Travelogue: California’s Central Coast, Part 1

The view from Highway 46 from Paso Robles to Cambria

I’m back! Rory and I have returned from our honeymoon, which we split into two parts: the California central coast and Oahu, Hawaii. This post will focus on the first half of our trip.

While both of us had driven to and from Northern California many times, neither of us had spent much time on the central coast. And because Rory had a short film screening at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, we decided we would take our time — a whole week — to drive ourselves up there, stopping along the way to enjoy our beautiful state. And what a beauty she is. The cute towns, the gorgeous coastline — I would do this drive again in a heartbeat.

Our first stop was Ojai. While it doesn’t sit on the coast, Ojai is just a short drive in to the hills from the 101 highway. It’s a very cute, old-timey place. We had lunch at Suzanne’s Cuisine, which is located in what looks like a converted house and has a nice garden, too. The menu is a hodge podge of all kinds of foods, but I like variety, so this didn’t bother me. I had the Salmon Pasta Salad with poached salmon, snap peas and capers tossed in a lemon-dill dressing, and Rory had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak Sandwich with sauteed red peppers and onions, Danish Emmenthal cheese and dijon mustard. Both dishes were delicious and satisfying.

Salmon Pasta Salad

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak Sandwich

From here, we moved on to Santa Barbara. We didn’t have any great food here — in fact, avoid Moby Dick restaurant at Stearns Wharf — but I did enjoy the basket of mini blueberry and chocolate chip muffins we got with our meal at Sambo’s.

Mini muffins at Sambo's

We stayed at the Avania Inn, which is within walking distance of the wharf and beach. The place wasn’t anything special, but our room with a king size bed was clean and cost us less than $120.

Our next stop was Pismo Beach. We had one of our favorite meals here at Splash Cafe — the clam chowder is super creamy, and the fish and chips were great, too. The prices were really reasonable to boot: my clam chowder in a bread bowl was $6.75. Of course I forgot my camera that night. Sigh.

We stayed at the Sea Gypsy Motel, which also wasn’t anything special but was a steal at $80 a night for being right on the beach. It was basic and clean.

We then made a quick stop in San Luis Obispo for lunch at House of Bread, which makes chemical and artificial preservative-free breads. I had a nice asparagus and feta bread (it was a little hard to eat because the asparagus spears were baked in to the bread whole).

Our next stop was Paso Robles, which has a cute downtown area that’s centered around a town square/park. Powell’s Sweet Shoppe had some nice gelato — I had the honey lavender and Bavarian mint flavors — and the ’50s-themed Good Times Cafe had some great seasoned fries, which they call Buffalo Chips.

Me eating gelato in front of the gorgeous Hotel Cheval in downtown Paso Robles

On Highway 46 (which is really pretty, by the way) between Paso Robles and PCH, there are a ton of wineries. We stopped at the Kenneth Volk tasting room, which offered tastes of six wines for just $10 — much better than Napa prices. And it was a steal because the wines were good! My favorites were the 2008 Touriga and the 2009 Malvasia Bianca.

Getting my drink on

Cute herb shop at the Kenneth Volk tasting room

There’s much more to this leg of our trip — Cambria, Big Sur, Carmel and Santa Cruz — so stay tuned!

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Maya Meinert

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05 2011

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