San Luis Obispo restaurants serve up a meal to satisfy every flavor preference along Highway 1. Whether you’re craving American comfort classics, Italian, Mexican, barbecue, plant-based dishes or sushi, SLO restaurants are ready to tickle your tastebuds with a diverse array of bistros, cafes and dining rooms ranging from family friendly to farm-to-table. Ready to taste why this region has become a bonafide culinary destination? Simply check out these locally-loved top restaurant picks, all tried-and-true favorites. Plus, you can savor San Luis Obispo restaurants while avoiding downtown crowds when you grab breakfast, lunch or an early lunch or dinner (to-go options also available). Whether you’re fueling up before your next Highway 1 adventure or just winding down from the day’s activities, we can confidently say you’ll come hungry and leave happy.
Explore San Luis Obispo
Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica
Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica is a celebrated downtown San Luis Obispo Italian food restaurant serving up farm-fresh entrees and wood-fired pizzas paired with an extensive wine list. Located in the historic 1876 Sinsheimer Bros. Building—one of the oldest landmarks in downtown San Luis Obispo—you’ll enjoy a casual yet upscale ambiance with indoor and outdoor seating options. Owned by farm-to-fork early adopter Guisseppe “Joe” DiFronzo, Giuseppe’s focuses on seasonal, regional produce paired with fresh steaks and seafood, handmade pasta and from-scratch desserts. How local is local? Heirloom tomatoes, figs, olives, squash and more are commonly procured from DiFronzo’s own San Luis Obispo farm, while wine comes direct from nearby DiFronzo Vineyards. Even the lamb is local–sourced from the DiFronzo’s alma mater, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. What began as a student project nearly three decades ago has expanded into a time-honored tradition blending Italian flavors with Central Coast bounty.
Novo Restaurant and Lounge
Blending an eclectic, globally-inspired menu with award-winning wines and craft cocktails, Novo Restaurant and Lounge is a favorite downtown San Luis Obispo farm-to-table restaurant nestled along San Luis Obispo Creek. Opened in 2003 in the old Cigar Factory building by Robin Covey (the culinary visionary who brought us Robin’s in Cambria), Novo mixes world fusion dishes with wholesome ingredients sourced from local farmer’s markets. Famous for its creekside setting, the outdoor patio is particularly romantic in the glow of twinkle lights and moonlight. Wrap your taste buds around an expansive and worldly menu: Lunch could mean a harissa lamb sandwich, black bean burger or fresh avocado-shrimp spring rolls, while dinner brings spicy pork carnitas sopes, a variety of Thai curries, Korean short ribs or succulent duck served over forbidden black rice. Ready for a morning mouthful? Sunday brunch at Novo is legendary, combining fresh fruit mimosas with decadent sweet and savory offerings. With global fare and creekside ambiance, it’s no wonder why Novo has been named “Best Restaurant” by SLO New Times, countless years running.
Goshi Japanese Restaurant
Authentic Japanese cuisine shines with simple majesty at Goshi Japanese Restaurant, home of fresh sushi, nigiri, sashimi, specialty rolls, tempura, rice bowls and sake. Located in downtown San Luis Obispo’s iconic Creamery Building, you’ll find only the highest quality salmon, tuna, scallops, freshwater eel, octopus, crab and more combined with a warm and inviting atmosphere. Consistently voted “Best Japanese Food” in the area, this is your go-to local stop for sushi night. Feeling extra hungry? With an expansive menu featuring everything from crispy fried chicken and broiled fish to pork belly and hot dumplings, you’ll find the right combination of raw and sizzling.
Flour House Pizza
At Flour House Pizza Bar and Pastaria in downtown San Luis Obispo, wood-fired pizza is made the traditional Napoletana way: Quick-fired chewy crust, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Fired in a 905-degree oven for only 60 to 90 seconds, these fragrant, tender and slightly-charred pies are then drizzled with olive oil and premium toppings—something patrons can smell the moment they step through the door. To achieve this heritage pizza perfection, a Stefano Ferrara wood-burning pizza oven is employed (Flour House owns the only one of its kind located between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Large group to feed? “Meter Monday” features meter or half-meter-long pizzas crafted to feed the specific preference of large groups of four-to-eight. While unique to San Luis Obispo, this is a popular tradition in Italy, connecting family and friends around a shared table. Aside from serving up stellar slices—Flour Houses’ pizza was ranked #35 in the USA on Italy’s 2021 “50 Top Pizza” list—the restaurant also offers house-made pasta, antipasti, aperitivi, local and Italian wine, beer, cocktails and indulgent desserts. With both indoor and patio dining and no reservations required, you can cheers to a marvelous meal that quells your craving for this authentic Naples treat. That said, Flour House is known to fill up fast for dinner, so pizza-seekers should hurry to grab a table as soon as the craving hits.
Shalimar Restaurant in San Luis Obispo boasts an authentic South Asian menu featuring Indian and Pakistani food simmered with bold and enticing spices. Specializing in tender, flavorful and slightly smokey tandoori meats cooked in a cylindrical clay oven or “tandoor,” you can savor lamb, salmon, or chicken cooked in this mouthwatering method. Located on the south side of town heading toward Edna Valley, Shalimar is a fabulous local choice for a casual, family-style meal that usually produces more than a few boxes of leftovers. Do what the locals do and order a feast of rice, garlic naan bread, samosas, lamb curry, chicken tikka masala or spicy curry and pass them around in Shalamar’s inviting dining room or outdoor patio area. Plus, with an array of great vegetarian and vegan options available, everyone can dig in and enjoy. Named after the Shalimar Gardens, a Persian garden built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahaan, this time-honored eatery celebrates the pinnacle of “Indian cuisine with Pakistani flavor.”
La Esquina Taqueria
La Esquina Taqueria is a top shelf Mexican food restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo combining fresh seafood and craft margaritas. Located on the north side of the historic Creamery Building complex, dine inside or out on the restaurant’s popular heated patio. Created by the owners of Ciopinot Seafood Grill, this vibrant culinary destination serves up all the spicy Mexican flavors you crave elevated by the fresh catch of the day, Dungeness crab or jumbo Mexican white prawns, to name a few seafood delights. Whether you choose to order Baja fish tacos or tender pork chile verde simmered for hours, you’ll experience a uniquely SLO twist on Mexican fare. Ready for a cocktail to complement that order of chips and guacamole? Home to one of the largest selections of tequila and mezcal on the Central Coast, savor incredible margaritas served with fresh-squeezed lime juice.
Ciopinot Seafood Grill
Ciopinot Seafood Grill is a time-honored mainstay for upscale seafood in downtown San Luis Obispo. Patrons are encouraged to sample the dish that gave this restaurant its name, a tried-and-true favorite. Trust us: The Ciopinot stew—a rich blend of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, squid, scallops and mussels swimming in a luscious tomato-wine broth—is legendary for a reason. Each steaming bowl is topped with fresh parmesan and basil and served with a perfectly toasted baguette brushed with saffron aioli, the perfect vehicle for sopping up every last precious drop. Featuring a full bar specializing in whiskey, bourbon and scotch plus pinot noir varieties, your wine corkage fee is waived on the first bottle when you purchase a second. Craving a juicy steak? Both surf and turf graces this iconic menu, where you can cut into an eight-ounce juicy filet mignon or 16-ounce ribeye. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion with friends or planning a romantic date night, Ciopinot is ready to wow with classic elegance, time and time again.
Farm-to-table Peruvian food takes center stage at Mistura in downtown San Luis Obispo. Located in the historic Creamery Complex next to sister restaurant Mama’s Meatball, Mistura is all about blending sumptuous flavors and cultures—in fact, the name itself means “to mix or blend.” Ready to explore the rainforest the local way? Dig into Peruvian black squid ink hominy tamales topped with wild shrimp, organic potatoes drizzled with creamy huancaina sauce, aji amarillo and queso fresco or savor chicken empanadas stuffed with egg, pecans and Botija olives. Utilizing native Andean ingredients paired with locally sourced and free range meats, sustainable seafood and fresh organic produce, Mistura is able to bring fabulous far-flung flavors to the Central Coast.
Big Sky Cafe
Local farmer’s market ingredients and world fusion comfort fare come together to create a wholesome, delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner at Big Sky cafe. Opened in 1994 a block from Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo, this beloved cafe is famous for using organic fruits and vegetables, farmstead cheeses, local olive oils and vintage vinegars—all of which come together to create a winning market-fresh bite. Voted “Best Breakfast in San Luis Obispo County” many times over, Big Sky Cafe is also known for serving up sizzling cups of black bean chili, a killer Cubano or Nashville hot chicken sandwich, grass fed burgers, noodle bowls, Mexican-inspired dishes, local fish specials and baskets of famous jalapeno cornbread for the table. Enjoy your meal in the star-studded dining room or on the sunny patio overlooking the heart of downtown. With crowd-pleasing flavors and plenty of yummy options for vegetarians, vegans or just anyone looking to add some plant-based power into their diet, Big Sky Cafe satisfies your need for wholesome flavor.
Koberl at Blue Restaurant & Bar
Koberl at Blue Restaurant & Bar provides an upscale culinary experience located in downtown San Luis Obispo. Opened in 2005 in the historic J.P. Andrews Building, you’ll find a full bar and extensive wine list to pair alongside chef-crafted dishes at this brick-walled bistro. Famous for serving up sophisticated new American cuisine, expect incredible steaks, fish entrees, pan roasted chicken breast, pork chops and rack of lamb all cooked to perfection. When paired with seasonal market veggies and succulent sauces, these premium meats shine with elevated brilliance. Plus, Koberl at Blue is also home to an impressive vegetarian menu encompassing vibrant salads, hearty pasta dishes and more. Whether you stop in for a craft cocktail or a multi-course dinner paired with the perfect local wine, you’re sure to experience a touch of understated SLO elegance.
Fresh, authentic Northern Italian cuisine is the star of the show at La Locanda in downtown San Luis Obispo. Taste the true terroir of the region, one bite at a time: Meals are handcrafted from scratch daily with ingredients sourced from local farmer’s markets. Handmade pasta, including lasagna, tagliatelle, and ravioli are specialties well worth the effort in the kitchen, especially when served alongside local herbs and produce. Veal, beef tenderloin, rack of lamb, chicken and fresh fish—followed by a host of fine desserts—round out the mouthwatering menu. Ready for a perfect pairing? Sample a bevy of local and Italian wines (or bring your own, with corkage fee). Featuring an ultra-cozy dining room with open kitchen and a small back patio, you’ll savor an intimate experience and the waiter’s full attention; yet, due to these space limitations, reservations are highly recommended. Translated from Italian, “La Locanda,” simply means “the Inn,” an intimate establishment for patrons to dine, drink and stay awhile. At this local gem, that’s exactly what you’ll enjoy. Benvenuto, and welcome to your table.
Park 1039 tops the list as one of downtown San Luis Obispo’s most impressive farm-to-table foodie establishments. Featuring two accomplished chefs who previously lent their talents to Michelin and James Beard rated restaurants, you can rest easy knowing that your meal will be a cut above. Savor quality local meats, house-made recipes and seasonal produce procured from area farms, including Arroyo Grande’s Rutiz family Farms. Ripe, seasonal fare, whether foraged or grown nearby, inspire Park 1039’s dishes to come alive with the spirit of the region. With two certified sommeliers on hand and a wine cellar featuring 2,000 bottles representing 26 countries, pairing your meal is elevated to an art form. Plus, an onsite gourmet market and delicatessen allow you to take home a bit of epicurean wonder.
Firestone Grill's Tri-Tip Sandwich
A Central Coast classic since 1995, Firestone Grill’s famous beef tri-tip is tender, well-seasoned and oh-so-satisfying when enjoyed with house-made barbecue sauce on a toasted, buttered roll. Popular with college students and longtime locals alike, this budget and family-friendly hangout is always busting around lunchtime. Join the crowd and dig in like a true local.
Petra Mediterranean Pizza & Grill
Named as one of USA Today’s “Top 25 Pizza Joins in America,” Petra Mediterranean Pizza & Grill is known for serving up fresh, Mediterranean flavors with a comfort food twist. Grab a crowd-pleasing Greek pizza topped with feta, gyro meat and olives or dig into a sizzling shawarma plate served with either tri-tip or chicken and paired with a side of pita bread, hummus, tabbouleh or tzatziki.
High Street Deli Sandwiches
High Street Deli is the tried-and-true local pick for filling sandwiches served sunrise to sunset in San Luis Obispo. Known for crave-worthy flavor combinations piled high with premium carved meats, fresh veggies, quality cheeses and house-made sauces, High Street Deli also features a selection of sides and craft beer. Whether you grab a breakfast sandwich served on a french roll or a popular “Dutch Punch Sando” (laden with tender smoked turkey, extra bacon, jalapeno Havarti, red onion, tomato and house chipotle mayo on Ductch Crunch bread), you’ll likely have enough leftover to enjoy tomorrow.
Madonna Inn Desserts
An iconic San Luis Obispo road-stop since the 1950s, Madonna Inn is synonymous with delectable desserts—and the color pink! Churning out their classic, world famous pink champagne cake in keeping with what can only be described as rabid demand, the hotel’s Copper Cafe fills up quickly with folks looking for sweets to enjoy onsite or to-go. Sample this photo-worthy treat topped with curls of hot pink white chocolate and you’ll soon understand why all the fuss. Of course, you can also take home fresh-baked pies, cookies and pastries, too.
Discover San Luis Obispo Dining
San Luis Obispo’s dining scene is diverse and delicious. Whether you seek chef-driven menus paired with award-winning wines, a casual breakfast for your family or the casual elegance of a farm-to-table supper, you’ll find it in San Luis Obispo. Thanks to the region’s year-round growing season, our kitchens are also rife with farm-fresh flavor. Avocado, citrus, olive oil, wine, free-range meats, fresh fish and more all all procured from nearby sources, making for a truly inspired culinary experience. Plus, with plenty of eateries serving up everything from Mexican and sushi to burgers and brunch, you’ll never need to choose between your craving and quality. Have a favorite restaurant to add to our list? Contact us and let us know!