Highway 1 - Cambria and Mendocino
Boy, talk about opposite ends of the State. Are you doing a long road trip or trying to decide where to go. If it's the former, you may consider adding Carmel to the list. It's about as dog firendly a town as you are going to find. If it's the later and food is a big part of the criteria, I'd look at Monterey\Ft Bragg.. There are quite a few place in that area that are quite nice in all price ranges. As to Cambria. I live about 45 minutes away. There are some decent places in town that I'll eat at when I'm there. None that I'll make a reason to go up there.
Taking a road trip, eventually to end up in San Francisco (I know Mendocino is north) We are starting from San Diego.
I would like to go to some places I havent been, I have been to Carmel and Monterey a few times. Food is not a huge part of the trip but we do like to eat so I thought I would ask.
I'll echo "mike0989" that you don't go to Cambria for the food. Two years ago I spent 10 days there, and I'm still not over the feeling of being ripped off by the food establishments. I've only dribbled out part of the reports, to avoid putting myself in such a negative space, but maybe finishing them off would be cathartic. Fortunately, we had rented a house so that we could cook for ourselves. The friday farmers market in Cambria is hyperlocal and a good place to shop as other options are limited. Anyway, one of the good places was Boni's Taco truck with al pastor cut off a spit (and two not-recommended ones are cited in this post),
Last November, I spent a few days in Cayucos, the beach town a little south of Cambria. I had much better meals here, from low end to high. Maybe the beach doesn't matter that much to you coming from San Diego, but Cayucos has a wide, sandy beach and is more protected from wind and fog than Cambria's. The two places I recommend highly in Cayucos are:
Ruddell's Smokehouse - delicious smoked fish tacos, I went there twice.
Cass House Inn - the tasting menu is a bargain and features locally sourced ingredients, some from its own garden. Gracious, friendly service, excellent wine pairings, period room. This would have cost double in San Francisco.
If you're open to other Central Coast towns along Hwy 1, you might consider Pismo Beach that has a lot more restaurants. I've not spent much time there but you'll find posts for favorite spots in PB. Another would be San Luis Obispo which is inland but still on Hwy 1.
Then north of San Francisco, but not as far as Mendocino, you might think about somewhere on the Marin coast (Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Tomales) or the Sonoma coast (Bodega Bay, Valley Ford, Jenner). You'll find info about them on the San Francisco Bay Area board.
re: Melanie Wong
I guess we aren't as picky as you are, but when we do a Cambria weekend we enjoy our blowout meal at Robin's and casual lunch/breakfast at Linn's. I've gotten some raves about a farm-to-table place in Paso Robles, but that's a bit of a detour. Can't remember the place we had brunch in Cayucos - tables under awnings out in the garden, very pretty and decent food - but we love having drinks and informal meals up on the deck at Buccaneer's Cove. Mrs. O always has to have a Seaglass Martini …
re: Will Owen
Robin's seems to be the universal safe harbor in Cambria.
The Cayucos garden you describe sounds like it might be Hoppe's. I've not been there, but last month a San Francisco chowhound told me he had an abysmal meal there. I encouraged him to post here, but I suspect that like me, he's still too mad to pull his thoughts together.
I'm not hip to the B Cove. But I did have a great bloody mary upstairs on the deck at Schooner's Wharf in Cayucos.
re: Will Owen
I agree it souinds like you had brunch at Hoppes. Years ago that used to be one of the better restaurants on the Central Coast. The menu got a bit tired over the years though and the quality slipped a bit. The Chef\Owner died a few years back and his kids tried to revamp the menu and make a go of it. I think they ended up selling it earlier this year.
The food was never bad, it just lost some of it's luster compared to other offerings in the area. It also always had that garden in the back which was pleasant to eat in.
In Ft Bragg, just North of Mendocino, there are a couple of nice places I've been to you might consider. Piaci, is a pizza place that almost qualifies as a dive. But, the pizzas and salads are quite good. They also have a good selection of local beers both in bottles and on tap.
Los Gallitos is a little Mexican place next door to a laundermat that is turinig out really good stuff. The place is also really wasy on your wallet.
Last, consider Silver for a nice sit seafood diner. They have been very consistent over the years.