Food and Drink Guide: Where to Eat and Drink in Cambria, California
Often, when I’m researching a destination for an upcoming trip, I’m really just plotting where to eat and drink. And my latest California road trip, to the Central California Coast, partnering with Visit Cambria, was no different. However, I was surprised to discover just how many restaurants Cambria had, especially for no bigger than it was. That’s even considering that some of the restaurants were closed for the holidays.
Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ve ever visited a beach town as small as Cambria that had such a high concentration of restaurants, and with such a variety to choose from. I think it’s a compliment to the town itself, but also speaks more broadly to the nature of the region. San Luis Obispo County, where Cambria is located, boasts 50 miles of coastline that contrasts a landscape of hundreds of farms and wineries. Therefore, many Cambria restaurants are using food and ingredients that come from within the county, or just offshore.
But enough talk, let’s get to where to eat and drink in Cambria. Below, discover some of my favorite Cambria restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and more.
Cambria Food and Drink Guide
Breakfast started at The Canteen, which is the on-property restaurant of the hotel I stayed at, Oceanpoint Ranch. Warm, cozy, general store vibes welcomed me into The Canteen, which though having a small menu, immediately hooked me when I read “breakfast burrito” on the menu. Take my advice and add the sausage, or, for vegetarians, the soy chorizo.
Just like Cambria has a plethora of restaurants, the town also has a number of coffee shops, including Mojo’s Village Bean, which specializes in organic coffee and fresh-baked pastries they make every morning. However, the headliner may be Doc Burnstein's ice cream, which comes from beloved Central California ice cream shop, Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab.
As I very quickly discovered, another beloved Central California sweet treat was anything and everything from Linn’s. If I wasn’t walking past one of Linn’s numerous locations then I was seeing a sign for Linn’s or overhearing someone talk about it. That’s because Linn’s has numerous locales, including a restaurant, bakery, gift shop and farm store, where fruit and sweets are in high demand. After having a slice of one of Linn’s pies, it’s a good time to go for that Big Sur hike.
Evidently sweets are a recurring theme in Cambria, as the single best thing I put in my mouth was also a dessert, from Red Moose Cookie Company. Now it may seem crazy going to a cookie shop for breakfast, but stick with me here. I learned from Red Moose Cookie Company’s owner that it’s not too unusual for them to close before lunchtime (they open at 10 a.m.), since they frequently sell out. I bought a pack of their pumpkin moose pies with brown butter cream and their peppermint fudge, both of which were some of the best baked goods I've ever had. Those cookies and pieces of fudge may not have lasted a full day.
While Red Moose Cookie Company may not seem very convenient, located in a district of warehouses a few minutes from Main Street, it’s actually just on the other side of another one of my favorites, Boni’s Tacos. Let me preface this by saying that I love tacos, maybe more than anything else in the world. And the tacos from Boni’s were arguably the best tacos I’ve had north of Los Angeles.
While I highly recommend Boni’s burritos, if you’re expressly interested in tacos, then I suggest a taco along with a sope or huarache. A sope (pictured to the right) is essentially an extra thick, open-face taco, while huaraches are similar, but often much longer and bigger, and in the shape of a football or sandal. It sounds crazy, but trust me.
One of Cambria’s newer lunch spots, The Café on Bridge Street, is also one of its most unique and charming. Located in a historic Cambria house from the 1800s, the café in its current iteration opened in 2015, specializing in salads and sandwiches that are made from scratch daily. The menu of sandwiches is expansive, but the breadwinners are the pastrami and French dip.
In my first post I mentioned both Stolo Vineyards & Winery and Cutruzzola Vineyards. These two Cambria wineries, both of which have received recognition from Wine Enthusiast, are completely different from one another and completely worth a visit. Stolo is closer to your classic wine country vineyard, albeit there’s nothing usual about drinking wine next to a couple goats (yes, really), while Cutruzzola is a tasting room directly on Main Street, specializing in Riesling and Pinot Noir. Being so close to Paso Robles, Cambria also has a number of other wine shops and tasting rooms, including Madeline's, which I discuss more below.
For craft beer lovers, as I also mentioned in my last post, 927 Beer Company is the craft beer place in Cambria (and really the only one). This nano brewery is located just off Main Street in Cambria, and has a great selection of their “house beers,” as well as seasonal beers and a selection of guest beer, cider and wine.
Cambria’s most unique drinking establishment, however, is Mozzi’s Saloon. Mozzi’s Saloon, also on Main Street, has a long history that dates back all the way to prohibition in the early 1900s when it was a hotel. Today, however, it’s Cambria’s foremost dive bar, with happy hour on weekdays and live music on weekend evenings.
The food and drinks of Cambria consistently surprised me throughout the trip, beginning with Boni’s and Red Moose Cookies on my first morning, and continuing with places like Stolo, whose 2016 Estate Syrah had just been ranked num. 12 on Wine Enthusiast's list of the top 100 wines of 2018.
However, the biggest surprises were at dinner in Cambria, beginning with Mezzo Italiano, which is one of Cambria’s newest restaurants. While Mezzo specializes in Italian, home-cooked dishes, it’s an interesting contrast amidst Cambria’s Main Street of fine dining restaurants, especially since I would actually describe Mezzo as an Italian takeout restaurant. Nonetheless, all of their sauces and dishes are made in-house, with some highlights including their organic meatballs, vegetarian "greenballs" and my personal favorite, homemade pasta filled with ricotta-pesto cheese (dubbed "Rolioli”). Mezzo Italiano just got its beer and wine license for dine-in visitors, and bonus points, it’s one of the few restaurants open past 9 p.m.
My next dinner was at Black Cat Bistro, which was one of several Cambria restaurants that had been recommended by just about everyone in town. I bellied up to Black Cat Bistro’s wine bar, where I discovered a menu of a number of my favorites, such as sea scallops and baked polenta. Like many of the dinner spots I visited in Cambria, the wine menu was among the standouts. Each entrée on the dinner menu had a suggested wine pairing, while many of their wines were from the Central California coast.
I evidently saved the best restaurant in Cambria for last, visiting Madeline’s on Main Street on my last night. Madeline's is unique for a number of reasons, like being a wine shop by day, and having its own line of wines. Personally, it was the most complete meal I had in Cambria, from the ambiance and service to the wine offerings and food. A creature of habit, I started with diver scallops, followed by the Spanish Octopus, and saved room for the fruit cobbler paired with a port. Cue food coma.
Finally, there are a number of other restaurants, which I didn’t mention above, but that were recommended just as much as many of the other restaurants. Some of them were closed for the holidays, while others I simply didn’t have time to visit. The Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Restaurant was consistently recommended as one of the best seafood restaurants in Cambria, located directly on Moonstone Beach Drive, overlooking the Pacific. Also on Moonstone Beach Drive, just a short walk away from the Sea Chest, is Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, which between it and Sea Chest, have the million-dollar Pacific Ocean views. Lastly, there’s Robin’s, which is consistently rated and reviewed as one of Cambria’s best restaurants. Needless to say, my Cambria restaurant to-do list is quite long, and I have some work to do when I return.