by Scott Hancock
One of the best not-so-well-kept secrets of California cuisine is located just 150 miles from the Central Valley in the small town of Shell Beach. Nestled just north of Pismo Beach, Shell Beach is home to one of the most popular and celebrated restaurants in the state: F.McLintock’s Saloon and Dining House. This rare gem has been serving up four-star family style cuisine for the last 33 years and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Their popularity over the years has resulted in McLintock’s adding additional locations in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles.
Guests are greeted by the enthusiastic staff and ushered into a true “saloon” — complete with Old West style furniture, a wall of photos taken of guests on special events and even a stuffed bison. While reservations are recommended, walk-in guests can easily bide their time by having a drink in the bar, perusing the gift shop, or engaging in a friendly game of cards. (Yes, playing cards are a standard accoutrement on each of the bar tables.) The gift shop offers a variety of foods also available in the restaurant, including their award winning barbecue sauces and camp style beans. For the kids, there is a fully stocked “candy bar” with every flavor of jelly bean and licking stick possible.Once seated, guests are greeted by the always-smiling staff and the adventure begins. One of the unique features of F. McLintock’s Saloon is that diners need only choose their main entrée from a menu as varied as the ocean tides located just 100 feet away. All meals are served “family style,” with the courses coming at a fast and furious pace. You and your guests are treated to onion rings, salsa, salad of choice, Trail Camp Beans, garlic bread and ranch fried potatoes. Add to that the entrée you chose and you certainly have a feast fit for royalty. At the conclusion of your meal (if you still have any available space in your stomach), after dinner liqueurs, sherbet and ice cream are served up as a perfect conclusion to your McLintock’s feast. As an added family-friendly bonus, children get to choose a prize out of the famous Saddle Bag after their meal.
As if the stellar food and service aren’t enough to satisfy you, take a gander at the service staff “changing over” tables to accommodate the next set of guests. F. McLintock’s Saloon and Dining House boasts that it can turn a table around in just under two minutes. Teams of two servers work in an almost choreographed manner to remove the used settings and replace them with new. The two minute boast is not just that; it is a fact and is truly amazing to watch. Additionally, the seasoned servers are trained to refill water glasses without leaning over your table. From their standing height they are able to fill water glasses with nary a drop of water hitting the table cloth.
Entrée items on the adult menu range from $16-$35, and the childrens’ menu (or “Kids Corral” per the menu) has all items available for $6-$10. Even though you are eating a feast fit for a king, the attire is casual — perfect for the family that is looking for a satisfying meal after a day of beach combing. Reservations are recommended and can be made on several Central Coast Restaurant websites or via a review site like Yelp.
The main Saloon in Shell Beach is open only for early and main seating dinner, while the satellite locations also offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. For complete menus, operating hours and locations, visit their website or call 805-773-1892.