It would be impossible to serve up a spot like Louisa’s Place from scratch. This is the kind of restaurant that gets slowly burnished over the years, diner by diner, into a neighborhood institution.
First opened in 1958, the restaurant got its current name when Louise Webb took it over in 1976. Edward and Christy Sweeny bought it in 1991, and their son, Scott Sweeny, stepped into full ownership in 2004. These days, he’s carrying on the Louisa’s tradition with the help of his wife, Kuuipo, and their four children.
There’s nothing fancy about Louisa’s Place, and that’s part of its appeal.
At its heart, it’s most closely akin to an old-style short-order diner. Rest assured that the wait you’ll have for a weekend table isn’t due to any dilly-dallying in the kitchen; it’s because Louisa’s has an official capacity of only 49 seats, and there’s no room for any more. Most of the seating is at tables along the walls, but there’s also a first-come, first-served counter in the middle and a couple of tables outside.
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The décor is exactly the eclectic mix you’d expect from a place like this, as is the clientele. People from all walks of life eat at Louisa’s, Scott said, and even Garrison Keillor (of “Prairie Home Companion” fame) makes it a point to stop by when he performs in town.
“We want this to really be a feel-good kind of place,” said Kuuipo. “We have a lot of regulars, and with most of them, we already know what they’re going to order.”
If you’re not well-versed with Louisa’s menu, deciding what you want to order might take some time. Both breakfast and lunch are served all day, and if you add up all the daily specials, regular dishes, sides and variations, you’ll have about a hundred items to consider.
Egg dishes can lay claim to being among the most popular choices at Louisa’s, especially some of the four-egg omelets such as the Denver, the Linguica, or the aptly-named “Big One” stuffed with about a dozen ingredients.
Other breakfast favorites include all the usual meat and eggs combinations, plus huevos rancheros, eggs Benedict and even breakfast nachos — crispy chips topped with scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, cheese and salsa.
Of course, tasty items like the pancakes, waffles, French toast, and housemade biscuits and gravy also have their fans. Go for a decadent bacon waffle or opt for French toast piled high with fresh strawberries when they’re in season.
Scott Sweeny noted that whenever possible, they’ll buy ingredients like the strawberries locally, and “we also use Cal Poly eggs, Morro Creek Ranch avocados and Old West Cinnamon Rolls.”
Though most people think of Louisa’s for breakfast, the lunch menu can certainly hold its own.
Choices range from fish tacos to a bottomless bowl of freshly made soup or chili, from a grilled chicken breast sandwich to a Cobb salad, from a BLT made with thick-cut bacon to a bleu bacon burger served with housemade potato salad. As with breakfast, the hearty helpings guarantee that you won’t leave hungry.
Though Louisa’s menu has certainly expanded over the years and “is always evolving,” the core items and the overall concept are here to stay.
“We’re happy with our own little niche in San Luis Obispo,” Scott explained, “so we’re not going to try to be something we’re not.”
Kuuipo agreed, adding, “we hope there’ll always be room here for a family-owned, hometown diner.”