“What would you recommend for lunch?”
“You mean, here?” The waiter responded as if startled by the question. “To eat?”
Considering I was sitting in a booth in his restaurant at lunchtime, it was my turn to be bemused.
After a pause, he said, “The breakfast here is really good.”
I did not find his opinion very helpful since I was at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo at lunchtime. Maybe he was feeling stroppy because he was not wearing lederhosen unlike the waitresses who were outfitted in drindl dresses.
I was at the Madonna Inn because so many people have Inn on their bucket list that I thought I really have to see it. So my husband and I went with another couple on a mini road trip from Santa Barbara where we were staying. We were so entranced by the experience that we took our children there for a meal when we visited the area again. Clearly, the dizzy waiter was part of the places’ oddball charm and did not affect our opinion of the place.
Boy is it odd. My experience with the waiter was just the beginning. Of course, the hot pink Mock Tudor exterior of the building was a dead giveaway that we were entering a different world.
Despite the concerns over ordering, our lunch was excellent. I had a tuna melt sandwich in sourdough bread which was crispy and fresh. My husband’s pastrami on rye smelled equally delicious.
On our first trip, we didn’t try any of the cakes (available for take out) but they looked suitably over the top as well. Despite my love of cakes, I felt these looked sugary enough to send non-diabetics into a coma.
When we went with our children, there was no way my kids were passing up on dessert. We had a selection of sundaes, cakes and pies. After the taste-testing, we agreed that the carrot cake was superb.
We sat in the bar area which was red leather booths with time-weathered copper-topped tables. The walls were decorated with a drawings that would not be out of place in The Museum of Bad Art. There was lots of Pepto-Bismol pink everywhere. Even the salt shaker held candy floss pink salt.
The women’s room was a riot of color too. The men’s room is famous for its fixtures and fittings. We saw a group of women exiting the men’s room. They had gone in en masse to check it out.
This place definitely believes too much is not enough. The Inn, opened in 1958, is an homage to vintage decor. Lots of vintage decor, in one place, with sparkle thrown in for good measure. Sort of like if Vegas went vintage.
The restaurant has a party room in full scale hot pink with mirrors and fake flowers. It’s the sort of place Barbie would host her wedding reception . There’s lots of pink, red, flowers, sparkle and mirrors.
Although my daughter thought it was very cool, she admitted that if she were five years old, she’d have thought she had died and gone to heaven.
The Madonna Inn itself is further up the hill. It is famous for having 110 rooms each with a different theme. Sadly my husband was done with kitsch and I couldn’t convince him to take a look. Beer tasting in San Luis Obispo took priority over seeing the fuchsia-coloured tennis courts.
You can check out the individual rooms online before you book. All the rooms are pictured and have associated whimsical names to match their look. I liked the Yahoo room (the bed is a golden carriage on wheels), the San Francisco (red/gold bordello theme), Oriental Fantasy (you can guess) and Krazy Dazy (70’s psychedelic). It’s the sort of hotel that you’d want to hop between rooms if you are staying more than one night.
Visiting the Madonna Inn:
The Madonna Inn is considered a landmark resort in Central California – it’s totally worth a stop on your Pacific Coast Highway roadtrip. It is located in the outskirts of San Luis Obispo at 100 Madonna Road. The Inn has a spa, wine tasting room and boutique as well as the restaurant facilities.
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