Dining is a major attraction along our stretch of Highway 1 for good reason: the food, the views, and the ambiance are world-class. And not just in one or two towns — options abound in every destination here. Thanks to year-round moderate temperatures and the nearby coastline, everything from beef and grains to produce and seafood can be found locally. This makes for fantastic farm-to-table meals and experiences — just the sort of thing dedicated foodies treasure. But fresh, local and seasonal ingredients aren’t the only things the Central Coast has going for it. Try stunning views of the Pacific Ocean or vistas of vineyards and rolling hills in wine country, perfect for a romantic getaway. Speaking of vineyards, the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valleys offer some of the world’s very best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Restaurants from Ragged Point to Nipomo carry these prized bottles to sell by the bottle and glass — a truly local experience. Grab a picnic from a mom-and-pop specialty grocer or boutique deli and head for the hills on a wine tasting adventure. And don’t forget craft beer and spirits; brewpubs and distilleries bring excitement, innovation, and flavor to the Highway 1 dining landscape, as well.
A variety of dining styles can be found here, too. If you’re looking for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, several restaurants specialize in delicious alternative-diet cuisine. You’ll also find wood-fired delicacies, including one of the country’s most beloved destinations for Santa Maria Style BBQ. Oysters, clam chowder, fish and chips, and fish tacos will please seafood lovers, too. So bring your appetite! A wide culinary world awaits here on Highway 1.
Discover Dining Along Highway 1
Restaurants in Ragged Point and San Simeon
The dominant feature of any dining in Ragged Point and San Simeon is sweeping, panoramic ocean views. From the high cliffs of Ragged Point to the coastal plains and rugged coastline of San Simeon, dining options abound. Spend the day hiking, cycling, shopping or touring Hearst Castle, then head out for a meal to remember. Treat yourself to a romantic farm-to-table excursion at the Ragged Point Inn, or steak and seafood at the Manta Rey Restaurant. The Cavalier Coastal Kitchen offers fresh salads and soups as well as homestyle favorites. And The Truck at the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room has become a local favorite for its gourmet take on American classics. Ask for a table by the window, or on the patio, for the best seat in the house. Pair these views with a cocktail, bottle of local wine or beer, and you have the makings of a sumptuous memory.
Ragged Point Restaurant
Located in the famous Ragged Point Inn, this restaurant has a knack for impeccable views from within its glass dining room. The heated patio also wows with cliffside views of the vast Pacific Ocean, as well as fire pits and koi ponds. The Ragged Point Restaurant is open every day of the year for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Indulge in a lazy morning with breakfast or brunch, enjoying specialties like cinnamon French toast, bagels with lox, or crab cakes benedict. Lunch brings options for New England clam chowder, crisp California-style salads, and sandwiches like a classic burger or hot Cubano. Dinner is the time that the restaurant really shines, though, when the sun sets beneath the horizon, in full view of the restaurant. Start with fresh picks like creamy avocado gazpacho and walnut fennel salad, as well as wines by the bottle or by the glass from local wineries. Entrees include steak, seafood, roast chicken, lamb, and farm-fresh vegetarian choices. Capped off with a decadent house-made dessert and coffee or tea, this will be a meal on Highway 1 to remember.
Manta Rey Restaurant
The Manta Rey in San Simeon lies just two miles from Hearst Castle, along the coast in scenic San Simeon. The restaurant is owned and operated by the De Alba family, each member of whom works in the restaurant on a daily basis. The Manta Rey is open for dinner only, and is best known for affordable seafood and steaks in an elegant dining room. On the west wall of the building, large windows reveal the picturesque Pacific Ocean in all its vastness. These are ideal circumstances under which to enjoy a quiet, special dinner after a day of lazing at the beach or sightseeing. Start with a glass of wine from the restaurant’s list of local bottles as you peruse the menu. You’ll find appetizers to whet your palate, including steamed clams in white wine and herbs, shrimp cocktail and clam chowder. For your main, explore abundant seafood options like sea bass under butter-saffron sauce, salmon poached in Chardonnay with mustard glaze, and lobster tail. Or tackle a classic filet mignon, with blue cheese butter and red wine reduction. And don’t miss Manta Rey’s famous house-made orange ice cream, featuring fresh oranges and lemons with a raspberry drizzle.
Cavalier Coastal Kitchen
This historic property has been beloved by travelers passing through San Simeon for generations. The fact that this restaurant sits steps away from the Whale Trail whale-watching telescope should tell you something about its advantageous location. Part of the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, this restaurant boasts wide ocean views that take in coastal cliffs and dark blue waters. Though the restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, its position really shines during a magical pink-and-gold sunset. For breakfast, order yourself a hearty American favorite like an omelet, waffle, or breakfast burrito. Lunch will have your mouth watering for a salmon salad or Hearst Ranch Beef burger. And in the evening, grab a cocktail from the restaurant’s full bar and situate yourself by a window to take in the view. Add a charcuterie plate for starters, then transition to dinner, with fried chicken, baby back ribs, or spaghetti bolognese. The casual atmosphere and generous portions will renew your energy for another day of hiking, cycling, surfing, or sightseeing.
Hearst Ranch Winery & Sebastian’s General Store w/ outdoor being served by The Truck
Note: the original Sebastian’s General Store continues an extended renovation. In the meantime, the store, as well as Hearst Ranch Winery and The Truck, will be located at the larger building across the street.
The seaside town of Old San Simeon might be tiny, but its culinary offerings loom large. Visit the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room, at the historic Sebastian’s General Store. This building dates back to the peak of the whaling industry in 1852. Hearst Ranch Winery is well-known for pouring robust red wines in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Buy a bottle or two (or 12!), then grab a bite to eat at The Truck, a food truck from Chef Santos Macdonal. Chef Santos owns and operates two popular fine dining restaurants in Paso Robles, Il Cortile and La Cosecha. The Truck presents a more casual side of his farm-to-table approach, in a very special setting. Enjoy a rotating menu of classic food truck fare with a seasonal, Latin twist. Sit outside on the dog-friendly patio and enjoy phenomenal views of San Simeon Bay, once tycoon William Randolph Hearst ‘s private beach.
Given the quaintness of Cambria’s East and West Villages, it comes as no surprise that dining there is often a very cozy experience. Many chefs and restaurateurs have made their homes here among the pines, offering a wide range of cuisines. Here, you can find casual delicatessens on the same block as white-linen bistros; simple pizzerias next to gourmet waffle shops. Cambria boasts a wide array of international styles, too, from French and Italian to Thai and Mexican. (Some of these restaurants offer multiple global cuisines under one roof!) And there’s always American classics and comfort food dishes, from burgers and fries to meatloaf and fried chicken.
But it’s not just about the food, here. Find eateries built into historic homes, with a roaring fire and private tables. Some include wide views of the Pacific Ocean, just above the waters that provide the menu’s catch of the day. Generous, leafy patios welcome travelers to sit back and enjoy a sumptuous meal al fresco. Wherever you choose to dine in Cambria, the ambiance is all part of the experience.
The Hidden Kitchen
Tucked back in an alleyway and covered in ivy, The Hidden Kitchen lives up to its name. In fact, many locals haven’t even discovered this unique waffle and smoothie eatery, just off Cambria’s main drag. Two young women started Hidden Kitchen with a simple recipe for blue corn waffles and a few favorite smoothie concoctions. Since then, the menu has expanded to include several smoothies, like the Islay Immunity to the Gorda Greens. (One of the owners grew up on the grounds of the famous Esalen Institute in Big Sur.) But the real star of the show at Hidden Kitchen is the waffle menu. Every waffle is made with all organic ingredients and gluten-free — several are dairy-free or refined sugar-free, too. The blue corn gives waffles a hearty texture that makes for an extremely filling breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hidden Kitchen offers both sweet and savory waffles, whose flavors are slightly reminiscent of a taco on a corn tortilla. For a classic waffle experience, try the Cambria Classic, with grass-fed butter and pure maple syrup. Or, if you want something completely wild, go for the Weirdo Waffle, with fried bananas, bacon ends, peanut butter, and maple syrup.
Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill
For a delicious brunch, lunch or dinner, it’s tough to imagine a more complementary view than Moonstone Beach. Witness the crashing surf and sea lions sunning themselves on rocks, all from your patio table. This truly is dining at its most picturesque.
Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill is a fixture of Cambria’s seaside dining scene, with a long menu of dishes sure to please every palate, from kids to grownups. Seafood is definitely the specialty, though the restaurant offers several other dishes as well. For a lazy late morning, brunch at the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill is a must. Order classics like Oysters Rockefeller, Crab Cakes, or the Cove Benedict. Every brunch entree includes two complimentary glasses of sparkling wine, making this an indulgent treat for any guest. Kids have their own brunch menu, too, with dishes from Cinnamon Swirl French Toast to an Oregon Berries and Cream Smoothie. Lunch features dishes like New England Clam Chowder, the Crab Salad Sandwich, tacos, burgers and Garden Pasta Primavera, as well as hearty salads. Cioppino, Pesto Shrimp Pasta, and the Ribeye for Two make for a dinner to remember, followed by Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert. A full bar offers local wine and beer, as well as signature cocktails like the Moonstone Mule and Pacific Coast Martini.
Above Cambria’s East Village, hidden in a small business park, The Spot offers seasonal crepes, panini, wraps and toasts for breakfast and lunch. The menu is fresh and locally-focused, with plant-forward and decadent items to please their many fans. In the mood for something simple? Grab the Lox Salmon Bagel, with thinly sliced cured salmon, cream cheese and hard boiled eggs on a savory everything bagel. Or for a classic crepe combo, go for the Berry Yummy, with strawberries and blueberries, plus a drizzle of raspberry sauce. (You can even ask for a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top to fulfill the fantasy of having ice cream for breakfast.) On-trend toast fans will delight in avocado toast with feta cheese and tomatoes on a slice of whole grain bread. Those looking for something hearty will love the Turkey Pesto Breakfast Panini. Coffee, espresso drinks, and tea round out the menu for a great “spot” to grab breakfast, lunch or a tasty snack.
If you love food and have traveled through Cambria in the past, you likely already know Robin’s Restaurant. A favorite for decades, Robin’s serves a globally-inspired menu that includes flavors from Indonesia, the Mediterranean, Italy, and Japan. Every plate includes a kaleidoscope of colors, enhanced by herbs and vibrantly fresh produce. Owners Robin Covey and Shanny Covey have put a high premium on locally-sourced ingredients for many years. Farmers know them well, and provide the very best, most flavorful produce, grains and proteins for Robin’s customers. Visit the restaurant, located in the East Village, and sit inside the cozy dining room or outside on Robin’s famously lush heated patio. An extensive wine list includes local and international bottles to accompany the global cuisine. You can also find several gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options for those with alternative dietary concerns. Be sure to try Robin’s most beloved dishes, including the Vegetable Spring Rolls and Lobster Bisque, which has achieved cult status.
Indigo Moon Restaurant
This sweet bistro serves dinner in the classic California cuisine tradition, in a warm and thoughtful environment. Indigo Moon is also a wine bar and gourmet shop, with a wide variety of artisanal cheeses and wines available for purchase. For dining in, enjoy the restaurant’s craftsman-style dining room and patio, with warm wood and wine-colored walls. Start with a Mediterranean-style cheese plate, with juicy mission figs, caramelized walnuts, fruit and olive bread. Peruse the extensive local wine list and choose something that pairs well with the cheeses: maybe a bottle of San Simeon Chardonnay. Then move to an artfully composed salad, like the Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. For entrees, keep it light with a Quinoa Bowl or Salmon Tacos, or go for the decadence with a New York Steak. (Definitely order a glass of peppery Syrah to pair with that!) Whatever you order, it’s sure to be colorful, flavorful, and fresh.
Black Cat Bistro
Looking for someplace intimate and romantic for dinner? Black Cat Bistro serves farm-fresh, French-inspired bistro fare in a warm, candle-lit environment. Every dish on the Black Cat Bistro menu is created to pair with wine (though they’re plenty delectable without, too). In fact, Wine Spectator has given its Award of Excellence to Black Cat Bistro for several consecutive years. Crystal Riedel stemware and white linens await diners at each table. Though the menu changes seasonally, previous favorite dishes include Chipotle Shrimp Linguine, Local Quail with Pomegranate Molasses, and Maple Leaf Duck Breast. Indulge in a glass of local wine like Hearst Ranch Winery’s “Julia” Rosé, or opt for wines from France, Italy and Spain. This is the place to settle in and splurge a little — it’s also the perfect place to pop the question. Order the pot de crème, a bottle of Champagne, and let the adventure begin. (Just don’t be surprised if the servers and kitchen staff watch with bated breath.)
Another wine-centric eatery, Madeline’s occupies a cozy Tudor-style building in Cambria’s West Village. Look for a warm, inviting atmosphere, seasonal and vibrant French-American cuisine, and a generous wine list. Butter-yellow walls and white linens welcome guests as they choose from a menu of classic dishes and new favorites. For lunch, dive into a Croque Monsieur or Salade Nicoise, savory crepes or quiche. If the day warrants a bit of indulgence, pair lunch with a glass of bubbles or one of Madeline’s house-made red wines from Paso Robles. For dinner, Spanish Octopus, Diver Scallops, and Seafood Bourride beg to be savored, followed by house-made seasonal fruit sorbet. If you enjoy your wine, why not pick up a bottle to take home, or to your next destination? Madeline’s is also a wine shop specializing in local wines and rare and vintage bottles. Find your wine, as well as charcuterie, stemware, and accessories for a picnic.
Linn’s of Cambria
This long standing favorite offers some of the best comfort food on the Central Coast, with their famous olallieberry pie taking the spotlight. Linn’s began in 1989 as an extension of their farmstand on Santa Rosa Creek Road. Through the years, the restaurant grew popular for Linn’s deep-dish pot pies, fresh soups, and charbroiled local artichoke with dipping sauces. Now located on Main Street in Cambria’s East Village, Linn’s continues the tradition of serving farm-fresh foods just as John and Renee Linn did from the beginning. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, with many gluten-free options on each menu, as well as some vegetarian dishes. Enjoy grass-fed beef from nearby Hearst Ranch, including the Olallieberry Burger, with brie bleu cheese, red onion, bacon, arugula, and an olallieberry reduction. But if you choose to come to Linn’s for just one dish, make sure you try the pie. Linn’s famous fruit pies have won accolades, awards and hearts for decades. Order a slice, plus a cup of coffee, and discover it for yourself.
Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Restaurant
If you’re looking for seafood with a cult following, look no further than this elegant New England-style eatery. The Sea Chest has been an institution in Cambria since 1975, when Jim and Karen Clarke opened it to rave reviews. Those reviews haven’t changed since. The restaurant sits perched above the ocean, with incredible views of the waves and epic sunsets. But for foodies, the exhibition-style cooking is perhaps the more impressive view. Chefs work in the open at the oyster bar, entertaining guests as they prepare their dishes. Shellfish offerings take the spotlight here, with East Coast and Pacific oysters, New Zealand Green Lip Mussels, and clams dominating the appetizer menu. For mains, the Sea Chest favors simplicity over complexity. A wide variety of just-caught fish can be found on the menu, depending on seasonal availability. That might be halibut, Opah, salmon, swordfish, ono, thresher shark or mahi mahi. Whichever option you choose, Sea Chest chefs lightly broil the fish with lemon and butter, served beside potatoes, fresh vegetables, Boston Clam Chowder or a garden salad. Other specialties include scampi, cioppino, and crab legs. If you like, servers can pair local wines, craft beer, port and sherry to perfection with your meal. But don’t be surprised if a line stretches out the door here; reservations are not accepted, nor are credit cards. Ask anyone, though, and they’ll tell you it’s worth the wait — and the cash.
Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant
Hidden among one of the world’s last remaining stands of Monterey pine trees, the Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant offers intimate, comfortable dining. With warm wood ceilings and a roaring fire in the stone fireplace, Cambria Pines’ ambiance is particularly ideal for a winter meal. Cozy furnishings, comfort food and live music invite guests to settle in for an afternoon or evening. On warm days, the garden patio is also a great place for a glass of something chilled, plus a snack or two off the menu. (Fried Cheese Curds are a particular favorite, with ranch dipping sauce.) For lunch, choose from hearty salads, wraps, sandwiches and burgers. (Every cowpoke should try the Cowboy Burger, with pepper jack cheese, crispy onions, BBQ sauce and an ortega chili on a brioche bun.) And for dinner, look for classic dishes like steaks, seafood, and Italian dishes like ravioli and Chicken Piccata. Find a list of local wines and imported and domestic beers here, as well as cocktails from the full bar. And, as always, don’t skip dessert; cheesecake, ice cream sundaes and other indulgences await.
Restaurants in Cayucos
If you’ve ever traveled through Cayucos, you know how significant the ocean is to every aspect of life here. Dining is no different; seafood is the main star of the show, including fish tacos, clam chowder, and fish n’ chips. But there’s more, too: griddled breakfasts, cookies, Italian specialties, steaks, salads, and to-die-for desserts share that spotlight, for sure. Best of all, these spots often have a killer ocean view, too, making this a premier dining destination.
Spend a day on Cayucos State Beach, sunning, surfish, fishing, or tide-pooling, then head to one of these top-notch eateries for a meal. Alternatively (or additionally!), hike the trails of Harmony Headlands State Park or Estero Bluffs State Park to work up an appetite. However you decide to play and stay along Highway 1, you’ll find multiple eateries that offer just what you’re craving in Cayucos. There’s just one rule: come hungry.
Since 2001, “Smoker Jim” has served smoked seafood, chicken, pork and even black beans from a tiny shop right on Cayucos State Beach. While locals visit Ruddell’s to purchase smoked delicacies by the pound, Smoker Jim also cooks up tacos and sandwiches for takeout. These are incredibly simple, yet incredibly unique. Tacos are served on a large flour tortilla with grilled, smoked meat or beans, under a subtle cream sauce. But the thing that really sets these tacos apart is the jumble of chopped tomatoes, lettuce, apples, celery and carrots on top. This signature combination makes each taco and sandwich a fresh, crunchy, smoky pleasure to eat. The most popular menu item, the Smoked Albacore Taco, is perfect wrapped in foil and eaten at the beach. But Ruddell’s other fillings will wow you, too, like smoked shrimp, ahi, salmon, pork loin, chicken and black bean patties. On the lighter side, salads offer the same smoked options on a bed of lettuce with celery, apples, carrots, and green onions. Kids have options too, like quesadillas and a side of smoked chicken. Just remember that this is a little smoke shack, not a sit-down eatery; be ready to enjoy your meal at the beach.
Brown Butter Cookie Company
What’s that warm, sweet aroma that lingers on the air in Cayucos? Without a doubt, that’s the scent of warm Brown Butter Cookies, straight from the oven. The Brown Butter Cookie Company has delighted sweet tooths (and even savory types) since 2008. The first cookie they made remains the backbone of their product line: the Original Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie. Here, butter is browned for caramelization, then incorporated into a simple batter of flour, vanilla and brown sugar. When the cookies emerge from the oven, they’re sprinkled with a dusting of sea salt for a magical sweet-salty combination. Reminiscent of shortbread with a pleasing nuttiness, these cookies now come in a wide variety of flavors. When you enter the shop, don’t be surprised if you’re offered multiple samples right from the baking pan. Varieties might include Cocoa, Espresso, Coconut Lime, Bourbon and Spice. Gluten-free friends can indulge in some Brown Butter Cookie Company varieties, too. Pick up packs by the dozen or half-dozen for a gift to others or to keep all to yourself.
With its rustic wood interior and incredible second-story ocean views, Schooners has all the appeal of a comfortable historic ship at sea. Diners will immediately love the warm atmosphere, panoramic vistas and patio overlooking Cayucos State Beach. This is not the place to eat and run; Schooners invites you to linger, whether over lunch, dinner or drinks.
Start with an appetizer or salad; choose from ahi egg rolls, crab cakes, or “Legendary Calamari,” breaded in panko and deep fried. Be sure to pair this with a drink from the bar, like a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc or craft beer or cider. For lunch, fish ‘n chips is the order of choice, with options for Alaskan cod, calamari, halibut and shrimp, along with beer-battered fries. For dinner, specialties like Lobster Mac and Cheese and Teriyaki-Glazed Swordfish satisfy seafood-lovers. The menu also offers vegetarian and non-seafood options, sure to please everyone at the table.
This hardworking cafe has served up breakfast, lunch, dinner and killer desserts since 1983. A locals’ favorite, the Sea Shanty fuels diners up for a day on the go, or winds them down at days’ end. Enjoy the comfortable vibe here, with generous indoor and outdoor seating, plus 1,000 caps hanging from the ceiling in the bar. (These are the caps of satisfied customers over the years, say owners Bill and Carol Kramer.) The breakfast menu offers hearty favorites like biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls and pancakes. Lunch might include a hearty entree salad, cup of clam chowder, or a 1/3-pound “Billy Burger.” Dinner dishes can range from scampi with butter, garlic, wine and capers, to slow-roasted prime rib. But really, all of this is a prelude to the main event: dessert. The Sea Shanty takes special pride in delighting their sweet tooth guests. Save room for Rocky Mountain High Pie, with a rice krispie crust, rocky road ice cream, fudge, and white chocolate peanut butter sauce. Or try the Banana Bama, which is banana-nut ice cream and hot fudge inside a vanilla wafer crust. And don’t forget your four-legged friend! The Sea Shanty offers several house-made dishes on its “bone appetit” menu for dogs.
Cafe Della Via
This cozy spot right downtown in Cayucos is a classic Italian trattoria in the Old World style. The ambiance is warm, romantic, and comfortable, with mustard-colored walls and flickering lanterns. The food is just as comforting, with traditional dishes like Linguine and Clams, Eggplant Parmesan, and Lasagna Bolognese. Cafe della Via makes a point of sourcing their ingredients from farmers’ markets across the Central Coast, which brings vibrancy and flavor to every bite. Pair an appetizer of Bruschetta or Caprese with one of the many locally-made bottles from the wine list, or an Italian import. Or simply enjoy the complimentary fresh bread and olive oil-garlic dip as you peruse the menu. Items are priced affordably enough not to break the bank and still feel special. Don’t miss CDV’s popular crispy-crust pizza, with varieties like the spicy Pizza Arrabiata, veggie Pizza Verdure, and decadent Pizza Lorraine. End your dinner with an espresso or coffee for the complete CDV experience.
Lunada Garden Bistro
A colorful menu of California fusion cuisine awaits guests at Lunada Garden Bistro. Just as beautiful as the food is the setting, a lush garden patio outside and tastefully simple restaurant inside. The building once served as a way station that dates back to the settling of Cayucos, and much of its original charm remains. Here, travelers stopped over on their travels, including media tycoon and renowned art collector William Randolph Hearst of Hearst Castle. Nearly a century and a half old, the building now houses a family-owned eatery focused on fresh, inventive cuisine.
Lunada Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. For lunch, the star is craft burgers and fries, but these aren’t just any burgers. Go for an “Apple Pie” Burger, with onion-apple jam, cheddar cheese, onion rings and arugula on brioche. Or get into the Casa Chorizo Burger, with all the fixings plus fried chorizo and a guajillo-chipotle aioli on brioche. Dinner focuses on fresh options for surf and turf, salads and pasta dishes. Lunada offers multiple vegetarian options, including the Meatless Shepherd’s Pie and Roasted Vegetable Papardelle. Looking for the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday? Lunada’s Sunday Brunch is an a la carte affair, offering oysters, omelettes, griddle favorites, salads and sandwiches.
Duckie’s Chowder House
Yes, Duckie’s is all about the chowder. But did you know they prepare both New England-style chowder as well as tomato-based Manhattan-style chowder? This is the only spot for miles around that does so. The jury’s out on which is better, so you’d better order both to form your own opinion. Better yet, get your chowders “Nolan Style,” with bacon bits and croutons on top.
Despite its name, Duckie’s Chowder House offers more than just chowder. Fans of Duckie’s order fresh dishes like Shrimp Louie Salad, Fish ‘n Chips, and the Duckie’s Burger. Or, for a tasty happy hour snack, order a side of Duckie’s beloved garlic fries and a beer. Park yourself on a stool on the patio, and look directly out to the Cayucos Pier. For as seriously as Duckie’s takes their chowder, the vibe is relaxed and beachy. The kids menu and proximity to the beach also make this a great place to bring little foodies.
Restaurants in Los Osos and Baywood Park
Quiet, beachy and family-friendly, Los Osos-Baywood Park is a safe bet for discovering laid back digs and delicious dining. Like so many Highway 1 destinations, the main attraction here is access to the ocean. Los Osos is special, though, as it faces out onto the Morro Bay National Estuary, a calm inlet that’s a favorite hangout for wildlife. The environment encourages outdoor dining and tables with a view, from casual spots to farm-to-table options. Hike, cycle, or surf at Montana de Oro State Park, kayak off the Morro Bay State Park Marina, or go bird watching. Then head to one of the area’s best restaurants for a drink, snack, or quiet meal. All of Los Osos’ dining options are relaxed — no need for a suit and tie, here. So get comfortable, and settle in. You may find that this off-the-beaten-path treasure is one of the Central Coast’s best-kept secrets.
Locals love Nardonne’s, and for good reason: the pizza is tasty, the beer is cold, and the atmosphere is easy going. Owned and operated by the Dougherty family, this institution has been tossing pizza dough and pulling taps since 1976. Craft paper covers the tables, in true pizzeria style, and warm wood surrounds the dining room. The highlight of the menu is Nardonne’s build-your-own Sicilian-style pizza, on a thick, chewy crust. (Thin crust pizza is also available.) Other favorite dishes include fresh calzones, meatball sandwiches, and Caprese salad made from scratch. Kids love Nardonne’s for its fun arcade with video games and pinball, as well as movie nights for the whole family. Parents love Nardonne’s for its relaxed vibe and exceptional craft beer list, with rotating taps for new brews coming in regularly. Sports lovers enjoy Nardonne’s for its 5 big screen TVs, and pets love it for its dog-friendly patio.
One of Baywood’s newest additions, Blue Heron prepares casual coastal-influenced cuisine in an elegant modern setting, right by the Baywood Pier. Painted a deep blue, the interior of the dining room sets a calm tone with driftwood and air plants for decor. Sit at the bar to enjoy the exceptional international wine and beer list before taking a table indoors or beside the outdoor firepit. One of Blue Heron’s most distinguishing features is its commitment to using local produce. To fulfill this commitment, the restaurant actually owns its own farm, located off Pecho Valley Road on the way to Montana de Oro. Throughout the year, everything from carrots and peaches to fava beans and beets comes from the Blue Heron farm. These dirt-to-dish ingredients marry deliciously with fresh-caught seafood, brought in from nearby waters. Take advantage of Blue Heron’s weekly raw oyster nights and slider nights for a tasty excuse to head to Baywood.
Location, location, location: this is the secret ingredient to the Bayside Cafe’s runaway success. Established as a walk-up eatery at the Morro Bay State Park Marina, the Bayside Cafe became wildly popular and grew to include a relaxed dining room and patio. Guests love the classic dishes, including seafood, south-of-the-border specialties, salads, burgers, and pasta. For dinner, a selection of beautiful entrees includes surf, turf, and pasta, as well as others. (One order, the Coquilles St. Jacque, tops puffed pastry with mushrooms and four large scallops sautéed in sherry and cream.) Many items are vegetarian and/or gluten-free, or with a gluten-free option. Come for lunch, dinner, or drinks, and enjoy watching the boats and kayaks meander in and out of the marina. Fido is welcome, too, on the cafe’s dog-friendly patio. Golfers will also enjoy the proximity to Morro Bay State Golf Course, just a stone’s throw away. Spend your day on the links, then take a load off on the Bayside Cafe patio, cold drink in hand.
Sea Pines Clubhouse Grill
This relaxed eatery is an ideal spot to hang after a round of golf, disc golf, or foot golf at the Sea Pines Golf Resort. The Clubhouse Grill offers indoor and outdoor seating, with a whopping ten flat screen TVs for catching the big game. Order breakfast, lunch or dinner, including American favorites like steak and eggs, burgers and roast chicken. Happy hour is a favorite happening at the Clubhouse Grill, with the full bar offering cocktails, beer and local wines. Nightly specials include pork ribs and tri tip, tacos, burgers, “steak night for two,” surf and turf, and endless pasta, one night per week. Settle in on the outdoor patio with a view of the green, or head inside to hear live music on Saturday evenings. The Clubhouse Grill is family owned and operated, and that friendliness extends to guests. Start or end your golf experience at the Clubhouse, whether to fuel up or to wind down.
Noi & Doi’s 2nd Street Cafe
If you never had the opportunity to dine at Noi’s Little Thai Takeout in Baywood, you missed out on one of the truly hidden gems of the Central Coast. Though that restaurant is now closed, there’s good news: Noi and her sister Doi have opened a new spot that’s equally delicious. Set in a bungalow close to the Baywood Pier, with tropical plants and cafe lights, Noi & Doi’s feels like a cute surf shack. Open for lunch and dinner, Noi & Doi’s specialties include fresh Thai dishes like Pad Tthai, Pad Prik King, and Pineapple Fried Rice. But the menu doesn’t end there; Noi & Doi’s also serves American favorites like french fries, turkey sandwiches and a legendary tuna melt. On the seafood menu, Coconut Shrimp sits right beside classic Fish ‘n Chips, both expertly prepared. Thai iced coffee and Thai iced tea make tasty accompaniments. Definitely ask about the curry of the day, as these are often the best dish on the menu. Seating is limited inside, but outside offers several picnic tables. Alternatively, get your dish to-go and take it down to the pier or the Baywood beach, just a handful of steps away.
Restaurants in Avila Beach
With sun, surf, sand, and serious charm on its side, Avila Beach knows how to charm anyone within its borders. These ideal conditions have attracted tastemakers for over a century, dating back to when oil seekers discovered hot springs beneath the area’s surface. These supposedly curative waters drew health, wellness and pleasure seekers from far and wide who sought delicious fare during their stay. Not much has changed since those days! Travelers to Avila Beach enjoy the hot springs to this day, as well as the scenic white sand beaches, historic piers, lighthouse, and whale watching. What’s more, they still look for the very best seafood, produce, grains, and drinks the area has to offer. Take your time in this special haven and you’ll discover flavor, ambiance, and charm to spare through its many quality eateries. From classic American favorites to seafood and farm-to-table dishes, you can’t go wrong when dining in Avila Beach.
This casual beach joint specializes in American favorites like burgers, nachos and salads, but it’s best known for its sprawling patio overlooking the beach. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner here to experience Avila Beach in all its many moods, colors and flavors. The restaurant’s name refers to the original building’s purpose as an official customs house at the dock of San Luis Bay. This historic post has served many seasons, in particular as an alternative Port of Entry after San Francisco’s Great Fire of 1906. Today, the Custom House serves guests as a relaxing and picturesque place from which to watch the world go by. Enjoy a glass of local wine or beer on the patio, paired with crispy fried calamari or jalapeno poppers for a tasty snack. Or settle in for a lazy breakfast, lunch or dinner overlooking the surf and sand. You’ll soon discover why this spot is so popular with visitors and locals alike.
Sunset-chasers will enjoy stopping in at this casual, comfortable eatery on the coast. Open for dinner every day, and lunch Friday through Sunday, Ocean Grill’s menu takes advantage of its position with wide, oceanfront windows. Sunsets are particularly spectacular here, capturing a panoramic view from Point San Luis to Point Sal. The food is no less impressive, highlighting the very best produce, grains, meats and seafood available on the Central Coast. California-style cuisine shines through on dishes like the Chop Salad with pickled beets, bacon, pickled green beans and local goat cheese. More eclectic offerings include the Calamari Bahn Mi, with pickled carrots and daikon, coconut chile sauce and toasted bonillo. Family farms get shout-outs on the menu, from Peacock Farms and Rutiz Farm in Arroyo Grande to nearby See Canyon Farms. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options keep everyone at the table happy and satisfied. The wine and beer list includes a good selection of California wines, including a few higher-end bottles.
Gardens of Avila @ Sycamore Springs
The name isn’t a mistake: the Gardens of Avila Restaurant sources much of its fresh produce from its own abundant chef’s garden. (The garden is visible just west of the Bob Jones Trail, identifiable by all the piers and pillars throughout the space.) This garden inspires the restaurant’s “seasonal and spontaneous cuisine,” as do the many local farms, ranches and fisheries it sources from as well. A constant rotation of organic herbs, vegetables, roots, greens, and edible flowers keeps the chef and kitchen staff creative and on their toes. Find these ingredients in your next breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch or dinner meal, or even in your cocktail during the popular happy hour. This might be a tomato bisque, crispy artichoke heart, shrimp macaroni and cheese, or strawberry shortcake. Enjoy a walk or bike ride along the Bob Jones Trail or a treatment at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Spa. Then visit the Gardens of Avila and continue the self-care with delectable spa cuisine, straight from the garden to your plate.
Seafood lovers will love this sweet spot right on the historic Hartford Pier in Avila Beach. It doesn’t get much closer than this: seafood is literally caught feet away before being served in your fish and chips, fish sandwich, and steamer clams. Mersea’s sits just above San Luis Bay waters, where seals and sea lions frolic and beg for fishing boats to throw them scraps. This is a casual place where guests can delight in a cold drink, a fish taco, and a perfect ocean view. Grab a seat indoors at a table or the bar, or head outside where the action is. Enjoy the show as you tuck into Louie Salad with rock crab or shrimp, clam chowder, and crab cakes. Parents will appreciate the outdoor dining, and little ones will enjoy the kids menu and all-access entertainment from the boats, fisheries and seals. Come ready to sit down and take in the show.
Restaurants in Arroyo Grande & Edna Valleys
It’s no wonder these two valleys enjoy such phenomenal dining options: where there is good wine, good food will follow. This growing wine country area continues to surprise and delight, with a Mediterranean restaurant, gourmet grocery, steakhouse, brewpub and wood-fired grill. Fans of wine country cuisine will enjoy the wide array of local bottles on wine lists, as will craft beer enthusiasts. With an abundance of local farms, these eateries don’t need to look far for the best seasonal ingredients. Spend a day wine tasting throughout the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys, then hit up one of these thoughtful restaurants for a meal to remember. Some will also be perfect for a take-away lunch among the vines or on a picnic blanket on a winery lawn. Or, alternatively, hike the Pismo Preserve, window shop in the Arroyo Grande Village or spend the day at Lopez Lake State Recreation Area. Then bring your appetite and all five senses to these eateries for a flavor-filled evening.
Looking for all the locals? You’ll probably find them in this Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of the Arroyo Grande Village. Since 2002, Jaffa Cafe has brought the flavors and aromas of its namesake, the ancient port city of Jaffa in Israel. Here, fresh vegetables, rotisserie meats, warm pita, tangy hummus, and hearty grains make for a satisfying casual lunch or dinner. Favorite dishes include baba ganoush, shawarma pita wraps, hummus plates, kifta, kabobs, and tabbouleh. Hearty salads with lamb, chicken, beef or gyros keep guests satisfied with leafy greens and slow-roasted meats. Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty to choose from, with falafel, hummus, veggie, and baba ganoush wraps, plus several salads and combo plates. At the end of the meal (or the beginning!), be sure to pick up owner Adnan Saleh’s famously sweet and sticky baklava. The setting is low-key and laid-back, with indoor seating and a dog-friendly patio for your pooch.
Mason Bar & Kitchen
Imagine a combination between a neighborhood pub and a farm-to-table restaurant, and you have a pretty good idea of this popular spot. Located in the charming Village of Arroyo Grande, the Mason Bar & Kitchen is really two businesses in one. One on side of the building, a well-stocked bar serves drinks, and on the other, a family-friendly restaurant serves brunch, lunch and dinner. Both sides offer a warm, rustic vibe, dressed in reclaimed wood and mason jar lights, plus wide-open windows onto Branch Street. Inventive farmers’ market fare includes starters like blistered shishito peppers and pistachio-encrusted brie. Mains run the gamut from soup and entree salads to burgers, steaks, seafood and pasta. Expect plenty of fresh choices for vegetarian and gluten-free dining.
On the bar side, look for a dizzying selection of spirits, most notably over 25 bourbons and whiskeys. Barrel-aged cocktails have become a huge hit at Mason Bar, bringing a warm nuttiness to classic drinks. All cocktails benefit from the addition of house-made syrups and fresh-pressed juices from local farms. The Mason Bar is also home to one of the best wine selections on the Central Coast, and has been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. The restaurant pours 16 local wines by the glass, and offers a nice list of bottles for purchase as well. If you’re in the mood for beer, though, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy on the 20 rotating tap handles.
Farmhouse Corner Market
Dining at Farmhouse is more of an experience than just a meal. Located on the edge of Edna Valley wine country, this sprawling facility is part restaurant, part grocer/deli/creamery/gift shop. Owner and Chef Will Torres spent over a decade as executive chef at JUSTIN Vineyard & Winery, where he perfected his high-end farm-to-table approach. Today, he and his wife Kari have their own highly successful spot. Open for breakfast and lunch, Farmhouse’s atmosphere is bright and cheerful — perfect for visiting with kids. Have a seat in the dining room or on the outdoor patio beside a vintage Airstream trailer. Order from a menu of vibrant dishes, including a crispy yeasted rice flour waffle with bourbon maple syrup or pork tonkatsu sandwich. Burgers, soups, salads and other casual fare are given the gourmet treatment. On the market side of the building, look for house-made ice creams by the scoop, a cheese and charcuterie bar, and curated grocery. Potted plants, dried flowers, and other gifts can be found there, too, as well as a well-stocked bottle shop.
Chef Brian Collins worked for the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley for years before returning to his hometown to build Ember. He and his wife Harmony have cultivated a devoted following of locals and visitors alike with wood-fired dishes, craft cocktails, wine and beer. The atmosphere is familiar here, with rustic wooden tables and an open kitchen where chefs work their magic with the wood-burning oven. (The comfy back patio is also a great spot to settle in for an evening.) Look for the menu to change monthly, with constantly changing dishes depending on seasonal produce, seafood and meats. If the “Mary’s Chicken Under A Brick” is available, make a point of trying it, or any protein from the oven, really. Another delicious win is flatbread coming from the oven; Collins and his team change up the toppings often, but they’re always perfectly fired. Ember’s pastry chef creates masterful desserts like the Summer Berry Cream Puff and Sponge Cake with Hazelnut Crunch and Toasted Marshmallow. Cocktails range from classic to craft, with new concoctions hitting the menu every month. Ember serves dinner only, but doesn’t take reservations, so the waiting list can get long. Be prepared to show up early, or be prepared to hang out a bit.
Rooster Creek Tavern
This comfortable neighborhood bar and grill serves lunch and dinner, plus cocktails and wine from its corner spot in the Arroyo Grande Village. Rooster Creek Tavern came by its name honestly, as the roaming roosters of the Village can be found roosting near the restaurant. (In fact, the tavern’s side patio is a great place to watch all the chickens stop traffic when they routinely “cross the road.”) A cabana-striped awning, brick walls, and rustic wooden bar make for a warm environment in which to dine or grab drinks. Dishes include pub favorites like nachos, wings, fried chicken and pizza, all with a wine country twist. Kiddos have a menu of delicious dishes too, including a small version of the restaurant’s famous mac and cheese, with a crispy panko topping. To drink, choose your favorite cocktail, or try one of the signature concoctions made behind the bar, like the ‘Ol Town Flirt. (You’ll have to visit to find out what’s in that one!) The restaurant also boasts a fine list of local beer and wine.
Locals love this brewpub for its beers and tasty bites. Brewing for Humdinger’s beers happens on-site, with towering tanks standing just inside. The brewery is known for its different styles of IPA, including American, New England, and Rye styles. They’ve also become known for their selection of housemade hard seltzers — not a common sight in breweries around here, but a nice alternative. But if you’re not into alcoholic drinks, Humdinger’s got you covered with non-alcoholic options too; the drinks menu even mentions water for dogs. For food, the theme is “elevated grub,” with beer nuts, Mexican Street Corn, and a Fried Hot Chicken Sandwich with Nashville Sauce. Vegetarians will appreciate the Compressed Watermelon Salad with Smoked Chili and Citrus Vinaigrette, as well as the Mushroom Tacos with Baja Sauce, among other dishes. Ask your server how best to pair your beer to your dish (or vice versa), and be sure to leave room for dessert. Humdinger offers fun treats like the “Beer-A-Misu”: lady finger cookies soaked in Roast Coaster Imperial Porter with mascarpone custard and cocoa powder.
Restaurants in Nipomo & Oceano
Dining in Nipomo and Oceano can go in several different directions. In the mood for a great casual breakfast? What about a vintage burger joint, or rustic farm-to-table fare? Looking for BBQ? No matter how you choose to dine here, you can bet it will be authentic. All of these styles and more can be found in this southernmost end of our stretch of Highway 1. Make a day of it by playing a round of golf in Nipomo or hiking the Oceano Dunes. Go clamming or see the Monarch Butterflies, then head to one of these fantastic eateries for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Alternatively, grab your meal to-go and enjoy it while watching the sunset, or at one of several nearby wineries. The name of the game in Nipomo and Oceano is laid-back. Take your time: this isn’t the place for rushing. Treat yourself to a relaxed meal, a cold drink, and good conversation. You may never want to leave.
Institution. Legend. Original. These are words used to describe Nipomo’s famous Santa Maria Style steakhouse, Jocko’s — and they’re no exaggeration. The restaurant’s roots predate the California Gold Rush, when Emery Knotts opened a saloon at the foot of Nipomo’s hills. (The word Nipomo actually translates as “the foot of the hills” in the Chumash language.) Over time, it moved locations and served different purposes, and eventually wound up at the corner of Tefft and Thompson in 1957. The decor is extremely simple, with cattle brands seared into the wood trim inside, many of whose ranches still raise cattle today. The centerpiece of the building is its oakwood barbecue pit, which fires steaks, chicken, and linguica on repeat through dinner service each night. (The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the oak pit doesn’t heat up until dinnertime.) The Jocko’s menu is long, but the dishes that come from the oak pit are the ones for which this eatery is famous. Full pit dinners include salsa, crackers, salad, relish tray, beans, garlic bread, potatoes or rice, and ice cream. In other words, no one goes home hungry.
Be aware that even with a reservation, diners often wait for an hour or more to get into Jocko’s; plan your visit accordingly. One great way to wait is in the low-lit bar, which is as authentic as it gets. Pick up a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, and enjoy sounds from the juke box or watch sports on the TVs.
Rock n Roll Diner
Fans of trains and train memorabilia will love visiting this unique diner on wheels. The Rock n Roll Diner comprises two train cars that have been secured on a section of railroad track, parallel to Highway 1. (Train roots run deep here: Oceano was once home to one of San Luis Obispo County’s most active train depots.) The Rock n Roll Diner acquired a 1946 Pullman Standard dining car originally used on the Burlington Northern. The other, a 1947 Budd Car Company lounge car, ran the “Orange Blossom Special” route from New York to Miami. Both are restored to mint condition and harken back to the craftsmanship of yesteryear. Today, kids of all ages can enjoy a meal in these cars, with vintage movie posters and advertisements covering the walls. Bop to the sound of early rock and roll with a classic burger, fries and a milkshake made with real ice cream. The diner also serves Mexican and Greek dishes, if you’re in the mood for something a little different. Check out the nearby Oceano Train Depot Museum, then head to this eatery for a fun connection to the Central Coast’s railroad history.
Old Juan’s Cantina
Since 1976, the Verdin family has owned and operated this popular Mexican eatery in Oceano. Here, the tacos are hot, the margaritas are cold, and the atmosphere is friendly. The festive interior feels like a real Mexican cantina, with tropical plants hanging, adobe walls, and bright serape blankets. Head to the bar as you wait for your table, and choose from cocktails, beer and wine. For margaritas, try the Old Juan’s Cantina “Cadillac Margarita,” with 100% agave tequila and a sidecar of Grand Marnier. Or, for a light version with a kick, go for the Strawberry-Jalapeno Margarita, shaken and on the rocks. Starters range from classics like nachos and guacamole to bacon-wrapped jalapenos and “Caramelized Avocado,” an Old Juan’s Cantina specialty. For lunch or dinner, choose from a wide variety of combo plates and a la carte items, including burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and fish tacos. Old Juan’s also offers a nice selection of kids’ menu options to keep the ninos happy. Don’t miss the Sunday Ranchero Brunch, with a menu of old and new favorite dishes, plus bottomless mimosas.
The Mayor’s Place
Inside this fun, funky little building, you’ll find one of the best breakfasts around, plus a whole lot of locals. The Mayor’s Place looks like it belongs on set at Disney, with cartoonish architecture that will tickle kids and grownups alike. Sit down inside and tuck into downhome country food for breakfast and lunch, served five days a week. Family owned and operated, the restaurant is known for its generation portions on dishes like biscuits and gravy, tri-tip, and chicken fried steak. (Local tip: For an off-menu option, order a breakfast burrito and sub in chicken fried steak for an indulgent stick-to-your-ribs meal.) Lunch items include fish and chips, BBQ plates, sandwiches, burgers, and several hearty entree salads. The Mayor’s Place also offers high-protein, low-fat breakfast and lunch for those looking for paleo- or keto-friendly eateries. Pups are welcome on the leafy back patio, and may even earn a treat from staff.
Located at the Monarch Dunes Golf Club, the Butterfly Grille is a casual bar and grill serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. The restaurant overlooks Monarch Dunes’ “Old Course,” with views to the west, over a small lake. The heated patio includes fire pits for cozy outdoor dining, perfect for an early morning breakfast or late evening dinner. Choose from a wide variety of dishes for breaktast, from burritos and egg sandwiches to pancakes and French toast. For lunch, sandwiches, salads, quesadillas and burgers are popular choices. The kitchen offers nightly dinner specials every day of the week, including options like fresh taco salad, tri-tip sandwiches, and teriyaki chicken bowls. Draft beer and cocktails hit the spot after a round or two, especially with happy hour deals every night. Come in for a bite before or after your next game, or take one of the grill’s grab n go items for a fast meal option.
Open for dinner six nights a week, Adelina’s is an upscale eatery right on the course at the Monarch Dunes Golf Club. Here, the kitchen prepares California cuisine with the best farmers’ market ingredients available, picked just that morning. Start with one of the bar’s barrel-aged cocktails for a smooth sipping experience. These are Prohibition-era cocktails like the Aviation and Sazerac, aged and mellowed in oak barrels. Alternatively, peruse the beer and wine list, featuring two California wines on tap, and a line of Monarch Dune proprietary wines. Start with an appetizer like calamari steak fries or pretzel bites, then move to entrees like a fried chicken sandwich, tuna nicoise salad, or artisan pizza. The curated menu makes the most of seasonal produce and seafood, and offers several vegetarian choices and gluten-free options and substitutions. A series of sweet treats await you at the end, offering choices like Lemon Meringue Torte and housemade sorbet, scooped into hollowed fruits. The hardest part is: which to pick?