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Dec 27, 2012 01:12 PM

SF'er Itinerary to Pasa Robles / SLO / Palm Springs / Death Valley / Santa Barbara

I'd appreciate any pointers on this roadtrip itinerary.

We are two SF Bay Area locals, and would like to avoid steak and potatoes or haute French places. Other than that, local favorites and/or dishes are ideal. A few of my choices below are California cuisine, but we'd easily swap those out for international options that are difficult to find the SF Bay Area. Low to mid-range places are preferable-- nothing too fancy.
Also, I'm open to hearing about any interesting food stops along the way that don't require a big detour.

Lunch: Thomas Hill Organics (Pasa Robles)
Dinner: Firestone Grill (SLO)

Breakfast: Bon Temps Creole Cafe (SLO)
Dinner: Taco Temple (Morro Bay)

Monday (New Years Eve)
Lunch: undecided
Snack: date shake @ Palm Springs Fudge and Chocolates (Palm Springs)
Dinner: Ace Hotel & Swim Club (Palm Springs) probably lousy food, but we're going for NYE festivities

Breakfast: Norma's (Palm Springs)
Lunch: picnic food
Dinner: Ruben & Ozzy's Oyster Bar (Palm Springs) or Chef George's (Bermuda Dunes) or Birba (Palm Springs)

Breakfast: Cheeky's (Palm Springs)
Lunch: picnic
Dinner: picnic or Furnace Creek Inn Dining Room (Death Valley)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: picnic or Furnace Creek Inn Dining Room (Death Valley)

Breakfast/Lunch: We plan to drive from Death Valley along 395 and then 14 en route to Santa Barbara. We'll go until our hunger can no longer wait for good food. I'll research some more, but any recommendations along that route prior to Palmdale?

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  1. Pretty much stuck to the itinerary. I'll keep this as a single post in case anyone makes a similar trek.

    Lunch: Thomas Hill Organics (Pasa Robles). Perfect light meal to kick off the trip. Excellent all around. We had the roasted beet salad and smoked salmon sandwich which included a generous portion of salmon & sunflower sprouts. For dessert, we had a delicious pomegranate topped salted caramel budino. The top layer of caramel was thick enough to last the entire time.

    Dinner: Firestone Grill (SLO). Their tri-tip sandwich is probably the most over-hyped thing I ate in 2012. It tasted like bland roast beef and lacked the spicing and juiciness I've had from even moderately talented home cooks' tri-tip. The pulled pork sandwich was delicious though. The meat had a strong lard flavor. It dissipated, but the first few bites of the sauce reminded me of the original recipe for the McRib, and I do mean that in a good way. The seasoned fries were notable for their large portion size, but they were not especially good.


    Breakfast: Bon Temps Creole Cafe (SLO). Really enjoyed that Bon Temps Breakfast (Poached eggs and hollandaise with Fried Green Tomatoes and grits all in a skillet of Creole red beans and a biscuit). Nicely prepared grits and the house's hot sauce was the best of the several hot sauces at the table. Cajun Pain Perdu was fine, but the honey rum syrup did not have a very pleasant viscosity.

    Dinner: Taco Temple (Morro Bay). Most of the items are obscenely portioned, and they have specials available at dinner but not at lunch. Setting aside that the "burrito" isn't tightly wrapped and is too big to be eaten without a knife and fork, the BBQ tri-tip burrito was one of best burritos I've ever eaten. Good beans, good rice, and the tri-tip was orders of magnitude better than what we had at Firestone. The duck confit tostadas with ginger and caramelized pineapple were wonderful too. Great chips and salsa to boot.

    Monday (New Years Eve)
    Lunch: Romanti-Ezer (Santa Barbara). Mole beef burrito. Very good.


    Snack: Palm Springs Fudge and Chocolates (Palm Springs). The Date Shake was an interesting idea I'll copy at home. But at $6, not worth it. The scant amount of date puree was not enough to flavor the Thrifty brand vanilla ice cream.

    Dinner: Cafe Jasmin (Palm Springs). Hits and misses. See

    Breakfast: Cheeky's (Palm Springs). Hip and wonderful, they could compete with the top brunch spots in SF or LA. Their bacon flight consisted of 5 strips of bacon: Nodines applewood, Beeler Apple Cinnamon, thai sweet chile, & coffee/brown sugar, and jalapeno. The jalapeno wasn't so much spicy as complex and delicious. With a dark central color and a slight crispiness, the buttermilk & Fresh Corn Pancakes were ideally cooked and great. Huevos rancheros were also killer. We liked the food here so much we got two more dishes to go, and ate them for an early dinner in Death Valley.

    Post-dinner: Panamint Springs Resort (Death Valley). Claims to have 150 different beers. A bunch on tap, and very impressive bottle selection in coolers including tons of 22 oz. bottles from Rogue and Stone Breweries.

    Breakfast: Stovepipe Wells Restaurant (Death Valley). For $12 the buffet was a pretty good deal. Nothing Chowhound-worthy, but I liked that the fried potatoes had what tasted like curly fry seasoning on them.

    Dinner: 49er Cafe (Death Valley). I understand that most of the food in Death Valley is mediocre. They get credit for being what seemed to be the cheapest place around.

    Lunch: La Oaxaquena & Kabobs Restaurant (Lancaster). I was told that the owner's are Oaxacan, but they cooked at a Persian restaurant for several years, so they have foods from both cuisines on the menu (FWIW, I read a different background elsewhere). They excellent chips and mole were topped with queso fresco. Mole was smooth and complex. The most identifiable flavor was of cashews. Green chili and chicken tamale had moist and flavorful filling, and sturdy and soft masa. Chorizo tlayuda (a giant Oaxacan tostada) was topped with oaxacan string cheese and the boldest and freshest tasting Mexican chorizo I've eaten in the US. This dish kicked the butt of the two tlayudas I've had in the Bay Area. We had one of the Persian Stews. It was less sour than Persian home cooking I've had, and a big mismatch to the strong flavors of the Oaxacan dishes.

    Dinner: Hungry Cat (Santa Barbara). High quality ingredients with lots of potential. A great winter salad aside, the dishes we ordered all had some major preparation flaw. Big bummer.

    Breakfast: Handlebar coffee (Santa Barbara). Fantastic espresso. They also sold an almond croissant and regular croissant from Renaud's Patisserie and Bistro, both of which were very enjoyable.

    Lunch: Taco Temple (Morro Bay). Returning for their seafood, we had a delicious halibut "tacos" and fried calamari, shoestring potato, and mango salsa "tacos." Both had great combinations of flavors. The oversized portions lost their charm a bit--- the four dishes we've now eaten there have massive portions, but the minimal amounts of tortillas/wrappers/etc. in all the dishes makes it difficult to enjoy all the pieces simultaneously. The giant slice of carrot cake we ordered had a very chunky style which we both loved, but YMMV.

    1. Thanks for doing this follow-up report. Fantastic!