Paso Robles is the unofficial dividing line between Southern California and Northern California, a small city of 31,000 people in San Luis Obispo County that originally housed the Salinan Native-American tribe and later resided along historic El Camino Real. Many of the area’s former ranches now grow grapes, cultivating a reputation as a reasonable alternative to prominent wine hubs like Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara. Learn about seven places to eat or drink well within Paso.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
Certain craft beer mavericks have proven that wine isn’t Paso’s be-all and end-all of beverages. Adam “The Bear” Firestone and brother-in-law David “The Lion” Walker started brewing at the Firestone family’s Los Olivos winery in 1996 and opened a larger Paso Robles facility in 2001. With brewmaster Matt Brynildson’s help, they’ve gained a strong foothold with California beer lovers and have expanded many times. Firestone Walker ferments in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels before blending to their liking. They offer tours that culminate in a tasting room that arms 13 taps. The company also operates an adjacent gastropub. Tasting flights are the way to go for variety’s sake. The selection includes modern classics like Double Barrel Ale and Merlin Milk Stout, plus seasonal specials like Mordred wild oatmeal sour stout.
MUST ORDER: Beer Flight
Eric Connelly and Maggie Cameron run Hatch in a historic brick building and showcases wood-fired cooking from chef Mateo Rogers. Seasonal, share-friendly plates “for the table” might include roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with pear, pomegranate, and house-smoked bacon; and fire-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms dressed with soy, aioli, and Parmesan. Even Caesar salad benefits from wood smoke; grilled romaine hosts Parmesan dressing, chicken fat croutons, and cracked black pepper. Meats are the main attractions, whether that means rotisserie chicken with tangy buttermilk dip and house-fermented hot sauce, or a short rib pyramid plated with avocado, pickled tomatillo, and ranchero salsa. Their standout bourbon-glazed pork chop comes with celery root, pickled mustard seeds, and sweet peppers.
MUST ORDER: Brussels Sprouts, Grilled Caesar, Mushrooms, Pork Chop, Rotisserie Chicken, Short Ribs
A new complex south of town called Tin City is the most exciting new development in Paso Robles. Negranti Creamery is a modern ice cream shop named for owner Alexis Negranti (and husband Wade). The couple’s tended to a flock of sheep since 2011, leading to a ready supply of milk. She started producing relatively healthy sheep’s milk ice cream (a U.S. first) for a food truck and now sells 16 different flavors at the shop that opened in 2017. The scoop shop also sells cow’s milk ice cream, and I sampled creamy salted chocolate and strawberry, but come here for ewe. I bundled refreshing mint chip, and even better, salted brown sugar, in a sturdy house-made waffle cone. The space features a single communal table, white walls with gold cones, and a black-and-white photo of a woman eating a giant ice cream cone.
MUST ORDER: Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream, Salted Brown Sugar Ice Cream, Waffle Cone
Per capita, Paso Robles has become one of California’s best places to drink beer. Firestone Walker led the way, and legendary Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva relocated more recently, opening an eponymous facility by downtown train tracks to end 2016. Enter through a bar called The Pour House or in back. Grab a stool at the stainless steel bar, overlooking the tanks, or on cushioned banquettes at high-top tables. The 10-barrel brewhouse produces impressive beers like Hop Maniac, an ultra-hoppy West Coast style IPA; MJ’s Spicy Ginger, a moderately spicy ginger saison; Mind On My Orange, a pleasantly funky Belgian style farmhouse ale with orange zest; and Nut Farm, a nitro walnut milk stout brewed with six types of malt. Better yet, buy a bunch of tasters to find your flavor.
MUST ORDER: Hop Maniac, Mind On My Orange, MJ’s Spicy Ginger, Nut Farm, Tasters
Joseph Gerardis, Matt Klomp, and Jeremy Sizemore opened Spearhead Coffee to start 2015, bringing house-roasted coffee and stylish beverages to a Paso Robles side street. The cafe features a stainless steel counter, forest of exposed filament lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, and a glass-framed roasting works. Basic coffee drinks are served in style, and their signature beverages are even more compelling. Matt’s Aztec Mocha delivers a double shot of espresso, premium milk, molten dark chocolate, vanilla-infused honey, and a warming spice blend of cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Solstice features a double shot of espresso with almond-infused honey, cardamom, ginger, and milk.
MUST ORDER: Matt’s Aztec Mocha, Solstice
Winemakers Curt Schalchlin (Sans Liege) and Andrew Jones (Field Recordings) turned their attention to apples in Tin City. The kooky corrugated metal space is a fun spot with ladder “chandeliers” strung with lights, high-top communal tables, patio picnic tables with red chairs, and games like ping-pong, foosball, and jumbo Connect Four. Still, the partners clearly take cider seriously, incorporating beer and spirit influences. The Original Dry-Hopped Cider is crisp and refreshing. Bocce Club Saison is a tart, funky cider that’s aged in an American oak foeder and incorporates fresh Lodi cherries. Templetucky rests in Bourbon barrel casks and benefits from Haitian orange and dry Mandarina Bavaria hops.
MUST ORDER: Bocce Club Saison, Original Dry-Hopped Cider, Templetucky
7. Twisted & Glazed
Sondra Williams and husband Keith opened Paso’s first modern donut shop in early 2017. The charming corrugated metal and wood space is open 24/7 and serves a mix of classic and kitschy donuts topped with crushed candy and cookies. Devil’s food cake, lavender lemon, and, strawberry shortcake are some of the most enticing options in a rotating selection. The couple also serves trendy rolled ice cream, sandwiches, and salads, but donuts are the draw.
MUST ORDER: Devil’s Food Cake Donut, Lavender Lemon Donut, Strawberry Shortcake Donut