And by SLOJam, of course, I mean jamming down the coast to what may be CA’s most alluring town, San Luis Obispo. It’s hands-down my favorite place to be when I’m not A) in my bed B) in my kitchen or C) in my family’s kitchen(s).
As the city tourism board should be saying, When it comes to SLO, if you know, you know — and if you don’t, just go!
Since Chris and I moved back to CA a few years ago, we’ve made it an annual ritual to visit San Luis Obispo in February. There’s just something about the green hills, the barely chilled air and the whole “let’s call this Valentine’s Day and be done with it, yeah?” thing that’s utterly appealing.
Sometimes there’s bike stuff involved. (Chris put in three years at Foothill Cyclery and makes it a point to return and load up on plenty of bling for his two-wheeled concubines. I kid you not, I’d get so far in this household if I had wheels…)
Always there’s tri-tip.
In recent trips, there’s also been a lot of Figgy Pig happening, which just might be the best thing since sliced bagels. (It’s a bagel sandwich, so there was a pun in there.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to snap photos of all the SLOnanigans that took place, but I did catch a few things on iPhilm. And it went a little something like this…
In the words of Phantom Planet, a trip to SLO from the Bay Area begins by driving down the 101. On a Friday, that can be an absolute nightmare or a total breeze, depending on when you leave. We left closer to commute than we wanted to and somehow still managed to make it to SLO in 3 hours. Three hours!! We spend more than that going to Tahoe every other weekend! Why we aren’t in SLO at least nine times a day is beyond me.
I gots me some protein on the way in the form of Starbeezy’s creatively named Protein Bistro Box. PRO Tip: there’s salt and pepper hiding under that little mini pita that will take your egg from ehhhg to aayyyyg! Sprankle, munch, repeat.
The first thing we did when we got to San Luis Obispo — besides get all teary-eyed as we drove by our old house — was to check into the Apple Farm Inn. I’ve gotta say, I have a sweet spot for the Apple Farm for a few reasons. 1) It’s literally a stone’s throw from our old stomping grounds, so just being in the area gets me all goosebumpy with nostalgia. 2) It’s pretty freakin’ awesome if you want to eat, like, 16 delicious cookies a night and then walk them off with a short >1 mile walk into SLO’s cute downtown. That’s my way of attempting to describe that it’s in an awesome location and has bomb food. Did it work? 3) I kinda used to work with them back in my PR days, and the folks that run the place are a dream. The hospitality industry can be one ugly challenge, and Kim and Dean at the Apple Farm make it seem like a cake (pie?) walk. They’re some of the cheeriest, most pleasant people I’ve worked with. You can tell they love their jobs, and it’s reflected all over the freaking place. Total attention to detail. And no, I’ve not been paid or encouraged to say this (although I’d happily say it again if it meant a King Suite and some English Toffee cookies. Kidding! Not kidding.) It’s so flippin’ cute.
After checking in at Apple Farm and putting down a couple of free housemade cookies (did I mention how these are sprinkled with crack pollen and fairy dust? They’re AMAZING) and a glass of wine, we traipsed over to the bike shop so Chris could rub elbows (is that the saying?) with his old Foothill friends and even the shopping score I hijacked when I spree’d through Ambiance a few weeks ago. Big surprise: he’s totally in the lead now.
Soon, I was itchin’ for some SLO grub, so we decided to check out one of the newer spots in town, Sidecar, which came highly recommended by a couple of friends.
I’m going to go with the less is more approach here, because this is one of the new spots in town I’d really like to see succeed despite my rambling. It was good. Real good. Highlights: cucumber gimlet; fried brussel sprouts; awesome bartenders (eat at the bar, if you can…it was perfect service and conversation); friz-zied chicken; donuts. That should do it.
Fortunately, I am no stranger to the food coma and was able to function almost normally with three pieces of chicken in my belly. Can you say hashtag-proud-foodie? It helps that we returned to our room to find a sneak preview of the new Girls episode playing on late-night HBO. I was perfectly content to sit back in bed with my full belly and numbly absorb the unraveling story of entitled 24-year-olds living the dream in NYC.
(I’m going to pick up the pace here because it’s ocurring to me that I’m back in the weeds again and you’re all probably thinking, “on with it, already! Post pictures of food or stop posting alltogether!” Right you are, Ken!)
Saturday was another SLO-foodie marathon:
Breakfast at Sally Loo’s. My new SLO obsession as everything on the menu sounds farm-to-table epic, but the Figgy Pig is too perfect a concoction to ignore. (I’ve also had the acai bowl, which is freshly blended, generously topped and a decent deal considering the ridic portion size.) All the coffee drinks are super.
Lunch at Firestone Grill. You can read all about my obsession with their perfected tri-tip sandwich here. The secret, 100%, is their addictive, sweet, almost caramelized BBQ sauce and its perfect marriage with basic, salty ranch dressing. Together, these two flavors embody everything I love about Firestone. Sweet, smoky, salty. Likely heart-attack inducing if consumed regularly. Is 3x/week in college considered “regular”? God, I want my youthful metabolism back…
Dinner was thai takeout from Thai Bounty in Morro Bay — fresh, light, everything is excellent – with my gorg friend (and cohort during the aforementioned PR days) Jordan and her husband, Nick. Somehow, I let this entire evening slip by without taking a single picture, which is insane because their two boys are some of the most darling little dudes out there, but photos kind of fall by the wayside when the food and company is of such high quality. I’m already missing these folks.
Before we knew it, it was Sunday, which signified the end of our SLO vacation, our trip down memory lane, and our seemingly endless supply of Apple Farm crackies.
Fortunately, we breathed a second wind into our long weekend by taking the leisurely route home with a drive up Highway 1. Can you believe I’ve never driven the entire Central-to-Northern-CA coast? I’m so glad we did. In addition to experiencing some of the most breathtaking views CA has to offer, we were feet from the beach during elephant seal mating season.
If you like your copulation with a side of burping and farting noises, just scooch on over to Piedras Blancas State Park. That’s pretty much the scene (and soundtrack) on the beach this time of year. Literally thousands of these guys.
As we neared home, we stopped for a quick lunch in Santa Cruz at Zoccoli’s Deli (highly rated on yelp!, and for good reason), and a couple of soy chai lattes at Verve. I’m going to be very frank here. I don’t love chicken and I don’t love chicken with pesto, but I also don’t love turning down a recommendation. I’m just too much of a wuss, especially when I’m the one who requested the rec. (“What do you recommend? Oh, that? LAME.”) So, when the gent at the counter said the Chicken Pesto sandwich was their best seller, I was conflicted, but I went for it. Turns out it’s pretty darn delicious. The ciabatta, which can be a wrestling match of chewy crust and and a dry interior, was super fresh, light and tender. And the leftovers were extra nommity when scraped onto some brown rice and nuked for lunch (sans bread, doi).
I’m sure everyone has their equivalent of my San Luis Obispo — somewhere that makes you grin like a fool. Where you feel you can be yourself and yet someone you used to be all at the same time. Where you feel completely justified in downing 3,000 cals/day because you can. Where you found your passion or met your soulmate — or maybe both. If that place happens to be within a 3-hour drive, wherever you are, I urge you to meep meep your way there as fast as you can. I promise you it’s worth it.
And of course I encourage you to scoot your boot to SLO at your earliest convenience, as well. Just because it’s my San Luis Obispo doesn’t mean it can’t be yours, too. It’s kind of impossible no to fall in love there.
That’s what I thought.