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Where the cowboys and Basques eat . . . Guadalupe Guadalupe isn't much to look at. In long afternoon shadows, its lone street and old storefronts conjure up a used--very used--set for a Grade B Western.

But California's central coast residents know that behind the unlikely facade there's mighty good eating. In this tiny town about 30 miles south of San Luis Obispo (70 miles above Santa Barbara), you'll find two large restaurants serving hearty meals and a couple of smaller ones with Mexican or Chinese dishes.

The town sits on the Santa Maria River's wide plain, surrounded by vegetable fields. From U.S. 101 in Santa Maria, head west 8 miles on State 166 to Guadalupe Road. Here, you are greeted by flamboyant winged angels frozen against the sky--monuments, it turns out, in the cemetery.

Stopping a moment, you can read Guadalupe's history in the markers. The angels poise over graves with the Italian names of dairy farmers from the Swiss canton of Tocino, who arrived in the 1880s. Simple stone blocks mark the burial places of the Japanese who worked the fields in the 1920s; others tell that Hispanic families have lived in the region for generations. Turn north on Guadalupe Road; all the restaurants are on this street.

The famous bull's-eye steak

Real Guadalupans don't eat quiche; they eat steak at the Far Western Tavern (899 Guadalupe; open 10 A.M. to 11 P.M. Mondays through Saturdays, 9 to 11 Sundays). Both owners, descendants of Italo-Swiss farmers, are ranchers who wear cowboy boots for good reason. The tavern has the same authenticity. At the front bar, ranchers swap stories; in the back dining room, the food is unpretentious and filling.

The tavern is noted for bull's-eye steak--a rib-eye cut. (But no one will snicker if you order fish.) Complete dinners, with soup or shrimp cocktail, salad, and beans, run $10 to $15.

Across the street, the Basque House (992 Guadalupe; 5 to 10 Thursdays through Saturdays, 4 to 9 Sundays) is in a remodeled hotel building dating from the 1880s. In Basque style, some of the dinner's many courses are served from large bowls at the table's center. You start with a rich vegetable soup, salsa and beans, and salad. Entrees include beef, lamb, chicken, and fish. If you're feeling particularly dexterous, you might try a rose-wine punch served in a bota bag. Dinners cost $10 to $15.

Two for the food, not atmosphere

At these smaller places, prices are modest and so is the decor.

La Simpatia (827 Guadalupe; 8 A.M. to 1 A.M. Tuesdays through Sundays) serves good Sonoran-Mexican food--though the sign outside says "Genuine Spanish." Inside, a vividly colored mural contrasts with the '50s streamlined counter.

Bud Wong's New York Restaurant (857 Guadalupe; 11:30 to 9 Wednesdays through Mondays) was founded by an ex-mayor. Atmosphere is definitely not the draw here; isntead, go for the homemade Cantonese dishes.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1986
Previous Article:Quick getaways by horseback; from ritzy to rustic, prawns to beans, overnight trips starting out from Guerneville to San Jose.
Next Article:In from the streets, onto the stage, "New Vaudeville."

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