Picks and Pans – Pismo Beach and Shell Beach, CA

Pismo Beach

Although at first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything special about it, Pismo Beach is a solidly good beach. Nice sand, hardly any trash blowing around, lots of space and just enough people for good people watching, but not so many that it seems crowded. Plus, it was warm enough in the end of November for us to spend a couple of hours sitting on the sand wearing just T-shirts and jeans.

Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach seemed pretty sleepy as we walked along the boardwalk and up into town to find dinner, but as soon as we hit the Splash Cafe we figured out where all the people had gone. There was a line out the door of this little dive-y cafe, but we were soon seated with at a teeny table in the crowded restaurant eating the best clam chowder either of us had ever had. The rich, creamy stew was served in a homemade sourdough breadbowl, which was handy because if it had come in a normal bowl, I would have been forced to pick it up and lick it out. Thanks to Litty for the great recommendation!

Steaming Bean in Shell Beach

Steaming Bean is a beach town coffee shop that’s so comfortable even the locals show up for their morning java and internet.

Ocean Dunes at Pismo Beach

Sean rants: We were driving past Avila Beach near San Luis Obispo and it was a little crowded/developed for our taste, but then I looked at our atlas and saw “Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve” and so we headed over with hope of some quiet relaxation and quasi solitude. As we neared the dunes we began to see a cloud of dust swallowing the area, and getting closer we started to see the signs that Pismo Dunes was made for 4-wheelers, motorcycles and dune buggies and not a quiet picnic lunch (unless you want to put the sand back in sandwich). What a waste. Don’t get me wrong. I used my paper route money to buy my first dirtbike when I was 10 and rode regularly on the dirt trails out on American Hill and Newtown Roads until I was 13 or 14. Despite neighbors’ scowls at my loud and smelly 2-cycle engine as I sped by in a cloud of dust, my pre- and early teen years were filled with hours of entertainment wallowing in the dirt and mud. But the folks at Pismo Dunes are a different beast. It’s the gluttony of an unquenchable thirst to be gorged with more outrageous forms of entertainment. After dropping a chunk of change on dirtbikes, 4 wheelers, and a dune buggy, they shell out another $30-50K to buy a truck that can haul around their toys, often a 40 ft RV trailer and maybe a boat to boot. The operating costs alone for all these toys is hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per weekend. They might have to take out a second, sub-prime mortgage on their home to pay for it all and blame someone else when the housing bubble collapses the banking industry, but at least they have the love of country to fly a giant American flag off their truck (even though they may well have never voted).

2 comments to Picks and Pans – Pismo Beach and Shell Beach, CA

  • Abigail St. Lawrence

    Not related to Pismo Beach, but suggestions for your next stop down the road–Santa Fe. We were there a few years ago, and if you can stay away from the chintzy and over-crowded “authentic” turquoise trinket shops that populate the central square, there are some good stops. A few suggestions:

    1. Atomic Grill, 103 E. Water Street. Open 11 am-3 am daily, over 100 beers, breakfast served all day, and free wi-fi. AFter some very disappointing meals and service in higher-end Santa Fe restaurants, we enjoyed tasty New Mexican food in a very low-key funky setting.

    2. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson Street, free admission every Friday 5-8 pm. http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/

    3. The Loretto Chapel, 207 Old Santa Fe Trail. This is worth stopping to see for the sheer oddity of it. http://www.lorettochapel.com/staircase.html

    4. Todos Santos Chocolates, 125 East Palace Avenue #31. Hard to find (it’s in the interior square of building with a small entrence off the street), but worth it, even if it’s just to browse. You’ll see chocolates here that you won’t find anywhere else. Just about my favorite thing about Santa Fe.

    Two other hints about Santa Fe: (1) Park just a little out of the central downtown, which is very walkable but generally has very narrow streets (think colonial town square). (2) When the waitress asks you “red or green,” order it Christmas style to try both chili sauces.

    • Thanks for the recommendations Abby!!
      Had to keep it short to stay on schedule, but Atomic Grill was great. Hopefully get to come back for the rest!

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