If you are reading this article, you may have heard of Paso Robles, California, and possibly planned a trip. Paso, as we locals call it, is my home and has been for 20 years.
I recently retired from owning a downtown Paso Robles restaurant, Thomas Hill Organics. I was a pioneer in the culinary development of downtown. I am now following my next passion, writing. To clarify further food, wine, and travel writing.
Paso Robles is a charming small town with 32,000 residents, but don’t let that fool you. Paso is a world-class wine region selling the most Cabernet Sauvignon nationwide. Recently called California’s culinary capital by the Michelin Guide with 2 Michelin star restaurants and three others mentioned as “must try.”
This article focuses on the best restaurants in “downtown.” When I use the term “best,” understand this is based on two significant factors. Food that excites your senses, and you dream about it the same night and service that is friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable.
Ask ten locals what their top 10 restaurants are downtown, and you will get ten different answers. I have used my restaurant expertise to determine the list. I am writing about “downtown” restaurants only, not outlying favorites, Six Test Kitchen, The Restaurant at Justin, or Cello Ristorante.
Table of Contents
The 10 Best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants
1215 Spring Street | Paso Robles, CA 93446 | 805-296-3754
With an award-winning wine list and a mention by the Michelin Guide as a “must-try” restaurant in Paso Robles, Les Petites Canailles is one of my top picks. Chef-owner Julien Asseo has a love of food running through his veins. Previously from Restaurant Guy Savoy, a 2-star Michelin Guide in Las Vegas, Julien’s flair for elegant French cuisine is outstanding.
Les Petites Canailles, translated as “The Little Rascals,” is named after their three children. Originally from Chef Julien’s childhood nickname “little rascal.” The restaurant interior, designed by Julien’s wife, Courtney, is contemporary but warm and inviting, with photos on the wall of their family.
The owners’ love of hospitality, as if you were in their home, sets them apart from others. Everyone at LPC truly cares about the guest experience.
On my visit to Les Petites Canailles, we sat at the bar, a great seat to watch the magic in the kitchen. Our server greeted us immediately and took our wine order. We were then served an amuse-bouche, a light and airy French puff pastry, the perfect beginning to a fabulous meal.
For our starter, we ordered Leeks a la Plancha, a signature appetizer. Grilled leeks with a mildly acidic vinaigrette, finished with pinenuts and Espelette pepper. Two entrees were the pasta special with beef cheeks, beef cheeks that melted in your mouth, and the roasted Monkfish. Referred to as the “poor man’s lobster,” this dish was delicate and flavorful with a savory mushroom sauce called Forestiere.
I have a weakness for french fries and house-made bread. Les Petites Canailles does not disappoint. Their frites with a bearnaise sauce were perfectly crisp, and the levain bread, made by Chef Tim Veatch of Wayward Bakery, was airy with a slight tang.
Chef Julian’s recent creation, from their “Trust Us” menu, is the Australian Wagyu culotte. The culotte was very tender, rich, and buttery. It is served with house-made kimchi, kohlrabi, and tempura shallots. The kohlrabi, which is sweet but peppery, added texture. You do not want this delectable dish to end. Definitely one of the most unique Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
608 12th St #101, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052260300
The best restaurant for Italian fine dining is undoubtedly Il Cortile. The restaurant opened in the fall of 2009, by owners Santos and Carole MacDonal, bringing further credibility to Paso Robles’ food scene.
When the couple met, Carole had an established career in film and writing, and Santos was a chef in Los Angeles. They both shared a love of food and wine and made their dream of opening an authentic Italian restaurant in Paso Robles come true.
Il Cortile is known for its hand-crafted pasta, fresh seafood, and specialty items from Italy. Their menu changes with the season and the availability of the freshest products available. Chef Santos is continuously searching for new ingredients to keep their menu fresh.
The restaurant has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare the meals. The indoor space is intimate and warm. The outdoor patio is quaint and romantic. Il Cortile is known for its inviting upscale ambiance, enhancing any dining experience.
Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners since 2014, for their wine program. They are standouts amongst their peers with both quality and diverse selections. Their wines are compatible with the menu and its pricing.
Although everything on the menu is a gastronomic journey indulge in their Poached Egg appetizer with white polenta, parmesan fonduta, and shaved black truffles or the Grilled Octopus with seasonal vegetables marinated in a spicy vinaigrette.
Every bite of the Sweet Corn Ravioli with Mighty Cap mushrooms and ricotta salata was delectable. Step out and try a Tuscany favorite, the homemade pappardelle pasta with wild boar ragu. I promise it is not gamey but mild, nutty, and rich.
Chef Santos and Carole MacDonal believe in crafting memories with their Italian cuisine. You will agree when you visit this place, which is one of the best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
Downtown, 1313 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052265888
Thomas Hill Organics, the first “farm” to table restaurant in Paso Robles, started with produce from its 10-acre-organic farm on the east side of Paso. With 900 fruit and nut trees and various row crops, they developed a creative menu based on each season and it’s one of the best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
THO, as the locals call it, opened over 14 years ago in a somewhat quiet town. Paso Robles was just getting noticed for its Rhone and Bordeaux wines. And “organic” was not in Paso’s vocabulary.
After three long years of convincing people that THO’s menu offered more than vegetables, they turned a corner and became one of the top restaurants in Paso Robles. They contributed to putting Paso Robles on the map as a culinary destination.
The ambiance at THO is relaxed yet classy. The covered patio seating is nothing like anywhere else in Paso Robles. Dining alfresco at Thomas Hill Organics reminds me of dining in Europe, where the outdoors is part of the experience.
Mike and Lisa Espy, the new owners, have extensive culinary backgrounds working at top restaurants in San Francisco and owning a successful high-end catering company. Both trained chefs believe in organic and sustainable farming and supporting local farmers.
The cuisine at Thomas Hill Organics has always been creatively unexpected, with layers of flavors. The menu showcases California cuisine with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The new menu has Halibut Cheeks with green bean salad, pecans, tomatoes, and goat cheese and Italian Roasted Chicken pressed under a brick, with butternut squash bread pudding and a radicchio and fennel salad. Lots of creativity and deliciousness!
1244 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052393333
A local favorite is Fish Gaucho, known for its contemporary Mexican cuisine, not to mention the Tequila Bar. I admit I never gravitate towards Mexican cuisine except at this vibrant find amongst all other Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants. Their food is upscale with a healthy twist, right up my alley.
The restaurant’s interior is traditional Mexican with bold colors and rustic furniture. Their outdoor seating along the main street is prefect for people-watching. And the uplifting music really brings the restaurant to life!
Fish Gaucho offers various flights of Tequila, from Tequila 101 to my favorite, “A Tour of Mexico,” with Tequilas from four different regions in Mexico. They also have cocktails, try the seasonal margaritas, or opt for local wine or beer.
I love a dish with many different elements, from flavor to texture. My go-to “appertivo” is the Oaxaca Flocka Nachos loaded with corn chips, wagyu beef, refried beans, tomatoes, and avocado. This starter epitomizes the saying, “A party in my mouth.”
If I am there with other locals, we always order their specialty tacos. They offer three kinds of fresh fish tacos plus carnitas, short ribs, and veggie tacos. The Halibut tacos with pina-pepper salsa, cilantro crema cabbage, and pickled onions are packed with flavor. Perfect accompaniment with a cerveza.
I highly recommend the Sea Bass entree with locally grown Mighty Cap mushrooms and broccolini. The fish is mild and delicate, and the chipotle cream sauce adds a savory flavor. Each bite was a symphony of your senses.
Don’t forget Happy Hour from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
1202 Pine St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052268191
In the heart of downtown is BL Brasserie, one of the first fine-dining restaurants in Paso Robles. Known for its classic French food and elevated service, I guarantee the presentation, and flavors will be consistent each time you dine there.
The restaurant is casual, yet there is a sense of elegance. You genuinely feel like you are in a quaint French restaurant in Paris with brick walls and French posters. There is an open kitchen, and my favorite is a lovely quaint bar where Chef Laurent Grangien, the owner, and his wife often dine. BL Brasserie has a warm and inviting covered patio where I often dine in the warmer months.
Chef Laurent, who ran several Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, creates traditional French dishes that are reasonably priced. Some of their must-try appetizers are the Eggs Mimosa, French Onion soup, and the Salad Lyonnaise. However, the Lobster Bisque is my indulgence, rich and smooth.
The Sauteed Sea Scallops with fresh morels and beurre blanc sauce is perfectly cooked. The sauce is velvety and rich. When I want a rack of lamb, BL Brasserie is my restaurant of choice. Their Crispy Crab Risotto with sauteed shrimp is another delicious option, bright and creamy.
BL Brasserie is a long-established classic French restaurant in Paso Robles. As you plan your culinary adventure in Paso Robles consider starting here. It’s one of the best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
835 13th St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052215727
This is the restaurant I take my guests from out of town when we want a laid-back casual, yet tasty, dinner. Did I mention farmers’ market-inspired cocktails too? The Hatch is a local favorite for good times, relaxation, and camaraderie.
Mentioned as a “must try” by the Michelin Guide, this restaurant makes the best Wood-fired Rotisserie Chicken in Paso Robles, moist and delicious. Their Skillet Cornbread is a tribute to my southern heritage, topped with honey and browned butter.
Let’s talk about the Shrimp & Grits, creamy, buttery, and sinfully delicious. Perfectly cooked shrimp in tomato broth, Marsh Hen Mill grits, house fennel sausage, pea tendrils, and butter. Did I mention lots of “love?”
Occasionally I sit at the bar with friends, and we order appetizers. The Fire-roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and the Pork Belly with butternut squash, pomegranate, and molasses are classic comfort food.
The space is intimate and rustic, with brick walls and high-top tables, unpretentious. The staff is friendly, and the service is excellent. Make a reservation a few weeks out or arrive early to get a seat at the bar. See you soon at this gem amongst the Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
943 Spring St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052370600
“I cook with love,” are perfect words spoken by owner Antonio Varia of Buona Tavola to describe his cuisine. Buona Tavola is a warm and welcoming Italian find amongst the Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants with dim lighting creating an intimate feel. When you walk in, you are transported into a small Italian restaurant in Italy; smells of fresh herbs and garlic create a mouth-watering aroma.
The menu is Northern Italian with fresh, high-quality ingredients and an excellent balance of flavors. One of the most popular dishes is the Risotto del Cusio, a medium-grained rice dish influenced by a commune in the Italian region of Lombardy. Rich with imported porcini mushrooms, freshwater shrimp, and white wine, this is a creamy and savory dish.
Buona Tavola makes my favorite pasta dish; Capellini al Filetto di Pomodoro e Basilico. Angel hair pasta with tomato fillets, garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. This is a simple pasta dish, light and refreshing just garnish with grated Parmesan cheese!
The grilled fish of the day is always spectacular, cooked to just the right temperature and texture. You can’t go wrong with any dish on the menu. I always end my meal with the Souffle al Cioccolato, a decadent chocolate souffle.
The staff is friendly and attentive, and they recommend dishes or wine to complement your meal. They also serve cocktails. The pace is leisurely, allowing diners to savor each bite and enjoy their dining experience.
772 Pine St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18052274860
No frills, just damn good sushi. No wonder it’s one of the best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants. I would not have moved here 20 years ago without a serious sushi restaurant. I use the word serious since many sushi restaurants disguise their fish in creative rolls; here at Goshi, the sushi is super fresh. They have tasty-creative rolls, but I am a sashimi/sushi snob, and the fish must melt in my mouth. No fishy fish for me.
Very unpretentious space, with a minimalist design, wood, and bamboo. Very warm and comfortable. I love sitting at their sushi bar, where I can watch the sushi preparation and interact with the chef.
The Albacore Tataki is a must-try every time I dine at Goshi. Tataki is typically lightly seared on the outside, but at Goshi, it is served raw. The buttery albacore is thinly sliced, surrounded by a citrus ponzu sauce and thinly sliced onion. Party in your mouth!
They always have a selection of fresh sushi posted on a chalkboard, plus unique dishes. My go-toes are yellowtail, tuna belly, and salmon sushi. The Spicy Scallop Handroll is another delicious option, I always add avocado. When I am in the mood for vegetables, I order the Vegetable Tempura, light and crispy batter, and perfectly cooked vegetables.
While the service may not be as formal as a fine-dining restaurant, servers are still hospitable and attentive. This place deserved it’s spot in the list for the best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
1144 Pine St, Paso Robles, CA 93446, United States // +18053692444
The Alchemists’ Garden was a wonderful surprise. I have always loved their bar area, and I have enjoyed many a cocktail, glass of wine, or appetizer with my dear friends, but I decided to try this for dinner.
The restaurant is centrally located on a corner right across from the park. If you sit in the bar area, you have a fantastic view of the town square, which is excellent for people viewing. They have a dining room, but I prefer the bar with a more casual atmosphere.
What I enjoyed most about their food is the international influences, whether India, Mexico, or Jamaica, to name a few. We started with their asparagus appetizer, the vegetable of the day. Perfectly cooked asparagus with chipotle maple sauce, house-made duck prosciutto, and soy sauce with a smattering of hollandaise sauce. Finished with Lego chili to even out the sweetness.
For entrees, we ordered the Butter Chicken and the Scottish Salmon. The chicken was served in two dishes, one with grilled pita bread and rice and the other with butter chicken. The rich curry sauce spiced with tomato and butter was delicious.
The salmon entree was served on a bed of roasted corn succotash with a medley of tomatoes. It was finished with a delicate and tasty saffron beurre blanc sauce. The saffron added a lovely golden color. Both entrees were delightful!
We finished with their housemade cheesecake, a light and flavorful ending to a great meal. The staff is professional but friendly. An excellent dining spot amongst all other Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants if you are a foodie and love adventure.
831 13th Street Downtown Paso Robles, CA // 805.369.2535
Which restaurant makes the best thin-crust pizza downtown? That would be Della’s Wood-Fired Pizzeria! Located next to their sister restaurant, The Hatch, they are driven by creative and fresh seasonal ingredients for their pizzas.
Owners Eric and Maggie Cameron, having come from the east coast, have light and crisp wood-fired pizza in their veins. I know as I lived back east for 20 years and have a great affection for a well-made wood-fired thin-crust pizza.
Della’s is a chic-casual restaurant with a lively atmosphere. There is always a mix of locals and out-of-town guests. Laughter and great conversations fill the air as everyone relaxes after a day of wine tasting.
They have a full bar specializing in Gin cocktails. Try their Della’s Negroni, aged in an Amphora, a terra cotta jar, for three weeks. The effects are a creamy, balanced mouthful.
Although Della’s is the spot for wood-fired pizza, they have a full menu with an Italian flare. Try the Chicken Parm with its’ rich tomato sauce and the silky texture of the mozzarella. The slowly cooked meat in their beef & pork bolognese is authentic Italian, rich and velvety but meat-centric.
I am always content when I head home, grateful for a lovely evening with friends and good food. This is definitely one of the best downtown Paso Robles Restaurants.
Final Thoughts: The Best Downtown Paso Robles Restaurants
As I conclude my culinary journey through downtown Paso Robles. I have provided a selection of exceptional restaurants that have captivated foodies with their friendly and attentive service and extraordinary creations.
I hope you have been tempted by the diverse array of dining experiences in California’s culinary capital to give a few a try. Paso Robles invites you to experience the best dining it has to offer!
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Debbie Thomas moved to Paso Robles from Los Angeles in 2003 to pursue a slower pace of life. Midway through a career that included upper management positions with licensed apparel companies like Adidas, Rival, and Starter, she and her then-business partner started a 10-acre organic farm. Nine-hundred trees and various row crops later, she opened Thomas Hill Organics, a farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Paso Robles.
After 14 years of owning and managing a successful restaurant, she sold it to pursue her next adventure, writing. She has a passion for travel, creatively prepared food, and well-balanced wines. She enjoys sharing her experience with others.