The Central Coast is one California destination that doesn’t seem to garner significant attention.  Everyone knows about Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. But not as many people think about San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay and the areas north along the Pacific.

Last year, I wrote a few posts about Paso Robles and how it’s become an emerging wine country destination. I returned to the area this past week for another writers’ retreat and press trip with Travel Writers University, this time going to the nearby coastal towns of San Simeon and Cambria. This dramatic postcard-perfect region of California reminded me of where I grew up, near Monterey Bay.

As I mentioned last week, our group stayed at the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort.  Our first night’s dinner and daily breakfasts were served here. But we also enjoyed some incredible meals at a few local restaurants, all of which are here:

Ragged Point

Probably because of its remote location on Highway 1, this surprisingly extensive resort complex has a half dozen venues, including a gas station, general store, snack bar, gift shop and restaurant, and an inn. It’s one of the last stops before Big Sur, the next largest community 50 miles north.  However, because of the landslide, the road is closed at the time of this writing.

The resort’s restaurant was a surprising discovery, as the dishes our group chose were fresh and flavorful. I enjoyed carne asada street tacos that equaled any I’ve had a hole-in-the-wall taqueria. Others ate jerk chicken sandwiches, chicken pappardelle, and fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp, fish, and chips. I expected simple diner fare, but Ragged Point was a great meal during our few days on the Central Coast.


Cambria is one of the larger towns in the area, and visitors mostly go there for shopping and dining. Later in the day, after visiting Ragged Point and the Piedras Blancas rookery to view elephant seals, we did exactly that. After a quick tour of the town and its historical center, we headed to Robin's for dinner.

Preparing “handcrafted global cuisine,” the eatery is housed in a historic residence adorned with blooming flowers and plants. We sat on the covered patio, but there was also a beautifully decorated indoor dining area. This was my favorite restaurant on the trip because of our eclectic menu items, which ranged from Asian to Latin American to European. Some standouts were the duck ramen, the ossobuco and the rogan josh.


Their seaside cattle ranch and winery complex are directly down the road from Hearst Castle. He enjoyed a wonderful lunch and wine tasting at Sebastian’s, their fast-casual eatery and country store. Normally, the wine tasting is held in a large barn. But because of the recent storms on the Central Coast, some structural damage was sustained, and the barn wasn’t open.

We each ordered sandwiches about as large as a placemat (not really, but they were substantial in size) or salads.  My turkey sandwich included bacon, smashed avocado, alfalfa sprouts, onions and a creamy aioli on a multigrain bun. There were two options for the tasting – one curated by Hearst Ranch, the other from Sebastian’s. While I chose the latter, one of my friends allowed me to try his from the former, and I preferred those wines because their flavors were more multi-dimensional and complex.

Manta Rey’s

The last place we dined at was an unexpected find. Located in a Quality Inn in San Simeon, the seafood eatery has a small two-area dining room and modest décor. But the food we enjoyed was quite good, and our server was friendly and accommodating.

Nothing was too fancy here, but sometimes you can appreciate simple, straightforward food. My grilled salmon had an addictive whole-grain mustard sauce, served alongside mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. One of my colleagues ordered a steak with goat cheese covered in blueberry coulis, while others ordered fish, chips, and seafood pasta.

Overall, we had some fantastic dining on the Central Coast, and I would recommend any of these places if you should visit here.