A tour of the best restaurants in San Luis Obispo County would not be complete without a visit to Ember Restaurant.
Located in Arroyo Grande, Chef (and Owner) Brian Collins and his wife Harmony have built an incredible restaurant representing the best of California cuisine, but with a twist of Italian too.
Learn more below about what makes the food and drink that makes Ember so special, and how to visit the restaurant for yourself.
Each month the menu at Ember Restaurant rotates in order to include the best local and seasonal ingredients, but the inspiration for each dish comes from Chef Brian Collins’ love for Italy.
It is not just the Italian cuisine that inspires Collins either; there is an underlying philosophy for cooking that guides his menus. For Collins, Italian cooking boils down to three basic principles:
- Cook with genuine spirit of giving and love
- Cook what is local and with a proud sense of tradition
- Less is more
What this means is that patrons of the restaurant are treated to Italian-inspired cuisine crafted with some of the best seasonal fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood from the Central Coast out of respect, love, and tradition the dishes deserve.
Not only is Ember Restaurant a great place to experience an incredible meal, they also have an extensive wine list, several local rotating beers on tap, and craft specialty cocktails that change seasonally.
The wine list at Ember includes 150 varietals, and has been carefully curated to include local wines from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, as well as some of the best wines from California and well-known regions around the world.
The Central Coast is also known for their craft beers, and Ember celebrates this by featuring 10 breweries at a time on tap.
This allows them to not only keep the beer fresh (and cold), they also get to bring into rotation the best beers of the season.
In addition beer and wine, Ember also has amazing cocktails made with house-made syrups, tinctures, fresh juices, herbs, and the finest spirits (some from local distilleries!).
Like their menu, the cocktails will rotate seasonally to ensure they are made with the best and freshest seasonal ingredients.
We visited Ember in August and were treated to an amazing menu that reflected the prime harvest season of the summer months on the Central Coast. The restaurant is huge (it is actually an old pole barn), and we were able to find a seat in their back patio.
It was a hot day so we started off with two of the most refreshing drinks on the menu: the Sunset & Chill, a mezcal and pineapple drink with a chili-salted rim and roasted pineapple wedge, and an Eye of the Storm made with rum, muddle peach, and homemade ginger syrup.
A little later in the meal we shared the Refresher Course, which turned out to be my favorite drink of the night. Made with tequila, the drink also has watermelon, lime, local honey, aperol, and a chili-salted watermelon wedge to top it off!
For appetizers we ordered the Lobster Salad with Fried Green Tomatoes and the Wood-Fired Shrimp, both of which were delicious and took every effort not to lick the plate!
The Lobster Salad is actually one of the items that tends to come back on the menu, so if you see it when you visit Ember it is a dish we highly recommend you try.
For our entrees we had the Beef Bolognese with Hand Cut Pasta, and the California Halibut from the Wood Oven. The Bolognese was just perfect, and the hand cut pasta was the best past either of us have tasted in the county. The halibut was also prepared perfectly, and we even ate all the green beans they were so delicious!
Neither of us were sure we had room for dessert, but knew we had to try Oven Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Cake once we saw it on the menu. Oh was it worth it too! Chef Brian and Harmony must have been reading our minds because they kindly sent us one as a thank you for our visit, and it was the absolute perfect ending to the perfect meal.
Overall we had an incredible time at Ember, and were so impressed with the menu, the quality of the food, and the people. Chef Brian, his wife Harmony, and the entire crew at Ember make you feel like family when you visit, and we can’t wait to come back for more of their amazing food again soon.
Chef Brian Collins has always been drawn to food and cooking, and knew early in his career that he wanted to be involved in the restaurant industry.
After working for a cafe in Arroyo Grande (where he is from), Collins was accepted to Culinary School in San Francisco, where he, his wife Harmony, and their young child moved for the next few years while he attended school.
During culinary school, Collins received a three-month internship at Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, one of the top restaurants in California and where Collins still credits much of his culinary philosophy and influence.
Collins returned to the Central Coast from the Bay Area in 2006, where he began cooking as Sous Chef and Executive Chef at Lido Restaurant in Los Alamos, where he stayed for the next six years. While at Lido, Collins became famous for his menus that changed weekly and helped the restaurant become one of the region’s top culinary destinations.
In 2013, it was time to come home, and Collins and his wife Harmony (along with their daughter) moved back to Arroyo Grande and opened Ember Restaurant. Today the restaurant continues to be a huge success, and a culinary force in Arroyo Grande and the entire San Luis Obispo County.
1200 E Grand Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
- From 101 South, take exit 187B for Halcyon Road, and turn right at the offramp onto El Camino Real. At the first cross street (Briscoe Road) make a left, and Ember will be approx .4 miles on the right.
- From 101 North, take exit 187B for Briscoe Road, and turn left at the offramp. Follow Briscoe Road approx .4 miles to Ember on the right side of the street.
There is a parking lot attached to Ember, so there should not be a problem finding a place to park when you visit the restaurant.
Contact & Hours of Operation
Hours of Operation:
|Wednesday||4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.|
|Thursday||4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.|
|Friday||4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.|
|Saturday||4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.|
|Sunday||4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.|
Reservations are not accepted