Despite its small size, the city of San Luis Obispo has no shortage of excellent restaurants, from fine-dining establishments to pizza parlors, covering a wide range of cuisines. There are so many visit-worthy restaurants that it can be tough to choose a few to try. But rest assured, whatever your culinary mood, SLO has a restaurant for you.
1865 Craft House & Kitchen
Opened in spring 2019 inside the building of a former SLO eatery, 1865 brings Modern American cuisine to the city with a decidedly Southern twist. The restaurant is a new take on an old restaurant, combining classic charm and updated fare, including dishes such as a variety of flatbreads, mac and cheese with applewood bacon, and a famed 1865 prime rib, complete with a side of skin-on mashed potatoes. It's family-friendly and serves a mean craft cocktail. Their motto? Eat. Drink. Be Happy.
Big Sky Cafe
A local SLO staple, Big Sky has always been the place in town for farm-to-table cuisine. Take a seat wherever you like and choose from a menu of fresh market eats that includes grilled salmon over mango chutney, traditional Spanish paella, and a Big Sky Noodle Bowl filled with Asian veggies and miso broth. There are 20 area wines available by the glass, and works by local artists are on display and for sale. The eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Woodstock's Pizza SLO
Although Woodstock's got its start in Corvallis, Oregon, in the 1970s, it's found a following all its own in SLO, where Cal POLY students and families pour in for customizable pizzas and local brews. Pick your own crust, sauce (zesty red or creamy garlic), and toppings, or select from several combos already on the menu. The eatery's new “Backyard” allows patrons to reserve a table in advance, while the rest of the place is first come, first serve. Salads like the Tree Hugger—a mix of organic spinach, feta cheese, dried cranberries, and caramelized pecans—are also good.
In a town with several Thai restaurants, Thai Boat is one of SLO's most beloved—a testament to its owners, who are extremely welcoming. This family-owned place is known for its authentic cuisine. Expect traditional Thai dishes like red curry, pineapple fried rice, and chicken or tofu pa-ram. It's interior is pretty standard, and the eatery is closed on weekends, making it all the more coveted during the week.
Craving Italian food? Mama's Meatball is your place. Located within SLO's renovated Creamery Marketplace, this cozy restaurant serves up signature dishes (some, like the fettuccine Alfredo, are prepared right at your table) and freshly-baked garlic bread knots in a setting that's both relaxed and traditional, with cloth-covered tables and decor designed to transport you back to the streets of the Old Country. Mama's Meatball also serves as a banquet hall and has its own on-site bakery.
A buzzing Japanese restaurant that dishes out big city-quality cuisine in the heart of California's Central Coast, Goshi offers an all-around quality experience. The service is top-notch, and the food delicious—with everything from nigiri and sashimi to tempura, teppanyaki, and even broiled fish. Both hot and cold sake are available, along with beer and wine. Goshi also has an open mezzanine to relax on if the wait for a table is long.
High Street Market and Deli
First opened in 1927, this SLO institution has grown from being just a quirky corner store into a full-blown market and sandwich shop. There are outdoor tables for dining and barrel tables with stool seating indoors, and an overhead menu of “sandos” like the turkey, bacon, and Havarti cheese “Dutch Punch” or a good old Italian Sub with various meats and sharp provolone. Sides include potato salad, and beers, wine, coffee, and kombucha are all here to please. High Street even doles out breakfast, with a handful of egg sandwiches topped with Ortega chili, sauteed spinach, black forest ham, and more.
With a rotating selection of craft beers, a menu specializing in American cuisine made with local ingredients, and specials ranging from Half-Off Wine Tuesdays to $5 Bloody Mary brunches, Eureka! attracts crowds in droves. Despite being a regional chain (other locations include Berkeley, Austin, and Santa Barbara), this eatery has earned a solid SLO reputation for its gourmet burgers—including the coveted Bone Marrow Burger and a Fresno Fig Burger with melted goat cheese, bacon, and fig marmalade—and small-batch whiskey selection. Sporting rustic decor and boasting late-night hours (it's open until 11 p.m. or later seven nights a week), Eureka! makes for a perfect place to while away an evening.
La Esquina Taqueria
Head to SLO's Creamery Marketplace for this Mexican joint specializing in classic cuisine prepared with a twist. The margaritas here are a big hit, and pair well with the selection of chile rellenos, enchiladas, fajitas, and wet burritos. Choose from a wide offering of tequilas and mezcals, which you can sip or shoot amid the taqueria's airy and festival cantina-inspired interior. There's also an outdoor patio for SLO's seemingly endless warm days. La Esquina is open for dinner only.
The highlight here is undoubtedly the clam chowder, a local legend made from scratch daily, topped with lump crab meat, and served in a bread bowl, which is baked on-site in Splash's own artisan bakery. Splash's bakery also offers a selection of bread, pastries, and custom cakes. Guests love the bright and colorful interior filled with murals by local artist Lin Mercer, as well as the selection of fish and seafood (or oysters, calamari, etc) and chips, individually-sized pizzas, and deli sandwiches. The cafe is just as welcoming for a latte or glass of wine as it is for a meal (including breakfast!). There's also another location (the original) in nearby Pismo Beach.