Where to eat in San Luis Obispo

Photo: Preston Gannaway, Special To The Chronicle

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Local sand dabs with quinoa tabbouleh salad are a lunch special at Palazzo Giuseppe.

Local sand dabs with quinoa tabbouleh salad are a lunch special at Palazzo Giuseppe.

Photo: Preston Gannaway, Special To The Chronicle

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Novo Restaurant offers American and Asian cuisine, including a mixed lettuce salad with goat cheese and local apples, left. Ample outdoor seating, above, is part of the scene at the restaurant, and the patio offers a view of San Luis Obispo Creek. less Novo Restaurant offers American and Asian cuisine, including a mixed lettuce salad with goat cheese and local apples, left. Ample outdoor seating, above, is part of the scene at the restaurant, and the patio ... more Photo: Preston Gannaway, Special To The Chronicle

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Ample outdoor seating is part of the scene at Novo Restaurant, where the patio offers a view of San Luis Obispo Creek.

Ample outdoor seating is part of the scene at Novo Restaurant, where the patio offers a view of San Luis Obispo Creek.

Photo: Preston Gannaway, Special To The Chronicle

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The pork belly appetizer with orange chili glaze and daikon wonton chips at Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

The pork belly appetizer with orange chili glaze and daikon wonton chips at Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

Photo: Preston Gannaway, Special To The Chronicle

San Luis Obispo -- A friend joked that the dining scene is San Luis Obispo is SLO food, meaning you won't find Michelin stars but you will encounter wonderful comfort food, locally sourced ingredients, fun servers and some eye-catching locations.

Even during busy periods - think Cal Poly parents' weekend - it's relatively painless to get a nice table at an acceptable hour.

Downtown is a great bet for visitors, but outlying locations also offer intriguing options.

A warning for those accustomed the Bay Area dining scene: You're no longer in the land of small portions. Think splits.

Apple Farm

You're staying on Monterey Street's motel row and have a desire for a more substantial morning repast than your lodging's continental breakfast. Voila! The Apple Farm is an easy walk.

The cowboy sausage, a spicy grilled link, is served with fried potatoes, onion, green and red peppers and two eggs ($12.50). It'll supercharge a long day of walking and hiking, and it comes with a large yet light house-made biscuit and preserves.

The Apple Farm is also a hotel, and serves lunch and dinner, too.

2015 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 544-2040. www.applefarm.com. Wine and beer. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Big Sky

The owner had a Cajun restaurant in Los Angeles, and the staff says that influence is here, too. I'll grant a sliver of that, but for me the bottom line is an eclectic mix of comfort food, some of which is totally luxe.

The lobster mac and cheese ($18.50) with smoked bacon and peas is creamy decadence. If you're worried that the stern person at the next table is a cardiologist, try the Italian tuna, basil and cannellini bean salad ($12.95), a refreshing yet filling dish with a lemony zing.

1121 Broad St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 545-5401. www.bigskycafe.com. Wine and beer. credit cards accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Eureka

You have found it. This small chain (10 outlets in California and one in Seattle) specializes in converting tired, old spaces into hip, upscale joints. The San Luis Obispo location is a smart-looking former bank. Although Eureka prides itself on its whiskey selection, the secrets are the local beers and fab burgers.

The original burger - a 7-ounce patty on a soft bun with traditional garnish ($9.75) - is a great choice. You can balance the fat with a kale salad ($8.95), which combines the ubiquitous greens with toasted garlic and walnuts in a lemony vinaigrette. If you want to go for a touch more gusto, lasso the cowboy burger ($11.95), which adds bacon, shoestring fried onions and a knock-your-socks-off beer barbecue sauce.

1141 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 903-1141. www.eurekarestaurantgroup.com. Full bar. credit cards accepted. Lunch and dinner daily.

Granada

This restaurant is one of the most charming places in town - especially the front patio. It's a delight, with comfy cushions and pillows on the perimeter benches. Yet it's also an ironic blend of old school and hip - "bitchy" is used on the wine list. Good choices for food include the rock fish ceviche ($13) and a wonderful Cuban panini ($14 ) with braised pork, cheddar and peppers.

1126 Morro St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 544-9110. www.granadahotelandbistro.com. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Lunch Monday-Saturday; brunch Sunday; dinner nightly.

Koberl at Blue

This converted space in a historic downtown building specializes in locally sourced fare with a twist on American tradition.

The duck sausage flatbread ($10) is a savory, almost pizza-esque, appetizer that's big enough to share. I was in heaven to find sauteed veal liver ($28) with bacon and a hearty Cabernet reduction and mashed potatoes with crème fraîche. On the other hand, the seared ahi ($32) offers a lighter choice.

998 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 783-1135. www.epkoberl.com. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Dinner nightly.

Madonna Inn

Alex Madonna opened this quintessential California destination in December 1958, some four months after that other Madonna was born. For the past three decades, the non-connection has been a source of confusion for millions of teenagers, and probably a few parents.

The inn is heavy on pink and gaudy, with a huge infusion of tourists. But that's all part of the fun. I ate here for the first time when I was 6 years old, and it's my go-to lunch spot when we drive Highway 101.

The Copper Cafe is a classic coffee shop that includes the bakery's over-the-top confections. The house-made corned beef hash ($13.45) is a tender delight, with two perfectly runny poached eggs and home fries.

The current version of my lunch favorite is the avocado salad with tuna ($14.95).

The main dining room, Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steak House, is old-school California dining, albeit with pink leather.

100 Madonna Rd., San Luis Obispo; (805) 543-3000. www.madonnainn.com Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily in the Copper Cafe; dinner nightly in the Steak House.

F. McLintock's

McLintock's is famous for its classic Santa Maria-style barbecue, a boast supported by the fact that its outdoor stall at the Thursday farmers' market has by far the longest lines. Skip the queue and head to the restaurant.

The tri-tip sandwich ($10.95) is simple yet grand: slices of medium, tender beef on a toasted roll, with tangy house-made barbecue sauce. The best side imaginable is the trail camp beans, a soulful combo of beans, pork and beef in a mild smoky sauce.

686 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 541-0686. www.mclintocks.com. Full bar. credit cards accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Novo

Novo is like opening an exquisitely wrapped package: It's a shotgun building that unfolds onto an expansive patio overlooking San Luis Obispo Creek and is a charming place to eat.

The menu has a diverse mix of mostly Asian and American offerings. Favorite appetizers include the avocado shrimp spring rolls ($13) and the potato samosas ($9) with a refreshing mint chutney. For mains, the duck breast ($19) with black rice is a good choice. Although dubbed a salad, the lamb kefta ($14), with spiced lamb patties and a Mediterranean-inspired salad, holds its own as an entree.

726 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 543-3986. www.novorestaurant.com. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sunday.

Palazzo Giuseppe

This popular downtown spot serves lunch and dinner both indoors and outdoors. The menu is classic Italian, with antipasti, pasta and mains, but pastas such as timpano (a drum-shaped cylinder of baked pasta stuffed with sausage, meatball, provolone, egg and penne), immersed in a rich marinara ($17) can easily work as a main course. The star of the show is the pizza, including the classic margherita ($14) with one of the best crusts I've tasted - thin, with just the right crispiness. A portable wood-fired oven turns out pizzas at the weekly farmers' market.

1010 Court St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 541-9922. www.palazzogiuseppe.com. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Lunch and dinner daily; brunch weekends.

Sidecar

Sidecar serves lunch and dinner, but it's known for brunch on steroids - think a pitcher of bloody Marys ($25). The classic eggs Benedict or croque madame (each $12) pair well with your share of the pitcher.

1127 Broad St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 540-5340. www.sidecarslo.com. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Lunch weekdays; brunch weekends; dinner nightly.

Splash

Another motel row offering (plus a downtown location), this popular cafe is known for its clam chowder and house-baked pastries. Order at the counter and grab a table. Hint for your trip home: Pick up a package of four pints of frozen chowder ($17.95).

1491 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 544-7567. Also at 893 Higuera St.; (805) 439-2990. www.splashcafe.com. Beer and wine. credit cards accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Urbane Cafe

Urbane is a quick stop for a healthy lunch downtown, with sandwiches, soups and salads. Sandwiches - such as the grilled Italian chicken ($7.35) with basil, tomato and mozzarella - come with a side salad.

952 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 541-5100. www.urbanecafe.com. No alcohol. credit cards accepted. Lunch and dinner daily.

Allen Matthews is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @AllenJMatthews

Source : http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/Where-to-eat-in-San-Luis-Obispo-5112058.php

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