It wasn’t too long ago that Paso Robles was a sleepy cowtown you passed through on your way up the 101. But now that it’s the fastest-growing wine region in the US (with over 200 wineries and counting), Paso has exploded into a full-on destination of its own. Downtown is full of eccentric boutiques, dozens of tasting rooms, and more exciting places to eat than the town knows what to do with. From old-school sandwich shops and high-end Italian restaurants to a lunch cafe that used to be a community farm, Paso Robles is full of eating & drinking places that deserve your attention. So next time you’re planning your romantic Paso weekend or a wine-drenched reunion with your college roommates, here are 9 places to focus on first.
Paso’s wine country is one of the best in California. But after 48 consecutive hours of cabernet and cheese boards, all you really want is margaritas and tacos. Head to Fish Gaucho, a modern Mexican restaurant downtown with a big space that gets rowdy in a hurry. They have over 80 different kinds of mezcal and tequila, and tasty, seafood-focused Mexican food. The popular order is fish tacos (get the fresh-caught halibut), but their carnitas nachos are a must-order as well. We advise you get a reservation on the weekend.
At some point in the afternoon, those four tasting flights are going to catch up to you and you’re going to need some food. Skip the overpriced meat tray the winery is force-feeding and head back into town to Thomas Hills, a tiny spot that started as a 10-acre organic farm. The farm still very much exists, and so does this full restaurant with a sunny back patio. Expect an excellent array of fresh vegetables, salads, lentil tacos, and a cubano sandwich you’ll think about for a while.
We’re here to tell you that a Latin American restaurant has the best pizza on the Central Coast. La Cosecha is a crowd-pleaser on Paso’s main square, and while their menu is very good overall (the daily ceviche should definitely hit your table), you’re here for the pizza. The Mediterrano with housemade lamb sausage and goat cheese is special, but you really can’t go wrong. They also do a great weekend brunch without the intense crowds that swarm at night. And yes, the pizzas are available then too.
It doesn’t take a love therapist to realize that Paso Robles and its surrounding wine country are romantic. Most people roaming around are with their significant others for a quiet weekend away, and you probably are too. If you’re looking to keep the extracurriculars rolling, head to Il Cortile. The upscale Italian restaurant has a traditional menu full of antipasti, meats, and pastas (you need the wild boar pappardelle in your life), and the biggest wine list in town. Corkage is only $20 if you feel like bringing that bottle you bought earlier today.
Given the sheer number of wineries surrounding Paso, it can be overwhelming to find a good jumping off point. We suggest Daou. Located about 15 minutes northwest of town, Daou Winery is a Paso institution. For starters, the gigantic tasting room sits on a massive hill and has the best views in the area. This is definitely a high-end operation (tastings start at $40), but their cabernet and rosé are so good, you won’t regret anything when the bill comes. As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be surprised if you found a row of Rolls-Royces parked out front that you can pretend like you own.
Once you wrap up your tasting at Daou, head back down the mountain to the complete antithesis of opulent wine drinking - Kiamie Wine Cellars. This magical little place is basically a shed that three friends converted into a tasting room and started inviting the public in to drink with them. The grapes actually come from the neighboring vineyard, but they make the wine themselves on the property, and it’s very good. If you want an unaffected wine-drinking experience in a classic rural setting, make Kiamie a priority. And be sure to feed the pet goat when he saunters by.
Open since 2015, Hatch is among the newer restaurants in Paso, but this modern Southern rotisserie is one of the hardest tables to get in town. Weekend wait times are counted by the hour, so we recommend getting a reservation. When you’ve finally made it, focus on their incredible rotisserie chicken and whiskey cocktails. The place definitely has a party-like atmosphere, so it’s a great dinner spot if you’re in town with friends and looking to get a little rowdy.
Firestone Walker is one of California’s best-known craft breweries and its flagship location on the outskirts of Paso Robles is an essential pilgrimage whether you care about the flavor notes in your IPA or not. With three different factory tours, a brewhouse, a barrel room, an entire visitors center, and a full restaurant/bar, Firestone Walker is really more of a town than a brewery. You could easily spend the entire afternoon here, and you should.
Your options for casual breakfast in Paso are a bit limited. But sometimes, a wine hangover requires eggs and bacon immediately and Red Scooter is here for you. This order-at-the-counter deli right on the main square has fantastic sandwiches across the board, but you need to concentrate on the breakfast section, particularly, the bacon avocado brioche sandwich. Crispy bacon, fresh avocado, and a fantastic brioche bun join forces to give you exactly what you and your stomach need before and after a long day of wine tasting.