You have two choices when driving to San Francisco: the 5, which is boring but quick, or the 101, which is breathtakingly scenic, but adds about 2 hours to your trip. This time around we split the difference, jaming up the 5, with nothing but hills and tumbleweeds, then we drove home leisurely, enjoying all that the 101 has to offer.
Driving the 5 you might as well hit a fast food joint, but if you want something more upscale, Harris Ranch has beef about as fresh as it gets — ignore the mooing outside. Oh, They also have gigantic pastries.
In San Francisco you have an overabundance of selections: Sears Fine Foods, John’s Grill, Herbivore, B Restaurant and Grill, Tadich Grill, or even a jaunt down to Chez Panisse (eat upstairs. We tried Bar Agricole on this trip since it was one door down from Slim’s and the mixologist is up for a James Beard award. The dishes were hit and miss. The uni appetizer was delicious,but it was garnished with pickled radishes that taste fishy, like people expect uni to taste. Fried artichokes were also a nice starter. The crab and crab salad was lovely, as was the halibut.
We stayed in a suburb of San Francisco called Moraga, where we found a great breakfast at a neighborhood place called Chow.
What else is there to do in San Francisco besides eat? Lots! SF is one of the best museum cities in the country. The DeYoung museum has gorgeous pastel paintings, MOAD (Museum of the African Diaspora not only has displays with historical value, but some that are truly beautiful. YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) has modern installations, and MOMA has some world-famous pieces.
On the way back, we took the scenic route. The first leg of the 101 is mostly inland, with grapevines and wide-open fields. Try Artisan for lunch in Paso Robles.
Paso Robles is an up and comer in the wine industry, so be sure and try some local wine. Artisan is known for its ice cream. This grasshopper sundae is like eating a fistful of spearmint fresh from the garden.
We usually stop in Nipomo, just south of San Luis Obispo. It’s a nice half-way point and there is a lot to do in SLO. Do not miss the Madonna Inn, with its psychedelic decor, chicken salad sandwiches and football-sized pastries. In Nipomo there is a hidden little sushi joint near The Mayor’s that has surprisingly good food, thank to Edward, the sushi chef.
Jocko’s is a renowned steakhouse in Nipomo. The wood-fired Santa Maria style hunks of beef are out of this world. It can be really crowded, with waits over an hour for dinner. The trick is to go there for breakfast. Everything is spot-on and you can choose between thick bacon, linguica, or giant steaks. This was a small.
Be careful back on the road because the freeway south of Nipomo is a speed trap. If you didn’t fill up on steak at Jockomo’s, make the side trip past Beullton to the legendary Hitching Post. If you aren’t hungry yet, wait until you hit Santa Barbara for La Super Rica, reputedly Julia Child’s favorite tacos. They have daily specials, including outrageous tacos de honga (mushroom tacos) on Saturdays.