Monday, May 21 , 2018, 6:54 pm | Fair 65º


Donna Polizzi

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Exploring Cambria’s Delightful Past Will Rejuvenate Your Present

Seaside village is an ideal destination for adventure seekers, and for those who just want to chill by the shore


It’s impossible to not be spoiled by wonderment when it comes to the Central Coast.

From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles to Monterey, is devoted to featuring the best places to wine, dine and explore.

If you haven’t been to Cambria lately, you simply must visit this delightful little seaside village in San Luis Obispo County. With a population just north of 6,000, what Cambria lacks in population density, it more than makes up for in open spaces, splendor and visitor serving attractions.

It also has a storied history that I recently learned from locals — and reading the personal journals of strangers.

Cambria is a perfect destination for adventure seekers. If you like to hike, explore, bird watch and the smell of pine trees, Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is 430 acres of beauty. You’ll love it if you enjoy serene nature walks on well-manicured trails or hefty hikes with breathtaking ocean views. And it’s not uncommon to see whales, dolphins and deer while you hike.

Located in what is known as the East Village, Robin’s Restaurant is one of the most enchanting restaurants I’ve visited. Robin’s has been serving authentic dishes at 4095 Burton Drive for nearly 30 years.

There are three distinct seating areas. The main restaurant is like an old English kitchen, with several nooks and crannies featuring antique furnishings and Tiffany-style décor.

There is also an outdoor atrium-type seating area where you can watch passers-by going in and out of Cambria Glassworks, one of the most beautiful galleries I’ve seen, directly across the street at 4090 Burton Drive.

On another level, you can dine al fresco on the outdoor patio.

Ohhhh, and the food! The salmon bisque, which is one of Robin’s signature dishes, is scrumptious.

Our server suggested pairing a 2014 Pineridge Chenin Blanc to complement the crispy Brussel sprouts, which were mixed in a walnut vinaigrette with crushed pine nuts. It’s hard to imagine pretty Brussel sprouts, but the presentation looked like art and they were delicious.

Next up ... the beet and arugula salad with Chèvre, shaved fennel, spiced yam, blue cheese and an orange shallot vinaigrette. For the main event, the Butternut Squash & Black Kale Lasagna was savory, and each time I think about it, I want to go back for more. My taste buds are still celebrating.

One of the most uniquely delightful, down-home experiences I’ve had in some time was interacting with a group of distinguished gentlemen from San Luis Obispo, aka “The Old Guys,” who drive to Robin’s once a month to sit, eat, tell tall tales and solve all of the world’s problems. When was the last time you sat in the company of over 300 years of combined human experiences?

Sometimes it’s the subtly stated elegance of a local resident that crystalizes the essence of a community. The charming Bonnie Ellis summed it up for us this way: “The more time that I’m here in Cambria, the more that I love it.”

What better endorsement can one ask for?

At the end of the day, you’ll be happy if you end up at the Whitewater Inn/Windrush House, at 6790 Moonstone Beach Drive. It has been a family-owned and operated hotel since 1987. It’s a winsome, yellow seaside cottage across the street from the rugged, rocky coastline and dark blue water. There is a long wooden path that runs along the ocean, and it’s a perfect place to take a long walk or look for sea life.

It’s a treat to sink into a chair, eat fresh popcorn that the office manager prepares for you, and peer into the guest journals. On the fireplace mantle are journal entries dating back decades.

There were some very interesting stories from guests from around the world. One was a murder mystery.

One entry was from a couple who had a special connection to room “Room 8.” On their wedding day, they explained, it was raining and they couldn’t get married on the bluffs as planned. They moved all of the furniture out of their room and had their ceremony in front of the fireplace. Each year, they return for their anniversary and always stay in that room. You can’t buy this kind of authenticity.

Isn’t it time for you to put your toes in the sand and your fork into something delicious?

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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