20 Best Restaurants in San Luis Obispo, CA

This article was written by local contributor Damien Klein & edited by the Travel Lens team.

 Best Restaurants in San Luis Obispo, CA
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One of my favorite things about living in San Luis Obispo, California, is the vibrant and diverse food scene.

From tasty taco spots to cozy Italian trattorias, there's truly something for every palate in this beautiful Central Coast city.

Whether I'm grabbing a quick bite on the go or leisurely dining out with friends and family, I'm always thrilled by the variety and quality of restaurants in this charming town.

In this article, I'll be sharing the 20 best restaurants in San Luis Obispo, California, so be prepared to satisfy your cravings and embark on a culinary adventure like no other!

People's Kitchen San Luis Obispo

As a frequent visitor to People's Kitchen San Luis Obispo, I can't help but rave about this amazing establishment.

Their menu is filled with popular dishes that are not only delicious but also wholesome and nutritious.

They are known for their breakfast and brunch, American (traditional) cuisine, and even offer diners a taste of American (new), seafood, and breweries.

What I particularly love about People's Kitchen is its commitment to serving the community.

They offer fantastic deals for families, such as their platter option that allows you to save more and cater to each family member's preferences.

This makes it a great spot to bring the whole family for a satisfying and affordable meal.

One of the most memorable aspects of dining at People's Kitchen is their mouthwatering biscuits.

Gold Land BBQ

Ribs and tri-tip at Gold Land BBQ

Being a fan of BBQ, I was thrilled to discover Gold Land BBQ in my neighborhood.

This place offers a unique California BBQ experience, featuring seasonal ingredients and quality meats cooked over a live oak fire.

Not only do they cater to events, pop-ups, and festivals, but they also provide services for weddings, corporate events, and parties.

Upon visiting Gold Land BBQ for the first time, I was blown away by its delicious Santa Maria-style BBQ.

The tri-tip was undoubtedly the best I've ever tasted, and the open-flame cooking gave it a wonderful and unique flavor.

As someone who usually skips chicken at BBQ joints, I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing their chicken turned out to be.

The skin was crackling with seasonings, while the inside remained moist and succulent.

In addition to the mouth-watering meats, Gold Land BBQ offers some fantastic side dishes.

The vinegar slaw was to die for, and their white sauce, which I tried with my chicken, was simply delectable.

I later found out that they sell their private recipe BBQ sauce and rub at farmers' markets in the area, which is perfect for those who want to recreate the Gold Land experience at home.

Gold Land BBQ also has a strong presence in the community, with several pop-ups in the area and a partnership with Harvestly.co., which allows for home delivery of their delicious BBQ.

Being a veteran-owned business just adds another layer of appreciation for this fantastic local gem.


A roll at Goshi

I recently spent a day exploring the Paso Robles wine country and strolling the charming streets of downtown San Luis Obispo.

As a lover of Japanese cuisine, I was thrilled to discover Goshi, an amazing Japanese restaurant that has become a favorite spot in the county.

The bustling atmosphere and simple decor made me feel right at home.

I was especially impressed by the extensive menu, which offered a wide variety of authentic Japanese dishes, including a large selection of sushi and other traditional favorites.

During my visit, I ordered a variety of rolls, including a Shrimp Tempura Roll, Calamari Tempura Roll, Spicy Albacore with Garlic Chips Roll, Salmon/Avocado Roll, and Yellowtail Roll.

Each roll was not only delicious but also beautifully presented, showcasing the skill and attention to detail of the talented chefs.

I also tried the Cuddlefish Nigiri, which was simply divine.

Another time, I opted for the Kanpai boat for two, which came with miso soup, cucumber salad, an appetizer, 10 pieces of assorted nigiri sushi, and a choice of assorted sashimi and rice.

The freshness of the ingredients and the homemade special sauces truly elevated each dish, making it evident that Goshi believes in using only the best ingredients handled by expert chefs.

I’ve even ordered take-out from Goshi on occasion, and the customer service has always been top-notch.

Although they don't have a teppanyaki grill, the authentic Japanese dining experience more than makes up for it.


Mushroom burger at Ziggy's

I recently stopped by Ziggy's for a quick and satisfying plant-based meal.

This compact and casual place offers delicious vegan tacos, burgers, and milkshakes, with gluten-free options available.

The menu is simple, but they have perfected their dishes, and I can personally vouch for their popular mushroom Ziggy burger.

I also tried their Korean Cauliflower bites with gochujang sauce, which was a flavorful delight.

The atmosphere inside Ziggy's is laid-back and welcoming.

They have a limited seating area, with only two small tables inside and one outside, so it's more of a to-go spot.

The food was prepared quickly, and I enjoyed the good music while I waited.

Located in a shared shopping complex, parking can be a bit limited, but I managed to find a spot easily.

Next time, I'm looking forward to trying their breakfast burrito, which I've heard great things about.

Taqueria El Guero

Birria tacos at Taqueria El Guero

Taqueria El Guero is a family-owned and operated restaurant that has quickly become a favorite spot of mine for mouthwatering Mexican cuisine.

The moment I walked in, I was greeted by a lively and colorful atmosphere and a friendly staff that spoke both English and Spanish.

Being vegetarian, I was happy to see that Taqueria El Guero is vegetarian-friendly.

I ordered a delicious vegetarian burrito that came with fresh chips and perfectly pickled carrots and onions.

The salsas were absolutely amazing, as well!

My partner ordered the popular Birria tacos, and we both agreed that they were delicious, with the flavorful consomé being a delightful addition.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Tres Leches cake.

The restaurant is also wheelchair accessible, kid-friendly, and able to accommodate large groups, which makes it an ideal spot for everyone.

Chinelo Mexican Restaurant

Burrito at Chinelo Mexican Restaurant

I recently decided to try out Chinelo Mexican Restaurant with some friends.

The restaurant is women-owned and operated, which is something I always love to support.

They also have a pet-friendly outdoor seating area, making it perfect for a casual dining experience with friends or family.

Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted and given the option to order at the counter or online, and we chose to order online.

I must say that the service was excellent throughout our entire meal.

They even offered us free spicy salsa to try, which added a nice touch to the overall experience.

For my meal, I decided to go for the Asada burrito.

The asada was juicy, and the grilled onions brought out an incredible flavor.

My friends opted for the taco salad and the mole chicken, both of which they thoroughly enjoyed.

The mole, made in-house, was a hit with its rich and authentic taste.

One thing I really appreciated was the variety of vegan options available, such as the burrito primavera and potato tacos dorados.

I'll definitely be back to try these dishes on my next visit!

To finish off our meal, we decided to indulge in some Mexican ice cream bars.

I went for the mango (vegan) option, and it was the perfect refreshing treat to end a satisfying meal.

My friends tried the camote (dairy) ice cream bar, which had an interesting and delicious flavor similar to taro.

Beda's Biergarten

Schnitzel at Beda's Biergarten

I was looking for a new spot to try in San Luis Obispo and stumbled upon Beda's Biergarten.

The family-friendly atmosphere immediately drew me in, and I knew I was in for a treat with their authentic German food and beer.

I decided to try their Breaded Jäger Schnitzel with chicken, and it was absolutely delicious!

The crispy outside of the schnitzel and the flavorful mushroom gravy really hit the spot.

For my two sides, I chose the Spatzle and Sauerkraut, which were both good, although the Spatzle could have used a bit more seasoning.

I also got to taste my friend's Pommes Frites and Kartoffel Puree, which were fantastic.

Despite the slightly high prices, the portion sizes were fair, and I left feeling satisfied.

What made the experience even better was the variety of beers on tap.

I tried the SLO cider, which was truly refreshing.

And I can't forget about their amazing curry fries – the curry ketchup and mustard were to die for!

I've heard great things about their Sunday brunch, so I'll definitely be back to check it out.

Papa's Thai Cafe

Thai food at Papa's Thai Cafe

Just the other day, I decided to revisit one of my favorite spots for Thai food in town - Papa's Thai Cafe.

I've been coming to this unassuming cafe since my college days in SLO.

Every time I dine here, the experience is consistently delightful.

It's large enough that I often eat half and take the other half home.

Sharing a bit of food with friends has become a thing for us, and I must say, everything we've tried has been amazing.

Papa's Thai Cafe has a very chill and relaxing atmosphere.

I've noticed that it's such a family-friendly place too!

Kitchen & Vine

As a food lover, I always look for the best places to enjoy a meal, and Kitchen & Vine is one of my go-to spots in town.

They offer a wide variety of dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients, which I appreciate because I know that I'm supporting both the local economy and the environment.

What sets Kitchen & Vine apart, though, is their ever-changing menu, which is inspired by the seasons and the availability of fresh produce.

This ensures that there's always something new and exciting to try!

I still remember the first time I walked through their doors – the atmosphere was warm and inviting.

I was particularly impressed by their extensive wine list, featuring selections from around the world that perfectly complement their dishes.

I opted for a glass of the recommended red wine, which was, in a word, exquisite.

That night, I was in the mood for something classic, so I ordered the pan-seared salmon.

It was cooked to perfection, with crispy skin and tender, flaky meat.

The accompanying seasonal vegetables were delightful, and the lemon-butter sauce that topped it all off was simply divine.

After that experience, I've become a regular at Kitchen & Vine, and I've yet to be disappointed.

I've tried their risotto with wild mushrooms, which was incredibly rich and flavorful.

I've also indulged in their seared duck breast, which was tender and bursting with succulent flavor.

Each time I visit, I make sure to save room for dessert, as their chocolate lava cake is the perfect ending to any meal – trust me, it's worth every calorie!

Antonia's Pizza

Antonia's Pizza's food is amazing! As a resident of the Central Coast of California, it's always great to find a place that specializes in handmade pasta and authentic Italian cuisine.

Since Antonia's Pizza is delivery only, the convenience of having such delicious food delivered right to my doorstep is a huge plus.

I've also heard that they cater events, which is something I will definitely be considering for my next gathering.

Thai Boat

Pad thai at Thai Boat

Last weekend, I decided to treat myself and my family to some authentic Thai cuisine.

I had heard great things about Thai Boat, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The small, family-owned eatery served us spiced-to-order Thai dishes that left us craving for more.

When we arrived, we could feel the warm and welcoming atmosphere of this family-owned business.

We started with some potstickers as an appetizer, and they were the perfect way to kick off our meal.

For the main course, I opted for Pad Thai while my family members tried the green curry and Thai noodle soup.

The Pad Thai had the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness, and even though it didn't come with lime and peanuts, the flavor was still spot-on.

The green curry was packed with chicken, basil, carrot, and bamboo shoots, giving it a slight kick without being too spicy.

We appreciated that they didn't charge extra for rice.

The Thai noodle soup had a tangy taste, and the sweet and sour flavors were delightful.

Aside from the fantastic food, the service was exceptional.

One thing to note is that sometimes they may close early, so it's a good idea to call ahead to make sure they're open.

Bear & The Wren

Pizza at Bear & The Wren

One of the things I love about living in San Luis Obispo is the variety of amazing restaurants we have, and Bear & The Wren is no exception.

Nested in The Creamery in Downtown SLO, this pizzeria, bar, and eatery has quickly become one of my favorite spots.

My first visit was prompted by my barber's recommendation to try their "Bee Stang" pizza, and I was eager to see what the buzz was about.

Upon entering the restaurant, I was impressed by the ample seating options, which include indoor, outdoor, and bar seating.

Although it was super busy, I managed to find two stools at the bar, where the service was prompt and friendly.

The drink menu is extensive, and although they don't offer diet soda, there's something for everyone – including specialty cocktails and craft beers.

I started my meal with their artichoke appetizer, and it was heavenly.

Light and flavorful, it was the perfect way to whet my appetite for the main event: the "Bee Stang" pizza.

I also tried their 4-cheese pizza, which came without sauce but was still very tasty – especially since I opted for the Detroit-style deep-dish version with crispy edges.

Bear & The Wren is committed to using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, which elevates their wood-fired pizzas to a whole new level.

Ox and Anchor

Steak at Ox and Anchor

Ox and Anchor is a modern spin on the classic steakhouse in San Luis Obispo.

I noticed the menu had a delightful mix of traditional steakhouse dishes with a few nods to the local history of San Luis Obispo.

Eager to try something unique, I ordered the egg rolls with two sauces as a starter.

When they arrived, they were nothing short of delicious.

The main course was a tough choice, but I finally settled on their ribeye steak, cooked medium rare, which turned out to be an excellent decision as it was cooked to perfection.

To complement my meal, I chose a glass of Rusack Sauvignon Blanc, which was light and refreshing.

Of course, I couldn't resist trying one of their popular sides, so I opted for the potato purée.

It was so decadent and smooth that I couldn't help but be impressed.

Another highlight of my meal was the oysters, which were small but packed with briny, oceanic flavor.

Giuseppe's Cucina Rustica

Carbonara at Giuseppe's Cucina Rustica

Giuseppe's Cucina Rustica is a quaint Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown.

The moment I walked in, I was greeted with a warm and cozy atmosphere that made me feel right at home.

I was delighted to learn that the recipes at Giuseppe's are indicative of the Pugliese region in Italy, particularly Bari, a seaport on the Adriatic Sea.

The authentic ingredients and traditional methods used in their dishes only added to the overall charm of the place.

The service at Giuseppe's was exceptional - attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable.

They made excellent recommendations for someone like me, who was visiting for the first time.

I started off with their complimentary bread and olive-oil garlic dip, which was made in-house and absolutely scrumptious.

For my entrée, I opted for the carbonara pasta - a perfectly creamy carbonara sauce complemented by caramelized pancetta and bouncy bucatini pasta.

It was a well-balanced and satisfying dish that I would highly recommend to any carbonara lover.

I also had a taste of the tagliatelle bolognese, which featured tender noodles that absorbed the pork ragu sauce beautifully.

To top off my meal, I enjoyed a simple yet delectable crème brûlée topped with fresh berries.

The tiramisu was quite good as well, with a hint of rum flavor that balanced the sweetness of the dish.

La Locanda

I recently dined at La Locanda for my birthday, and it was one of the best Italian food experiences on the central coast.

My friends from out of town even called to purchase wine for my birthday, and La Locanda made the process super easy.

As for the food, everything was outstanding!

I particularly recommend the INVOLTINI DI MELANZANE - rolled eggplant stuffed with gruyere and ham appetizer.

In fact, you should get two and share them with friends!

The minestrone soup, rustica, rucola and marinated beet salads were all vegan and delicious.

Their wine selection is amazing, offering options by the glass or bottle.

Cool Cat Café - San Luis Obispo

Burger at Cool Cat Café

One of my go-to spots in town for a delicious meal and a fun atmosphere is Cool Cat Café - San Luis Obispo.

This classic burger joint is decorated like a 1950s diner, offering fries, shakes, and even some cocktails!

Whenever I go to Cool Cat Café, I love ordering their popular Duke burger with fries.

The burger is always cooked to my preference, and the portions are perfect – not too big or too small.

I also can't resist getting one of their handspun milkshakes, especially the SLO Mudd Pie shake, which is big enough to share with a friend.

What truly sets this diner apart is not only the great food but also the amazing customer service.

The décor of Cool Cat Café really takes you back to the 50s with red vinyl, chrome, and black-and-white checkered accents.

I particularly love the hand-painted stars and starlets from the era that adorn the walls.

They even have outdoor seating, which is great for enjoying the lovely San Luis Obispo weather.

Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill

Food at Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill

One of my favorite spots to grab a bite in San Luis Obispo is Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill.

As someone who appreciates authentic Mediterranean cuisine, I was blown away by the flavors and quality of the dishes served at Petra.

The bread is freshly baked daily by Todd Aburashed himself, and all dishes are lovingly prepared by Sana, who uses only the freshest ingredients.

During my visit, I decided to order the roasted cauliflower pita sandwich along with sweet potato fries.

The sandwich was packed with flavor, and the sweet potato fries were the perfect side.

I couldn't resist trying their baklava, and it did not disappoint.

The lemon peperoncini sauce that accompanied my meal was a taste sensation, elevating the flavors of my dishes to new heights.

What I appreciated most about Petra was the ample seating options, both indoors and outdoors.

I chose to sit outside and enjoyed the lovely ambiance of the outdoor seating area.

I also noticed that they have plenty of drinks available, including juices, sodas, and beers.

Spirit of San Luis Restaurant

Fish wrap at Spirit of San Luis Restaurant

Spirit of San Luis Restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes, and I was happy to find that they serve breakfast into the afternoon.

I decided to try their Sunday champagne brunch, and the food was fresh and delicious.

The views overlooking the San Luis Obispo Airport added a unique charm to the experience, and their outdoor protected patio and large lawn area were perfect for the kids to play while safely watching the planes just feet away.

Being a family-owned business for over 28 years, the warm and friendly atmosphere was apparent from the moment I entered the restaurant.

I also appreciated the fact that most of the people dining there were locals, which speaks volumes about the quality of the food and service.

Spirit of San Luis offers nightly dinner specials such as Fish Taco Tuesday and delicious Prime Rib every Friday night.

They also have a full bar, serving local wine and beer at reasonable prices.

Firestone Grill

Tri-tip sandwich at Firestone Grill

Firestone Grill, a meat-centric American grill, serves up some of the best steak sandwiches, burgers, and ribs in the area, all in a bustling sports bar setting.

When you walk in, you'll notice the lively atmosphere as you order at the register.

They'll give you a receipt with a number, and then you can find a seat while you wait for your food to be prepared.

I love sitting outside on their patio, as it can get pretty loud inside when they're calling out order numbers.

The outdoor seating area is perfect for smaller groups of 2-4 people.

Once I tried their tri-tip sandwich, I was hooked.

The meat is tender yet lean compared to Texas-style tri-tip, and the buttered French roll adds a rich flavor to the sandwich.

Don't forget to ask for extra BBQ sauce on the side to enhance the smoky taste even more!

If you're in the mood for something else, their pork ribs are also a must-try.

They're meaty and tender, with a flavorful BBQ sauce that's simply amazing.

Plus, the ribs come with a side of crunchy garlic bread which is an added bonus.

For sides, I can't resist their onion rings.

They're super crunchy, and the batter is just the right thickness.

I also once got a basket of fries, which turned out to be bigger than I expected – perfect for sharing with friends!

Although Firestone Grill tends to get quite busy, the service is always quick and friendly.

The long line moves fast, and the food is usually ready in under seven minutes.

Buona Tavola

Salad at Buona Tavola

As a food enthusiast, I can't help but rave about my recent dining experience at Buona Tavola.

This casually elegant Northern Italian eatery has a traditional menu that highlights seasonal ingredients, offering gluten-free options as well.

I came here with a friend who had made reservations because we knew the place could get busy during lunchtime.

As soon as we settled down, menus were brought to us.

The house bread with tapenade was a perfect appetizer, and the Caesar salad was beautifully presented, lightly dressed, and absolutely delicious.

I decided to try the Pappardelle alla San Pietro, which featured house-made pappardelle, expertly cooked shrimp, and a delicate sauce.

To end the meal on a sweet note, I indulged in some gelato and a cappuccino, both of which were delightful.

Final Thoughts

San Luis Obispo offers a diverse culinary scene that has something for everyone.

Whether you're craving a classic American burger at Cool Cat Café or a taste of the Mediterranean at Petra, San Luis Obispo's restaurant scene is one not to be missed.

I'm always excited to discover new spots and revisit my favorites, knowing that there's always a delicious meal waiting for me in this charming city.

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