For a special occasion or just because, these top-shelf restaurants offer the finest dining around
Ask a local and they’ll tell you: in SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County), you’re never far from excellent 5-star dining. Thanks to our 315 days of sunshine, chefs have access to the freshest of everything nearly year-round, from juicy berries and tender lettuces to grass-fed beef and caught-this-morning seafood. Several restaurants stand out for their cuisine, atmosphere, service, location, or that certain something that defies categorization. We’ve listed ten fine dining restaurants below where you can expect to be wowed every time you visit, whether to celebrate an occasion or just because you’re hungry for something special. Either way, be sure to make a reservation for your party, as hot spots like these 5-star dining establishments fill up quickly. Buon appetito!
Fine Dining in San Luis ObispoBack to Top of List
📍 1126 Morro Street, San Luis Obispo || 805-544-9100
With a bit of cosmopolitan glam and a menu highlighting rustic American and French food, Granada Bistro in downtown San Luis Obispo makes every dinner a special one. Sit beside the glass fire pit on the Granada patio facing Morro Street, or inside the dining room with its exposed brick and white linens. The menu features comfort food dishes like Chicken Confit with sweet potato purée, sautéed brussels sprouts, pickled grape and toasted almonds; as well as meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains. Definitely check out the wine list, which leans as much on European producers as it does local ones. The restaurant offers weekly specials like “Fried Chicken Monday” and “Wine Wednesday,” wherein all wine bottles are discounted 50 percent. A sumptuous brunch is served on weekends from 10am to 3pm, with updated classics like the Granada Benedict, Albacore Cherry Crudo and Smash Burgers. Looking to end the evening on a high note? Granada lies adjacent to The Nightcap, a cozy cocktail lounge that stays open late serving small bites, craft cocktails and artisanal sipping spirits.
📍 1137 Garden Street, San Luis Obispo || 805-548-1750
Tucked away on charming Garden Street, La Locanda serves authentic Northern Italian cuisine in a neighborhood trattoria atmosphere. Watch the chefs at work through the windowpanes that face the street, then head inside the restaurant, which feels familiar and familial with its clean white walls and wine cabinets. Owner, Artin Safari, recently purchased the restaurant from founder Luciano Bardinelli who has a long history of owning and operating superlative restaurants across the country; each dish of Cacio e Pepe, Veal Scallopini, and Linguine Pescatore that leaves the La Locanda kitchen bears his stamp of approval. Choose from a traditional menu of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and dessert, as well as a wine list that includes by-the-glass selections and hard-to-find bottles from Italy and beyond. The ambiance here is especially conducive for couples who want to share a special meal together, so expect plenty of candlelit tables for two.
Rooftop Reservations in AtascaderoBack to Top of List
📍 6400 El Camino Real, Atascadero || 805-538-9517
The dining scene along El Camino Real in Atascadero has really heated up in recent years, thanks in large part to restaurants like Cielo that open their doors with excellent fine dining. Open daily for lunch and dinner, Cielo’s vibe inside is relaxed modern luxe, with moody black walls and sculptural lighting. The menus for both lunch and dinner speak with an Italian accent, and include a long list of appetizers perfect for sharing: Artichoke Five-Cheese Fonduta, Burrata Cloud with Toasted Focaccia, and pork belly confit with port-candied figs. Choose from pasta dishes like Butternut Tortellini and Bucatini Carbonara and Prawns; or go with a classic main like Osso Bucco or Chicken Cacciatore. Drink offerings include a diverse list of wines from California and Italy; as well as inventive specialty cocktails and a robust list of mocktails for those who aren’t imbibing. Whether you choose to drink leaded or unleaded, do not miss Cielo’s rooftop bar: the only property of its kind in Atascadero. Sit in comfort and soak up views of the Sunken Gardens nearby, which are just as stunning by day as they are by night.
Photo Credit: Laura Stephens
Panoramic Views in Morro BayBack to Top of List
📍 699 Embarcadero #7, Morro Bay || 805-772-0677
Those who love a beautiful ocean view won’t want to miss the tableside panoramas at Windows on the Water, where wide expanses of glass take in the harbor and Morro Rock from the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. (At sunset, what could be better?!) Expect top-notch seasonal seafood from Executive Chef Neil Smith, including local halibut prepared with warm herb and heirloom tomato salsa, wilted spinach, avocado and prosciutto caponata; or diver scallops with green cabbage, butternut squash à la Nage, locally-grown mushrooms, crushed pepitas, and lemon blush olive oil. (All seafood served at Windows on the Water is wild-caught or farmed responsibly in accordance with the Seafood Watch Program in Monterey Bay.) For wine lovers, the whopping 5,000-bottle wine list is the star of the show. With a prestigious award from Wine Spectator, the list centers squarely on California producers—primarily those on the Central Coast—but includes special selections from Old World and New World producers around the globe. Sweet tooths will appreciate the menu of entirely house-made desserts, from artisan ice cream and sorbet to mousse, crème brûlée, and decadent cheesecake. And for those raising little foodies, the restaurant offers a thoughtful children’s menu, too.
World Class Food & Wine in Paso RoblesBack to Top of List
📍 11680 Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles || 805-591-3224
⭐ 1 Michelin Star
Pioneering wine producer JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery has long been a destination for fine dining, as the Michelin-Starred Restaurant at JUSTIN offers a compelling tasting menu in a countryside vineyard setting. Chef Rachel Haggstrom leads the kitchen team in crafting extraordinary multi-course dinners for guests, paired with JUSTIN wines and served with the utmost care. Sample dishes include a silky Sunchoke & Apple Velouté with Pacific Bay Oysters, finger limes and horseradish, paired with JUSTIN Viognier; or a Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye with a fried green tomato, buttered radishes, shishito peppers and green peppercorn sauce, paired with a reserve Malbec. Not only is dining at JUSTIN a sumptuous affair, but it’s a sustainable one, too; all ingredients are grown on the 26-acre JUSTIN homestead or sourced responsibly. Come hungry and ready to engage with your plate in a truly creative way at this unique vineyard and dining destination.
📍 1215 Spring Street, Paso Robles || 805-296-3754
⭐ Michelin Mention
There’s no shortage of fine restaurants in Paso Robles, where the vibrant wine culture has attracted chefs from around the world to offer cuisine that pairs well alongside. This includes Les Petites Canailles from chef/owner Julien Asseo, a restaurant that embraces a clean, modern French bistro style. Asseo comes from a pedigree of French winemakers, and received his culinary education from Lycee Hotelier de Gascogne near Bordeaux—as well as Parisian bistros—and his plates at LPC reflect that acumen. The menu changes frequently with the seasons and available ingredients, but the guiding principle is highly concentrated flavor and impeccable presentation. Try classic bistro favorites like Moules-Frites with spicy ‘nduja, garlic confit and herbs; or Steak Au Poivre with homemade frites and green peppercorn sauce. Or, for the open-minded gourmand, give the “Trust Us” menu a try, in which diners receive a personalized five-course meal based on the best of what’s available in the kitchen that day. This menu has the option to be paired with sommelier-selected wines from LPC’s Wine Spectator-awarded cellar. Many of the bottles therein are produced by members of Chef Julien’s family, including winemakers in both Paso Robles and France.
Rustic Eats in Arroyo GrandeBack to Top of List
📍 1200 E Grande Avenue, Arroyo Grande || 805-474-7700
⭐ Michelin Mention
“Wood-fired, honest food” is the motto at Ember in Arroyo Grande, a restaurant famed for its attention to detail and excellent rustic dishes, plus off-the-beaten-path wine list and cocktails. These are qualities that founding chef Brian Collins brought with him from a long career that includes several years at legendary farm-to-table restaurant Chez Panisse and founder Alice Waters. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday in Ember’s comfortable dining room or on the heated outdoor patio. The beautiful tiled wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of the open kitchen, visible by anyone in the restaurant, and responsible for the intense flavors of most menu items. Enjoy a monthly-rotating menu of appetizers, flatbreads, salads, entrees and decadent desserts. Customer favorites include the Polpette al Forno (beef and pork meatballs); the 50-layer lasagna with slow-cooked pork and beef bolognese; the grilled ribeye steak with roasted potato gratin, broccoli calabrese, and avocado chimichurri; and the Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Cocoa Cake for dessert.
Pasta at the Beach in PismoBack to Top of List
📍 891 Price Street, Pismo Beach || 805-773-2870
Fresh pasta, cocktails, wine and locally-sourced Italian cuisine that’s made just two blocks from the beach? Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant knows that’s a winning combo, to be sure. The longstanding Pismo Beach restaurant highlights the flavors of Italy using ingredients grown right here in SLO CAL—in fact, the restaurant has its own farm, operated by owner Giuseppe DiFronzo himself and located in the nearby Edna Valley. There, he grows all the heirloom varietal fruits and vegetables found in the cuisine at Giuseppe’s, as well as grapes for the DiFronzo Vineyards proprietary wines. Enjoy Italian delicacies like tender butternut squash-stuffed pasta served with sage and parmesan cream sauce; or prime ribeye with potatoes, arugula, a tomato endive salad, and an aged balsamic reduction. The wine list covers local, domestic and import selections, and the busy bar makes signature and classic cocktails into the night. But one of the best reasons to hit Giuseppe’s is also one of the simplest ones: their rustic Italian bread, cut fresh for the table and served with a pot of garlic, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Note that, in addition to dinner every night, Giuseppe’s serves lunch on weekends, as well.
Memorable Restaurants in CambriaBack to Top of List
📍 6216 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria || 805-927-4514
Located right on iconic Moonstone Beach in Cambria, the Sea Chest Oyster Bar is one of the most storied and beloved restaurants in all of SLO CAL, preparing seasonal seafood for generations of diners. Founded in 1975 by proprietors Jim and Karen Clarke, the Sea Chest serves a wide variety of fresh seafood, from oysters on the half-shell, Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Casino to Calamari Steak, cioppino and clam chowder. The eatery pours wine from local producers by the glass, half bottle and full bottle. Sit at the counter/bar to watch the chefs at work or be seated alongside the windows that offer sweeping views of Moonstone Beach. This is a great spot for dinner, as well as a great spot from which to take a walk on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, which parallels the restaurant. Just be sure to bring cash with you, as the Sea Chest doesn’t accept cards. They don’t take reservations, either, and long lines often form at the front door, so be smart and show up early.
📍 1602 Main Street C, Cambria || 805-927-1600
With its flickering fireplace, rambling rooms and candlelit tables, the intimate environment at Black Cat Bistro in Cambria is perfect for a cozy, special dinner. The restaurant was converted from a historic home and retains much of the vintage charm; in fact, it only seats 45 people. On the menu, find French-influenced bistro food with a decidedly global twist. Depending on the season, starters might include Crispy Brussels Sprouts with spiced walnuts and blue cheese, Crab Cakes with mango shrimp salad and remoulade, or seared Romaine salad with bacon jam toast. Look for a variety of main dishes, from vegetarian Baked Polenta with eggplant, red chard, three cheeses, tomato coulis, shiitake mushrooms and sage; to Rare Seared Albacore Tuna with Vietnamese cucumber slaw and ginger wasabi cream. This is an excellent spot for steaks, as well, with several cuts typically available. The Black Cat Bistro wine list has been awarded by Wine Spectator numerous times, with by-the-glass and bottle service options. Expect a well-designed selection of local and California wines to pair with your dish of choice. Then toast yourself for finding a lovely restaurant, sit back, and enjoy.
Looking for more 5-star, fine dining options in San Luis Obispo County? Check out our complete dining guide here or discover all SLO CAL Michelin Guide and Michelin starred restaurants. You can also learn more about the flavors of SLO CAL by visiting one of the weekly farmers markets or head out to the farm.