San Luis Obispo County is known and cherished largely for its get-away-from-it-all feel, its stretches of serene coast, its cute and welcoming towns, its pristine wine country. But we’ve got some trendy spots as well, and more seem to be debuting all the time, from big city-inspired nightclubs to chic eateries with a palette of artsy drinks.
Here are some of our favorite hot spots for a drink and a bite.
2727 Shell Beach Road, Pismo Beach 805-773-8900 www.thedolphinbay.com Open for lunch and dinner daily.
Lido is a coastal foodie haven drawing attention from Hollywood types. Ocean-view window tables are the best bet in this airy establishment, part of the luxury Dolphin Bay Resort & Residences on the bluffs of Shell Beach.
The vibe: Best suited for intimate conversation or special occasions like graduation dinners and anniversaries. Black-clad servers move about seamlessly, attending to patrons’ needs.
The crowd: A well-heeled bunch, with a mix of business and leisure visitors and locals looking for a wine and food experience.
The menu: A focus on creative dishes using seasonal, local and organic ingredients—maple-brined Berkshire pork tenderloin with local peaches and basil corn relish ($26) as a recent delicious example. Though some entrees creep toward triple digits, there’s always an option to order a petite version for about half the cost, and plenty of gourmet appetizer choices. And if everything sounds good, there’s a chef’s tasting menu for about $90, with wine pairings for another $48.
The drinks: A full bar with wine, cocktails and beer is available. Tuesdays, Lido hosts a patio wine tasting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with appetizers and a local winery pouring its selection for $12 per person.
Best for? Sunset.
Koberl At Blue
998 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo 805-783-1135 www.epkoberl.com Opens at 4 p.m. daily, dinner served from 5-10 p.m., appetizers until 11 p.m. Thursday
Koberl At Blue (known as “Blue” to the locals) is an often-busy downtown San Luis Obispo destination as popular for drinks and mingling as it is for esteemed wine-country cuisine.
The vibe: Housed in the historic J.P. Andrews building, Blue’s exposed brick and dark wood exude a downtown loft feel, multiplied by the live jazz often featured in the front nook.
The crowd: Professional types fill the tables after quitting time and often on until closing, with many squeezing in a meal or at least some appetizers.One of the few downtown spots not dominated by the college scene.
The menu: This is the top of the food chain, with appetizers including various preparations of oysters, foie gras, caviar and white asparagus and entrees emphasizing gourmet presentations of steaks, fish and duck.
The drinks: What’s your fancy? A flavored ‘tini? Good beer selection? Great wine list? It’s all well-represented here, with some local wines.
Best for? After work, primetime
1021 Pine St., Paso Robles 805-226-9995 www.hotelcheval.com Sun-Thurs 3 10 p.m., Fri-Sat 3-11 p.m., Mon 5-9 p.m.
European charm radiates from Hotel Cheval, a 16-room boutique property tucked just off Paso Robles’ main square that opened last year. It’s gaining a reputation as a sophisticated getaway, but even if you’re not staying in one of the pricey rooms, you can stop in the Pony Club to soak up the atmosphere and choose from its extensive collection local, regional and international wines.
The vibe: Quiet appreciation for the finer things. Ivy and white lights cover the stonework and landscaping on the inviting patio; the horseshoe-shaped bar in the horse-themed hotel also beckons.
The crowd: Wine enthusiasts, with a mix of vineyard- touring visitors and locals strolling the downtown shops near City Park.
The menu: With a kitchen renovation under way, the hotel plans to start offering light appetizers and desserts this fall.
The drinks: More than a dozen pages of wine, wine and more wine, with a few beers and non-alcoholic drinks. By-the-glass selections range from $11 to $15 and by the bottle from $25 to about $160.
Best for? Late afternoon, evening