If you were going to take the scenic route (PCH/101) from Los Angeles to San Francisco and wanted to spend the night and explore only one town/city in between, which would it be? I’m more of nature person than dear husband. So preferably a less rustic (hiking, camping, beach) type place. Of course, food & wine are important. Thanks!
P.S. If we pull the trigger I’ll be asking for SF dining recs later.
I’d vote to book a room at the incredible Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. My mom likes staying at the Apple Farm in SLO, which is quaint (and they have complimentary wine in the afternoon for guests). Lovely town and close proximity to the beach.
Had one of my best worst dinners there. Brought my 1 year old who was at the time normally well behaved for the first seating with barely anybody at the restaurant. Had a lovely dry old world Riesling. My kid was tired and throwing a fit. My wife and I took turns eating/drinking while the other one was in the bathroom keeping our kid behaved with the hand dryer. The fish was perfectly cooked and had a great spaetzle as well. We haven’t been back since but it would have tasted better if I didn’t inhale the plate of food.
Santa Barbara is probably a little too close, but honestly that might be one of the better options. Paso is great if you like wine (or beer or cider or brandy) and if it isn’t too hot (the above mentioned Cambria is a good option too). Big Sur is gorgeous and funky and you can stay in any price/natural state from camping to cabins to super luxury, and the Big Sur Bakery is pretty awesome. Carmel is cute and turbo-touristy but nice if you want to stroll the boulevard and window shop.
Whatever you decide, I highly recommend Jocko’s in Nipomo.
Carmel may be touristy but its beautiful!!! I understand the draconian city codes help preserve the quaintness. My favorite destination along the coast for a romantic getaway. I’ve had good meals (it’s been a while) at L’auberge Carmel where Manzke first made his mark before moving to LA.
Big Sur is also beautiful but a bit remote. Great choice if you want to avoid the crowds and seeking a quiet getaway. .
Also enjoyed dining at the Hitching post in Solvang.
Avoid the restaurant at the Madonna Inn if you decide to stay there.
Not sure if it quite fits the SM-BBQ archetype perfectly. It does have one of those giant hand-crank grills, but it’s more of an old-school steakhouse, I’d say. Big cuts of beef and baked potatoes and sort of tangentially SM-BBQ sides and stuff, though not the pure tri-tip experience. It is a hell of a place though, and I’d say definitely worth a visit.
I would say stop by Paso Robles (and the surrounding areas) to visit some wineries at the very least for tasting and/or tour (e.g. Turley though 15 mins away), and take a look if there is anything else worth exploring in the area in addition to food. Otherwise ending the drive in the afternoon/evening and spending a night in Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove should be good, laid back, and relaxing.
In terms of drive times: ~ 3 to 4 hours from LA to Paso Robles (a good break to relax and wine tour/taste) and when you are done with the area, another 2 ish hours to Monterey/Carmel.
Or if there are more wineries you want to check out in PR, maybe just spend the night there. Here’s a big list of the wineries just in PR alone