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Where to Eat on the Central Coast of California

Restaurants in Arroyo Grande, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, and Grover Beach lure visitors with delicious food in beautiful locations.

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  • Burrata with pickled local mushrooms at Foremost Wine Company, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Richard Fusillo
    Photo caption
    Burrata with pickled local mushrooms, hazelnuts, and arbequina olive oil at Foremost Wine Company in San Luis Obispo.
  • hangar steak at Foremost Wine Company, San Luis Obispo, California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Garrick Ramirez
    Photo caption
    Foremost Wine Company serves a filling grilled hangar steak with asparagus, pickled onions, miso, and egg.
  • spoon collection, The Spoon Trade, Grover Beach, California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Garrick Ramirez
    Photo caption
    A spoon collection adorns a wall at the Spoon Trade.
  • driftwood sculptures at Centrally Grown at Off the Grid, Cambria, California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Garrick Ramirez
    Photo caption
    The enchanting coastside gardens at Centrally Grown at Off the Grid contains driftwood sculptures.
  • banana pancake at Sally Loo's Wholesome Cafe, San Luis Obispo, California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Garrick Ramirez
    Photo caption
    Sally Loo's banana pancake comes with with whipped cream, toasted pecans, and cinnamon butter syrup.
  • brasero grill at Ember, Arroyo Grande, California, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Garrick Ramirez
    Photo caption
    Ember fires up its wood burning brasero, an Argentine grill, which is fueled by glowing red coals.

California's Central Coast lures travelers with expansive ocean vistas, gently rolling hills, and, more recently, destination-worthy grub. More than mere pit stops, the following spots capture a sense of place by presenting thoughtful, compelling meals made with local ingredients, served in inspiring settings.

Centrally Grown at Off the Grid
Sustenance and scenery abound at Cambria's Centrally Grown at Off the Grid, which proffers a bevy of food options in an enchanting garden setting dotted with driftwood sculptures and overlooking the blue Pacific. Visitors can load up on road trip vittles from an artisan market, watch dolphins frolic from the glass-enclosed bar and restaurant, or settle into one of many garden nooks with creative sandwiches from the deli. centrallygrown.com.

Flour House SLO
At Flour House SLO, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza fuels a lively dining room that opens onto the sidewalks of downtown San Luis Obispo. Illustrated placemats detail the regional pizza's famously strict ingredients—00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala—as well as lesser-known pastas like a Scialatielli. On the restaurant's menu, this is hand-rolled and swirled with shellfish and fish in a cherry tomato white wine sauce. flourhouseslo.com

Sally Loo's Wholesome Cafe
The cozy brick-and-beam storefront of Sally Loo's Wholesome Cafe in San Luis Obispo bustles during breakfast hours when locals huddle to dig in to specials such as pumpkin waffle with toasted pecans, mascarpone whipped cream and brown butter syrup. sallylooswholesomecafe.com.

Foremost Wine Company
Descriptors such as "rich" and "exotic" categorize some of the globe-hopping wines on the list at San Luis Obispo's Foremost Wine Company, but they could also apply to the striking, loungelike space filled with graphic murals and a dramatic antler chandelier. During happy hour, drinks arrive with complimentary bites such as handmade flatbreads from Full of Life Flatbreads, sweet potato fries, sweet and spicy nuts, and marinated Castelvetrano olives. foremostslo.com.

Ember Restaurant
The upbeat vibe and airy, wood-sheathed interior strung with lights has kept evenings at Ember Restaurant, in Arroyo Grande, feeling like a modern barn party in full swing since it opened in early 2014. A dazzling grill crackling with flaming local red oak sits front and center, yielding bold, savory dishes such as Pollo al Mattone, a crisp, unthinkably succulent chicken cooked under a brick. emberwoodfire.com.

The Spoon Trade
In 2015, three San Francisco restaurant vets returned home to laid-back Grover Beach to open the Spoon Trade. The happy outcome has been seasonal comfort fare with a fine dining pedigree. Don't pass up a chance to tear apart a freshly baked mini loaf of sweet-tangy sourdough made with native yeast collected from local blueberries. thespoontrade.com.

 

This article was first published in December 2015 and updated in November 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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