I’ve lived in San Luis Obispo for about three years now, and we even had a mini Whimsy Soul retreat here last year so I think I’ve made the cut to call myself a local.
And for such a small town, it has some great eats. If you’re still not sure where exactly SLO is… it’s on the Central Coast of California, almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It would be remiss to disregard San Luis Obispo County (aka SLO CAL) in this list of best restaurants in SLO too. Other destinations in the area include: Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles and more!
All of which are less than an hour’s drive from SLO, and SLO county was actually named one of Travel & Leisure’s 50 Best Places to Travel in 2023.
25+ Best Restaurants in SLO (& SLO County) According to a Local
Oftentimes visitors will stick to the Downtown SLO area, which is home to some of the best SLO restaurants, but there are few places tucked away in the city that I love. From fine dining to casual eats, there’s lots to choose from.
Coffee, Breakfast & Brunch
Let’s start with what might be my favorite category: coffee, breakfast and brunch. There’s so many good coffee shops in the area, but I stuck with a few of my favorites so this list isn’t too overwhelming.
With two locations in San Luis Obispo (plus one coming soon in Morro Bay!), Scout is the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee to go or hang out in their beautifully designed shops. They make fresh pastries daily, and usually have gluten-free and vegan options.
If you’re looking to take home a taste of SLO, grab a bag of HoneyCo coffee - their very own craft roasted coffee.
Field Day is simplicity at its best. They feature a rotation of different coffee from coffee roasters all over the world. You can tell the owners really love coffee because they often post on Instagram about their travels where they try new coffee roasters to feature at the shop!
They also serve homemade pastries, natural wine and beer. And you don’t want to miss their house made bagels on Tuesdays and Sundays. Next door you can also find “The Shop,” a vintage clothing store where I’ve found some of my favorite pieces!
With two locations, one in Los Osos and one recently opened in San Luis Obispo, Ascendo Coffee is another local coffee roasting company and coffee shop. The new shop in SLO is built in a converted gas station.
For cozy, skate vibes plus one of my favorite breakfast burritos, check out Nautical Bean. Two locations in SLO and a waterfront location in Los Osos, it’s a good spot for a cup of coffee and a quick bite.
I’m most familiar with the location on Parker St. in SLO, and it’s perfect for studying or working remotely - if you can snag a spot to sit!
Big Sky Cafe
Located in downtown San Luis Obispo, Big Sky Cafe is a farm-to-table restaurant and one of the most popular brunch spots in town. It’s also great for lunch and dinner with vegan and gluten free options!
The line can get long, so brace yourself for a wait. I’ve enjoyed the traditional breakfast options featuring local eggs from Cal Poly and the Nashville “Hot” Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe
Sally Loo’s has the cutest corner location not too far from San Luis Obispo downtown. The seasonal menu is a top pick (I love the pumpkin waffles in the fall!), but I often find myself ordering the Egg Sando.
They serve Cacti Coffee Roasters on the bar. I usually get a cappuccino and it never disappoints!
For some of the best croissants on the Central Coast, you need to stop by Wayward Baking in Los Osos. But that’s not all… they have all sorts of pastries and bread. Bread in which they use for avocado toast and sandwiches featuring local produce.
If Spearhead wasn’t in Paso Robles, we would be there every weekend. The coffee is that good. They roast it in house, and “serve the highest quality and ethically sourced specialty coffees from around the world.”
It’s definitely worth grabbing before wine tasting in Paso!
I take everyone who visits me in SLO to Hidden Kitchen in Cayucos, and will never shut up about their blue corn waffles. Savory or sweet, you can’t go wrong, but my personal favorite is probably a toss up between San Luis Sunrise and Avila Avo. I also love the Canyon Carnitas tacos for lunch.
After you order at the window, I recommend finding a seat on the outdoor patio. It gets pretty busy, but usually tables turnover before your food comes out. If the line to order is long, grab a coffee from Cayucos Coffee while you wait.
There’s also a second location in Cambria, but get there early because the blue waffles can sell out!
More Coffee, Breakfast & Brunch Spots
- Del Monte Cafe
- Bon Temps Creole Cafe
- Breakfast Buzz
- Banner Coffee Company in Arroyo Grande
- Joebella in Atascadero
- Country Touch Cafe in Atascadero
- Cambria Coffee Roasting Company
- House of Bagels Central Coast
Cafes & Casual Eats
To be honest, I’m a casual diner. I will choose a casual sit down restaurant over fine dining every day. These are some of my personal local staples that are good for lunch of dinner plus some that I’ve been meaning to get to!
High Street Market & Deli
High Street Deli is another place I try to take visitors. Named after the street the original location sits on, it has the best sandwiches in town in my biased opinion. My favorite sandwich is the Dutch Punch served on Dutch crunch bread, but you really can’t go wrong with whatever you order.
I recommend ordering online ahead of time because it gets busy. Or visit the second location in Los Osos! They’re known for their 420 special (you get it…) where you can get sandwiches for half off after 4:20 p.m.
You can also “Make It Stoney” any time of day - which is just the sandwich maker’s choice of extra ingredients added to your chosen sandwich.
Petra Mediterranean Pizza & Grill
Ya’ll, I’m hungry just thinking about Petra, especially the housemade pita bread. You truly can’t go wrong with anything you order, but my favorites are: Tri Tip Shawarma Plate (with half turmeric rice, half Mediterranean salad base), BBQ Cilantro Chicken pizza and Tri Tip pizza.
It’s a great takeout option! We’ve even brought it with us all the way to Shell Beach to watch the sunset.
When I mentioned restaurants tucked away from downtown, I meant Le Ciel Crepe Cafe. If you drive down Broad Street, it’s located in an inconspicuous shopping center at the intersection of Orcutt Road.
Take your pick of delicious sweet and savory crepes, but I recommend ordering at least one of each to share. I liked the De Tolosa with what I assumed was homemade pesto and the Nacimiento with sauteed bananas.
Fairly new to SLO, the SLO Public Market features a variety of restaurants such as Bing’s Bao Buns, Jay Bird’s Hot Chicken and Kraken Coffee Company.
I recommend grabbing a charcuterie board from Central Coast Creamery (or buy the goods you need to create your own), a beer from Bottlecraft and grab more locally made goods from the SLO General Store as a souvenir.
Old SLO BBQ
Old SLO BBQ is the place if you’re looking for Santa Maria style BBQ. As a native Texan, eating barbecue outside of Texas is different, but Old SLO is pretty good. I also like Rib Line or the barbecue sandwiches and salads from Firestone Grill.
Craving clam chowder? Splash Cafe is famous for its legendary clam chowder, so much so in fact that it has repeatedly won first place at the Pismo Beach Annual Clam Festival. You can visit the original location near the Pismo Beach Pier or the second location in SLO to get your fill.
Taste offers a unique eating experience, but super simple. You start by choosing something to share - I recommend the Grilled Brie or Garlic Fries. Then, decide between a Trio, Duo or Quartet where you choose three, two or four dishes respectively.
The lunch and dinner menu consists mostly of sliders - beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken and vegetarian, but you can also choose a salad or brussel sprouts as part of your combo. The Macs are also really good!
A new local pizza to go joint that we recently tried, and it’s definitely in the running for best pizza in SLO. My Friend Mike’s has a fairly simple menu, but a lot of the pizzas come with some mad scientist hacks like adding hot honey!
We tried the Shroomies pizza. It was very umami, and delicious! The best part? You get a good sized pizza for the cost. I can’t wait to try more!
If you’re looking for something simple and fresh, SLO Provisions is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I recommend the house-roasted rotisserie chicken and the Kale and Cauliflower Caesar.
Kuma. is the best kept not-so-secret of Los Osos for sushi, ramen and teriyaki bowls. We go for ramen. They have great deals like $5 hand rolls every Tuesday, and half off ramen while it’s raining.
I love the Spicy Miso Ramen with pork, and I usually add mushrooms and sweet corn.
Palo Mesa has multiple locations, but the Arroyo Grande location is the best because it serves wood fired pizza. Last time I tried the Nuovo Anno with pear, pancetta, gorgonzola, arugula, garlic, parmesan, balsamic and lemon olive oil.
Next time, I’ll either order without pancetta or swap the gorgonzola with mozzerella - only because the combination of the two was a little too salty for my tastes!
Jeffery’s Wine Country BBQ
There’s so many options in Downtown Paso Robles, and most are really good. Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ is a little hidden away in an alley, and has really good BBQ (surprise, surprise) and mac & cheese.
Another favorite to take out-of-towners, Tognazzi’s is my go-to in Morro Bay for fish and chips and oysters. My boyfriend and I have our order down to a science: Barbecued Oysters on the Half Shell with extra horseradish to start, then the 5-Piece Fish & Chips to share.
If we’re really hungry, we’ll add a cup of clam chowder and/or the shrimp cocktail (dockside style).
More Cafes & Casual Eats
Less Casual Lunch & Dinner Spots
As I mentioned before, I’m more of a casual gal, but these are some of the more upscale-ish San Luis Obispo restaurants that are perfect for lunch or dinner. I say less casual because these spots aren’t exactly fine dining (or not all at least), but it’s a step up from casual.
Goshi Japanese Restaurant
Goshi is at the top of my list! We’re actually planning on going for the first time for our anniversary. The menu is pretty simple, but features authentic Japanese food. I’m curious to try the Takoyaki from the a la carte menu - bite sized octopus fried inside a ball of batter.
It’s located in The Creamy Marketplace in Downtown SLO, along with a few others on this list!
A more upscale place to get wood-fired pizza, the best way to describe Bear and The Wren (located in The Creamery!) is cozy. Definitely a place to get reservations or ask to sit at the bar for quick seating.
My favorite thing I’ve ordered is the Neaplitan Style Bee Stang on a gluten-friendly crust, but really everything is good!
La Esquina Taqueria
If you’re craving a margarita, La Esquina is your place! The food is pretty good to pair with it too, and they have a pretty extensive vegetarian menu.
I really loved the Strawberry/Jalepeno Margarita, and the Chicken Enchiladas.
Located directly beside the San Luis Obispo Mission de Tolosa, Luna Red offers a globally inspired menu with dishes like Spanish paella, French duck confit and New Zealand lamb lollipops.
Enjoy creekside dining on Novo’s outside patio, and enjoy an assortment of global cuisines like the Novo Lettuce Wraps, Thai Green Chicken Curry and Korean Short Ribs.
It’s a sister restaurant to Luna Red and Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria (the owner’s first venture).
Park 1039 is self-proclaimed as SLO’s most exclusive dining experience. As mentioned before, I’m a pretty casual gal and haven’t been myself, but Kara speaks super highly of it! The rotating menu features fresh, high quality food and wine.
There are no reservations at Flour House, so first come first serve, and you better get there early for housemade pasta and Pizza Napoletana. The restaurant is also known for “Meter Monday” - 1 pizza, multiple tastings ordered by the ½ meter (3 tastings) or 1 meter (6 tastings).
Other Less Casual Lunch & Dinner Spots
- Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica (SLO and Pismo)
- Ada’s Fish House in Pismo Beach
- Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach
- The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar in Paso Robles (make a reservation and get the cornbread!)
- Mistura (Peruvian)
- Brasserie SLO (part of Hotel Cerro)
- Nate’s On Marsh
- Buona Tavola
- Les Petites Canailles in Paso Robles
Cocktails, Sweet Treats, Baked Goods & More
Another disclaimer, I’m not a big drinker, so I combined cocktails with sweet treats and baked goods which I would eat everyday.
Do you love fancy cocktails? Sidecar Cocktail Co. is a must visit! From their giant menu of specialty cocktails to the light bites, you’re sure to find something. Try visiting for Happy Hour - all day on Wednesday and from 4-6pm Thursday through Saturday.
Madonna Inn is not like other hotels - famous for its unique decor and pink dining room at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House, but for me, it’s the cake. The Pink Champagne Cake is a favorite, but I really like the Carrot Cake as well.
Nite Creamery offers very creamy ice cream made with nitrogen, and has added experience of seeing the cloud of nitrogen gas fall down. I recommend ordering the Nite Puff - a puffy waffle paired with one of their signature flavors.
One of our absolute favorite spots in SLO? SLO Do Co Donuts with 100+ different kinds of donuts every day. You can prep by viewing the extensive menu online beforehand, but honestly it’s still going to be an on-the-spot decision since it’ll depend on what they have available at the moment.
My favorites are the Raised Crumb and Glazed, Filled Vienna Cream and whatever monthly special they have going on!
Avila Valley Barn is more of a farm to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in Avila Beach, but there’s also a Bakery, Chicken Shack and Smokehouse and Sweetshop on site. I love the ice cream, specifically during special events like the fall time when the barn turns into a sunflower field, pumpkin patch experience and I had the best, most unique apple cider float! Fingers crossed, they bring it back next year!
A trip to Cambria isn’t complete without a slice from Linn’s Easy As Pie Shoe & Cafe. You have to try the signature Olallieberry Pie, and I really like the cream pie options.
It’s situated right behind Linn’s Restaurant which features country meals like pot pies and meatloaf. Good for any meal of the day!
A speakeasy in Paso Robles? Yes, you can find Eleven Twenty-Two down the alley behind Pappy McGregor’s Pub in downtown Paso Robles. Lots of fun, unique and experiential cocktails to choose from!
During the height of the panini, they switched gears to an outdoors only speakeasy with a tiki theme. You can’t say they don’t keep things interesting!
There’s a fair amount of Breweries in SLO to choose from, but we really like There Does Not Exist. It’s minimal style, low key vibes and good, cold beers are a welcome retreat after a long week! Others we like are Oak & Otter Brewing Co., Central Coast Brewing, BarrelHouse Brewing and SLO Brew Rock.
Tin City is an industrial park with a bunch of wine tasting rooms plus places like BarrelHouse Brewing, Tin City Cider Co and Negranti Creamery which specializes in sheep dairy ice cream.
Other Cocktails, Sweet Treats & Baked Goods
- Fosters Freeze in Morro Bay
- Highwater SLO
- Hush-Harbor Artisan Bakery & Cafe in Atascadero
- Tetto Rooftop Bar in Paso Robles (part of The Piccolo hotel)
- High Bar at Hotel San Luis Obispo
Do you have a favorite spot in SLO that I missed? Let us know in the comments!