My wife, 7 yr old daughter, 9 month old son and 70 lb yellow lab are heading up to the Hearst Castle area for a family road trip just after X-Mas . . . yes, it'll be insane - but, good insane.
In any case, we're hoping to be able to eat as well as possible given our parameters ( no need for dog friendly places - she'll be sleeping in the hotel room or chilling on her pillow in the car). We'll be staying in the SLO area, but driving up to San Simeon for the castle and (hopefully) to Paso Robles for a few wineries.
Our goal is to find some casual, locally-owned foodie type places for breakfast & lunch (shouldn't be too tough - looking for places in SLO-ish area plus Santa Barbara on the way back home), a few options for dinner with two young kids that actually serves good food (I'm assuming tough) and some Paso Robles wineries that might be able to keep our 7 yr old daughter entertained for 20 minutes at a time but still make killer wine.
Our family is very open-minded when it comes to food - doesn't matter if it's BBQ, french bistro, sushi, mexican, home-style cooking or Indian . . . you name it, as long as it's delicious we're happy (except for Thai food). Also, we have to avoid any "fine" dining given our 9 month old boy's table side manner is somewhere between the Tasmanian Devil and an English bulldog (more drool than you care to imagine).
I've actually plotted our our food stops (yes, my wife makes fun of me about this type of behavior) and done a little research for options - but we need help with feedback and I'm sure to be missing some ideal spots. Please see list below - and any help is GREATLY appreciated!
1. Lunch on Sunday around Santa Barbara (or perhaps in LA)
Options: La Super Rica in SB?
2. Dinner on Sunday in SLO area
Or perhaps in Nipomo at Jocko's around 5pm? are we crazy to even attempt to go here with a baby?
Perhaps Mama's Meatball?
3. Breakfast on Monday in SLO (or anywhere on the way up to San Simeon)
Perhaps Utopia Bakery or Creole Cafe Bon Temps?
4. Lunch on Monday in Paso Robles (or anywhere on route from Hearst Castle to Paso Robles wineries)
Please help! Any place to maybe pick up a few picnic type goodies (crunchy baguettes, stinky camembert and garlicky salami?). Any little french country style bistro places that serve lunch where kids wouldn't ruffle too many diners feathers (perhaps a killer french onion soup on a cold day)?
5. Dinner on Monday (somewhere in SLO area - would prefer not to drive far after a long day for the kids)
Buona Tavola (too nice? too far? too pricey?)
Shalimar (is it in SLO? Is it killer good or just "above average"? Can they cook a juicy and flavorful tandoori chicken breast?)
6. Breakfast on Tuesday (either in SLO or anywhere heading south for an 30-60 minutes)
7. Lunch on Tuesday (in Santa Barbara ideally)
We're also thinking of taking our daughter for ice cream at Doc Bernstein's.
In regards to Paso Robles wineries, we'll be there on a Monday afternoon (12/28), roughly between 12pm and 4pm. From the strings I've read on Chowhound - the most intriguing wineries in Paso Robles (we love big reds and would prefer to avoid the overly commercial, big wineries)) are Tablas Creek, Jada, Zin Alley, Denner, Fratelli Peralta and Linne Calado. Assuming we have time to visit perhaps no more than two or three wineries - which would you suggest are must hits when taking into consideration:
a) quality of the wine
b) value (in a tip of the hat to the recession, we've got a budget of around $100 to buy hopefully around 4 bottles - looking to avoid places with $10-$15 tasting fees with the cheapest wine being $45 - though I've heard Linne Calado is worth burning a hole in your wallet)
c) atmosphere - we'd love to find the small, homey, picturesque, family-driven wineries that might allow us to tour the vineyards, eat a picnic (though it might be too cold?) or check out the caves . . . we think our daughter would get a kick out of that (heck, she'd be happy to pet a friendly dog hanging around the tasting room).
d) proximity - we want to limit our tasting time to no more than 1-2 hours to keep the kids from going crazy . . . best situation would be to find a "must visit" winery to anchor and then a few intriguing ones nearby.
Apologies in advance for this rambling dirge. Thanks again!