San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay

Has anything opened in the last year or two that’s worth checking out?

I’m going to be spending a few days in the area and was disappointed to hear the pastie shop closed. A pilgrimage to Taco Temple is in order, and Old San Luis BBQ is on the agenda. To balance those out, any recommendations for healthy, but not upscale?

  • A friend pointed us to Ariana’a Mexican Market & Deli, a year old Morro Bay restaurant / store with handmade tortillas, offal, and Mexican dishes less common in the area.

  • Prior to hearing about Ariana’s, Tacos de Mexico in Morro Bay had been described as the most authentic Mexican in the area. My intention to order tacos got overridden when I noticed everyone in the packed house eating burritos. I should have stuck to my intention— our two burritos had a shoddy construction, and the sour cream was an awful coagulated substance. Chicken filling was shredded and nicely seasoned. Vegetarian filling was not remarkable.

  • Kravabowl in Morro Bay has good breakfast sundaes, er, I mean, Açai and dragonfruit bowls. Ripe fruit, good quality honey, even-sized granola, and less than seven dollars for the small.

  • Fromagerie Sophie in SLO : A good cheese shop and the perfect spot to prep for a picnic.

  • Taco Temple in Morro Bay : The specials that won me over in 2012 haven’t reappeared on subsequent visits, and the ownership change in 2015 makes me skeptical they’ll reappear. Still, a solid place to go after a hike – – giant portions and tons of side vegetables. Sweet potato enchiladas were delicious. The sweet potato batonnets gave the enchiladas structure, and their flavor worked great with the pepitas and green salsa. Halibut tacos came with a mango salsa-- nothing revolutionary, but well prepared.

  • Old San Luis BBQ Co : tri-tip was tender and the smokiness didn’t detract from the beefiness. Much better than Firestone. Although the buns are good, there’s too much bun relative to the amount of beef, so I’d recommend getting a plate instead of a sandwich. The coleslaw was underseasoned.

I’m going to be returning to the Central Coast in a few weeks to meet up with relatives. Anything else worth checking out on that or future visits? I may take them to Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles and Cass House in Cayucos.

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  • The formerly prix fixe Cass House Restaurant now does shared plates, and the combination of locally sourced ingredients, kitchen skills, and the wood oven make Cass House Grill destination dining in the Central Coast. My favorite item was the simplest— a green salad lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Its untarnished leaves exuded freshness, and cherry tomatoes were potent but not too acidic. Also excellent were grilled artichokes with a charred lemon, beef bruschetta with tomatoes and corn, oak-grilled prawns with paprika oil, cauliflower empanadas, and roasted beets paired with chunks of sour peach and an avocado puree. Most tables had the focaccia, which was good and served with rosemary olive oil and coarse salt. Desserts were fantastic-- a fresh from the oven canelé and a meyer lemon tart with meringue. Dinner was about $40/person including tax/tip (no booze) and a steal compared to Bay Area restaurants with similar approaches. The website lists a lunch menu, a take-out menu, and various baked goods for breakfast.

  • Thomas Hill Organics is expanding to SLO. I’d recommend their Paso Robles restaurant and look forward to the new location. An article about the expansion mentions a place called SLO Provisions. Any reports?

  • Firehouse Grill (SLO) continues to serve dry flavorless tri-tip. On the plus-side, the tri-tip sandwich has the ideal meat to bun ratio, and I liked the bun—it’s palatable if you douse it in their molasses-heavy BBQ sauce. I liked the flavor of the pulled pork more so than its pasty consistency. The toasted pine nuts on a salad were so blackened I thought they were watermelon seeds, and wish they were after tasting them. Fries are McDonald’s style, so a safe bet.

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Maybe it is too far away for you, but when we are in that area the absolutely number one choice is Jocko’s in Nipomo, less than half an hour south on 101. Spencer Steak is superb. Amazing roaring oak wood fire grill, classic Santa Maria “BBQ”.

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Do they serve steaks at lunchtime? I’m going SF–>Santa Barbara–>SF this weekend. They don’t seem to have a website.

Call them, they usually take reservations, which are usually very necessary. I have to assume they do steaks whenever they are open.
They are open at 8AM… so call, try to get a reservation and ask about menu. Let us know.

See google map entry for popularity versus hour. Seems not quite as bad at midday, but weekends are worse.

(805) 929-3686

According to Yelp, they did open a branch Nov 2016 called Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen, but it quickly closed by year end 2017.

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Bump. Anything new in SLO?

Bump again.
Will be in SLO/Pismo Beach on our anniversary later this month. Any restaurants stand out? Open to about anything, “farm to table”, italian, seafood…

Any wineries particularly interesting?

I don’t have much experience but Bell’s in Los Alamos (I think it’s a ~30 min drive from Pismo) is a real and good restaurant down there. Kind of surreal to find it in that little town.

Oh and Six Test Kitchen if you’re looking for something like that. Another 30 min but the other way. Sorry, don’t know anything in actual SLO/Pismo. Don’t stay down there often/ever really.

But I do have a couple friends who just moved to SLO a couple months ago. I’ll ask them and see if they have any recs (they have two young kids so not sure how often they get out to anniversary style restaurants currently though).

Congrats on the anniversary!

I’ve been in San Luis Obispo twice. No recollection on dining but who couldn’t enjoy it there?

Every Thursday from 6 PM to 9 PM in Downtown SLO on Higuera Street - stands, vendors, drinks, etc, etc, etc it’s a lot of fun

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to but it’s a cool spot too

Really unpredictable to find it, but be on the lookout for abalone specials at various seafood spots in that area and in Pismo. I find the small farmed ones mostly but sometimes you can get lucky and get a whole pounded out and butter fried (sometimes breaded) abalone steak…pretty rich stuff…

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Oh forgot about this, and I don’t have much experience in that local area, but this article came out a couple months ago:

What, they failed to mark Gumball Alley? (around Chorro/Higuera) Okay that’s all I remember about SLO, and tri-tip.

Thanks for the link. Bassi sounds interesting. They have a tasting room in Avila Beach might stop at.

Riverbench seems like a good visit down near Santa Maria.

Paso seems to have better (fancier? more expensive?) restaurant options than SLO or Pismo, so will probably stop there for an anniversary meal.

Hopefully my kid will get into Cal Poly and then I can explore further :slight_smile:

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Had a meal at Ember in Arroyo Grande just before the pandemic. It was very good.


If you stop in Paso Robles, the restaurant we visit every time for dinner is:

Il Cortile Ristorante
608 12th St., Paso Robles, CA
Cuisine: Contemporary/seasonal Italian
Paso Robles downtown: Il Cortile

The food is incredible. If you are a fan of Perbacco or Acquerello, Il Cortile is right up there. And the service matches the food/wine!

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A few years ago, we had a great breakfast at Frankie and Lola’s in Morro Bay. It’s right by the rock so you get a good view. We also had a sample of falafel from the Grape Leaf in MB, and it was fantastic.

I went to Ember a few months ago. Still good. I make it a point to go there whenever I’m in the area.

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