I spent the past week or so camped out at my sister’s new apartment in San Luis Obispo, or, as I was raised to say it by my CalPoly attending parents, SLO. San Luis Obispo maintains a certain charm, like many of the small towns in the Foothills where I grew up; the charm of overpriced boutiques, overpriced eateries, and overpriced novelty shops. And, come school year, it is absolutely overrun with college students. My sister says that SLO claims not to be a college town–that is sheer madness. However, San Luis Obispo is a fun place to visit, and here’s why: it’s a great jumping-off place for lots of other areas, and there really is something for almost everyone.
In the town itself, there are many a cafe and boulangerie. It can be overwhelming to know where the best place is to go to throw your money away on coffee and pastries. I recommend Kreuzberg. Whilst the German speakers amongst you might assume that it would be pronounced kroysburg (and you’d be right, in Germany), the locals unfortunately pronounce it as cruizeburg and won’t understand what you’re talking about if you use an alternate pronunciation–much like Junipero St. in Long Beach (more on that later). Kreuzberg is an enormous, glass-fronted cafe with two little glassed-in mini-turrets–one in each corner. They serve many types of coffee and tea, and you’re sure to find a guilt-free coffee fix one way or another, be it single-source, organic, free-trade, or all of the above. I like Kreuzberg because the tea they serve comes from an extremely local–it’s located in a nearby refurbished alley–source: The Secret Garden. Sidenote: If you have time, and are good at finding hidden things, you should definitely check out The Secret Garden. You’re allowed to unstopper and sniff all the tea blends, and they’re happy to decant any amount into bags at your pleasure. But, returning to Kreuzberg, the hands-down coolest thing about it is that all the food platters are named and themed after famous authors. For example, the Amy Tan is seared, sesame-seed-encrusted tuna with house sauce on ciabatta. Righteous.
To move on to the something for everyone part: if you like wine, you can do wine-tasting in the area (I haven’t, so I have nothing to suggest; but, if you like, I can find out. I know people). If you like nude beaches, you can strip down at Pirate’s Cove–but be warned, it’s a lot more no-bottomed men than it is women. If you like old movie theaters, hit up The Fremont, or the Palm Theatre. If you like rock climbing, you can drive out to Montana de Oro (it’s about half an hour, maybe less) and scale the giant rock in the middle of the bay, or the tidal shelves around it. It’s free! You can also camp there (not free). If you like hot springs (cheap) you can go to Avila Hot Springs, it’s $6 after 6 PM; they even have a movie night. If you like hot springs (fancy) you can go to Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. It is both beautiful and luxurious, and the hot tubs are among the trees. Don’t say I didn’t tell you which one was cheaper.
If you’re down to get down, the streets of Downtown San Luis Obispo are paved with the fake IDs of CalPoly students, and are lined with drinkeries. Most of the saloons are pub-like: long bar, wood on wood accents, ag students. This theme is occasionally relieved by the wandering minstrel performing covers on his acoustic guitar. There is one public house unlike the rest in this respect, it’s name is The Library. It has twinkling disco lights, a DJ booth, a friendly and dimpled bartender, and some mirrors. When I went the other night, it was as quiet as the grave (if said grave was located under an empty dance club). It was a Tuesday, mind you. There was no one in this place until the clock struck 12. Just us, the bartender, the DJ, and the bouncer. Then a host of collegiates bounded in; when one turns 21 in San Luis Obispo, they’re handed a drink card and expected the fill it before the night is out. Bartenders oblige the pre-alcohol poisoning youths with spreads like Traffic Light–where one must drink a red, yellow, and green shot; one after the next–and then CalPoly wonders why it’s alcohol related deaths are so high.
If you want to be enraged all night, and then assuage that anger with a delicious tri-tip sandwich, you might be looking for the Farmers Market. It occurs weekly on Thursday nights from 6-9 PM. The entire event is clotted, and I mean absolutely matted, with oblivious college students. Trying to get to the Mo | Tav tri-tip grilling station is like an exercise in transcendence. Obviously you want to go to Mo | Tav for your sandwich, because they also grill their buns, and I think put garlic and other delicious additives on it. The sandwich will cost you a straight $7–and people will try to jump you in line for it. Speaking of line-jumping, the craziest Costco gas line award goes consistently to the San Luis Obispo branch. That pump station is always full of people trying to run you down, edge you out, cut you, and then yell at you–both in and out of your cars. You have been warned. Unfortunately, all other gas in SLO, indeed, all of Hwy 1 and 101, is about 5-15% higher than anywhere else.