Cal Poly and Cuesta College are back! While first-year 'Stangs and Cuestonians will be introduced to SLO Town for the first time, even returning students likely haven't experienced a fully reopened SLO since the spring of 2020. For the sake of the newbs and those returning from a long hiatus, New Times put together a food and drink guide to ease the transition. Here, you'll find a mix of good student deals, convenient locations, staff favorites, and certified SLO classics. Happy start of school!
- File Photo By Beth Giuffre
- Kin Coffee Bar
Coffee / cafés
Scout Coffee Co (Building 172, yakitutu area; 1130 Garden St.; 880 Foothill Blvd.)
Scout Coffee made a big splash on the local café scene when it opened its impeccably decorated, brick-laden space on Garden Street in 2014, and the coffee shop/roaster continues to make bold moves. Owners Sara and Jon Peterson recently announced their third location slated for Cal Poly's campus opening this fall. It will be in the yakitutu housing neighborhood, next to the Cal Poly Welcome Center.
Another great option: Kin Coffee Bar (847 Higuera St.)
Del Monte Café (1901 Santa Barbara Ave.)
Here's our chance to plug not only a bomb breakfast spot, but SLO's newest bike path that will make getting to town from campus a lot easier. Consider this scenario: It's Saturday morning and you're a little hung over and very hungry. Hop on a bike and cruise down California Boulevard toward downtown. Stay on the bike path that, starting in late October, will swerve to the right and take you on an easy course to downtown. Skip the downtown crowd and ride Osos Street until you see a 100-year-old building on your right with "Del Monte Café" across the top. You can thank me later.
Another great option: Charlie's Place (981 Foothill Blvd.)
- File Photo By Kaori Peters
- Kona's Deli
Kona's Deli (977 Foothill Blvd.)
Kona's Deli, located conveniently on Foothill Boulevard near campus, really loves their college students. This surf/Hawaiian-themed shop has some very sweet deals for students. Their 6-inch sandos are always $6.50 for customers with a Cuesta or Cal Poly student ID and (foot-longs are $9.50). On Thursdays, students get another 10 percent off. On Fridays, their beers are $2. Kona is one of the best student values in town.
Another great option: Lincoln Market & Deli (496 Broad St.)
Woodstock's Pizza (1000 Higuera St.)
A SLO institution, Woodstock's Pizza does everything well. The pizza is cheesy and delicious. The tap list is robust. The environment is fun. The prices are reasonable. Its new outdoor parklet is nice and spacious. Stop by for a quick lunch, settle in for trivia night with your friends, or end your night out with a midnight slice. There are countless reasons to go to Woodstock's. Students get $6 off extra-large pizzas, too.
Another great option: Nucci's Pizza (785 Foothill Blvd; 3165 Broad St. #106)
La Locanda (1137 Garden St.)
Looking for a nice date night restaurant or a place to wow your parents when they're in town? La Locanda is it. Seriously, don't look further. Criminally underrated, this quaint downtown establishment is headed by Chef Luciano Bardinelli, who makes the best Italian food in town. Despite the restaurant's humble feel, Bardinelli's pedigree is unmatched. His previous restaurant in Seattle made him known as the Godfather of Seattle's Italian food Renaissance. He moved to SLO in 2012 to be closer to his family. Lucky us! Pro tip: Get the lasagna.
Another great option: Flour House (690 Higuera St.)
- Photo Courtesy Of Tacos De Acapulco Facebook Page
- Tacos de Acapulco
Tacos de Acapulco (596 California Blvd.)
Located in a small but action-packed shopping center near campus on California Boulevard, Tacos de Acapulco is not only super convenient for students, but also happens to serve up some of the best Mexican food in SLO. Here you'll find friendly staff, tantalizing carnitas tacos, and, well, your friends and peers. This spot is well known around campus—for good reason.
Another great option: Taqueria Santa Cruz (1308 Monterey St.; 862 Foothill Blvd.)
Southeast Asian food
@bites (195 Santa Rosa St.)
Returning students—pay attention! This is a new Vietnamese restaurant (as of June 2020) that should become a hit with students given its location and quality. Its offerings include street food like pork buns and egg rolls and heftier items like pho and banh mi. @bites fills an important cuisine gap in SLO and is not run by lightweights. Chef Luke Ly apparently cooked for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush when the former presidents made their official trips to Vietnam. Impressive!
Another great option: My Thai (1815 Osos St.)
Mandarin Gourmet (1316 Madonna Road)
Here's the God's honest truth about Chinese food in SLO: There's just not enough of it. That said, here are two quality Chinese restaurants you can depend on (and avoid a chain like Panda Express). Mandarin Gourmet, located in the Laguna Village Shopping Center, has been around for 20 years and cooks up some tasty, tasty dishes. A frequent winner in our Best of SLO County readers poll, they specialize in Szechuan, Hunan, and Vietnamese cuisines.
Another great option: Mee Heng Low Noodle House (815 Palm St.)
Goshi (570 Higuera St. #155)
A longtime local favorite, Goshi is one of three Japanese restaurants in downtown SLO. Choice is good! You can't go wrong with any of the three, but Goshi is a standout for its superb food and ambiance in the Creamery Marketplace. Sushi is the obvious pick here, but do not hesitate to try their teriyaki offerings.
Another great option: Arigato Sushi (667 Marsh St.)
Taj Palace (795 Foothill Blvd.)
Taj Palace is just one of the delicious and celebrated Indian restaurants in SLO. But it's the closest to campus, it has a killer Monday buffet dinner, and it offers a blanket 10 percent discount on menu items for college students. That's not a deal to pass up! Afterward, you can hit SLODoCo across the street for dessert. Double yum.
Another great option: Shalimar Restaurant (3820 Broad St.)
Petra (1210 Higuera St.)
There's a good chance that by the time Poly freshmen read this, they've already heard of Petra (or eaten there). A huge hit with students and townies alike, Petra has a prime location on the campus-adjacent fringe of downtown, great Mediterranean fare, and underrated pizzas. Their wall-to-wall beverage fridge is also a sight to behold. There's never a bad time or reason to go to Petra, as you'll find out.
SLO Sweets (1020 Court St.)
From candy, to chocolates, to gelato, SLO Sweets has it. They also have a sweet 10 percent discount for college students. Perfect for Valentine's Day, a birthday, or just a quick stop while you're downtown, you'll come here for its sweets variety and stay for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which plays on a loop.
Another great option: SLODoCo (793 Foothill Blvd.)
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- Central Coast Brewing
Central Coast Brewing (1422 Monterey St.; 6 Higuera St.)
Look away, underclassmen! Beer-loving students of legal age should stop by Central Coast Brewing (CCB). It's a great place to dip your toes in the local craft brewery scene. With two awesome locations in town—the closest to campus is the original brewery, on upper Monterey Street—CCB makes fantastic beer and always has something fun going on, whether live music or a movie night. It's a place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon with friends.
Another great option: Barrelhouse Brewing Co (1033 Chorro St.)
Habit Burger Grill (839 Higuera St.)
Broke? The Habit, located in the heart of downtown, has a tasty burger that won't break your wallet. Its signature charburger doesn't disappoint. And they now offer Impossible vegan burgers! Pro tip: Order the tempura green beans.
Another great option: Frank's Famous Hot Dogs (950 California Blvd.)
Ziggy's Vegan Restaurant (594 California Blvd.)
Ziggy's, a 100-percent plant-based restaurant, is making the rounds in the local press right now, and deservedly so. Located in the same shopping area as Tacos de Acapulco, this small but mighty eatery is a scrumptious and welcome addition to the veggie food scene. Stop by for breakfast, tacos, burgers, "milk" shakes, and more.
Another great option: Bliss Cafe (778 Higuera St., suite D) Δ
Send Assistant Editor Peter Johnson your favorite places to nosh by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.