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12 Delicious Reasons To Visit San Luis Obispo County

NorCal and SoCal are well-trodden territories for gastronomy. Instead, eat your way through the burgeoning culinary scene between the two in SLO CAL. Along the Central Coast of Cali, you'll find line-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and fresh fruits and veggies aplenty in just about every type of cuisine you can imagine. Foodies, take note — San Luis Obispo County is where your tastebuds want to be.

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1. The Hatch, Paso Robles

Courtesy of Travel Paso Robles Alliance

Not only will you find a one-ton rotisserie at The Hatch, but you'll also find a different, delectable meat roasting there every day of the week — tri-tip, porchetta, baby back ribs, leg of lamb, and, of course, the daily staple of chicken. Owners Eric Connelly and Maggie Cameron take their calling for Southern home cooking seriously: Everything except the bread is made in-house, even the ketchup and, of course, the sine qua non of any good Southern joint, the hot sauce.

2. Marston's 101, Atascadero

Courtesy of Visit Atascadero

This family-friendly spot features seasonal California cuisine with a full craft cocktail menu and 33 — yes, 33 — taps. The highlight of the kitchen is their wood-fired oven, essential to their artisanal flatbreads. But the star of the menu is truly the fish and chips, made with fresh local cod from Morro Bay, coated lightly in a golden-brown, orange wheat beer batter, and served with caper remoulade and house pickles.

3. Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen, San Luis Obispo

Courtesy of City of San Luis Obispo Tourism

Originally a CSA and 10-acre organic farm run by Joe and Debbie Thomas, Thomas Hill has since evolved into two elegant farm-to-table eateries popular with wine connoisseurs. Bottles from their vineyard of Italian varietals sit alongside a wide selection of Central Coast labels on their wine list in this new location, which opened in 2016. Of course, everything is locally and organically sourced or farm-fresh, guaranteeing a seasonal menu that's sure to please.

4. Fish Gaucho, Paso Robles

Courtesy of Travel Paso Robles Alliance

Touting a list of more than 100 tequilas and mezcals and a menu of Mexican dishes with a bright, Californian twist, Fish Gaucho has become one of the most popular spots in Paso Robles. You truly can't go wrong with fresh, bold choices like Ahi nachos, shrimp ceviche with charred grapefruit, or handcrafted margaritas with seasonal flavors like watermelon-mint or jalapeño-pineapple — all with freshly squeezed lime, organic agave nectar, and 100% blue agave tequila.

5. Bristols Cider House, Atascadero

Courtesy of Visit Atascadero

San Luis Obispo might be known for its wine, but now it's also making a name for itself in cider. When winemaker Neil Collins, a native of Bristol, England, turned his talents to the ciders back home that he pined for, Bristols Cider House was born. Locally sourced dry ciders are their forte, and you can taste the variety of unfiltered, hopped, cask-aged, or traditional yeast-fermented brews in flights of five or sample sizes, half pints, and full pints.

6. Luna Red, San Luis Obispo

Courtesy of City of San Luis Obispo Tourism

Chef Shaun Behrens’ inventive global tapas are elevated with eclectic flavors, from Asian-inspired dishes like bacon-fat Brussels sprouts punched up with kimchi and mint, to Latin fare like pozole rojo, to traditional Valencian paella, and, of course, four types of sangria. Sangría rosita is a crisp blend of keola rosé, hibiscus blanco tequila, mint, organic blood orange liqueur, and cranberry citrus — the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon or evening on their roomy, heated patio.

7. Paso Terra, Paso Robles

Courtesy of Travel Paso Robles Alliance

French-born chef Andre Averseng and his wife, Cristina, are the duo behind the vibrant Paso Terra. Classical French training informs Chef Andre's modern Californian cuisine and shines brightly in dishes like nut-crusted halibut with Costa Rica coffee sauce. And not only does the multitalented Chef Andre cook up colorful dishes like his imaginative terrine of roasted beets and goat cheese with basil sauce, his own striking paintings also adorn the walls of Paso Terra.

8. Whiskey & June, Atascadero

Courtesy of Visit Atascadero

Husband-and-wife team Daniel and Erin Green run this unassuming local bar in Atascadero. Although the vibe is decidedly unpretentious, you'll find quality craft cocktails and an impressive array of Japanese whiskey — including a 17-year-old Hibiki — alongside classic American staples and select beers. Oh, and did we mention shuffleboard and the two pool tables?

9. Naked Fish, San Luis Obispo

City of San Luis Obispo Tourism

Chef Rassa Thammasathit's festive, modern take on sushi aims to "introduce [customers] to their new favorites" by coaxing people out of their comfort zones with exotic alternatives you won't find in your average sushi joint. From tiny fried freshwater Japanese crabs (also known as Sawagani) and scallops that are cracked, cleaned, and sliced before your eyes to their signature Maui Wowie Roll, Naked Fish pleases sushi beginners and seasoned sashimi enthusiasts alike.

10. La Cosecha, Paso Robles

Courtesy of Travel Paso Robles Alliance

Honduran-born chef Santos MacDonal honors his Latin roots with his second restaurant, which has a name that means "the harvest." Farmers-market-fresh produce and meats are spiced with imported herbs and flavors to create can't-miss menu items like pastelitos catracho (Honduran empanadas), Peruvian ceviche, and Spanish Paella. Even the intricate, polished cocktails here feature worldly Brazilian cachaças, Peruvian piscos, and other liquors more well traveled than you.

11. Street Side Ale House, Atascadero

Courtesy of Visit Atascadero

Although they might show football on their flatscreens and serve hefty portions of nachos during happy hour, Street Side Ale House is not your average sports bar. It prides itself on elevated pub food and craft beers from Central Coast breweries. Fifteen taps are reserved for full-time beers and 10 for brews on rotation. Oh, and you won't want to miss their freshly ground lamb burger, topped with fire-roasted tomato and drizzled with balsamic reduction.

12. BBQ at Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market, San Luis Obispo

City of San Luis Obispo Tourism

Every Thursday from 6–9 p.m., Higuera Street hosts a lively gathering of locals feasting on finger foods set to live music. Sample fresh strawberries, nosh on freshly fried chicharónes, or down a bag of garlic-roasted peanuts while you peruse the vendors. But always, always save room for BBQ. Follow your nose to the smoky-sweet waftings of BBQ stands hawking tri-tip and ribs, and join your fellow meat-lovers for a coveted spot on the curb to chow down.

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