As graduation draws closer, a great deal of planning is required to make the weekend run smoothly — especially graduation dinner.
Whether it’s Italian, Asian fusion or steak, the San Luis Obispo area has a variety of restaurants to seat large parties for graduation dinners. Here are several options to consider.
Ciopinot Seafood Grille
This seafood restaurant, located at 1051 Nipomo St., seats large parties as well as small groups in their dining room, bar and patio area.
Ciopinot does not start taking reservations until May 1 for graduation weekend, but it does fill up quickly after that. They do not have a cap on people per party.
They are offering a special corkage deal, with the first four bottles free and $10 for each bottle after that. The restaurant will be serving their normal menu and nightly specials. The general pricing per plate ranges from $20-45. In addition, the restaurant offers takeout and catering.
Contact info: (805)-547-1111
Novo Restaurant and Lounge
Known for its outdoor patio seating along Mission Creek, Novo started taking reservations in January for graduation weekend. They still have availability for each day and night of graduation, but are almost full for Saturday evening, especially between 5:30-7:30. Their Sunday brunch is almost booked, but they do offer a walk-in table with a waitlist.
Novo allows two hours for all groups on graduation weekend because of the traffic flow, and typically requires a set family-style menu for parties larger than 16.
Additionally, Novo does have a corkage fee ($15 per bottle) and dessert fee (also $15). Each plate ranges from $9-40. The food is served in a Mediterranean/American style.
Contact info: (805)-543-3986 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Located at 1023 Chorro St., Luna Red offers tapas, Mediterranean and American dishes, with prices ranging from $10-40. Big groups are welcome.
Luna Red — Novo’s sister restaurant — has patio seating on the creekside. Normally, the restaurant caps the party maximum to nine people between Thursday nights and Sunday brunches. Parties of 20 are allowed between Sunday evening and Wednesday. For graduation weekend, Luna Red is offering a special menu for parties who pre-order; the dishes will be served family-style. They offer takeout, but don’t cater.
Contact info: (805)-540-5243
Sidercar is located at 1127 Broad St. and offers seating to large parties, as well as a full bar and takeout.
Priced at approximately $15-30 per plate, they recommend making reservations at least two months prior.
For graduation weekend, they are offering their normal menu with a few specials dictated by the fresh produce and meat they have available. Additionally, they are offering a celebratory cocktail or glass of champagne to each graduate on the house.
They are still fairly open for reservations.
Contact info: (805)-540-5340
Ventana Grill Pismo Beach
If you’d like a coastal view and wouldn’t mind eating a bit farther away from campus, this is a good option. This restaurant is a fusion of seafood, Latin American and American styles and is priced at approximately $10-40 per dish. Located just off the beach, it houses large and small parties, but does not offer takeout.
Contact Info: (805)-773-0000
Since most of these restaurants offer takeout, it’s possible to have a meal outside. Here are some parks to consider.
Laguna Lake Park
This large park space offers two group barbecue areas, a sand volleyball court, groves of trees and three small picnic areas. The entrance is at the corner of Madonna Road and Dalidio Drive, and it surrounds Laguna Lake.
On the corner of Meadow and South streets, Meadow Park offers individual as well as group picnic and barbecue areas. There are also two sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, walking trails and a softball field. The park is open from dawn to dusk.
Johnson Park is bordered by a creek on one side and offers a large space to roam and barbecue. There are basketball courts as well. The park is located on Southwood Drive, just before Sinsheimer Park.
Mitchell Park is located within the city block surrounded by Santa Rosa, Pismo, Buchon and Osos Streets. It is a small park and is crossed with the San Luis Obispo Senior Center, but offers individual picnic tables, a barbecue area for up to 30 people and a Rotary Bandstand.
To reserve a space at any of these parks, you can go to the City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department website.
Besides downtown and outer areas, there are other options if you’d like more privacy.
Recreation, parks and tourism administration senior Ashleigh Allard’s family has decided to rent a house in Pismo Beach, where they will cook their own graduation dinner. The house comes with a fully stocked kitchen and barbecue set.
Allard said buying groceries and cooking a homemade graduation meal was cheaper than reserving dinner plans and separate hotel rooms for her family of 15.
“We don’t have to deal with the storm of people heading downtown who either haven’t made reservations and are waiting or are trying to get parking,” Allard said. “This way, we can relax and enjoy our meal for as long as we want and have more freedom in our choices.”
Allard got the idea from a former coworker who graduated last June and had rented a house on Avila Beach.
After realizing how much cheaper it would be, Allard told her mother about the idea, and they booked the beachside house in January.
Whether you opt to dine in or dine out, graduation is around the corner and spots are filling up — make sure to plan ahead.