Spending a night at the Madonna Inn to break up a long drive. Anyplace nearby that’s enough better than the hotel’s steak house to justify getting back in the car?
I’ve used Madonna Inn a couple of times for that very reason. Last time I was there (admittedly 10 years ago at least) they were the only game in the 'hood. (and the more casual restaurant is fine to grab eggs and toast in the morning before you go).
If you haven’t been, it’s SO worth it. The steaks aren’t bad, prime rib is tasty, and the prices appropriate. But the DECOR!! Giant pink leather booths, gold cherubs. It’s as gleefully over-the-top tacky as the hotel itself. I went over the winter holidays and the decorations added a whole new layer of sparkly ridiculousness to the whole thing.
And make sure to have a look at the men’s bathroom. You can pee into a waterfall!
There’s a burger joint called Hudson’s that’s decent. More significantly: http://www.slowine.com/taste/
I think I did stop there once years ago to use the bathroom, unless I just saw that in a movie.
Last time I was up in that neck of the woods, I went to Jocko’s Steakhouse in Nipomo. Not really “close” per se, but I’ve driven further for less. Not really being a steakhouse kind of guy, I have to say that I found my steak outstanding. I rather enjoyed the ambiance and local color as well. From what I understand, they only fire up the grill for dinner and not for lunch. I’d most certainly return if and when I am in the central coast again.