poly picks 2021


Best Seafood


Luna Red by Grace Pickering


Located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, Luna Red serves locally sourced Spanish-style meals and killer paella with a creekside view. The restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a casual atmosphere where guests can enjoy flavorful tapas, handcrafted cocktails and an exquisite wine selection sourced from the surrounding Central Coast area.


Voted San Luis Obispo’s Best Outdoor Dining runner up and Best Happy Hour, Luna Red prides itself on supporting local farmers, artists and musicians in an effort to raise the service industry standards of community-based sustainability in San Luis Obispo. Luna Red is part of the San Luis Obispo Surfrider Coalition and has been certified ocean-friendly since 2016. 


Luna Red adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by making their Taco Tuesday menu into a complete takeout menu as a way to continue their business throughout the stay-at-home orders. 


“Being able to pick up fresh food and tasty tacos during lockdown was definitely a life-saver. I’m looking forward to my next visit when I’m able to sit outside on the patio again,” Cal Poly student Kelly Simms said. 


Luna Red is the sister restaurant of the award-winning Novo Restaurant and Lounge, and the destination restaurant Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria.




Firestone by Adrian Rosas


The value of each meal at Firestone Grill is matched by the taste and the speed in which they get the product out to you. 


The grill is a prime place to get a good and cheap meal for under $10. It is also a must-eat place for locals and visitors alike. The grill also functions as a great place to get drinks and watch sporting events on a budget. 


Located at 1001 Higuera St., Firestone features a wide variety of barbequed meals on a college student’s budget. With meals like the pulled pork sandwich and the vegan-friendly veggie sandwich, there is something here for everyone. 


Along with many classic barbeque meals, Firestone also boasts some of the best side dishes, and its fries come in two types of deals. For $3 you can add a side of fries that will feed two to three people in addition to your main dish. Alternatively, if you have a larger party of people, the $5 basket of fries can easily feed five people. 


The average meal costs around $10 if you go with the classic sandwich and fries combo, or even cheaper if you decide to share with friends.  


Whether you are looking for a pulled pork sandwich or a great place to watch sports games, Firestone Grill offers amazing barbeque meals at a price so low you will find yourself going there again and again. 



Hangover Food


House of Bagels by Katherine Lane


When a college student wakes up at the blistering hour of 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon after a night of drunken debauchery, where do they journey out to get cheap, yet high-quality breakfast? The answer is: at the House of Bagels Central Coast. Open since 2007, this cafe is the only one in town that specializes in bagels aside from the Einstein Bros. Bagels on Cal Poly’s campus. The cafe has a simple interior with a few tables outside, but most customers take their bagels home where they can draw the shades and eat in quiet. 


As the central location for all the House of Bagels in the region, they bake over 1300 bagels daily. Homemade schmears are blended with a variety of flavors like garlic herb, honey walnut and other bagel shop classics. There is also a wide selection of bagels that can be made into sandwiches for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon brunch. 


The classic breakfast bagel sandwich includes a freshly cooked egg with your choice of meat and cheese all packed into a fresh bagel of your choice.  You can also try adding a slice of lox instead. If you aren’t in the mood for breakfast food, try a BLT or chicken caprese bagel sandwich. Can’t handle the carbs? House salads are available too. They also offer hot or cold–and importantly, caffeinated–beverages to wake you up. If you want to treat yourself, opt for a smoothie or milk tea with boba.


Since House of Bagels is such a great, affordable breakfast option, it can get quite busy on the weekends. If you can muster, come early before your favorite bagels run out for the day. The House of Bagels, or “Ho-Bags” familiarly, is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, and is located across U.S. Highway 101 near the Madonna Inn at 158 Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo.



Best Sushi

Goshi's by Grace Power Smith


Goshi Japanese Restaurant was founded on a passion for authentic and traditional Japanese cuisine. The restaurant offers mouth-watering sushi, sashimi, rice bowls and more. Founder Takeshi Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan. After working in the food industry there, he brought his experience to the U.S., and eventually to San Luis Obispo County. 


The restaurant is located at 570 Higuera St. in Building 155 in the Creamery Marketplace, downtown San Luis Obispo. They now offer indoor seating in addition to a charming outdoor patio next to the creek, where guests can enjoy their meal under decorative lights. 


Whether you’re a sushi connoisseur or the tempura type, Goshi will provide delicious ingredients and a beautiful plate presentation. The menu consists of about 30 different rolls, as well as nigiri sushi and hand rolls. They also have a variety of noodle and rice bowls with seafood and meat.


“When I graduated college, my parents visited me from out of town and asked me where I’d want to eat as a celebratory dinner,” Cal Poly alumna Nicolle Cooper said. “My first choice was Goshi because it’s my absolute favorite sushi place in all of [San Luis Obispo] County. I love the atmosphere, and the fish is always super fresh quality.” 


New Times SLO’s “Best of SLO” also deemed Goshi “the best sushi restaurant in San Luis Obispo” in 2021. It’s a favorite spot for locals and also attracts out-of-town visitors. 


Hot and cold sake is recommended to accompany sushi and sashimi dinners. Goshi carries an “unbeatable selection of the best sake around,” according to their website.


More information can be found online at goshislo.com and they can be contacted directly by calling 805-543-8942.


Goshi is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Goshi offers something special, which is clearly worth the wait.



Best Late
Night Food

Taco Bell by Tula Pitcher


Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter during dead week or making the strenuous trek home after a night downtown, late-night munchies are something almost all Cal Poly students can agree on. Not only does Taco Bell fulfill fast-food cravings, but it is one of the only restaurants in the San Luis Obispo area that remains open past 9 p.m. The store is open until 12:30 a.m. on week nights, and until 2 a.m. on weekends. Arrive any later than 11 p.m. and you’ll be challenged to wait in a single file line out the door to which you will respond: “challenge accepted.”


Throughout the pandemic, Taco Bell has kept its doors open, while continuously paying extra attention to COVID-19 precautions by ensuring that all employees are wearing masks and gloves. Taco Bell has been able to stay afloat to see the other side of the state-wide lockdown and is now officially open for dine-in!


For those who would rather feast from the comfort of their homes, Taco Bell offers online orders with special deals on their app. Orders are also available for pick-up and delivery. 


Not only does Taco Bell crank out mouth-watering treats, but their prices are quite the bargain, which is ideal for college students. Taco Bell is a wallet- and time-friendly destination for students looking for a midnight snack. 


It’s safe to say that almost every Cal Poly student finds themselves crawling through the swinging doors of Taco Bell in the dark just to order a CrunchWrap Supreme or a Cravings Box at 12 a.m. Providing customizable orders for tacos, burritos, nachos and quesadillas in with vegetarian options, there’s something for everybody!



Best Pizza


Flour House by Lauren Wright


Are you looking for a combination of modern and traditional homemade Italian food? Well look no further because we have a place for you! Flour House is an Italian eatery run by a local Italian-American couple. Here, you can experience the only imported Stefano Ferrara wood-burning pizza oven on the Central Coast, where they bake their noted Pizza Napoletana. 


“This top of the line oven for Pizza Napoletana making has been handcrafted by the same family for nearly one hundred years. Made by hand in Naples, these ovens are built from hand pressed Italian brick dating back to the Romans. Held together by Italian soil, the oven floor is formed from clay taken from the Sorrento coast reaching temperatures up to 1,000 Fahrenheit. This oven gives us the ability to create a true Pizza Napoletana experience — soft, simple, and flavorful pizzas,” according to Flour House’s website.


Flour House also offers amazing pastas, appetizers and cocktails, but most importantly Meter Mondays! On Mondays you can order a meter-long pizza that feeds up to six people, or a half-meter pizza that feeds up to three people. All of the pizzas also have gluten-free and vegan options. This makes Flour House a wonderful treat for anyone with or without dietary restrictions.


Keep in mind that during the COVID-19 pandemic, their protocols have changed a little bit. They are not currently taking reservations, so make sure you plan ahead. They are open every day except for Tuesday from 4 to 9 p.m. 


Head on down to Flour House at 690 Higuera St., in the downtown area of San Luis Obispo to get some pizza that transports you to the Italian coast.



Best Breakfast

Louisa's Place by Lore Valenzuela


Founded in 1958, Louisa’s Place Restaurant has been a hot destination for locals looking for a delicious breakfast. According to their website, they promise to be open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. 


Better known to locals as Louisa’s Place, the classic-style diner is located at 964 Higuera St., right in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. They specialize in traditional family food, serving freshly baked cinnamon rolls, thickly sliced french toast and a two-for-one huevos rancheros special on Wednesday. 


Though Louisa’s place had to temporarily shut down in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, owner and manager of Louisa’s Place Aubrey Pyle said they were able to continue to serve the community. 


“We have had a ton of community support. Even the city has been ordering to-go orders from us; we've been catering the COVID taskforce once a week,” Pyle said.


This family owned and operated restaurant remains a staple in the San Luis Obispo community after winning multiple awards for their amazing service and delicious food. Even during the Coronavirus Pandemic, they have been revered on public forums for their continued dedication to customer service. 


Computer engineering senior Allan Gomez said he loves the restaurant for its great service and variety of food options.


Louisa’s place is looking forward to keeping all the added features they implemented during the pandemic, including outdoor seating and to-go orders. 


Pyle said she thanks San Luis Obispo and the Cal Poly community for their continued dedication and support of local businesses. 


For more information about Louisa’s Place Restaurant, visit their Facebook @LouisasPlaceSLO, Instagram @LouisasPlaceSLO, or contact them in person or by calling 805-541-0227


As of May 7th, Louisa’s Place Restaurant is open for indoor and outdoor dining and delivery through DoorDash. This information is subject to change due to local regulations. 




Best BBQ

Firestone by Grant Anderson


It is no surprise that Firestone Grill has once again won Best Barbeque this year. After all, they have an entire hiking challenge named after their world-famous sandwich: the “Tri-Tip Challenge.” 


The challenge invites students and residents alike to hike three of the most popular landmarks in San Luis Obispo: Madonna Mountain, Bishop’s Peak and Cal Poly’s very own vantage point, “the P.” Afterwards, hikers can replenish their energy with the purchase of a delicious Firestone tri-tip sandwich. The sandwich bread is french roll and the tri-tip is coated in a sweet barbecue sauce that keeps the meat tender well beyond the grill. 


If the tri-tip sandwich doesn’t catch your interest, or you just want some extra protein to maximize those leg gains, Firestone also has other barbeque classics like pork rib racks, grilled chicken breasts and hot dogs. 


Don’t forget to ask for ranch as popular side dishes, like the basket of fries, go great with condiments, which Firestone offers free of charge with every meal purchase. 


Sometimes, the barbeque experience is only as good as the people and environment you surround yourself with while enjoying the food, and Firestone Grill has got you covered on that too. 


The entire restaurant has ample seating for large parties and multiple large television sets for your favorite sports games. Plus, there’s a fully-stocked bar that is certain to keep the conversation flowing. 


If you want a beautiful view of the bustling downtown area, look no further than Firestone’s outside patio, which is where most guests eat to take in the fresh air and temperate climate of the Central Coast.



Best Sandwich


Lincoln Deli by Bailey Snow


San Luis Obispo has an overwhelming abundance of sandwich shops. The city has an area of only 13.25 square miles, yet has 16 sandwich shops, giving San Luis Obispo a density of 1.2 delis per square mile. Out of all of the options, Lincoln Market and Deli takes the spot for the very best.


Lincoln’s menu differs from what you might expect at a sandwich shop. While classic deli staples are still available, more adventurous customers might be inclined to try one of their more unique offerings, such as the pulled pork banh mi or the chicken pesto primo (my personal favorite). In addition, their long list of customizable sandwich toppings allows anyone to make their dream come to fruition inside the bread of their choosing.


But, the real je ne sais quoi of Lincoln Market is the environment they have created. Reminiscent of a New York City bodega, Lincoln has an entire wall of refrigerated cases stocked full of any drink you could imagine, from Coca-Cola in glass bottles to numerous local craft beers. Multiple rows of metal shelving units have a variety of dry grocery goods, including kettle chips, Calabrian chili paste and high-quality dried pasta. A large nook in the far corner houses multiple video game and pinball cabinets, harkening back to the arcades we loved as children.


Also reminiscent of New York corner stores, there is a real sense of community at Lincoln Market and Deli. Unlike the typical deli where you just grab your food and return to the library, this is a place to eat your sandwich and hang out, try a new craft beer and even run into some friends. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the experience. Lincoln Market and Deli is located at 496 Broad Street in San Luis Obispo, directly on the intersection of Lincoln and Broad Streets. The deli is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



Best Thai Food


Thai Palace by Yasel Hurtado


Reigning champion for Best Thai Food in San Luis Obispo, Thai Palace has once again proven to be a local favorite. Established in 1999, Thai Palace boasts a robust menu of classic Thai dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. 


Their menu has a “Chef’s Favorites” section, which is curated by their chef who worked in Bangkok for more than 20 years. Dishes in this section include sweet chili scallops, Pad Gra Prow duck and Moo Ping (grilled pork tenderloin).


“Thai Palace is saucy and the noodle to protein ratio is better than other Thai places,” industrial technology and packaging senior Bree Gillis said. “I usually order UberEats from them, but it’s typically quick. Their spring rolls are my favorite; they’re so tasty!”  


Aside from their delicious cuisine, the restaurant is decorated “as colorful as Thailand itself,” according to their website. When you step into the restaurant you are transported into a glittering oasis. Every piece of original artwork they have displayed was shipped directly from Thailand, including the unique bar, sculpted indoor fountains and a hand-painted mirror, which illuminates the main dining room. Their location in downtown San Luis Obispo on Court Street makes it the perfect spot to stop at while perusing the area. 


“I used to dine in person before the pandemic. They had excellent service and their restaurant was decorated very cute,” environmental management senior Sarah Miller said. “They also have a full bar inside with yummy drinks as well as yummy food.” 


Whether you like soups, curries or noodles, Thai Palace has it all! Stop by to dine in and enjoy their traditional decor, or order to-go Tuesday through Sunday. For more about their menu and hours, visit thaipalaceinslo.com or call 805-594-1744.  



Best On-Campus Dining Venue

Starbucks by Erica Goynes


You’ve been on campus studying for hours. Your brain is fried. You’re famished. And you need a pick-me-up… fast. Well, Starbucks has you covered. In search of a buzz? Try any of their famous seasonal lattes, creamy frappuccinos or refreshing cold brews. If you’re hungry, you can choose from their artisan breakfast sandwiches or lunchtime charcuterie boxes. They also have healthier options including fresh salads and vegetarian sandwiches that’ll please your palate. 


Starbucks uses fresh ingredients and sophisticated flavors to lure customers in from far and wide. If you’re in a rush, you can order ahead on the Starbucks app to reap rewards and skip waiting in line. 


According to their website, since 1971 Starbucks has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Fortune Magazine recognized them as one of “the most admired companies in America” and Fast Company named them as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies.” You can also feel good supporting this megabrand as they were named one of the “world’s most ethical companies” and one of the “100 best corporate citizens” by Corporate Responsibility and Business Ethics.


Cal Poly’s on-campus location makes it easy for students to grab a quick drink or bite between classes. Located downstairs in the University Union, students can enjoy their outdoor seating space as a place to relax while maintaining social distance. Enjoy the hard-earned relaxation and rejuvenation that comes from treating yourself after a long day of lecture.


As their mantra says, Starbucks is “more than just great coffee.” It’s an experience that will improve your day and boost your performance. More importantly, Starbucks is synonymous with the college experience. Pay a visit and treat yourself. Starbucks is open from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.



Best Italian


Giuseppe's by Haylee Banta


Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica has once again taken the prize for Best Italian Restaurant in San Luis Obispo. Established in 1988, what started as a Cal Poly senior project has become an award-winning restaurant in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. 


Located on Monterey Street, the restaurant serves up everything from fresh, homemade pastas, breads and desserts, to craft cocktails, gelato and a grab-and-go deli. Local favorites include the carbonara pasta and their Flatliner espresso martini. 


Owned by the DiFronzo family, the restaurant adopted the “farm to fork” philosophy early on, according to their website. Their local farm nestled in Edna Valley is used to source fresh ingredients for the restaurant such as tomatoes, figs, olives and their summer classic dish, zucchini blossoms. The farm even produces DiFronzo Vineyard wines that can be found on their wine list. 


The atmosphere of the restaurant is also part of what makes it a local favorite. As people walk in they are greeted by a host stationed behind a converted ’60s classic Fiat, and as they are guided to their table, photos of the DiFronzo family line the walls and fresh pasta can be seen hanging from the kitchen window. The back patio is set with strings of warm lights and exposed brick to accompany their authentic Italian cuisine. 


One of the most popular items, that isn't even on the menu, is the bread dip. Freshly baked bread is placed on the table before any dishes are set to arrive, and is accompanied by a dip that launches off the dining experience at the highest standard. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and parmesan cheese is all it takes to create an explosion of flavor on their fresh bread. 


Giuseppe’s offers one of the best dining experiences in San Luis Obispo, according to multiple customers’ posts on Yelp. Regardless of how long the wait might be when trying to grab a table, the combination of food, atmosphere and service make it well worth the wait. 



Best Venue in Vista Grande

Noodles By Anna Howard


When it comes to campus dining, college students don’t expect much. However, after the newly renovated Vista Grande was put in on Cal Poly’s campus in 2020, everything changed. Noodles at Vista Grande offers an array of flavors all in different forms of noodles. 


Noodles’s menu, while not very large, offers a little bit of everything. In addition to offering noodle staples like spaghetti and meatballs, the menu also features unique options including gnocchi pomodoro with pancetta, a pork belly ramen bowl and jambalaya. They are also vegan-friendly with their vegan spaghetti and meatball option. 


They also offer a variety of toppings to add to your noodle bowl. If you want to add some grilled shrimp or sesame broccoli, you got it. They also have tasty side dishes including cheesy bread, vegetable potstickers, veggie spring rolls and spinach and cheese samosas. 


Noodles brings an extra flair to campus dining that Cal Poly has never had before. People with varying taste pallets are bound to find something on the menu that they will love. If your stomach is rumbling and you are craving some noodles, be sure to head over to Noodles in Vista Grande on 1 Grand Ave., San Luis Obispo to dive into your next tasty noodle dish.



Best Mexican

San Luis Taqueria by Meghan Pickett


After opening in April 2019, San Luis Taqueria quickly became a favorite among Cal Poly students and the San Luis Obispo community. This restaurant features an array of tasty and traditional Mexican dishes including enchiladas, tacos, burritos, nachos, tostadas and much more. 


San Luis Taqueria is owned by Jose Torres, who has worked in the Mexican restaurant industry for more than 10 years. His restaurant and menu items are inspired by the state of Jalisco, which brings together unique flavors from regions like Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.


In addition to 10 different meat and seafood options, the taqueria also has a number of vegetarian alternatives for those who don’t eat meat. Recreation, parks and tourism administration senior Stella Hewitt said that San Luis Taqueria is her go-to for quick and delicious Mexican food. 


“I love going to San Luis Taqueria because they have really good vegetarian options, and that can be hard to find at some restaurants,” Hewitt said. “The staff is also always so friendly and happy too, which helps make it such a fun environment.”


This restaurant is located in the heart of downtown and is open for business seven days a week. For larger parties, San Luis Taqueria offers three different meal packages to accommodate groups of five to 15 people. Daily specials include discounted tortas on Monday’s and Taco Tuesday deals. They also offer catering menu options. They also have a special menu just for kids, which makes it appealing to customers of all ages.


San Luis Taqueria has an average rating of four and a half stars on Yelp with customers raving about the quality of the food, unique flavors, quick service and variety of menu items. Although this restaurant has only been open for about two years, San Luis Taqueria has quickly established themselves as the leading competitor for Mexican food in the San Luis Obispo community. 



Best Restaurant Out of Your Budget


Giuseppe's by Sophie Baye


“Giuseppe’s” is the quick response out of many Cal Poly students' mouths when family members ask them for dinner recommendations in downtown San Luis Obispo. While Italy is over 6,000 miles away, Giuseppe’s is a mere 1.4 miles from Cal Poly’s campus and offers a plethora of Italian pasta, gelato and bread cooked in an Italian-imported wood-fired oven. 


Beginning as a Cal Poly senior project in 1988, the restaurant has become a staple for a fancy night out on the town, with evenings full of first dates and family dinners. An elixir of olive oil and parmesan cheese greets guests at the beginning of their dining experience, followed shortly by dishes full of linguine, eggplant parmesan and pizza that is big enough to share, but wisely kept to oneself. 

The restaurant's dedication to Cal Poly and the local community is intertwined with the restaurant's dedication to fine Italian cuisine. The walls of Giuseppe’s feature mounted Cal Poly football jerseys and helmets alongside black and white portraits of traditional Italian wedding scenes and an Italian father hoisting his children up into the air. A small Italian car has been converted into the hostess desk, featuring a paint job that sports the white, red and green colors of the Italian flag.


Giuseppe himself, whose full name is Giuseppe DiFronzo, is still the owner of both the locations in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach. In addition to owning the restaurants, DiFronzo owns a farm that provides fresh ingredients to both restaurant locations, making visiting the restaurant an exquisite farm-to-table dining experience. 


Dining at Giuseppe’s is a treat for Cal Poly students. From the moment the housemade bread hits the table to the last sip of espresso after a meal, a visit to Giuseppe’s is a special occasion worth waiting for.


Best Place for Outdoor Dining

SLO Brew Rock by Lauren Ladrech


If you are on the lookout for an outdoor dining option with a versatile menu and an upbeat atmosphere, SLO Brew Rock has you covered. The casual, 30-barrel brew house consists of a taproom restaurant, catering kitchen and event space, all surrounding “the rock.” SLO Brew Rock provides customers with an array of food and beverage items. From the Chicken Parmy sandwich to the Jammin’ grilled cheese and countless seltzers and brews, SLO Brew Rock has it all. There are also weekly specials, such as $5 pints Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Taco Tuesday deals and more. You can also become a member of the “Brew Club” and can enjoy discounted menu items and special access to craft beer releases. 


The “Brewmaster” Steve Courier started SLO Brew in 1988. “Craft beer on the central coast is blowing up! Just as Paso Robles did with wine - we’re going to be a craft beer destination and we’re trying to really own it and help foster the success of each other and the industry as a whole,” Courier said on the SLO Brew Rock website. The restaurant, which prides itself on its hand-crafted microbrews, has successfully remained one of California’s longest-standing brew pubs. The spacious setting allows the restaurant to serve as a great venue for corporate functions, weddings and other celebratory events. There are six unique venue spaces including a beer garden, a patio terrace and a whisky terrace. At SLO Brew Rock there is plenty of room to explore!


SLO Brew Rock has also ensured that all of their procedures are up to code and compliant with state and local COVID-19 safety guidelines. “We are meeting all state and country health regulations to ensure staff and customer safety,” reads the SLO Brew Rock website. Come enjoy a pint and some bites with some friends at the wonderful SLO Brew Rock soon!



Best Boba


Boba Stop by Amanda Rondez


Located on California Boulevard right by Cal Poly’s campus, The Boba Stop is the perfect spot for students to grab a drink during a study break or satisfy a late-night boba craving. 


Boba, also known as pearl milk tea or bubble tea, is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan. “Boba” refers to the tapioca pearls that can be included in the drink.


The Boba Stop offers a variety of different drinks including tea, milk tea, snow bubbles and slushies. They also have a large selection of flavors on their menu including passion fruit, honeydew, winter melon and strawberry. Toppings include boba, mini boba and fruit jellies.


Not sure what to try out? The items marked with a yellow star on the menu are reliable local favorites —  taro milk tea, Thai tea, and mango snow bubble to name a few! With their large selection of drinks and flavors to mix and match from, everyone is bound to find something they like from the menu. Fruity snow bubble drinks made up of blended ice with a creamy texture are perfect for hot summer days, while hot teas are a good option for colder evenings.


If you’re also looking for a bite to eat, The Boba Stop is great to satisfy your craving with fresh crepes made with Nutella, bananas, strawberries and whipped cream, as well as savory menu items like popcorn chicken. 


The store has multiple tables, both inside and outside, for customers to chat and hang out while enjoying the food. The Boba Stop is located at 578 California Blvd., and they are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.



Best Burger

In-n-Out by Joey Stephens


This year’s Best Burger award goes to the iconic chain restaurant, In-N-Out Burger. If you’re from California, Oregon or Washington, odds are you’ve heard of this hamburger company. While the city of San Luis Obispo doesn't have its own In-N-Out Burger location, residents of San Luis Obispo county can venture to Atascadero, Arroyo Grande or Santa Maria to get their In-N-Out fix. The first In-N-Out burger restaurant was founded in Baldwin Park, California in 1948. Fast forward 73 years later, In-N-Out now has over 350 locations across eight different states.  


In-N-Out has garnered success and popularity by staying true to their roots. Their menu has stayed consistent over time, selling burgers and fries accompanied by your choice of milkshake or soda, among other menu items.


While In-N-Out keeps their selection simple, they strive to use the best ingredients to ensure quality food is served. The restaurant is adamant about not freezing, pre-packaging or microwaving their food, despite running a “fast food” restaurant. All ingredients are delivered fresh to each location, free of additives, fillers or preservatives.   


The restaurant also prides itself on friendly and fast customer service. If you’ve ever seen a long line of cars wrapping around one of their restaurants, you may have noticed them doing everything in their power to keep that line moving efficiently.  


The restaurant also offers items from their “not-so-secret menu,” which features items such as grilled cheeses, protein style (lettuce wrapped) burgers and 4x4s (burger with four patties and four cheeses)! The secret menu items are not listed on their regular menu, but all employees will happily make these products — all you have to do is ask!


In-N-Out Burger’s tried-and-true formula for success is clearly working. Go make a trip to your nearest In-N-Out. You truly can taste the quality.



Best COVID Menu Adaption

Finney's (Take out alcholic beverages) by Sydney Ozawa


Since opening in 2020, Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen has become a popular attraction in downtown San Luis Obispo. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the restaurant dining experience, Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen was still voted Best COVID-19 Menu Adaptation for their take-out alcoholic beverages.


Finney’s adapted to the state and local health guidelines and was able to continue operating with takeout dining. Their takeout alcoholic beverages were a welcomed benefit for some Cal Poly students looking for high quality drinks during the state-wide lockdown. 


“When I was stuck in the house during quarantine, it was nice to be able to order cocktails from restaurants like Finney’s,” said nutrition senior Ashley Gonzales. “Drinking their delicious spicy berry margarita definitely helped make the time go by faster.”


The restaurant’s extensive menu includes gastropub fares like shareable appetizers and signature burgers, along with 30 California draft brews and specialty cocktails. 


At the start of the pandemic, Finney’s offered all of their alcoholic beverages to go, according to managing partner Ashley Cutter. “We were selling pretty much all that we could for alcohol because you’re just kind of sitting on the product at that rate,” Cutter said. 


To improve sales, Finney’s promoted their specialty cocktails at a discounted rate. “We were selling them at the time for $7,” Cutter said. “We opened up two months before the pandemic and we really didn’t think we would survive being so new and people not really being familiar with Finneys.”


Despite the hardships of operating during a pandemic, Finney’s persevered and has become very popular, according to Cutter. “We really fought hard during that pandemic and we couldn’t have done it without the support of all of the locals and the students of Cal Poly and Cuesta”


Finney’s is located at 857 Monterey St., and is open Sunday to Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.



Best Ramen

Raku Ramen by Taylor La


Rated Best Ramen in San Luis Obispo, Raku Ramen is the place to go for authentic Japanese cuisine! Located on Monterey Street, this eatery is known for its variety of ramen toppings and flavorful broths. The most popular menu items include their miso ramen, shoyu ramen and spicy tonkotsu ramen. Raku Ramen’s large portions will leave you satisfied with a full stomach. With various options to choose from, even the pickiest eater is bound to find their perfect bowl. It is easy to customize your order by changing the spice levels, and vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available. 


In addition to the numerous ramen dishes, customers can also enjoy udon, rice bowls, gyoza, tempura and imported Japanese beer. This local business is also dedicated to providing customer-friendly services including online orders, to-go orders, curbside pickup and third-party delivery via apps like UberEats and DoorDash. With quick and reliable service, you can expect to have your ramen served with a smile, whether you are enjoying it from your own home or eating out at the contemporary, aesthetic restaurant. 


Raku Ramen has also been recognized for continuing their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the safety of their staff and customers, some precautions that the restaurant has adopted include social distancing, contactless pickup and payment and mask requirements. The business is also constantly updating the public on safety measures via their social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Yelp.


For college students on a budget, this is a great bang for your buck! Small bowls are just $7 and regular bowls are $12. According to kinesiology senior Jenna Balcomb, Raku Ramen is the perfect meal to get through a stressful week of college. 


“I ordered Raku Ramen three times in one week because it is my favorite comfort food,” Balcomb said. 


Located at 1308 Monterey St., Raku Ramen is a short walk for college students living on or near campus. Raku Ramen is a perfect meal to serve for lunch, dinner or both! 



Best Vegetarian

Ziggy's by Jonathon Crespin


Ziggy’s, San Luis Obispo’s first all-vegan and plant-based restaurant, has been turning heads since it first opened its doors. Found in the small shopping plaza right off of California Boulevard, it has quickly become a new favorite among San Luis Obispo County residents. 


Since its opening, Ziggy’s has focused its attention on creating tasty vegan and gluten-free “gourmet fast food” for everyone, not just folks with dietary restrictions. The restaurant carries a variety of food items such as a homemade black bean patty for an array of burgers, fried avocado tacos with a twist, and scrumptious milkshakes.


“We wanted to make food for EVERYONE—not just vegans,” Ziggy’s vision statement reads. “Many of you out there have tried going vegan and found it difficult for any number of reasons. We just wanted to make GOOD FOOD… that happens to be less impactful on the environment. With no judgment and no agenda, we strive to provide a positive and inclusive environment.”


Ziggy’s is co-owned by Matt Martinez and Brian England, both of whom saw an opportunity to create healthy, sustainable, and vegan food options in San Luis Obispo. The trendy and pop-punk vibe of the restaurant has caught the attention of not only Cal Poly students, but all of San Luis Obispo county. 


“Ziggy’s takes plant-based food and puts a welcoming and fun twist on it,” Ziggy’s co-manager Shae Rodriguez said. “Our food isn’t just for vegans, it’s for everyone!” 


One of the most popular items on the menu is their “Dirty” fries, Ziggy’s take on In-N-Out’s famous animal-style fries. 


Ziggy’s success is not only attributed to all their tasty foods, but also to the great customer service and experience that comes with it. 


“We wanted to make it more convenient for vegans to eat out, and make food that’s more approachable and accessible for non-vegans,” Martinez said. “We wanted to help normalize vegan eating and help move the planet in the right direction.”



Best Fries

Firestone by Fauve Koontz


It's no surprise that Firestone Grill has won Best Fries again this year. Their classic fries with a zingy taco seasoning flavor keeps customers coming back for more. 


Firestone has been serving up these crispy fries since the summer of 1995 when it took over the former Firestone Tire shop.


Located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, the lively sports-themed restaurant has delicious food that won't break the bank. The experience at Firestone can't be beat, especially when it comes to its atmosphere.


Before you even walk into the restaurant, you can smell the smoky barbeque wafting out of the restaurant doors. 


As you stand in line at Firestone discussing with your friends what you are going to get, the question of how many orders of fries always comes up. After deciding how many orders of fries you'll need for your table, you make your way to sit down. 


The jerseys, team pictures and simultaneous sports games playing characterize the interior of the restaurant. The vibrant outdoor patio is lit up by overhead string lights complimented by popular music played over the speakers. 


Your number rings over the speakers, and you jump up to grab your massive basket of fries. You'll find that this popular restaurant is worth the wait as you set your eyes on the incredible portion size and experience your first bite of the savory taco seasoning flavor of Firestone's fries. 


That is when you know you have come to the right place for the best fries in San Luis Obispo.


Firestone is located at 1001 Higuera St., and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Although the community adores Firestone for much more than just its fries, it has been awarded Best Fries for the past five years in our Poly Picks issue without being toppled by a competitor. 



Best Ice Cream

McConnel's by Katie Halstead


For more than 70 years McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been turning the simplest ingredients into the most unique flavors. Today, they continue to make ice creams from scratch from pasteurizing local, grass-grazed milk and cream and making it into their house-made assorted swirls and ribbon. In 2018, McConnell’s opened its doors to the San Luis Obispo community after many years as  a Santa Barbara staple. Since then the ice cream shop has become a local favorite!


“McConnell’s has such delicious ice cream,” business administration senior Katelyn De Sa said. “I love to bring my friends and family from out of town to the store because they have such unique and fun flavors. Their sea salt caramel and cookies and sweet cream caramel brownie are easily my favorite flavors!”


The top selling flavors include sea salt caramel and cookies, eureka lemon marionberry and salted caramel chip. Currently, they are offering limited-release flavors like peanut butter and jelly sando, honey and cornbread cookies and pumpkin pie. Customers can also join their pint of the month club for a hassle-free option to receive the first taste of their new, limited-edition releases. The club ranges from a three-month membership for $144 to a 12-month membership for $528.


Located in the center of downtown on Monterey Street, McConnell’s mission is to create the finest ice cream in the world, in the most responsible and sustainable way possible.  They work to enrich and enliven the community, leaving the world just a little bit “sweeter” than they found it. 


McConnell’s is located at 868 Monterey St. and is open June through September, Sunday to Saturday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and October through May, Monday to Thursday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday to Sunday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. 



Best Cookie

Insomnia Cookie by Jennifer Newton


Whether it’s to celebrate a birthday or just to satisfy a midnight craving, Insomnia Cookies is the go-to place for a warm and sweet snack. Insomnia cookies’ motto is “Warm cookies delivered crazy late,” as the store remains open until 3 a.m. for pickup and deliveries. Rest assured that your cookies will be fresh from the oven. 


From classic chocolate chip to snickerdoodle, Insomnia Cookies has many flavors to cure your sweet tooth. The shop has 20 different flavors to choose from, along with vegan options. Boxes range from a six-count to a 24-count if you want to share – though you'll find they're too good to split.


Plant science junior Emily Margetta said Insomnia Cookies is the perfect incentive to finish up her schoolwork.


“Sometimes I need motivation to finish an assignment or project so I’ll order Insomnia so I can look forward to a treat once I finish what I need to get done,” Margetta said.


If you’re looking for something more than a cookie, you can get a scoop of ice cream on top or, if cookies aren’t your thing, they also sell brownies.


This business also has giant cookie cakes perfect for any occasion. These cookie cakes are the perfect dessert for birthdays, anniversaries or any other celebration.


Located at 22 Chorro St., Insomnia Cookies is also unique because each box of cookies is customizable. Their delicious menu items are bound to put a smile on your face.



Best Donut


SLODOCO by Daytona Clarke


SloDoCo has made the list yet again. With over 100 options to choose from, this San Luis Obispo landmark has something to offer for everyone. Craving chocolate on chocolate or a bear claw? SloDoCo has a donut for you! Along with all the classic donut shop staples, they also have their own specialties you’re unlikely to find at any other shop. The brightly colored strawberry coconut and mint chocolate chip donuts are sure to catch the eye from the second customers walk through the door.


In addition to their regular (yet extensive) daily menu, they also offer monthly specials. For example, the month of May means Star Wars-themed donuts, “May flowers” donuts and many more. Check out SloDoCo during Halloween for some spooky treats, or any other holiday for their constantly rotating seasonal selection. They also have a wide variety of vegan and gluten-free options. 


For the especially particular donut connoisseur, SloDoCo has the option for customers to design their own donuts. Customers can customize the color, text and detail for their donuts online at slodoco.com/custom-order. Prices range from $18-20 for a dozen regular, old-fashioned, devil’s food and buttermilk donuts with a personalized color. The most expensive option tops out around $40 for a dozen customized pillow donuts which come glazed, frosted and filled to perfection. 


Customers can once again get their late night donut cravings now that SloDoCo has readopted its pre-pandemic hours and now stays open until midnight. Early birds can also get in on the action, as the shop opens up at 5 a.m. For all the donut lovers that don’t live in the city of San Luis Obispo, another location has opened up in Atascadero at 6917 El Camino Real. The original location still stands at 793 E. Foothill Blvd.



Best Cafe or Coffee House

Scout's Coffee by Avalon Cassard


Scout Coffee is a household name in San Luis Obispo, California. With two locations, Scout Coffee has been serving coffee, not only to Cal Poly students, but to the broader San Luis Obispo community since January 2014. A year after opening the original downtown Scout Coffee location, owners Jon and Sara Peterson opened their own roasting company, HoneyCo Coffee Roasters. 


The Petersons then opened their second Scout Coffee location on Foothill Boulevard in August 2016. With over 40 employees between their two locations and roasting company, Scout Coffee continues to flourish!


Since their opening in 2014, Scout Coffee has maintained a prolific success streak, winning “Best Coffee Shop” every year in multiple community polls. In 2017, Scout Coffee was awarded "Business of the Year" for California's 35th Assembly District.


“We spent over 10 years dreaming, planning, learning and working in all things coffee with the hope that someday we would start a shop of our own,” the Scout Coffee website reads. 


Scout Coffee prides themselves on providing the best coffee on the market, using HoneyCo coffee made from beans sourced from the top 10% of arabica coffee beans.


In addition to high quality coffee, Scout Coffee also offers a wide variety of pastries made fresh daily, as well as homemade almond milk, flavored syrups and a curated boutique collection at both locations for customers to peruse while waiting. 


Scout Coffee has built a loyal following and only continues to grow in popularity. Dedicated to maintaining a family-style feel and greeting customers with welcoming smiles, Scout Coffee has been able to secure their status as a San Luis Obispo destination. They have also just announced that they will be opening a third location on Cal Poly’s campus!


If you are interested in learning more about Scout Coffee and everything they have to offer, check out @scoutcoffee on Instagram or visit their website at scoutcoffeeco.com



Best Dessert


Madonna Inn by Tessa Hughes 


Everything about the Madonna Inn is grandiose. From their 110 guest rooms and their whimsical charm to their unique activities and fine dining opportunities, every encounter at the inn is magical. Lumped into their extensive list of attractions and accolades is their dessert selection. The Cal Poly community just deemed Madonna Inn to have the best dessert in San Luis Obispo.


They have the perfect drinks, ice cream, pastries and baked goods for every occasion. Madonna Inn hits everyone’s taste buds whether they are craving a rootbeer float, a sundae, a milkshake or something a little heartier. They consistently serve up delicious cookies, danishes, specialty breads, French pastries and pull aparts, but are most well-known for their pie and cake selections. 


They have cream pies (banana cream pie, cheese pie, chocolate cream pie and coconut cream pie), fruit pies (apple pie, apricot pie, boysenberry pie, caramel dutch apple pie, cherry pie, lemon meringue pie and pecan pie) and sugar free pies (apple pie and apricot pie).


Then there are the cakes that they are famous for. Come on down and grab one of their ginormous and extravagantly decorated slices in one of their ten flavors! They have a wide array of flavors including toffee crunch, raspberry delight, pink champagne, lemon coconut, german chocolate, cherry black forest, carrot, black forest, apple spice and banana nut. 


To pick up one of these delectable desserts, visit the Madonna Inn at 100 Madonna Rd., or call them at 805-543-3000. Dessert orders can also be made in advance online at madonnainn.com for in store pick up. Please allow for at least 72 hours notice for bakery orders. 


Their tasty cookies and danish pastries are also available to be shipped anywhere in the U.S. So share the best dessert in San Luis Obispo with your loved ones because they make the perfect gift and sweet treat for anyone!



Best Acai

The Neighborhood by Ivy Yahnke


There are quite a few acai joints in San Luis Obispo, each with their own unique ingredients and killer acai bowls. 


The Neighborhood, however, is the local favorite for Cal Poly students. Cal Poly grads Chris Herrera and Doug Wells founded the Neighborhood 10 years ago after a trip to San Diego where they first discovered the acai bowl. 


This earthy juice bar is located on Foothill Boulevard, tucked away next to Kona Deli. They specialize not only in acai bowls, but also cold-pressed juices and plant-based foods, emphasizing their usage of super foods in their recipes.


As stated on their website, super foods are “nutritionally dense foods that provide a powerful source of antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other health promoting properties.” 


Some of the community’s favorite bowls include the SLO bowl, consisting of acai, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, hemp granola and honey. San Luis Obispo locals also love the High Street bowl for its additional ingredients of peanut butter, cacao nibs and almonds. 


Their cold-pressed juices are also celebrated, especially the Mean Greens, consisting of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, green apple, ginger and lemon. They even offer bundles of juice combos for customers interested in juice cleanses and detoxes. 


“I love The Neighborhood because they have the best toppings on their bowls, and I love that they offer juices and milks,” architecture senior Sydney Bolish said.


The Neighborhood has two locations, one in San Luis Obispo and the other in Paso Robles. The San Luis Obispo location is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop on by to taste San Luis Obispo’s best acai! 



Best Place for Outdoor Dining

SLO Brew Rock by Lauren Ladrech


If you are on the lookout for an outdoor dining option with a versatile menu and an upbeat atmosphere, SLO Brew Rock has you covered. The casual, 30-barrel brew house consists of a taproom restaurant, catering kitchen and event space, all surrounding “the rock.” SLO Brew Rock provides customers with an array of food and beverage items. From the Chicken Parmy sandwich to the Jammin’ grilled cheese and countless seltzers and brews, SLO Brew Rock has it all. There are also weekly specials, such as $5 pints Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Taco Tuesday deals and more. You can also become a member of the “Brew Club” and can enjoy discounted menu items and special access to craft beer releases. 


The “Brewmaster” Steve Courier started SLO Brew in 1988. “Craft beer on the central coast is blowing up! Just as Paso Robles did with wine - we’re going to be a craft beer destination and we’re trying to really own it and help foster the success of each other and the industry as a whole,” Courier said on the SLO Brew Rock website. The restaurant, which prides itself on its hand-crafted microbrews, has successfully remained one of California’s longest-standing brew pubs. The spacious setting allows the restaurant to serve as a great venue for corporate functions, weddings and other celebratory events. There are six unique venue spaces including a beer garden, a patio terrace and a whisky terrace. At SLO Brew Rock there is plenty of room to explore!


SLO Brew Rock has also ensured that all of their procedures are up to code and compliant with state and local COVID-19 safety guidelines. “We are meeting all state and country health regulations to ensure staff and customer safety,” reads the SLO Brew Rock website. Come enjoy a pint and some bites with some friends at the wonderful SLO Brew Rock soon!