Downtown Paso Robles

Downtown Paso Robles

Since the devastating December 22, 2003 San Simeon earthquake, when an unreinforced masonry 1892 era building fell in downtown Paso Robles, the city has worked hard to heal the scars that the 6.5 temblor left behind. What exists today is a lovely, revitalized downtown area, home to art galleries, tasting rooms, restaurants, bistros, clothing shops, movie theater, antique stores, and hotels.

There is so much to do in downtown Paso Robles, that you can spend a couple of days just sampling wines in the local tasting rooms. There are at least fifteen tasting rooms, primarily on Pine and Park Streets, where you can consume your wine quota without having to worry about driving from winery to winery. That is if you stay within walking distance. (The Paso Robles Inn and Hotel Cheval are nearby.) Planning to hit the wine trails on Highway 46 east or west? Stop at Panolivo or the Odyssey World café to pick up a delicious gourmet picnic lunch. If beer not wine is more your style, drop in to The Crooked Kilt, a pub and grill located across from the park at 1122 Pine Street, that was voted best bar in the North County two years in a row.

Studios on the Park, at 1130 Park Street, is a must for art lovers and a gem in the downtown crown. The venue is a collection of nine open art studios, where the 24 artists in residence create and sell their art pieces, hold classes, and demonstrate their techniques for the public. The Showroom gallery exhibits the work of many exciting local visual artists. The nonprofit Studios on the Park also coordinates and sponsors the annual Festival of the Arts, begun in May 2009, which was attended by over 5000 people and shows great promise as another prominent local festival.

Recently voted “Best Paso Robles Restaurant,” is the small, three-year-old family owned Artisan, at 1401 Park Street. Even the Chicago Sun-Times raved with its nod to Artisan as “a superb American bistro.” With local, organic seasonal dishes like Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef flatiron, Templeton farm-raised chicken and wild king salmon, the upscale, home-style American menu includes a wine list of almost exclusively California wines. They have scrumptious desserts, too. Runner-up in the poll is Basil, at 828 11th Street. The Thai restaurant with the big windows facing the city park is reasonably priced, has great food and keeps its patrons coming back with attentive service and traditional dishes like pad thai noodles and curries but also offers delicious off-beat ones such as gai-yang, grilled chicken with sweet and sour sauce and prik khing pla, seafood with green beans.

The park itself contains the Carnegie Library, made possible in 1907 by a grant from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Now a National Historic Landmark, it is home to the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society. The brick building is a repository for archival records relating to the history of northern San Luis Obispo County. The oldest records, title and patent books, go back to 1850. Gift shop and Repository open every day but Wednesday, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Stop by Park and 12th Streets to pick up visitor info at the small kiosk on the corner below the clock tower.