Nick Camacho

Sitting through a night class on a Thursday is painful enough. Listening to my stomach grumble and mumble its way through a two-hour lecture on soil acidity only adds to the misery. So that first step of freedom out of the classroom of doom doubles as the first step towards the most humanly prized item in the universe: food. When it comes to diverse ways to stuff your belly, San Luis Obispo holds many options, ranging from sardine pizza to Mediterranean wraps. Following is an A to Z list on genres of food that are sure to get rid of that aching hunger. (And no, Taco Bell is NOT on the list. Horrible decisions to get fake Mexican food at 2 a.m. will not be tolerated).

American – This pretty much sums any burger or hot dog joint. Fosters Freeze serves up a classic menu, while offering their well-known ice cream delights. Cool Cat Caf‚ shows off a ’50s-style atmosphere with a wide variety of burger choices and for dessert, delicious malts and milkshakes. And while I’m keeping the spots in San Luis Obispo, Sylvester’s in Los Osos must be included with some of the best burgers of all time, recommended by many.

Barbecue – San Luis Obispo offers some of the most extensive choices when it comes to barbecue. Mo’s Smokehouse barbecue serves up a shredded pork sandwich to die for, while F. McLintocks and Firestone Grill both give A+ tri-tip. And if you are sitting at home but need some meat, go online to www.ribline.com and get ribs, tri-tip, chicken and more delivered to your door, with amazing sides of baked potato, baked beans, cornbread and coleslaw.

Chinese – With a Chinatown that takes up a short block on Monterey St., authentic Chinese food is not very extensive here. However, there are options, including Golden China, home to an all-you-can-eat, “award winning” buffet for only $7.95 for lunch and $11.45 for dinner. Mandarin Gourmet is probably the least-Americanized Chinese food with signature orange chicken. And for a not-so-traditional but reliable spot, Panda Express attracts many college students.

Deli – Knowing you want a deli sandwich is easy to figure out but deciding where to go is not an easy choice. High quality sandwiches can be found on every street from the High Street Deli with the amazing California Turkey sandwich to Gus’s Deli, offering delicious potato wedges along with a happy hour from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Muzio’s, Del Monte Caf‚ and Higuera Street Caf‚ also provide customers with mouth-watering menus.

Eggs and friends – They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day so why not put down the spatula and the mix-with-water-pancake-powder? Boston Bagel Co. and Louisa’s Place both represent themselves downtown with delicious and healthy options for the morning meal. Frank’s Famous Hot Dogs gives customers the perfect post-drinking morning-after food with big breakfast burritos for only $5. Plus there is Breakfast Buzz, where burritos are buy-one-get-one-free on Tuesdays.

Fries – If you are going to eat food that clogs your arteries and greatly enhances your love handles, then at least go for the best that SLO has to offer. Hands-down, Firestone Grill has the best fries, with perfect seasoning and crispy texture. For those who look for more classy dining, new restaurant Bel Frites offers a more high class environment with Belgian style fries, 10 dipping sauces, 10 seasoning salts and various Belgian beers and ales.

Gracious portions – Sometimes you just want to stuff yourself, so pick your poison. Margie’s Diner offers gigantic portions and sides with their meals, as does McLintocks. Or if you’re feeling really hungry, Hometown Buffet is the all-you-can-eat spot to fill up.

Higuera – Higuera Street is the heart of downtown and besides the usual dining, Thursday night’s Farmers’ Market brings together some of the best that SLO has to offer. Eating dessert for dinner is not against the rules when it comes to the kettle corn stand, perfect for a snack while strolling downtown or for taking home for later. The almond stand is also a big hit with free samples and many different flavors. (Don’t feel guilty if you’re one of the people who passes by five or six times just to keep getting free samples; everybody does). Endless barbecues are set out offering racks of ribs, baked beans, corn on the cob and more from places like Mother’s Tavern to Old Country Deli.

Indian and Italian – It’s too hard to pick just one, and while there is not a place with Indian and Italian food together, they both have spots on their own. Jewel of India and Royal Taj both offer traditional atmospheres and cuisine. For Italian, upscale dining at Blue is available, specializing in Central Coast ingredients and wines, while Nucci’s offers a more college student atmosphere with typical Italian food. Caf‚ Roma hides itself near the train station but presents a comfortable classy place with scrumptious bread. Not to cause Italian overload, but Buona Tavola is also incredibly tasty, along with having an impressive wine list.

Japanese – Sushi is a popular type of food for any type of group: couples friends, birthday parties or even solo at the bar. San Luis Obispo has a large range of sushi spots from Tsurugi, the only Japanese-owned one, to Shins, the downtown college hotspot, to Sumo Sushi, the newest Japanese addition to the city.

Kickback with coffee – All over the world, coffee is a part of a social society and it’s a perfect way to get out of the house and join with friends. Downtown, Uptown Caf‚ and Linnaea’s offer very comfortable atmospheres and signature coffees. Koffee Klatsch is a nice stop down Higuera that not only serves a range of hot drinks, but sells a variety of accessories and appliances for coffee and tea.

Low prices for students – The term “starving college students” is taken advantage of by many SLO restaurants in the form of deals and discounts. Woodstock’s gives 20 percent off to students with an ID as well as a deal for delivery to the dorms: $10.99 for a large one-topping pizza. Tuesday nights are hot at Italian restaurant Grappolo with half-off dinners for students. And Mother’s Tavern gives students half off dinner every Sunday.

Mexican – There are many places to get your burrito fix (and no, not T-Bell). Taco de Mexico makes some of the best Mexican around, especially carne asada burritos. Cabo San Luis is a yummy local place, while Vallartas brings out big burritos and offers free 60 ounce margaritas on birthdays.

Check tomorrow’s Mustang Daily for the N to Z guide to food in San Luis Obispo.

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