Road Trip! Santa Barbara to SLO, (CA)- Looking for places/things to go/do/see/eat

Buddies and I are taking a road trip to camp north of Santa Barbara soon, and I wanted to get some input on some places we can checkout. Including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, can you all recommend some notable places to stop by?

Looking particularly for good places to eat, preferably smaller hole in the walls or smaller restaurants you can’t find elsewhere (i.e. family owned). Our budget is on the cheaper side ($10-15/meal for a dinner, would be great to find some good fast food $5-10 joints)

Any cool small towns to be sure to stop by in between as well?

Activities to try out? another friend of mine mentioned there is a handful of wine tasting places up there? (and if you know, include a rough cost of said activity)

Thanks for any input

Avila Beach is a cool little ‘hidden’ community. And Fatcat’s there is a good place for breakfast.

In Pismo Beach, Splash Cafe has legendary clam chowder. It’s a popular place, but definitely unique.

SLO has tons of good cheap eats since it’s college town. Others will probably have more current info than I do. The Frog & Peach used to be a really fun bar.

San Miguel is the best mission in that area to visit, IMO.

Santa Barbara is only about two hours from SLO (if that).
SLO has got a ton of great eating places. The Blue Sky Cafe is great for breakfast. Margie’s diner serves large portions at a very reasonable cost.
A handful of wine tasting places? Dude if you stopped at every wine tasting place between downtown SB you will not make SLO before you have a DUI. There are a ton of wine tasting places along the way. There are several in Solvang which you should stop at if you have the time. Hit one of the bakeries for a pastry and a cup of coffee.
Just off the 101 in buellton is Pea Soup Anderson’s If you are on a budget you can get a free pea soup dinner. You just have to break the record and it is on the house (15 bowls IIRC) PSA is open long hours for Breakfast lunch and dinner.
It is out of your budget range, but if you can stretch it, a dinner at the Hitching Post is worth the money. Just don’t drink any of the damn merlot.
Again out of your price range, and a bit off the beaten path, a meal at Mattie’s Tavern in Los Olivios is worth the trip and the price. Both of these are world class restaurants.

Back on the subject of wineries east of SLO is Claiborne and Churchill Winery Great white wines, and a building made out of straw.

Some of the gnarliest trees in California can be seen just outside of SLO at Los Osos Oaks State Preserve.

In Santa Barbara, good cheap Mexican food is to be found at La Superica (Julia Child’s favorite Mexican restaurant), Los Arroyos, Super Cucas Taqueria, El Zarape, and Chilango’s.

The Italian Grocery has killer Super Deluxe Torpedo Sandwiches. Sushi Teri House has cheap Japanese food, so long as you don’t get into the sushi too much. The Natural Cafe is good for vegetarian fare.

Isla Vista is the town next to UCSB and is fun to have a look see. Make sure you drive down Del Playa (last street next to the ocean) to see the perfect college lifestyle. Sam’s to Go in Isla Vista doesn’t have the greatest food, but It’s the prime spot for people watching. Silvergreens across the street has good cheap soup/sandwich/salad combos. There are tons of cheap restaurants in Isla Vista catering to poor college students and they are all located around the “Loop” In downtown Isla Vista. The farmer’s market in downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday Night 3:30 to 7:30 is also great for people watching.

As others have said, there are boatloads of wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara including the ones in Sideways. Unfortunately, the humongous Zaca Fire is making everything there completely smokey, and I think there are some road closures.

You must have lunch or dinner at Spike’s Place in San Luis Obispo.

They claim to have invented the Potato Skin. The burgers are great, and if you’re a beer lover, they have 40 different beers from around the world for you to try.

If you’re a regular you can ask for the Beer Card. It’s a punch card with numbers 1 through 40 on it. Each time you try one of the beers they will punch the corresponding number on your card. When you have tried all 40, you get a small plaque with your name engraved on it on the wall, and you get a T-shirt that says “I went around the world at Spike’s Place.”

If you know who to look for I have two plaques on their wall. Not bad, considering I moved out of SLO in 1984.

570 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 544-7157

Definitely check out the restroom at the Madonna Inn. Maybe have lunch or dinner in the Pepto Bismol pink steak house.

Hit SLO on Thursday night, they have a great “Farmers market” with lots of fantastic BBQ.

We stayed there once for a lark. I recommend the bathroom, but not the restaurant.

As for wineries, if you are old enough to remember Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, you might be interested in the Fess Parker Winery. I was there for a conference event. Fess also owns the nice Doubletree on the Santa Barbara beach, which was where our workshop was held. Never saw Fess, though.

There was a Dopefest there a few years ago. The Pick & Shovel room was party central all weekend long. Good times.

I don’t recall if we actually ate in the restaurant or not. We might have only had drinks. It was a fun assault on the eyes anyway.

Try El Citio on Fairview just over the overpass to the left towards the ocean next to McDonald’s in Goleta. It’s my hometown, just above Santa Barbara when you’re heading towards Slo town. They have the best Carnitas Tortas in the whole world.
Anne’s bakery just up Hollister from there in the Costco shopping center has excellent ham and cheese croissants.
On the Mesa in Santa Barbara there is a little asian-owned bagel shop right next to Albertsons that has salt bagels to die for.

If you do stop at the Italian Grocers, please tell Tino Craig says Hi and he will stop in to see him soon and not another five years!

I’m pretty much in agreement here. SB isn’t known for too many cheap places but Darryl has a good starting point here. I personally think that Superica is overrated. Most Sunday mornings it will have a line around the block mostly with people from L.A. thinking that they’re in on a secret.

I love Los Arroyos. It’s on West Figueroa half a block off of State. Chilango’s is good too.

I haven’t been to Italian Grocery but I love the sandwiches at Panino which is on the 800 block of Santa Barbara street near the Precidio.

Agreed on Sushi Teri. Go for the teriyaki there but not the sushi. The cheapest good sushi place is probably Ichiban on the Mesa. For a spurge and some of the best sushi around go for Arigato downtown or Sakana in Montecito.

If we’re talking Goleta, El Citio is very good as well as Lila’s on Hollister.

It’s actually Anna’s. They also have other good sandwiches there and great cookies.

Another sandwich shop that I like and just remembered is Norton’s pastrami a couple of doors down from Los Arroyos.

Anna’s, right, they closed the one by my parent’s house when they remodeled the shopping center. I think I’ve lost 10 lbs from not eating those croissants the past five years.

Mom and Dad love a place they call ‘Cheap Chinese’, but that is not the name, on Hollister in Goleta. It’s near a thrift store on the mountain side of the street.

Yep, right by Jasper’s which moved with it but change its name.

New China?

If you like seafood be sure to stop at the Sea Chest in Cambria, on your way up.

New China is the one, thanks.

They moved Jaspers?! What’s the new name? The food was OK, but I loved the bar with the fire and you could smoke inside. Of course, you can’t smoke anywhere there, now.

It’s on like it’s fourth incarnation since then. It’s called something like The El Camino Brewing Company now and isn’t anything at all like Jasper’s anymore.

On the way up where? Cambria is north of SLO. At least it was last Saturday when I visited it.
The Habit has three locations in SB and they make a great burger.

I boycott the one downtown because they do not serve chiliburgers at that location.

Hajario, I agree that La Superica is probably overrated. I heard that Sunset Magazine ranked it as the best taco stand on the west coast some years ago (maybe some strong arming from Julia Child). I still like it and try to hit it at least once a month. I like El Sitio in Goleta too. I just noticed there was one in Santa Barbara also, but kind of midtown so I rarely make it there. I doubt you can get out of Arigato for 15 bucks though (I note that you mentioned it being a splurge). Ichiban is cheap, especially for a lunch special.

Well, I guess there’s a couple of new restaurants that I have to hit.

As to the OP, Montana Del Oro has some spectacular ocean vistas, hiking and mountain biking. Morro Bay, just north of it, is a cool funky little town. San Simeon may be a bit far north for your trip but there’s boatloads of friggen’ huge elephant seals up there along with a modest little hovel called Hearst Castle. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s nice.