SLO County Dining Guide

San Luis Obispo City

 

Buona Tavola (Italian) has delighted Central Coast diners since 1992 with flavors and family recipes from Chef Antonio Varia’s native northern Italy—plus an extensive list of regional and European wines—in a peaceful garden setting in downtown SLO. 1037 Monterey St., 805/545–8000. $$

 

Café Roma (Italian) has attracted a loyal following to this rustic Italian restaurant in historic Railroad Square for decades by offering authentic Tuscan dishes in a romantic dining room and garden patio. Sip a cocktail or a glass of wine and munch on pizza at the casual bar, or feast on grilled octopus, fresh seafood, house-made pastas and hearty entrees such as wine-braised short ribs. 1020 Railroad Ave., 805/541–6800. $$

 

Foremost Wine Co. (Californian) is a combination wine shop, restaurant, burrata bar and lounge occupying a sophisticated space within the historic Creamery building. It specializes in farm-fresh, locally sourced dishes that pair well with carefully selected regional and international wines. Locals pack the bar during the popular happy hour, which offers discounted appetizers and wine and beer by the glass. 570 Higuera St. #105, 805/439–3410. $$-$$$

 

Guiseppe’s Cucina Rustica (Italian) offers simple, fresh, and authentic fare from Southern Italy in a downtown creek side restaurant setting. It’s a farm-to-table star: nearly everything is made in-house, from pastas and sauces to bread and gelato, with ingredients from local farms and purveyors. 849 Monterey St., 805/541–9922. $$-$$$

 

Luna Red (Fusion) attracts SLO residents and visitors alike to gather in this artsy, airy space on Mission Plaza to enjoy locavore world-fusion dishes, cocktails and local wines, and a lively late-night music scene. Ceviches, traditional Valencian paellas, tacos and tapas headline the menus. 1023 Chorro St., 805/540–5243. $$

 

Novo (Global) is a popular downtown eatery where flavors from around the globe meld with farm-fresh Central Coast ingredients. The eclectic menu includes everything from lettuce wraps and Thai curries to pork carnitas sopes and prime rib eye steak, plus savory seasonal dishes. 726 Higuera St., 805/543–3986. $$

 

SLO Brew (American) is fondly nicknamed “The Brew” by locals. This upscale neighborhood brewpub offers comfort food with a contemporary twist: think spicy green chile nachos topped with a fried egg from a local farm, spinach pesto pizza, and burgers with SLO Brew Whiskey BBQ Sauce. Sip cocktails or home brews in the main dining room near the original 10-barrel brewing tanks, the whiskey lounge, fireside salon, or creek side patio. Live entertainment rocks the space in the late-night hours. 736 Higuera St., 805/543–1843. $$

 

Paso Robles & Templeton

 

Bistro Laurent (French) offers an escape to Paris in the heart of Paso Robles at this authentic French bistro on the city square. Dishes range from classics such as onion soup and steak frites to multicourse tasting menus paired with local and international wines. 1202 Pine St., 805/226–8191. $$-$$$

 

Buona Tavola (Italian) is the second outpost of SLO city’s popular Buona Tavola restaurant, which offers the same superb northern Italian cuisine, a full bar and excellent service in an elegant wine country setting. 943 Spring St., 805/237–0600. $$

 

Cello Ristorante & Bar (Italian) receives regular accolades for sourcing fresh regional ingredients and transforming them into inventive northern Italian dishes; the restaurant is also known for its extensive wine list, craft beer and cocktailsWear your comfy jeans and cowboy boots or dress up in elegant attire at this chic dining room and bar at Allegretto Vineyard Resort. 2700 Buena Vista Dr., 805/369–2500. $$$

 

Enoteca (Californian) is a magnet for foodies and wine aficionados from North County and beyond, specializing in contemporary locavore meals paired with award-winning Central Coast vintages in a sophisticated setting within the elegant La Bellasera Hotel. 206 Alexa Ct., 805/238–2834. $$-$$$

 

Il Cortile (Italian) is an intimate fine-dining establishment for rustic Italian dishes with a sophisticated Central Coast twist. The chef develops creative dishes after forays to local farmers markets and vendors, and suggests appropriate pairings from the extensive wine list. The menu changes seasonally, but perennial faves include seared scallops with sweet peas, homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu and ravioli with lobster, shrimp, zucchini. 608 12th St., 805/226–0300. $$$

 

La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant (Spanish, South American) brings the flavors of Spain, South America, and the Central Coast together at this sister restaurant to nearby Il Cortile. Many herbs and spices come from their country of origin, infusing locally sourced ingredients with a global flair. 835 12th St., 805/237–0019. $$

 

McPhee’s Grill (American) is the place if you’re hankering for mouthwatering barbecue and fine wines to boot. Many menu items—artichokes, pork chops, rib eye steaks and rack of lamb, for example—are grilled over traditional Central Coast red oak and come with tantalizing salsas and sauces. 416 S. Main St., Templeton, 805/434–3204. $$-$$$

 

Thomas Hill Organics (Californian) has been a favorite since it opened in 1997, this boho-chic eatery a block from the city square serves as a stellar showcase for ingredients from local farms and wines from regional vintners, large and small. Meats come from local purveyors, fish from nearby seas, organic produce from down the road and bread from Paso Robles artisan bakers. 1313 Park St., 805/226–5888. $$

 

Arroyo Grande & Grover Beach

 

Ember (Californian, Italian) is a spot that local winemakers, farm hands, business folk and practically everyone else in SLO County who enjoys sharing food and wine with friends comes whenever they get a chance. Its Cal-Italian focus is simple: find fresh, quality ingredients in the vicinity, make nearly everything in-house, and cook most dishes over a wood fire in an open kitchen where everyone can enjoy the convivial, family-oriented vibe. No reservations accepted, so plan accordingly. 1200 E. Grand Ave., Arroyo Grande, 805/474–7700. $$$

 

The Spoon Trade (American) cooks up classic American comfort food (made with healthy regional ingredients)—everything from deviled eggs and fried chicken and waffles to meat loaf and root beer floats—for hungry patrons throughout the Central Coast. The convenient location, a half block from the Grover Beach train station and a short walk to the beach, makes this a good choice for anyone staying in or traveling through the Five City region of SLO County. 295 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach, 805/904–6773. $$

 

 

Pismo Beach

 

Blonde (Californian) is The Inn at the Pier’s signature restaurant, which sets the stage for quintessential California dining with a vintage surfer vibe, an array of local wines and regional cuisine. Before or after your meal, head up to The Rooftop bar for craft beer and cocktails and panoramic ocean views. 601 Cypress St., 805/295–5565. $$$$

 

Ventana Grill (Latin American, Californian) is a casual, glass-walled restaurant with a bluff top setting overlooking the ocean and nearby beaches. Renowned for its eclectic Latin America-California fusion menu, try crab-encrusted mahi-mahi, an organic chicken mole bowl, or blackened diver scallops with shrimp, all served with pinquito beans and poblano rice. 2575 Price St., 805/773–0000. $$

 

Cracked Crab (Seafood) is where seafood lovers find nirvana at this casual crab shack, which cooks up savory seafood plucked from local and national and international vendors. Here you’ll find a vast array of menu choices, from abalone, crab cakes, and fish tacos to shellfish buckets and cioppino. 751 Price St., 805/773–2722. $-$$$

 

Lido at Dolphin Bay (Californian) sits perched on an oceanfront bluff at the swank Dolphin Bay Resort. The elegant Lido serves creative dishes made with fresh local ingredients, from artisanal breads and poached prawns with avocado to steaks and truffle fries. The wine cellar holds more than 800 bottles of regional and international wines. 2727 Shell Beach Rd., 800/516-0112. $$$

 

Oyster Loft (Seafood) is a raw bar with various oysters from the east and west coasts of the U.S., shucked on the half shell. This beach area eatery also serves a well-rounded selection of other ocean bounty, plus meat and poultry. 101 Pomeroy Ave., 805/295–5104. $$-$$$

 

SeaVenture Restaurant (Californian) features spectacular ocean views that unfold from the sophisticated third-floor restaurant at the SeaVenture Beach Hotel, a longtime local favorite known for its contemporary coastal cuisine and extensive wine list. 100 Ocean View Ave., 805/773–4994. $$$

 

Avila Beach

 

Custom House (American) offers pancakes, pizzas, salads, steaks and seafood: this longtime local favorite serves an array of eclectic dishes in a casual setting with excellent views of sand and sea. 404 Front St., 805/595–7555. $-$$$

 

Gardens of Avila (Californian) has a one-acre onsite chef’s garden, and local purveyors provide abundant fresh ingredients for the coastal California dishes served at this romantic restaurant at Sycamore Springs Mineral Resort. Choose among various indoor/outdoor dining settings. 1215 Avila Beach Dr., 805/595–7302. $$

 

Ocean Grill (American) features wood fired flatbreads, inventive tacos, fresh seafood and grilled steaks and chops among the many options at this upscale-casual restaurant with stellar views of Avila Bay. 268 Front St., 805/595–4050. $$-$$$

 

Olde Port Inn (Seafood) specializes in fresh seafood and ocean views, which have lured patrons to this salty restaurant at the end of Harford Pier in Port San Luis for decades. 805/595–2515. $$-$$$

 

Cayucos

 

The Grill at Cass House (American) is housed in a casual pavilion next to the historic Cass House bed-and-breakfast. The Grill sources the freshest possible ingredients from the onsite garden and local purveyors, then creates delectable seasonal dishes, many prepared in a wood-burning hearth. 222 North Ocean Ave., 805/995–3669. $$

 

Morro Bay

 

Windows on the Water (Californian) features views of Morro Rock and the bay that surround diners at this sophisticated, glass-walled restaurant, famed for its organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, cocktails, and extensive 5,000-bottle wine cellar with 300 different varieties. 699 Embarcadero (upstairs), 805/772–0677. $$$

 

Cambria

 

Linn’s Restaurant (American) is owned by the Linn family, which has produced farm-fresh country produce and pies (especially olallieberry) for decades. The family restaurant has evolved into a one-stop complex where you can dine on comfort foods with a contemporary twist, pick up pies and shop for gourmet food and wine. 2277 Main St., 805/927–0371. $-$$

 

Robin’s (Asian, International) has long been defined by healthful dishes packed with flavors from Asia and around the world. Robin’s is best known for its house-made cioppino, curries, and many vegetarian options. 4095 Burton Dr., 805/927–5007. $-$$

 

Sea Chest Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant (Seafood) has lured patrons for more than 30 years to this cozy, cottage-style restaurant to line up early to snag prime ocean view tables overlooking Moonstone Beach, and to savor local oysters, cioppino, calamari steaks, crab legs and a wide array of other seafood delights. 6216 Moonstone Dr., 805/927–4514. $$-$$$

 

Sow’s Ear (American) is a longtime local fave that emphasizes a casual approach to dining, while offering refined comfort food and excellent service. 2248 Main St., 805/927–4865. $$

 

Ragged Point

 

Ragged Point Inn Restaurant (American) features dramatic bluffs and vistas at the southern endpoint of the scenic Big Sur coast. This glass-walled restaurant places diners at the edge of the scene. Many seasonal ingredients come from the onsite gardens. 19019 Highway 1, 805/927–5708. $$