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Playing host: Two San Francisco friends get the SLO experience 

My favorite weekends in SLO are the ones where I get to show it off.

Most of my friends and family living in the Bay Area or Southern California are merely acquainted with San Luis Obispo County until they visit me. That's my chance to hook 'em.

click to enlarge FRIENDS IN SLO Montaña de Oro State Park is one of my go-to places to take friends and family when they visit me in SLO. Jess (left) and Peter (right) were stoked to explore the tide pools. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JOHNSON
  • Photo Courtesy Of Peter Johnson
  • FRIENDS IN SLO Montaña de Oro State Park is one of my go-to places to take friends and family when they visit me in SLO. Jess (left) and Peter (right) were stoked to explore the tide pools.

It still amazes me how well the Central Coast flies under the radar in the collective California consciousness. Residents here love that—SLO's one of the state's best-kept secrets—but sometimes I feel like waving my arms in the air to the people in my life like, "Hey come visit! SLO's gorgeous and a blast!"

The latest guests to visit were my two good San Francisco buds, Peter and Jess. It took some arm-twisting, but I finally got them down here April 13 through 15. They arrive at my place already impressed with the views from the Cuesta Grade and the small town charm.

One of the best parts of tour-guiding SLO? Food. Having tasted the best and worst of the county (get it, "Best Of"?), I know where to go for three to four great meals. We go to Sidecar Cocktail Co. for drinks before dinner Friday, Luna Red for food, and then to BarrelHouse Brewing's Speakeasy for IPAs and a few intense games of shuffleboard. We end the night with a pit stop at McCarthy's.

The next day, I take them up the North Coast. With perfect 80-degree clear weather, we hit Morro Bay, then Cayucos, and then Highway 46 east. Climbing up the hills toward Paso Robles, I enjoy watching Jess and Peter gawk at the view of the Pacific Ocean down below, with sprawling ranchland and rolling mounds of green the only things in between. That's one of the best drives in the county, in my opinion.

click to enlarge THE PASO WINE EXPERIENCE I drove my San Francisco friends from Cayucos to Paso Robles over Highway 46 for a late afternoon wine tasting sesh at Eberle Winery. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER JOHNSON
  • Photo Courtesy Of Peter Johnson
  • THE PASO WINE EXPERIENCE I drove my San Francisco friends from Cayucos to Paso Robles over Highway 46 for a late afternoon wine tasting sesh at Eberle Winery.

We peruse downtown Paso a little bit before continuing farther east on 46 to Eberle Winery for some good ol' North County wine tasting. Eberle was one of the pioneers of the Paso Robles wine scene, started by Gary Eberle in 1973. In case you haven't visited, Eberle has an incredible network of caves under the property lined with wine barrels and rooms large enough to hold events. Tasting is free here, a nice perk. We sip the rosé and viognier outside, facing west toward the city, overlooking the vineyards. Peter and Jess enjoy the wine so much they decide to take home a few bottles. We drive home that afternoon, regroup, and go out to dinner at La Locanda, my favorite Italian restaurant in SLO. Peter declares that the lasagna is the best he's ever tasted.

I decide to cap off their weekend with a trip to Montaña de Oro on Sunday morning. This coastal state park in Los Osos really is a jewel, and any out-of-towners I take there are amazed they've never heard of it before. The surf is huge, so we spend some time atop the bluffs just watching the sets roll in and slam the cliffs below. No surfers were out there, probably for the best, given the conditions. We walk farther and explore the tide pools, finding sea anemones, hermit crabs, barnacles, and mussels.

My friends left that day super impressed, and I was so happy to see them. If any of my other friends are reading this—come visit SLO! Δ

Staff Writer Peter Johnson is busy perfecting his shuffleboard shot at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.

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