San Luis Obispo: Camelot with a California edge

San Luis Obispo: Camelot with a California edge

If you have never been to the San Luis Obispo area, pack your
bags and take the less-than-three-hour jaunt to an amazing place
that averages only 29 days of rain per year, has gorgeous scenery,
and is surrounded by fine wineries and olive orchards in adjoining
towns and villages.
If you have never been to the San Luis Obispo area, pack your bags and take the less-than-three-hour jaunt to an amazing place that averages only 29 days of rain per year, has gorgeous scenery, and is surrounded by fine wineries and olive orchards in adjoining towns and villages. Throw in the renowned Cal Poly State University – which offers a first rate performing arts center – and enjoy seasonal whale sightings, elephant seals, joyful otter watching and Hearst Castle in nearby San Simeon.

This just barely touches the surface of a place that seems to have everything. But the best revelation of all is that the region is covered by the most marvelous restaurants this side of any continent.

A No-nonsense town

San Luis Obispo has always been a no-nonsense spot with many little known firsts. In 1990, it was the first municipality in the world to ban smoking in all public buildings including bars and restaurants. In 1982, an ordinance was passed that there would be no drive-through restaurants.

Another 1982 law banned the sale of alcoholic beverages at any business selling gasoline. There is a doctor’s office on the corner of Santa Rosa and Pacific streets that is one of very few commercial building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. San Luis also has a Carnegie Library that is now home to the San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum.

A foodie’s paradise

The well-traveled foodie will become immersed in the fine gastronomic offerings of the area. Following are just two of the many fine restaurants in the area.

– Start with Palazzo Giuseppe in San Luis Obispo, offering the ultimate in Italian food and wines. In 1988, Giuseppe Difronzo used his business plan as a project for graduation from Cal Poly, to open his first restaurant in Pismo Beach. His dedication to quality and authenticity brings the finest Italian offerings that can only be found at Giuseppe’s. Bread is baked from scratch every day in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy; nutty flavored pastas are made on the premises or imported from Italy. Wood–firing ovens create pizzas that can’t be matched anywhere. Their menu of main dishes is superb – the only problem is what to order? The “monkfish and rock shrimp with cavatelli pasta in proschiutto cream sauce” was a trip to another planet. Absolutely one of the finest creations this side of Shangri La. I have the recipe and have been given permission to share it if anyone is interested. (Request at [email protected]) The ambiance, waitstaff and service match the food.

Palazzo Giuseppe’s: 1010 Court St., San Luis Obispo (805) 541-9922

– Marisol Restaurant at The Cliffs Resort at Pismo Beach offers fine oceanfront dining. Marisol means “The Sun and the Sea” and the flavors of the food merge to the translation. The menu is a blending of coastal cuisine and modern Latin flavors created with local produce and seafood fresh off the boats of local fishermen. The “Port San Luis halibut” (caught by Captain Travis Evans), served with green rice with rock crab pepper rouille sauce was delectable and perfectly moist. That’s the first time I have seen a menu give billing to the fisherman that caught the fish. A nice touch and another must do.

Marisol at The Cliffs: 2757 Shell Beach Road, Shell Beach

Where to stay

There are plenty of places to stay with fair rates – and near the attractions you might want to visit.

– The Apple Farm has the ambiance of a country inn with the luxury of a fine hotel. A very cuddly place that has the essence of a Victorian inn, every room has a fireplace and creates the atmosphere of country elegance. They will serve you breakfast in bed and pamper you with all the charm and friendliness of a fine bed and breakfast. Ice cream is made from water power that is harnessed by a reproduced 19th century gristmill with a 14-foot waterwheel.

The Apple Farm: 2015 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo

– The Best Western Cavalier has it all. Rooms that face the ocean with balconies to enjoy the view. Fireplaces make a well-appointed room complete and sophisticated. Bathrooms come with every amenity that could be desired. This is one Best Western you must encounter to believe. Near Hearst Castle and other attractions, this is a very romantic spot and a place that’s memorable.

Best Western Cavalier: 9415 Hearst Drive, San Simeon

– The elegant, distinctive Madonna Inn is an encounter within an experience. The history and atmosphere will appear in another article. Space does not allow me to give it the attention it deserves. When you visit the area just go and enjoy. (Be sure and check out the men’s room.)

The Madonna Inn:

Stomp grapes, make wine

“First Crush Wine Experience” offers a wine-making experience from stomping grapes to pressing to the finished product. It includes a delightful lunch under the trees in the vineyard. A great idea for groups and weddings. For information and reservations for groups and weddings, visit

Olive oil tasting

Pasolive has olive oil tastings available with olive oils from their 9,000 trees with 12 olive varietals. Olives are pressed the same day they are harvested making this award-winning oil an exceptional happening. The various off-the-wall flavors include meyer lemon, lime and tangerine. There are of course more familiar essences of the unique oils available. Visitors can tour the Pasolovo olive press and have a tasting at their leisure.

Pasolovo-Olive Oil: 8530 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles. For tour times and information, call (805) 227-0186

I have only brushed the availability of this beautiful area. Need to unwind and relax? This could be the place.

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