reminds me when they had a stop light on the 101 freeway at State Street back in the day. A real bummer of a drive. I dont mind stopping at Gaviota because you are looking at some of the most amazing scenery in the state but stopping in Carp, youre looking at the weeds growing on the side of the 101 freeway.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: funkycold

                    You did a great job hitting some of the many high points suggested. With what was suggested I think you can do at least a half-dozen more trips with no repeats. Thanks for the report back - yes traffic around Santa Barbara is murderous on weekend but we will be getting a little more freeway widening in time so eventually it will smooth out a bit. They have been getting rid of some of the worst bottleneck, but sheer weekend volume is hard to cope with at best.

                    Very pleased you liked the Madonna Inn suggestions -that is always hard to recommend because first impression looks like it will be awful, but the quality and freshness of what they put out does make it a chow worthy stop - glad I was not just hallucinating how good that Toffee Cake was and my mouth waters hearing you talk about it again.

                    I think we all get to take a ChowBow now for a good trip and a good connection.