With sunshine, surf, sand, and salty air, Avila Beach feels a lot like a perfect, tucked-away paradise. Sweeten the deal — literally! — with delicious cuisine, and Avila Beach becomes downright irresistible. Fortunately for travelers of all tastes and budgets, Avila Beach offers some of the freshest dining around. Splurge on a multi-course candlelit dinner or enjoy a slice of pizza right on the beach as the sun goes down. Taste your way through several wine tasting rooms along Avila’s downtown corridor, or indulge in a cone of shaved ice. This is a town with several faces and several kinds of cuisine. If you hang around Port San Luis, you’ll see fishing boats hauling in fresh seafood, fishers fileting their catch, and seafood restaurants. In and around Avila Pier, you’ll see a variety of beachy eateries, wine bars, cafes and seafront dining. And in the Avila Valley, among the sycamore trees, rustic delicatessens and farm stands meet resort-style cuisine. It doesn’t take long to discover the many flavors of this beachfront paradise.
Discover Dining in Avila Beach
This beloved restaurant was once the “Old” Custom House for the official Port of Entry for California at San Luis Bay. Built in 1927, the Custom House saw many ships come to port until it retired. In 1971, the facility became the Custom House Restaurant, featuring fresh seafood, steaks, and cocktails served in a beachfront setting. Today, it’s known as a premium spot to watch the waves while dining on fresh local fare. Try the Custom House’s famous Bloody Mary, considered the best in the area by many locals. Lunch items focus on pub fare like burgers, nachos, salads, and sandwiches. For dinner, try an appetizer or two before indulging in a Blackened Ribeye, Teriyaki Mahi-Mahi, Fettuccine Alfredo or classic fish and chips. Indulgent desserts await the end of every meal, or just come in for starters and a glass of local wine, beer, or cocktails. The Custom House offers indoor and outdoor seating on their seaside patio — and dogs are welcome outdoors.
Blue Moon Over Avila
The vibe at Blue Moon Over Avila feels similar to the south of France seaside, like Cannes or Marseilles. Bistro chairs, an ocean view, and of course the food and wine make this a destination for lovers of Mediterranean style. The menu rotates with seasonal and signature specialties, as well as local and imported wine and beer selections. (In fact, Blue Moon is known for its extensive European and international wine list.) Indulge in baked brie, baguettes, escargot, Salade Nicoise, Croque Monsieur or Steak Au Poivre for a classic French experience. Or try a more California approach with a Blue Moon Avocado Toast or Blue Moon Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Grain Bowl. For happy hour, Blue Moon serves bites and beverages through the afternoon; profiteroles, sorbet, and macarons make for a sweet ending. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert, as well as brunch on the weekend.
You can’t get much closer to the ocean than Mersea’s Restaurant on the pier. Located directly on historic Harford Pier, Mersea’s sources seafood caught moments ago for your lunch, snack, or dinner. Specialties include fish and chips, New England and Manhattan clam chowder, oysters on the halfshell and fish tacos. The full bar offers fresh classic cocktails and signature creations. Little foodies will appreciate the children’s menu with hot dogs, fish ‘n chips, chicken strips and grilled cheese. But the best part about Mersea’s really is its location: you can’t find a better perch from which to watch the port. Take a seat on the patio with a glass of local beer or wine, and watch otters and seals play in the surf. Check out the boats as they bob on their anchors, or as they come in and go from the harbor. You might even get lucky enough to watch whales feeding in the bay! Alternatively, sit inside and enjoy the bright beachy vibes of the high-ceiling interior.
Fat Cats Cafe
For over a quarter-century, hungry diners have made their way to Fat Cats at the base of Harford Pier in Port San Luis. This is a familiar place where kids can be kids and appetites can be satisfied — buckle up for big burgers and breakfast, especially. At its heart, Fat Cats Cafe is really a diner, with something for everybody. (This just happens to be a diner with a killer ocean view!) Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Fat Cats offers the classics. Pick up French Toast and Eggs Benedict for breakfast, clam chowder, Oyster Po’Boys, crab cakes, burgers, fish tacos and more for lunch. The restaurant provides a nice wine and beer list, as well as a kids’ menu for the littles. If you have a “fat cat” at home, make it a pilgrimage! Bring a photo of your rotund feline for the restaurant’s famous wall of big kitties.
Avila Market Restaurant & Mercantile
Situated on Front Street facing the beach, the Avila Market has been an Avila Beach institution for a century. Today, it remains an anchor on the downtown promenade, with a long list of deli options for breakfast and lunch with over 30 beers on tap. Tuck into a beach platter of calamari, fish, corn wheels, sweet potato fries and shrimp, or a slice of avocado toast. Grab pork belly, fish, carnitas or ahi tacos covered in slaw, jalapeno crema, cilantro and cotija cheese. Downstairs on the lower level, the Market also contains an acai bowl and smoothie shop. Choose from a series of signature acai bowl creations, or build your own. (The downstairs mercantile also carries beachy necessities like sunscreen, beach blankets, and more.)
The view from Ocean Grill is a little higher than that of the rest of Front Street, making it an awesome spot to catch an Avila Beach sunset. The restaurant specializes in steak, pasta and flatbreads alongside a curated list of local wine and beer. Open for dinner daily and happy hour on the weekends, this is a special place to bring a special someone. For happy hour, enjoy draft beers and wines by the glass, as well as flatbread pizzas and simple green salads. At dinner, choose from a selection of farm-to-table, ranch-to-table and ocean-to-table starters, salads, flatbreads and mains. Popular menu items include woodfired flatbreads from the outdoor pizza oven, Pan-Seared Scallops and Pork Belly, and the Grilled Flank Steak with Chimmichuri. Ocean Grill also offers several gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian dishes, and notes them on the menu. Dine in the glass-paneled dining room or outdoors on the heated and sheltered patio, year-round.
Located in the old cafe at the back of Custom House, this eatery feeds hungry locals and visitors alike. Look for pizza, toasted subs, loaded salads, fish and chips and clam chowder at this casual counter restaurant. The folks at Mission Pizza turn out 16 signature gourmet pizzas piled high with toppings. Favorite orders include the Mexicali with chorizo and jalapenos, the meat-loaded Butcher’s Block, and the Kitchen Sink — with everything! Order your pizza and bring it straight to the beach, along with a Garden Salad. Or check out Mission Pizza’s selection of oven-baked subs, including the Po’Boy, Spicy Chicken Ranch, and Italian sub with all the fixings. Wings, loaded fries, chowder and shrimp and chips round out the menu, offering something for everyone, and fast. Stop by for a slice or hang out for the whole pie, dine in or take out, sit inside or outside. This is a restaurant that provides a lot of choices.
Since 1992, Mr. Rick’s has been a hotspot of live music, cocktails, and casual fare, just a few steps from the sand. The restaurant has 16 beers on tap, including those from local breweries Firestone-Walker, Figueroa Mountain, Liquid Gravity and SLO Brew. For wine drinkers, a selection of local and regional wines are available by the glass. The bar turns out classic cocktails like the Moscow Mule, Pink Mermaid, and Mai Tai to sip along with the Avila Beach sunset. The food is simple and flavorful, featuring a menu of 1/2-pound Angus beef burgers and other hot and cold sandwiches. Here, beachy snacks and entrees like fish and chips, clam chowder, shrimp cocktail and fish tacos meet nachos, wings, jalapeno poppers and salads. Wander by on any evening and you’re likely to hear a live band play or a DJ spinning tunes. Or come for brunch on Sunday and enjoy the sounds of local acoustic guitarists strumming while you dine.
Gardens of Avila Restaurant
This wine country restaurant presents seasonal, fresh cuisine in a serene resort setting. Located at the historic Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa, Gardens of Avila lies tucked into a hillside sycamore grove. The lush, leafy trees set the tone for this sensuous dining experience, served daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sycamore Mineral Springs sources produce, herbs and edible flowers from the one-acre chef’s garden on site. These fresh ingredients drive the cuisine, depending on what’s available in the garden. Indulge in a breakfast of Banana Pecan Pancakes, an Acai Yogurt Bowl, Eggs Benedict or Chilaquiles with fresh coffee or tea. Lunch might include Calamari Tempura, a Gourmet Grilled Cheese, or Steak Frites with a glass of coconut water or kombucha. And for dinner, pair a glass of wine, beer or cocktail with Osso Buco, Butternut Squash Gnocchi, or the Seafood Salad. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are noted on the menu. Take a seat in the comfortable fireside dining room or on the outdoor terrace. And don’t miss the daily happy hour, as well as Saturday and Sunday brunch.
This unique and popular eatery lies about halfway through the Bob Jones Bike Trail, making this a natural stopover. Sit inside or on the leafy patio with one of Woodstone’s breakfast or lunch specialties, gourmet coffee drinks, wine or beer. Start or end an early ride with an espresso drink and a hearty breakfast burrito, quiche, or bagel and lox. Lunchtime at Woodstone Marketplace means creative seasonal dishes, like the Chicken Chutney Wrap, made with mixed greens, mango chutney, avocado and toasted almonds on a sundried tomato tortilla. Hot and cold sandwiches include the Woodstone Turkey-Cranberry and Philly Cheesesteak, and salads like the Cashew Pear and Seared Ahi Salad are favorites. Herbal tea, espresso drinks, fresh-brewed iced tea, beer and wine round out the selection of beverages on offer. (Also note that Woodstone carries a large selection of local, California and imported wines in the bottle shop.) Tip: If you’re in the area and looking for a hearty takeout dinner, consider grabbing one of Woodstone’s weekday dinner specials. These might include baby back ribs and scampi with pilaf and veggies, Beef Stroganoff with egg noodles and a salad, or other homestyle classics.
Avila Valley Barn
The Avila Valley Barn does so many things well, and just one of them is food. Located on their property, the downhome Chicken Shack and Smokehouse supplies hungry visitors with barbecue, fried chicken, and all the fixings. Tri tip sandwiches, Nashville hot chicken, slaw, mac and cheese, smoked artichokes, salads and more will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. Pick up food for the whole family (including family meal deals) and sit at the rustic picnic tables around the farm. This is a terrific place for kids to dine with their grownups, as they can meander around the property between bites. If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, be sure to check out the corn roastery, where you can pick up a cob of roasted corn for your stroll. And nobody who visits the Avila Valley Barn can leave without sampling something from their famous bakery, like pies, crumbles and other delights. Pick up an ice cream cone at the Sweet Shoppe, take a hay ride or pony ride, feed the goats, and pick out a pumpkin or apple to take home. Dining at the Avila Valley Barn offers more than just a meal.
Mulligan’s Bar & Grill
Sure, maybe you have golf on your mind when you head over to the Avila Beach Golf Resort, but Mulligan’s Bar & Grill is worth a visit all on its own. This is the place for fun, friendship, and flavor before or after a round of golf — or not! Enjoy the spectacular views available from Mulligan’s, which is situated right on the Avila Lagoon and overlooks the golf course. The restaurant is defined by its casual, comfortable dining, like burgers, tacos, salads and sandwiches. Head in before your tee time for breakfast (served all day), and stay for lunch before another round. Mulligan’s offers a lively happy hour, with drink specials and appetizers, as well as live music on Sunday afternoons. Play the course — or skip the golf — and head in for a drink, a bite, and a relaxing setting, complete with fire pits, outdoor heaters and lawn games.
Ice Cream & Coffee Shops in Avila Beach
Big Al’s at the Beach
Everyone loves this cute Avila Beach shop for tasty beachside treats. Family owned and operated, Big Al’s at the Beach serves classic seaside snacks like fruit smoothies and frappuccinos. But Big Al’s is best known as one of the best authentic Hawaiian shave ice shops on Highway 1. You won’t find crushed ice and basic syrups here (#itsnotasnowcone). This is real Hawaiian shave ice, made with delicate ice shavings, authentic flavors, a scoop of ice cream inside and sweet cream drizzle. The shop offers 25 different syrups, all made from cane sugar and flown in from Hawaii. Build your own shave ice or choose from the shop’s signature creations like Lava Flow or Almond Joy. Big Al’s also makes Thai Ice Tea, boba, and organic coffee and espresso drinks using Joebella Roasters. Come in for a pick-me-up in the middle of a long day of sun and fun, or for dessert in the evening.
Kraken Coffee Company
“Beach vibes and coffee” is the tagline for this hip, young coffeehouse — a phrase that sums it up nicely. Kraken Coffee Company sits on a corner overlooking the Avila Beach shoreline, with some outdoor seating to take advantage of the views. Indoor seating includes an upstairs loft with counter seating that looks down over the baristas, plus tables and chairs. Enjoy the style of this place, with its dark walls, massive octopus mural and obscure sea creature paintings. The menu features Kraken’s own-roasted coffee and espresso, house-baked pastries, Batch ice cream and kombucha. Locals rave about the quality of the cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and chai, as well as nitro cold brew and nitro iced tea. Bring the coffee experts in your life to Kraken Coffee Company; they will appreciate it.
The Hula Hut has been an Avila Beach institution since 2007, offering “world-famous Hula Hut fudge,” ice cream, and casual dining. The ambiance is beachy and relaxed, with a vibe reminiscent of a Hawaiian coffee shop. The Hula Hut serves breakfast and lunch daily, plus coffee and Doc Burnstein’s ice cream for between meals and sweet endings. Favorite orders include Waffles, the Clam Chowder Bread Bowl, Chile Verde Burrito, Pork Tamales and Fish Tacos. The diversity of the Hula Hut doesn’t stop at its menu, though. Look for a thriving boutique section with souvenirs, jewelry, and art pieces to take a little bit of Avila home with you. Stay for a full meal or browse the boutique and grab coffee and chocolates or candy for a beach walk. But at the very least, pick up a hunk of Grandma Lizzie’s fudge, available in flavors like Orange Swirl and Vanilla Amaretto Almond. The shop provides indoor and outdoor seating that faces out toward Front Street and the Avila Beach shoreline.
Beer & Wine Tasting in Avila Beach
PierFront Wine & Brew
Located right on the beach, PierFront offers a robust selection of local and international wines and beers in a laid-back, comfortable setting. This wine bar has something for everyone thanks to a lengthy wine and beer list that is always growing and changing. Expect to find three rotating taps, 30+ bottles of beer in a range of styles, plus ciders, hard root beer, and nonalcoholic beer. Wine lovers have even more choices at PierFront, where the cellar contains 90 wines of all different origins. Choose a bottle to share in PierFront’s cozy indoor “living room” or sit outside on the patio. PierFront also serves appetizers and chocolate pairings, and provides board games and, often, live music for visitors to enjoy. The menu changes rapidly to keep things interesting, and the owners and servers are knowledgeable and warm. They’ll even help you find a bottle of wine or beer to take back to your lodging, as well as the appropriate glasses and a chocolate treat.
The Libertine Brewing Company
The specialty at Libertine Brewing Company is wild ales or “sours.” If sours are your passion, you’ll be very content here, but even if they’re not, you’ll have other options, too. Libertine began ten years ago on the Morro Bay Embarcadero to cater to adventurous beer drinkers. They brew in an open-top tank called a coolship that allows wild, ambient yeast to ferment the beer, rather than commercial yeast. Much like wild yeast sourdough, Libertine beers are closely linked to the place they’re brewed by way of those native yeasts. Why not stop in for a pint or two to get to know Avila Beach a bit better? Enjoy a rotating set of 12 taps that highlight Libertine’s wild ales as well as their non-sour collaborative offerings. Want to explore? Order a flight. Want to commit? Take home a crowler. The addition of old school video games and vinyl on the turntable only sweetens the deal.
Alapay Cellars Tasting Room
Winemaker Scott Remmenga opened Alapay Cellars in 2001, and since then it has become the largest winery in Avila Beach. The winery’s name means “heavenly” in the language of the indigenous people who lived here first. The goal to make heavenly wine here has been fulfilled many times over, through the years. The winery sources fruit from Paso Robles to the Santa Ynez Valley and produces a variety of styles. From sparkling to white, red to dessert wine, Alapay offers a wealth of options to taste and to buy at the tasting room. Visit their spacious shop in Avila Beach to experience Alapay’s “wine tasting without attitude.” (The tasting room houses two large saltwater aquariums that are, alone, worth the price of a tasting!) Just a few steps from the beach, you can taste Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and more, possibly poured by Scott himself. Most tastings include two white wines, six reds, and two dessert wines. Tastings are complimentary with the purchase of wine.
Avila Wine & Roasting
A few steps from the beach, this wine tasting bar stocks wines from the Central Coast, Northern California, Oregon, Washington and beyond. Whether you know your way around a wine list or wine is a totally new adventure, Avila Wine & Roasting has much to share. Visitors have the option to taste through a curated flight of favorite wines or wines that are showing particularly well. The expert staff can walk you through each of the wines, sharing information about its origins, style, and winemakers. Avila Wine & Roasting offers red, white, sparkling and dessert wines at a wide variety of price points. Come in, learn about a wine, then enjoy a glass of it on the stone patio facing out toward the beach. Or, if caffeine is more your speed at the moment, try Avila Wine & Roasting’s epicurean coffees, roasted locally specifically for them. Buy a cup or pick up a pound of beans as a delicious reminder of your time in Avila Beach.
Avila Beach wine tasting rooms have become one of the town’s greatest attractions in part thanks to producers like Peloton Cellars. A small brand with a very loyal following, Peloton brings top-notch food-friendly wines to the Central Coast. The winery began as a project between four cycling buddies who wanted to find locally-made wines that paired with simple to spectacular food. When they couldn’t find anything quite right, they decided to do it themselves, led by winemaker Bill Kesselring. The result is a winery, named after a pack of cyclists, that produces lean, elegant wines from cool climate Central Coast vineyards. Some of Peloton’s signature varietals include Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Come in to taste the fresh acidity of these wines, perfect for anything from hamburgers to osso buco, any night of the week. For a fee, taste through a selection of current releases, or order a glass of your favorite to sip alongside charcuterie and appetizer options. The cycling theme, the wine, and the beachfront location work together to make this a fun, relaxing and educational experience.
Sinor-LaVallee Tasting Room
For years, Mike Sinor worked his way through most of the wineries on the Central Coast, both in the cellar and in the field. He fell in love with Pinot Noir, specifically from Burgundy, and even honeymooned in Burgundy with his new bride, Cheri LaVallee. Decades later, the two of them launched their own label, Sinor-LaVallee, purchasing Bassi Vineyard, which lies just 1.2 miles from the Avila Beach coastline. The effect of the ocean on their wines can’t be overstated, and is as much a player in each bottle as the grapes themselves. At the tasting room, look for elegant Pinot Noir, crisp Albarino, Chardonnay and Syrah. Taste the wines by themselves, or pair them with Sinor-LaVallee’s fresh oysters, available for purchase daily on a first come, first served basis. Sinor-LaVallee invites visitors to bring their oysters to the “Shuck Shack” behind the tasting room to slurp with a glass of wine. (You can even purchase an oyster knife and shucking gloves in the tasting room.)
Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards
Tucked back from the coastline, Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards is a delightful hideaway on a backcountry road in the picturesque See Canyon. This part of Highway 1 might be best known for its apple production, but Kelsey See Canyon proves that winegrapes can thrive here, too. The winery property offers a cozy tasting room and spacious outdoor area that’s kid- and dog-friendly. Lay a picnic out on the lawn and grab a bottle or glass of your favorite Kelsey See Canyon wine to enjoy. (Often, the weather here is even sunnier and warmer than on the coast in Avila Beach proper.) Specialties include the estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as hard apple cider and even apple wine. Each wine and its label show a love for the ocean and beach culture. Don’t miss Kelsey See Canyon’s casual outdoor music events, or their 200+ peacocks on the property. You may even find a peacock feather!