Walking Distance if Downtown:
(a) Il Cortile (Italian--great pasta). Get the Wild boar pasta dish or the rabbit pasta - the rabbit pasta, if available, is ridiculously good. (Avoid anything with truffle oil or cream sauce -the chef likes rich dishes.) Octopus starter is good. All ingredients are very high quality (proscuitto, cheese, etc.)
(b) Villa Creek - Just got a new chef from the Bay Area who has a fantastic reputation. Nice wine list.
(c) Artisan—used to be amazing. Moved locations and it lost some luster. Still very popular but not a DW-favorite. I like the bar area more than the dining room. Food is usually solid as long as you don't get the flatbreads.
(d) Thomas Hill Organics - sometimes one or two too many ingredients, but generally very good. We like to sit at the bar and get a glass of wine and order a couple dishes at a time. Lots of people LOVE this place. We like it better for brunch or lunch.
(e) Fish Gaucho - Mexican with a seafood emphasis. Terrific drinks and some pretty delicious food if you choose wisely (ceviche and crudo-type dishes are really good, as are the guacamole/chips, tacos, salads and queso fundido). A lively scene.
Not in town:
For a true local experience about 20ish min away, our favorite is the Range in Santa Margarita. Cash only and no reservations. No website. You call before you go though and they usually put you on the list. Cowboy-ish restaurant with a very reasonable, well-chosen local wine list. Love the steaks, lamb, plus pretty much all starters and desserts.
5-10 min drive: McPhee’s in Templeton. Kind of a throwback restaurant. Those places are not usually on a DW-list, but McPhee's is charming and we love the reasonable wines made for them by area winemakers. Sit in a booth.
Pony Bar at Hotel Cheval.
Villa Creek bar- great margaritas.
Fish gaucho is fun for a pre-dinner drink
There is a wine bar called Wine in the Alley or something like that around the corner from Artisan. Really nice selection.
(1) Tablas Creek. Way out there but a pretty drive. Has a little bit of everything and a solid pick.
(2) Villa Creek. Wine is delicious and the setting spectacularly peaceful and beautiful. Rosé is super reasonable and one of the best in CA.
(3) Denner - terrific spot to eat lunch - you can order a cheese plate or bring something from elsewhere to eat. By appt only to wine list members only or their guests. But call anyway and see if you can make an appt. If they agree, they will give you a code for the gate.
(4) Linne Calodo. Wines are awesome but require some aging. Still a lovely tasting experience. By appt only.
(5) Epoch Winery out on York Mountain. Cool spot in the woods— very pricey wines with pedigree.
(6) Terry Hoage. Other than Tablas, pretty much the only white wines we drink from Paso (like the Picpoul Blanc).
(7) Shale Oak winery -the wine is decent and the setting is great—lots of reclaimed/recycled materials.
(8) For views - Calcareous and Daou - amazing vistas from the tasting rooms, especially Daou. I don’t like the wines but some are good or at least above average. The setting is a wow factor. Think Daou has food too.
Most people try Justin. Way out of the way. They make a few good wines, but most of them are not available in the tasting room. Worth it if you get a VIP tour or something, but the regular tasting we did was not worth the trip.
Wine bar: 15 degrees in Templeton. Grab a cheese and charcuterie plate and try some wines/beers. Nice spot on Main St. in Templeton.
Kitchenette on Main St. in Templeton is really good. Run by the guys who run Artisan. Do takeout or order at the counter and sit down to eat. Delicious sandwiches and salads. Great breakfast options too.
Place adjacent to Hotel Cheval does prepared foods and sandwiches, but order in advance b/c they are SO slow.
For fish n chips/lobster rolls, fish tacos, Pier 46 in Templeton is AWESOME. Right by the 101. Best fresh fish market we have ever been to.
Cheese/snacks - D'Raimondo's in downtown Paso has a nice selectio.
Kreuzberg just opened in downtown Paso and is pretty good.
Bru (coffee place) in Atascadero is great but most people do not want to drive 15 min for coffee.
If for some reason you find themselves down there, Hush Harbor Bakery across the street has the best sandwiches in the area--because the BREAD IS CRAZY GOOD--for a picnic lunch.
San Luis Obispo
Scout Coffee: Amazing--my favorite coffee place anywhere.
Granada Bistro: love the setting and food is very good.
Foremost Wine Co.: Name is misleading. It's a restaurant. Fabulous on every level - not as well known as it should be.
Flour House: Napoletana pizza and pretty good. Love the Spritzes (Italian pre-dinner cocktail)- totally authentic.