The Best Restaurants in San Luis Obispo County

  • Foodies
  • by WINECOUNTRY STAFF
  • on FEBRUARY 24, 2016
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You’re in for an unexpected culinary tour-de-force when you plan a getaway to San Luis Obispo County. The passionate and creative culinary culture one might expect in Los Angeles has spread up the coast, bringing creative and detail-oriented chefs who align themselves with local farms to offer fresh, hyper-local, and season-driven menus — the perfect complement to the region’s wines. Here is our list of the best restaurants to try in this picturesque Central Coast region.

1
Restaurants /

Ember Restaurant

For a taste of locally sourced, wood-fired cuisine in a clean and gorgeous barn-like setting (made mostly of reclaimed wood), head to Ember in Arroyo Grande. For his menu of Italian-inspired California cuisine, Chef/Owner Brian Collins utilizes simple ingredients that are meticulously prepared and beautifully presented — think flavorful, seasonal salads, wood-fired steaks, hand-cut pastas, and unexpected takes on classic desserts.

Insider Tip

The menu is uber seasonal, so you’ll always find something new to try, like the Burrata Levain with blood orange and snap peas on grilled walnut bread, or the Dungeness Crab Spaghetti with lime, jalapeno, and crab butter. Mmmm.

Photo courtesy of Ember Restaurant

Details Visit Website
2
Restaurants /

Luna Red

Conveniently located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, Luna Red serves flavorful tapas and tasty craft cocktails in a welcoming, eclectic setting. Sister restaurant to nearby Novo Restaurant, this popular dining destination charms with its vibrant outdoor patio, innovative small plates that meld global flavors with locally-sourced ingredients, and casual, yet lively atmosphere.

Insider Tip

Take advantage of Luna Red’s Takeout Taco Tuesday. You’ll love the delectable selection of tacos to-go, including Beef Short Rib with mole poblano, Tempura Rockfish, and Portuguese-style Pork Belly.

Photo courtesy of Luna Red

Details Visit Website
3
Restaurants /

The Spoon Trade

This charming industrial-chic eatery south of SLO in Grover Beach boasts an open kitchen, chalkboard walls, and a reclaimed wood bar, giving the whole space an inviting feel. Ingredients are sourced locally and many are made in-house, including their famous fresh-baked sourdough bread. Whatever you order, don’t leave without trying the chicken and waffles with spiced honey and housemade kimchi.

Insider Tip

The waffles are actually sourdough, and made from the same starter used to make their loaves.

Photo courtesy of Facebook: The Spoon Trade

Details Visit Website
4
Restaurants /

Lido Restaurant at Dolphin Bay Hotel

For a taste of California coastal cuisine with a view, head to Lido Restaurant at the Dolphin Bay Hotel in Pismo Beach. Whether dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or their elegant Sunday Champagne Brunch, you can expect a meal rich with local influence and beautiful ocean views. Don’t miss complementing your meal with an expertly crafted cocktail or bottle of wine from their 800-bottle wine list, featuring a selection of both local and international wines.

Insider Tip

Sleep in on the weekend and roll in for a $39 prix-fixe, three-course brunch menu, which includes bottomless mimosas — a favorite among locals.

Photo courtesy of Dolphin Bay

Details Visit Website
5
Restaurants /

Splash Cafe

It may not be fancy, but this no-frills cafe has been a favorite destination in Pismo Beach since 1989, drawing locals and tourists for its steaming bowls of clam chowder — known as the best clam chowder on the coast. Their famous chowder, with its fresh clams and perfectly creamy, buttery broth, lives up to the hype, but is even better when served in a housemade bread bowl.

Insider Tip

If you can’t fathom the thought of eating canned clam chowder ever again, Splash Cafe’s acclaimed chowder can be sent directly to your home. Place an order for their fresh frozen clam chowder online and you’ll be able to savor the Central Coast from afar. If you don’t like it, they offer a 100% money back guarantee, no questions asked.

Photo courtesy of Splash Cafe

Details Visit Website
6
Lodging /

Granada Hotel and Bistro

Offering a glimpse into a rather contemporary version of California’s Spanish colonial past, the Bistro at this downtown SLO hotel features exposed brick, dimly lit under a tin roof, with cozy, cushioned velvet chairs and an outdoor patio with seating around fire pits. The menu takes its cue from classic French bistro fare, just slightly jazzed up. Stop in for a light meal of Morro Bay oysters, or opt for something heartier like the Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Burger. Either way, you’ll leave happy and satisfied.

Insider Tip

Plan to put away the car keys for an evening, as the hotel is right in the hub of downtown—walkable to cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, and on Thursday evenings, San Luis Obispo's beloved farmers market.

Photo courtesy of Granada Hotel

Details Visit Website
7
Restaurants /

Ocean Grill in Avila Beach

While there isn’t a bad seat in the house, if you ask for one of the tables along the enclosed outdoor patio wall, you’ll have a front row seat to a spectacular Avila Beach sunset. The menu features coastal-inspired standbys, including fried calamari, ahi poke, and clam chowder, along with a selection of tasty wood-fired flatbreads, steaks, and seafood pastas.

Insider Tip

Even though moules-frites are not on the menu, if you ask for them, depending on the availability, it’s quite possible they’ll whip up an order.

Photo courtesy of Ocean Grill

Details Visit Website
8
Restaurants /

Novo Restaurant

Named one of 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast, Novo Restaurant & Lounge offers a unique, romantic dining experience, right on San Luis Obispo Creek. Once you’ve glanced through the wine list and decided on a bottle from their extensive local or global selection, settle in for Executive Chef Ben Richardson’s locally-sourced, wholesome, and globally-inspired food that changes with the seasons.

Insider Tip

The Salmon Bisque from sister restaurant Robin’s (in Cambria), was so popular that it was brought to Novo and is still on the menu today. Be sure to ask for it.

Photo courtesy of Novo Restaurant & Lounge

Details Visit Website
9
Restaurants /

Ox and Anchor

Located at the Hotel SLO in downtown San Luis Obispo, this modern spin on a typical steak house draws inspiration from the surrounding Central Coast region. Executive Chef Ryan Fancher utilizes local ingredients for his diverse menu, which includes classic steakhouse entrees and sides with an unexpected twist. While the steaks and seafood are on point, don’t miss trying one of the inventive appetizers, such as the braised short rib egg rolls or bone marrow tater tots.

Insider Tip

In keeping with their locally minded ethos, Ox and Anchor is proud to partner with a different local winery each month for their winemaker dinner series, featuring a special five-course dinner with wine pairings.

Photo courtesy of InterContinental Hotels Group

Details Visit Website
10
Restaurants /

Mint + Craft

This relaxed downtown SLO cafe and mercantile is a great spot to grab a coffee and breakfast or lunch. Here, a globally-inspired menu features fresh, local ingredients for dishes that are equal parts healthy and delicious, such as the Avocado Toast with burrata and pistachio, Pesto Rice Bowl with soft cooked egg, and house-baked biscuits served with butter and jam (or as the star of a breakfast sandwich).

Insider Tip

If you’re in a hurry, Mint + Craft stocks a selection of grab and go breakfast and lunch items all day, and they also offer a variety of artisanal foods, housewares, olive oils, and cookbooks for when you need the perfect hostess gift fast.

Photo courtesy of Mint + Craft

Details Visit Website
11
Restaurants /

Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe

This popular breakfast spot serves up quality dishes and a friendly atmosphere that keep happy diners coming back for more. From sweet potato and kale breakfast burritos to whole grain flax waffles to tropical fruit and chia seed smoothies, the offerings are as wholesome as they are delicious. They also offer a rotating selection of heartier monthly specials, like the Sally O’Griddle, that are worth taking note of.

Insider Tip

If breakfast isn’t your favorite meal of the day, order up the Smashburger, a delicious burger featuring local beef, american cheese, garlic aioli, and secret sauce, toasted on a brioche bun.

Photo courtesy of Facebook: Sally Loo’s

Details Visit Website

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