Restaurant News & Reviews

The best burgers in San Luis Obispo County

Just a few of the delicious burgers we ate to celebrate National Hamburger Month.
Just a few of the delicious burgers we ate to celebrate National Hamburger Month.

Here at The Tribune, we’re big hamburger eaters.

“Big,” of course, refers both to the quantity of burgers we consume on a regular basis as well as average employee waist size.

To satisfy our hankering for hamburgers, group of Tribune staffers set out with empty stomachs and loose-fitting pants in search of the best burgers in San Luis Obispo County. We braved the ocean-gawkers along the Shell Beach Straits, the crowds of weekend wine-tasting tourists in the North County, and even San Luis Obispo’s confounding lack of drive-thrus. Then we ate. A lot.

Here’s the result: A list of our favorite hamburgers around SLO County.

The Dragon Lady Burger comes with roasted potatoes at House of JuJu in Morro Bay..

House of Juju

Leticia, $15

On the Embarcadero in Morro Bay, with views of the The Rock, lies the House of Juju. The burger place is home to six burgers, which can also be ordered as sliders. It’s near the upper end of the price spectrum as far as burgers go, but with the Leticia burger, your stomach might help you forget your wallet. The meat, sandwiched between a brioche bun, is up to you, with either Angus beef, ground turkey, portabella mushroom, grilled chicken breast or free-range bison offered. You also choose a side to go with the burger: chili, spring mix salad, the teriyaki slaw or roasted potatoes (no fries are available) with one of seven dipping sauces. The Leticia is served with Juju’s homemade spicy chipotle cilantro sauce, pepperjack cheese, a roasted ortega green chile, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

945 Embarcadero, Morro Bay | 805-225-1828 or

ribline burger

The Rib Line

SLO Town, $16

The Rib Line has been serving San Luis Obispo County since 1988, with one location in Grover Beach and two spots in San Luis Obispo. The barbecue joint — featured on the Travel Channel show “Man v. Food Nation” — is known more for its ribs than its burgers. However, The Rib Line offers three burgers to go with four pulled pork sandwiches and four tri-tip sandwiches in a fusion of casual and fine dining.

12308 Los Osos Valley Road and 2256 Broad St., Suite 110, San Luis Obispo; 228 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach |

motav (2)
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Mother’s Tavern

Tavern Burger, $14

We found a delicious menu of burger choices at MoTav in downtown San Luis Obispo! With names like the Cow Tipper, the Goddess, the Royale and the Greek, your taste buds are in for a treat. The Tavern Burger is a satisfying choice. It features an Angus beef patty, mozzarella, cabernet mushrooms, baby arugula, caramelized onions and garlic aioli on a telera roll. The burger comes with your choice of fries, coleslaw or a mixed green salad.

725 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo |

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Firestone Grill

Hal-a-peño Burger, $7.29

Every city is characterized by its iconic attractions. San Francisco has its Golden Gate Bridge. Paris has its Eiffel Tower. And San Luis Obispo has its Firestone Grill. Yeah, you may not think it’s on the same level as a famous tourist attraction, but your taste buds would disagree. To them, a meal at Firestone Grill is a cross between seeing the Sistine Chapel and Spring Break ’95 without the moral hangover. Firestone is known for its tri-tip and pulled pork sandwiches, but they make a proper hamburger, too. The Hal-a-peño Burger, named after Firestone’s general manager, is dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, jack cheese, bacon and just the right amount of spice, thanks to the sriracha ranch dressing and jalapeños. Yes, Firestone’s Hal-a-peño Burger is worth a trip to SLO, and it’s much cheaper than a trip to San Francisco or Paris.

1001 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo; Main Street Grill, 603 Main St., Cambria |

Shell Beach Brewhouse’s Standard burger pairs a half-pound beef patty with aged cheddar, slab bacon, dill pickles, butter lettuce, tomato, sweet onion and ale burger sauce on a brioche bun. It’s served with sweet potato fries. Joe Johnston

Shell Beach Brewhouse

Fatback Burger, $15.75

If you are going to open a restaurant with a bunch of good beer options, you better damn well have some good burger options, too. The Shell Beach Brewhouse knows this. The Brewhouse offers seven burgers (eight if you count the Blackened Ahi Tuna Burger), most made with an angus chuck/brisket blend on a brioche bun. You could go with the basic Brewhouse Standard (if you’re lame) or you could get crazy with the Elvis Lives (bacon, caramelized bananas, creamy peanut butter and aged cheddar). If you have no shame and a big appetite, the Fatback Burger is for you. It has a bacon-infused patty topped with pork carnitas, more bacon, cheddar cheese, smoky speck aioli, crispy shallots and butter lettuce. Expect a nap afterwards.

The Hombre is worth a try, too. With roasted Anaheim chilis, avocado mash, Oaxoacan cheese, fresh cilantro and bacon, this very Californian burger goes great with one of the 30 draft beer options. Each burger comes with choice of kettle chips, fries, sweet potato fries, green salad, cucumber salad, fried Brussels sprouts and apples or the veggie of the day. We recommend going off the rails and ordering garlic fries.

1527 Shell Beach Road, Pismo Beach |

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Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica

Kobe Burger, $16

Start practicing this Italian phrase: “Questo hamburger è deliziosamente sorprendente!” Because that’s what you’ll be saying after one bite of the Kobe Burger at Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica in downtown San Luis Obispo. (It’s also served at sister restaurant Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana in Pismo Beach.) We know, we know — Giuseppe’s is a fine Italian restaurant. What’s a burger doing on their menu? Their Kobe Beef Burger is a little different than your average hamburger. First, it’s made out of 100 percent kobe beef (duh). But also, it’s got an Italian twist: It’s garnished with sweet Maui onions, balsamic tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, arugula and red pepper aioli. Add a side of house-made potato chips and — ta-da! — you have yourself an Italian masterpiece.

849 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo |

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Old Village Grill

Bacon Cheese Burger, $8.29

In the middle of The Village of Arroyo Grande sits the Old Village Grill, a burger joint with an old school vibe. Inside, surrounded by wood-lined walls and old newspaper clippings is a grill capable of producing some really good burgers. Like the Old Village Grill, the Bacon Cheese Burger is a classic. A brioche bun holds a third-pound patty with bacon, American cheese, mayo, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and Thousand Island dressing. The charbroiled flavor of the burger is what really makes it. If you want a new-school take on a burger, check out the Pastrami Cheese Burger or the Cajun Blue Cheese Bacon Burger. They even have a Gardenburger if meat isn’t your thing. For the complete throwback experience, tack on a malt shake.

101 East Branch Street Arroyo Grande, CA 93420 |

Chop Street

Chop Classic, $13

Got a hankering for a unique burger in downtown Pismo Beach? Stop by Chop Street. The burger selection is small but surprising: the Down South comes with smoked mozzarella, cilantro and chipotle-ginger barbecue sauce; the Luau includes spiced pineapple chutney, bacon and grilled onion, and the Caribbean features mango salsa and manzano chile peppers. Not so adventurous? Try the Chop Classic burger — it’s Chop Street’s basic burger option, but with white cheddar, onion compote and housemade Chop sauce, it’s far from boring. Best of all, the burgers boast thick, meaty patties, fresh produce and from-scratch toppings.

779 Price St., Pismo Beach |

Orcutt Burgers

Cheeseburger, $5.15

Years ago, Orcutt Burgers decided to open a northern outpost right next to Burger King in Grover Beach. At the time, it seemed like a bold move. But after tasting one of Orcutt Burgers’ offerings, it’s clear that the Whopper is no match. Sure, the burgers seem straight-forward — they’ve got your typical lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and Thousand Island on a sesame seed bun — but the char-grilled beef patty kicks them up a notch. For a few extra bucks, you can make your burger a “Value Pack,” which includes a soda and a platter (this is not an exaggeration) of french fries.

1771 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach |

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Frank’s Famous Hot Dogs

Cheese Burger, $6.50

If you like your burgers with a side of nostalgia, head on over to Frank’s Famous Hot Dogs. The restaurant on the corner of California Boulevard and Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo is a throwback, from the red-and-white decor to the old photos of Ed’s on the walls to the menu, which, despite the restaurant’s name, includes plenty of burgers as well. Frank’s hamburgers are classic — no brioche buns or arugula here — though the hand-made patties and special sauce add some character. Big eaters will want to get their hands on the bacon-laden Monster Burger; for the rest of us, the regular cheeseburger will do just fine. (There’s also a Mini Burger if you just want a meaty little snack.)

950 California Blvd., San Luis Obispo |

Flavor Factory009
A cheeseburger is served on a preztel bun with a side of fries at Flavor Factory in Morro Bay. Joe Johnston

Flavor Factory

Cambozola Cheese, $13

At Flavor Factory in Morro Bay, you won’t find rumbling machinery, assembly lines of uniformed workers or conveyor belts loaded with widgets. But you will find flavor — plenty of it — in the hulking burgers they serve up. The thick, hand-made patties are loaded with fresh lettuce, tomato, housemade bread-and-butter pickles, red onions and secret sauce, plus, depending on the burger, a signature topping such as bacon jam, cheese-stuffed green chiles or Morro Bay avocado. Our favorite is the Cambozola Cheese burger, which has a healthy portion of the creamy gorgonzola hybrid melted over the patty. Oh, and also: All the burgers come on pretzel buns. Pretzel buns!! That alone is worth the trip.

420 Quintana Road, Morro Bay |

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The quarter-pound Black Angus cheeseburger at Wooly’s in Pismo Beach. Christine Janocko

Wooly’s Beach Bar & Grill

Black Angus, $7 to $9

It’s hard to decide which is better here: the ocean views or the tasty burgers. Wooly’s is perched at the end of Pomeroy Avenue in Pismo Beach, along the boardwalk and in sight of the pier, the perfect backdrop for burger-eating. Their Black Angus burger — you can choose either a half-pound or quarter-pound patty — comes with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and housemade pickles on a toasted brioche bun. The burger’s great as it is, but somehow tastes even better while watching the waves on a sunny Central Coast day. So grab a drink at the outdoor bar and a seat on the beachfront deck, and dig in.

101 Pomeroy Ave., Pismo Beach |

The Benny Burger, Baja Burger, and Black and Blue Burger sliders at Taste in San Luis Obispo. Joe Johnston


Gouda Burger Duo, $14

Taste is a little different than most burger joints on this list. Specializing in pairings, you can mix and match your choice of a gourmet slider with a delicious variety of mac and cheeses, salads, soups and other sides. Order a Duo ($12) and get one burger and a side. A Trio ($15) allows you to pick a combination of three menu options, and a Quartet ($20) calls for four. There’s plenty to pick from, but a good place to start is the Gouda Burger. The smoked cheese and crisp bacon bring out an undeniably savory flavor, as the garlic aioli soaks into the focaccia bun. For the macs, you can pick from a variety of cheeses and toppings ranging from bacon to barbecue pulled pork to roasted pepper. Taste offers enough burger combinations to hook you on their exciting foodie experimentations.

2900 Broad St., San Luis Obispo |

Js Burgers
Mark Powell

J’s Burgers

Double Cheeseburger, $4.85

Looking for the most burger bang for your buck? J’s Burgers in Paso Robles might be calling your name. Their filling burgers are loaded with meaty, char-grilled patties, J’s Secret Sauce and a perfectly toasted bun — and they aren’t too expensive. The burgers are prepared quickly, but they don’t skimp on the quality. Like Maxwell House coffee, these burgers are good to the last drop. J’s sits at the corner of Spring and Eighth streets, a perfect spot to relax and gnaw on some good burgers.

747 Spring St., Paso Robles; 8605 El Camino Real, Atascadero |

The Wee Shack Burger Café in Morro Bay features the Wee-Man burger with jalapeño-flavored bacon and sauteed onions, served here with hand-cut fries. Read more » Courtesy photo

Wee Shack

Bleu Moon Burger, $7.69

This is a reasonably sized burger of sauteed onions, blue cheese crumbles and mayo and a hand-formed black Angus beef patty, but if it isn’t your thing, the menu contains nine other burgers, which are also available as sliders. The restaurant is situated just minutes from the beach, and there’s a patio for outdoor seating, a bar and booths for dining in a laid-back setting. Wee Shack isn’t just a burger place; it also offers soups, salads and a menu of three different hotdog choices, in addition to milkshakes and cookies. If you find yourself in Morro Bay and craving a burger, Wee Shack has everything you’ll need.

1698 Main St., Morro Bay |

LEDE Milestone Tavern004
The Milestone Burger at Milestone Tavern in San Luis Obispo features half a pound of house-ground brisket, chuck and sirloin beef, plus house-cured bacon, Awiss cheese, house-pickled onion, tomato and arugula, on a brioche bun. Joe Johnston

Milestone Tavern

Western Burger, $15

Imagine a juicy, perfectly grilled all-beef patty, thick-cut bacon, melted cheddar cheese, a pile of fried onion strings and a generous helping of barbecue sauce. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Now, imagine all of that goodness placed delicately in a lightly toasted fresh brioche bun. Now imagine that little packet of deliciousness making its way to your mouth. Nom nom nom. (Insert fireworks, applause and ticker tape here). That’s what the Western Burger is like at Milestone Tavern in San Luis Obispo. Served with your choice of fries, coleslaw or a salad, the burger goes perfectly with any of the craft beers on tap.

972 E. Foothill Blvd., San Luis Obispo |

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The Outlaw Burger at Dan’s The Grub Shack in Atascadero.

Dan’s The Grub Shack

The Danimal, $13.49

The burgers at The Grub Shack are culinary works of art as much as they are hearty meals. Located in Atascadero’s Kmart shopping center, this cozy spot dishes out some heavy-hitting options. Take The Danimal, for example. This beautiful mound of burger is topped with linguica, thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, jalapeño bottle caps, lettuce and a spicy homemade ranch called Hillbilly Sauce. If you can mow it down in one sitting, good for you — but you’ll soon need a nap. When you wake up, saunter back over to try a Macaroni Bacon Cheeseburger or a Farmhouse Burger, complete with grape jelly and a fried egg.

4240 El Camino Real, Atascadero |

Bronco Burgers
Mark Powell

Bronco Burgers

Bronco Burger, $7.25

This humble Paso Robles spot packs burgers that are worth the visit. Give the namesake Bronco Burger a try. This meaty third-pounder comes on a toasted sesame bun, with big strips of bacon, crunchy lettuce, tomato and onion. But that’s not all. The concoction also comes with Ortega chiles and a special house sauce that add just the right amount of kick to your palate. If you go, be prepared to see a bit of a crowd — this local favorite is known to be a popular lunchtime excursion.

1925 Golden Hill Road No. 300, Paso Robles |

California Grill in Nipomo Christine Janocko

California Grill

The Cali, $8.25

Nipomo doesn’t have a ton of options for hamburgers; luckily, the ones served here are so good it doesn’t matter. The Cali burger is topped with avocado (like every proper California-themed hamburger) and also with bacon (because we Californians are a paradox like that) plus cheddar cheese and house-made Thousand Island-ish “Cali sauce” on a brioche bun. California Grill boasts that the patties are made fresh daily, and you can taste the quality of the toppings. You might not have noticed this restaurant tucked in a strip mall off Tefft Street before, but after tasting their burgers, you won’t forget it.

277 W. Tefft St., Nipomo |

The grass-fed charbroiled burger at Cafe in Cambria. Christine Janocko

The Cafe on Bridge Street

BYOB Burger, $8.95 to $9.95

The Cafe on Bridge Street is tiny little place. But don’t be fooled — the burgers they cook up are huge. Like, you will have to use two hands to wrangle it, and you’ll probably have trouble fitting the whole thing in your face (though that won’t stop you from trying). The burger comes with the standard lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise and mustard, but the Cafe offers plenty of fresh, flavorful add-ons to spruce it up — center-cut bacon, alfalfa sprouts, a fried egg and nine (nine!) kinds of cheese, just to name a few. If the charming historical architecture isn’t enough to lure you to Cambria’s East Village, these burgers should do the trick.

4286 Bridge St., Cambria |

The Jalapeño Black and Blue Burger is a Guinness Burger topped with grilled fresh jalapeños, crumbled blue cheese and applewood smoked bacon. Jayson Mellom The Tribune

Black Sheep Bar & Grill

Black Sheep Guinness Burger, $9.95

Black Sheep’s nachos are famous in these parts for being really, really delicious. But their burgers aren’t anything to sneeze at, either. Take the Guinness Burger: This hefty hamburger is not fooling around. It’s a hulking half-pound of beef basted in Guinness beer and presented with a steak knife plunged through it — clearly as a warning to the faint of heart and slight of stomach. It comes with typical burger toppings but can be customized with all sorts of tasty add-ons — including bleu cheese crumbles, housemade chili, sautéed onions and peppers and fresh avocado — for $1.50 each. And since Black Sheep is a bar, you can wash your Guinness Burger down with an actual Guinness, just for kicks.

1117 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo |

Good Ol Burgers
Mark Powell

Good Ol’ Burgers

Coyote Burger, $5.75

If you’re looking for a relatively simple hamburger — but aren’t looking to sacrifice quality — belly up to the counter at Good Ol’ Burgers in Paso Robles. Tucked behind the California Mid-State Fair fairgrounds on 24th Street, Good Ol’ Burgers offers that familiar summer cookout taste: a Coyote Burger with crisp lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, melted cheese and Thousand Island-style sauce. If tradition isn’t necessarily your thing, Good Ol’ Burgers does offer room for variation. Choose between one and four patties and pimp your burger to include cheddar, pepper jack or blue cheese, plus bacon, Ortega chiles, avocado, ranch, salsa or even mushrooms. Whew! Big or small, complex or simple, you can’t go wrong here.

1145 24th St., Paso Robles |

The double cheeseburger at Garland’s in Grover Beach Christine Janocko

Garland’s Hamburgers

Double Cheeseburger, $5.55

If you’re looking for a classic burger — fast, tasty and nothing fancy — Garland’s is your place. With the Double Cheeseburger, you get two well-seasoned patties; a cold, crisp slab of iceberg lettuce; tomato and pickle slices; diced onions; and a generous helping of Thousand Island-esque sauce, all between a toasted sesame seed bun. (Get it as part of the Garland’s Basket, and they’ll throw in fries, onion rings, ranch dressing and a 22-ounce drink.) It’s not a gourmet burger, but it doesn’t need to be — it’s delicious all the same. If the idea of a regular ol’ cheeseburger doesn’t excite you, try the Donut Burger. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Maybe just give your cardiologist a head’s-up first.

701 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach |

Sylvester’s Burgers

Poncho Loco $8.95 to $13.95

Mark Powell

When it comes to hamburgers, Sylvester’s is undoubtedly a Central Coast staple. Whether you like to keep it simple (an Old Fashion third-pounder with cheese) or let loose in your own burger bliss (how does a 5-pound Big One sound?), Sylvester’s has you covered. As in, covered in that locally famous Sylvester Sauce, which oozes with every fulfilling bite. Might we suggest you try the Poncho Loco? This kickin’ burger option includes a grilled California chile, pepper Jack cheese and, of course, that famous gooey sauce. Add lettuce, red onion, tomato, pickles and a toasted bun.With three locations, there should be nothing keeping you from paying Sylvester’s a visit.

6455 El Camino Real, Atascadero; 1099 Santa Ynez Ave., Los Osos; 1875 Front St., Oceano |

Cool Cat Cafe

Luna, $9.99

The Luna Burger features bacon, jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, a healthy portion of avocado, as well as mayo and thousand island dressing. Chris Dobstaff

Oh goodness, where to start with the Luna Burger? As in: Where and how does one begin to eat it? Piled high with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, avocado and healthy servings of mayo and Thousand Island dressing on top of a 6.5-ounce Angus patty, Cool Cat’s burger is quite the challenge. But, please, don’t let that scare you off. The melted Jack cheese and heaping portion of fresh avocado really make the Luna a must-have, and the 1950s-themed restaurant — complete with checkerboard tile and “I Love Lucy” artwork — makes for a fun throwback. (Pro tip: Ask for a fork and knife. They’re lifesavers when tackling this behemoth.)

198 Pomeroy Ave., Pismo Beach; 3166 Broad St., No. 102, San Luis Obispo |

Martin’s on Main

BBQ Bacon Burger,$9.70

Martins on Main
Mark Powell

Main Street in Templeton is as charming as they come — so why not punctuate your stroll there with a mouth-watering burger from Martin’s on Main? This classic, old-school-style burger window serves up plenty of blissful options, including the locally loved BBQ Bacon Burger. Grilled onions and overflowing strips of bacon join with pickles, mayo and barbecue sauce on a toasted bun to form this beauty. Oh, and did we mention the dripping, melting cheese? It really ties the burger together. Indoor seating is available, but get there early during the lunch rush to park yourself on a 1950s-style diner stool and chow down outdoors.

628 S. Main St., Templeton |

The Laguna Classic Cheeseburger at Laguna Grill in San Luis Obispo. Christine Janocko

Laguna Grill

The Laguna Classic Cheeseburger, $8.50

Laguna Grill is a sports bar, but even if you don’t know a quarterback from a Quarter Pounder, their all-star burgers make it worth a stop. The patties — a blend of ground beef and ground chuck — are thick and juicy, the veggies fresh and crisp, and the pickles and sauce housemade. And all that goodness is stuffed in a Dutch crunch bun. If the Classic Cheeseburger is too boring for you, you have plenty of options. The Red & Bleu Cheeseburger includes blue cheese crumbles and red onion jam, while the Pastrami Cheeseburger features pastrami, Swiss cheese and grilled onions.

11560 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo |

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with price, menu and location information.

Current and former Tribune staffers Christine Janocko, Mark Powell, Scott Middlecamp, Chris Dobstaff, Sergio Holguin and Travis Gibson contributed to this mouth-watering report.