Foodie's Guide to Paso Robles & San Luis Obispo

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Advisor - Rebecca Hanson
Curated By

Rebecca Hanson

  • USA

  • California

  • Active Travel

  • Boutique Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Domestic Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Outdoors

  • Coastal

  • Foodie

boardwalk next to san dunes during daytime
Curator’s statement

The central coast of California should not be overlooked with its remarkable scenery and unique character. Very much the laidback sister to Napa and Sonoma Valleys, San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Paso Robles (Paso) are towns with totally distinct personalities, and you'll fall in love with their easy feel and tranquil settings. I was first introduced to SLO when a close friend had had enough of the Hollywood scene and decided to re-root in this special town. Boasting rolling hills and sprawling vineyards near a gorgeous (and varied) coastline, you will marvel at the low-key vibes of this university town (Cal Poly). Just 30 miles north lies Paso Robles (The Pass of the Oaks) with its beautiful, shady town square and easy pace. Paso is very much a cowboy town which makes it markedly different from the hippie vibe of SLO. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire summer on the Central Coast a few years ago and enjoyed long morning walks along the coast, lazy afternoons at vineyards and award-winning meals at food trucks and Michelin-starred restaurants. The Central Coast of California is a foodie’s dream, that is if you prefer to spend the afternoon at a farmer's market and wear jeans to dinner.

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Where to stay in Paso Robles & San Luis Obispo

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Things to do in Paso Robles & San Luis Obispo

two orange chairs overlooking the mountains during daytime
  • Helicopter tours of the valley and coast (Paso and/or San Luis Obispo) - Breathtaking! A few companies operate out of the regional airports.

  • Nature walks - Hike any one of the “9 Sisters” mountain ranges. Tons of walking trails, preserves and parks around both SLO and Paso. Lots of options for coastal walks/hikes as well.

  • Shop the locally owned boutiques of Paso Robles - General Store and AndBe Boutique are favorites.

  • Farmer’s market (Paso) - There are a few weekly markets held in the downtown square. Super well-shaded with a wonderful selection of local foods and crafts.

  • Farmer’s market (SLO) - Thursday evenings. Enjoy live music, farmers’ stands and food trucks. A super casual and fun way to enjoy the evening. Shops stay open late and it’s a great time!

  • Beach walk, Cayucos - An easy 20-minute drive from SLO, there are plenty of spots to pull off, park the car and talk a long beach walk. Very serene.

  • Tin City - Located a few miles from downtown Paso, you’ll discover a warehouse district enclave with numerous tasting rooms and food trucks, test kitchens and restaurants.

In addition to tastings and beautiful wineries, many of the vineyards (300+) in the Edna Valley offer delicious farm-to-table fare.

  • Paso Robles: Daou (my top pick with beautiful views from the hilltop) and Halter Ranch, Eberle Winery (check to see if caves open; there was a period of closure due to Covid regulations).

  • San Luis Obispo: Chamisal (delicious whites) and Biddle Ranch.

Day Trips

Santa Barbara and Montecito make great day trips from SLO and Paso Robles.

Places to eat & drink in Paso Robles & San Luis Obispo

table with white tablecloth next to an orange building

Places to eat & drink in Paso Robles

BL Brasserie - Hang your hat (yes, you’ll find a row of rancher’s hats of fellow diners) and enjoy this laidback bistro with a varied menu. I highly recommend the French onion soup and any variety of their local whites.

Fish Gaucho - Top-notch margaritas and Mexican fare in this cool cantina. Delicious appetizers and other craft cocktails as well!

Negranti Creamery - Off of the town green, small-batch produced whole sheep’s milk ice cream. Truly gourmet.

Any of the offerings at Tin City.

Places to eat & drink in San Luis Obispo

Bistro Granada - Even if you are not staying in the attached hotel (a top pick of mine among all boutique hotels in the US), the hotel’s restaurant (Bistro Granada) is also wonderful and offers a list of farm-to-table specialties. Be sure to make reservations and ask for a table on the patio.

Mint + Craft - Simple, delicious breakfasts and smoothies. Healthy, clean eating. A wonderful staff and a cute section of quirky gifts for cooks and kitchens.

Giuseppe’s Cunica Rustica - Delicious pizzas and handmade pasta, fresh seafood and meats. Giuseppe’s features cooking from Puglia, the southernmost region of Italy. Do not miss the Ravioli de Zucca (butternut squash). Ask for a table on the back patio.

Scout Coffee (Garden Street location) - Coffee to end all coffees, do not miss a cup of this artisan-crafted liquid gold! Delicious homemade pastries as well. Very cool, relaxed vibe - no rush, wonderful staff.

Big Sky Cafe - The best omelettes in town.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out 3-Day Beginner's Guide to Rome.

Advisor - Rebecca Hanson

Travel Advisor

Rebecca Hanson

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.