Itching to hit the road again, ENTREE returned to San Luis Obispo for the first time in years this spring, and quickly found ourselves twice as charmed as on our last visit. A key reason for this is the the Hotel Cerro, a beautiful modern escape just off the main drag of the central coast city’s downtown. Despite being in the center of the action surrounded by hip cafes, bars, and bakeries, the hotel has a tranquil, private feeling without sacrificing a single ounce of its cool factor.
We checked into at a comfortable lobby, where the brick-lined walls are hung with eye-catching modern artwork, and were directed to a garden suite that blends a few different design styles for a certain quirky, minimal cool within a roomy open floor plan. Just off the bedroom is a slim, sun-drenched patio with its own firepit and a door opening into a wide edible garden, where the raised beds not only make for great roaming but also help supply the sizzling restaurant downstairs, Brasserie SLO.
Details extend beyond the usual in Cerro’s suites. In addition to the al fresco patio, you can expect touches like local pour-over coffee, king-size Anichini bedding, a bar boasting refillable water bottles guests can keep, a spacious rainforest shower, and the coup de grace: a large freestanding bath that fills from a discrete hole hidden in the ceiling. We somehow managed to leave those comfortable climes for an elevator ride up to the sizable rooftop pool, where 360-degree views of the surrounding emerald green mountains helped us plot out an inspiring early evening hike among the area’s numerous, mercifully undeveloped hills. But first, we borrowed a pair of candy red beach cruisers made available to guests for a bike ride around town. This made for the perfect way of enjoying SLO’s neighborhoods of beautiful, often historic homes, sprawling parks, and city streets brimming with weekend shoppers and restaurant-goers.
After circling the historic San Luis Obispo Mission, we made our way to a delightfully messy lunch of ribs and pulled pork at Mo’s Barbecue, which we quite enjoyed. Twice, in fact, as the smell of smoked meat clung to our every move, even throughout a hike of redemption. After that challenging and gorgeous five- mile trek through oak groves and grassy ranchland, we returned to the Hotel Cerro to peek into 4,000-sq-ft. Spa Cerro. Next, we retreated to our room to get ready for the defining experience of our Central Coast trip.
Brasserie SLO recently hired Derek Brooks as its executive chef, a name we’ve heard endless raves about during his critically lauded time at Pelican Hill in Orange County but whose food we’d never had the pleasure of experiencing. He is devoted to superlative product, and we indulged in a lobster bisque, duck confit, bouillabaisse, and beef bourguignon, all of which were authentically-prepared with unadorned flavors from every ingredient. Dessert took the form of a perfect berry tarte. Brooks lets ingredients shine brightly, though we know it takes a talented chef’s deft hand to bring out the best of everything in such dishes, plus a passion for the terroir in which they work. Indeed, he is enthusiastic about this area, where he recently moved with his family. The experience at Brasserie SLO was a crowning touch to a wonderful stay at Hotel Cerro, highlighting the best of San Luis Obispo, while also offering us a quiet, captivating retreat when we sought to avoid the action on bustling Higuera Street. We can’t wait until our next stay in this likeable town, which has just enough to experience within the confines of a beautiful small city, from shopping and fashionable dining to incredible natural scenery and strollable residential neighborhoods, to keep us always happy.
Before leaving town, we had an elegant lunch at Park 1039 at 1039 Chorro Street, a local mecca for California wines, European market goods, and caviar service, where we feasted on fresh baked local breads with Vermont creamery butter, a charcuterie board, wild spice Marcona almonds, house marinated Castelvetrano olives in Meyer lemon and tangerine, caviar and delicious bespoke sandwiches followed by Basque cheesecake.
We attacked the fulsome wine list with gusto. Sarah and Jenna took wonderful care of us.
We felt like we were in Paris at this excellent fromagerie/wine bar/brasserie where they sell very special imported foods, books, picnics to go and great kitchen gear as well. You will have a beautiful memory at Park 1039, especially if you get to meet the charming owner, Steve Goodale. https://park1039.com/
These pleasures fueled a lovely two-hour drive back to our Santa Barbara HQ, where we sit dreaming of our return to San Luis Obispo for a nearby escape. Hotel Cerro, rooms and suites from $550-$875, 1125 Garden St., San Luis Obispo, (805) 548-1000; www.hotelcerro.com. One note of caution: beware the predatory and relentless San Luis Obispo parking enforcement squad. One slip will cost you $40 at least and they are merciless.