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Our Favorite Central Coast Patios & Outdoor Dining Destinations
The days are longer. The weather is warmer. Let's talk patios. The signal for the end of the short cold winter evenings transitioning into lingering summer nights is the clinking of glasses under a setting sky. There are so many amazing restaurants, wine bars and breweries in the area and so many neglect the greatest asset for Central Coast living--a draw for many customers--the grand outdoor space.
People want to be outside, breathe the fresh air, wear sunglasses, listen to chill tunes and drink a brew with some amigos. These are the interludes for being in this high cost of living region.
1750 El Camino Real, Ste A, Grover Beach
I love Manrock. Easily my favorite outdoor space in Grover and Arroyo Grande. Manrock offers an outstanding selection of complex house-made beers and meads, delicious wood fired pizzas and juicy grilled burgers on Wednesday Pint Nights, from 4-8pm. It's one of the best deals in town and helps break up the week with a little fun. Often they have jangly hipster bands on their outdoor stage, backed by a splendid thicket grove with views down to Pismo Beach.
Don't be intimidated by the website bravado, though the logo vents goth machismo, the folks who run the brewery are warm, hospitable and knowledgeable. One of the finest breweries and beer gardens on the Central Coast.
2757 Shell Beach Rd, Shell Beach
Hard chilling done right. Every local's favorite sunset admiring patio. Marisol offers a gorgeous wrap-around with heaters, umbrellas and simple quality seating to put visitors at ease. Get there early in the summer months as this place is usually packed and seating may require patience. Occasionally, you'll luck out and have the pick of the patio, consider these rare instances a blessing and a reminder of how you should be gracious for the little victories.
Order the grilled ahi fish tacos if you're having trouble figuring out an order. Made with fresh flour tortillas, cilantro, avo, apple slices (I know, right? Trust a food writer, you want this) and their house made aioli, it's absolutely delicious. Enjoy the sunset and watch the dozens of tourists defiantly hold up their cell phones while they enjoy their the view through an LCD screen.
1023 Chorro St, San Luis Obispo
Hands-down one of my favorite hangs in SLO. You may catch a local celebrity, like the radiant Reese Galido from the Kicks, or Hilary from the Tipsy Gypsies lurking on the patio with sangrias. Come to Luna for their amazing happy hour specials on Thursdays, order inexpensive, yet proudly and delicately curated a la carte tasters. I love the stuffed peppers and the steak arrachera tacos.
The patio is the spot to hang in summer months, you can enjoy the view of the SLO mission, like the annual Concerts in the Plaza and an incredible meal. Bask under the terrific heat lamps on the cushy couch or near the outdoor fireplace and bar. I'm telling you, Luna brings the chill. If you are coming with a couple friends, order the paella and add some pork belly, live a little. Abut that order with one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails in the area, a testament to the work-hard chill-hard endurance.
690 Santa Maria Ave, Los Osos
It's hard to pick only one Los Osos patio as there are so many places. Los Osos has this odd reputation in SLO and throughout the Central Coast as being a sort of stuffy hippy community with wastewater frustrations. Bear in mind, anytime I meet someone from Los Osos, they don't just say, "I'm from Los Osos." They always have some weird mythologized phrase, "I'm from the artist community of Los Osos." But honestly, you know what Los Osos does right? FOOD. Los Osos is a gastro hideaway on the Central Coast with exceptional meals. I'm tempted to rattle off some favorites, but let's focus on patios.
In the coming weeks, I'll write a whole piece on my favorite Los Osos haunts, but for now I want you to be acquainted with the Baywood Ale House, a fantastic beer garden with delicious handles of tasty, seasonally rotated craft beers and simple pub grub meals and snacks, think burgers, salads and sandwiches. I like the caprese bruschetta and the brie and mushroom topped sirloin sliders. Hard chill on their heated patio and close your brew with an easy jaunt to the bay.
1144 Pine St., Paso Robles
A great patio hang with views of the historic 4.5 acre downtown city park and all the lively Paso evening color. Villa Creek is a terrific place to grab an exquisitely prepared meal with approachable, sometimes daring organic dishes and culinary inventions fitted with seasonality. They of course host a terrific collection of local and international wines and a short list of tasty local and international brews.
The patio is fitted with bar tables, heaters and an energizing escape from an afternoon roaming vineyard tasting rooms. I recommend the duck confit nachos with mole negro and red onion relish starter and the Moroccan braised lamb or the butternut squash enchilada, one of the greatest vegetarian entrees in the area.
1245 Embarcadero, Morro Bay
The only tragedy about Dockside in Morro Bay is the crappy and hideous plastic patio furniture, overlookable to the contrasting beautiful scenery. Remember the great British proverb, when at the sea, you order the seafood. Dockside makes simple comfort food ornamented with glorious catches of the day, everything from raw tuna on a simple mixed green blanket, to crispy fish and chips and glorious oysters. Honestly, if you hate oysters or never had one, you need to have your inaugural oyster from Morro Bay's Dockside. Keep in mind, just about every oyster served on the Central Coast comes from Morro Bay, so get it from the source. Get fresh. Fresh let's you experience things like raw tuna from that-day, in all its flavorful glory. The way God intended. Amen.
950 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo
Bang the Drum Brewery was a SLO sleeper hit. The word is out on the coolsville brimming from this side of SLO. Take the bike trail, passing the railroad and cruise down Orcutt Rd until you hit the now-iconic corrugated brew house. The patio is massive and the building facade rolls open to blur the indoor/outdoor boundary. Heat lamps and cushy chairs make the patio the place to be on an any kind of day.
Bring a chill game or some cards and hopefully you'll luck out with the Grilled Cheese Incident food truck in the parking lot (he's been there half the times I've gone to Bang the Drum. Check his Facebook for his schedule). Bang the Drum makes an extraordinarily simple roster of delicious beers, bring a growler and fill up for a BBQ. They often have events going on and their last Humane Society dog-night ended up being a huge success with just about every dog in SLO county making an appearance.
4095 Burton Dr, Cambria
Robin's is the reason a lot of people come to Cambria. They offer blankets and heat lamps for chilly nights and peaceful serenity for any visit. Sitting in the garden, you feel like you've truly escaped the concrete jungle and are basking in the retreat-life which the fabled PCH provides.
Robin's dishes are pridefully curated with extraordinary fresh ingredients, chef William Ouderkirk is an inspired culinary master who seeks local and seasonal. Get the salmon bisque; everything is good, but the salmon bisque is exceptional. Known for their terrific happy hour specials, come by on Monday through Friday between 3-5pm and enjoy any of the fantastic items on their happy hour menu: the bisque, cumin black bean nachos, tandoori jidori chicken wings or some other deliciously inexpensive dish.
726 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo
Constant, never-ending winner of the New Times best outdoor dining experience award since probably always, Novo still has one of the greatest patios on the Central Coast. Creekside seating with a gorgeous tree and overgrown ivy lined iron fence, you can't go wrong with any seat on their deck, though getting next to the water is a special treat.
I've never had a bad meal at Novo, but I come here only for special occasions or when I'm showing off the area to friends as it hits the wallet harder than other local favorites. I love their duck mole though it's a rare treat when on the menu, which changes seasonally, and my mother's favorite is the always tender and savory lamb. Their curries are to die-for. Absolutely perfect accompaniment on a warm summer night. The best seats in the house are creekside.
624 S Main St, Ste #101, Templeton
Described by most North County folk as one of the best wine bars in SLO County, 15 Degrees C is about cool food seasonality pared with local and international wines. Owned by the kind-hearted Sommelier Ali Carscaden, it's the kind of place where you pick up a bold bottle of something new, snack on something seasonal and shoot the California breeze with the locals on the patio.
Offering a cozy fireplace, heaters and relaxed seating, grab a plate of charcuterie and a bottle with some amigos and find your mellow while a local musician strums out the chill. I love the tapas and salad menu featuring simple, inspired dishes with cured meats, delicious cheeses and thing to spread and dip.
1313 Park St., Paso Robles
Featuring one of the biggest patios on the Central Coast, Thomas Hill Organics is all about farm to table. The Thomas Hill legacy began with a local community supported agriculture (CSA) farm box and evolved into the massive Paso Robles staple with a terrific wine and beer bar and excellent lunch and dinner selections.
The owners strongly believe in the virtues of local, organic and proudly made to order. You'll find a terrific spectrum of regional dishes, but I love the pork belly, the classic cattle burger and pan seared scallops.
I'd like to make a recommendation for every restaurant webpage while I have the forum. The only things people want to see when they come to your restaurant/brewery website, the things that should be at the top of the webpage: address, phone number, hours and a link to the menu. All else is auxiliary.
Shoot us a comment below if we missed your favorite patio, let us know -- we're constantly updating these pieces to reflect the best community insights. If you enjoyed this piece, check out our pieces on our favorite breakfast haunts and our favorite Central Coast pizzas.
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