Vivian Krug Cotton / www.PhotoByVivian.com
"Follow Branch Street past the VILLAGE and you're winding along country roads, your windshield filled with bountiful fields, green pastures and oak-studded rolling hills."
Arroyo Grande is the coolest little town you've never heard of. When I told a friend where I was headed, it didn't register. "Just off the 101, south of Pismo Beach," I told him. Still nothing. He finally Googled it on his phone and was intrigued. With good reason.
Arroyo Grande Village, downtown so to speak, is a cluster of charming specialty shops and creative restaurants that rack up multiple stars and glowing reviews on Yelp. Follow Branch Street past the village and you're winding along country roads, your windshield filled with bountiful fields, green pastures and oak-studded rolling hills.
Whatever your preference, Arroyo Grande has options aplenty to create the weekend of your choosing. Here's some suggestions to start your planning.
AG (as the locals call it) has limited options so check AirBnB first. Booking at the last minute, I found the Chalet hosted by Mark Di Salvo on his four-acre Corbett Canyon estate. The clean, spacious one-bedroom apartment sits above the barn and comes with a full kitchen, living room and a comfortable queen-size bed. It overlooks the pond, which is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine. Or, if you want to sit, soak and stare at the stars, ask Mark to fire up the Jacuzzi.
Looking for strong coffee, a welcoming vibe and your choice of baked goodies, quiche or acai bowls? Wander into Cafe Andreini. And feel free to stay awhile. It's the kind of place where a couple of hours pass easily in conversation.
No agenda. No schedule. No destination. Just follow the curving yellow line of a two-lane road, like Huasna Road out to Huasna Valley.
Slow down to watch deer grazing in the shade of spring-green oaks. Or turkey vultures patrolling breezy skies. Or a rusting Stegosaurus guarding an otherwise empty pasture.
Pack a picnic lunch. Eclair Bakery in AG has fresh baguettes, plus amazing cupcakes and marzipan. Find a place to pull over and soak in the sun, watch the wind ripple pasture grasses and flutter the moss dangling from the oaks.
The toughest decision of your weekend may be choosing a dinner spot. The village offers several possibilities. We opted for Mason Bar and it delivered from start to finish. Brussels sprouts with cortina cheese, chile peppers, avocado and cilantro aioli came first. They were followed by April's curry, and my Grown Up Grilled Cheese oozing with sheep's milk gouda and smoked cheddar melted together with stone fruit chutney and pork belly between two crispy pieces of Little Red Hen sourdough. Finally, we succumbed to Spanish Lava Cake with 72-percent Valrhona chocolate, paprika and vanilla bean ice cream.
East Branch Street in the village serves as AG's Main Street. The storefronts date from the late 19th century and early 20th century and host a range of unique shops. From decor at Posies, the Potting Bench and Chic Interiors, to personalized cards and invitations at Village Papery, to multiple antique shops, to clothing at Act II Boutique, to custom designed furniture at Chameleon Style, to instruments at Lightning Joe's Guitar Heaven, to bikes at Ira's Bike Shop, you'll never know what you'll find.
But all that shopping will make you hungry, so grab ice cream from Doc Burnstein's, a tri-tip sandwich from Arroyo Grande Meat Company, or stroll the Farmers' Market on Saturdays between 12pm and 2:30pm.
Well, I've probably said too much about the coolest town you've never heard of. It now risks being discovered. And then Cafe Andreini will have to stop selling its signature coffee mugs. The ones that say "Arroyo Grande 93420.
Nice Town. Normal People."
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, better known as
Corbett Canyon Chalet