Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach: California’s Best Clam Chowder

I am a huge fan of the San Luis Obispo / Pismo Beach area of California. Not only are they quaint beach towns but they have a laid back vibe and a great community of people and adventures that will get you excited to wake up ever morning when visiting. However, no trip to this area is complete without a bread bowl from my favorite clam chowder (with seafood topping) in all of California, at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach.


A little history on Splash Cafe is as follows:

In 1991, Joanne and Ross Currie purchased Splash Café in Pismo Beach just before the annual Clam Festival in October. That incredibly busy beginning was just the start of a 20+ year journey that has seen the Curries improve the clam chowder recipe that is now award-winning and world-famous, expand to a second location in San Luis Obispo, ship the chowder fresh and frozen nationally, distribute in Costco stores and other restaurants and start a gourmet catering division. It’s Splash Café’s customer loyalty and their insistence on using the highest quality ingredients that has caused chowder sales to grow from 5000 gallons a year in 1991 to 30,000 gallons a year today between the two restaurants.

Now it never fails, but whenever I happen to visit this small little cafe I always seem to find a line out the door and around the side. This is the first sign that shows you good it is. After jumping in the line you will often hear all of the regulars talking about how they come here a couple of times a week,  in addition to out of towners that were told a 50 mile drive to Splash is well worth it and have come to try it for themselves. Either way, no matter how long you wait, after tasting their chowder you will gladly wait in line the next time you come.

Now while they have a lot to order, if it is your first time, you really need to get the clam chowder bread bowl. I mean if they sell over 30,000 gallons a year nationwide they must be on to something, right?

I prefer mine to have the seafood topping which is around a dollar extra I believe, and adds a combination of crab and shrimp to the top of an already fabulous soup.

Even if that is not your cup of tea, a normal bread bowl will not steer you wrong. When it arrives at your table the bread has been hallowed out and the top has been grilled with a little butter to give you the perfect roll to dip into your bowl. The clam chowder is rich and flavourful and it always fills me up. That doesn’t stop me from trying to eat the bowl as well (I have yet to fully conquer it, but I can get close).

There never seems to be enough seating in this cafe so after filling up on the clam chowder there is usually someone who wants your seat. That is ok though, if you are anything like me you will be sufficiently full and happy from the culinary adventure you just went on, and you will be excited to let someone else experience it as well.

The exterior of the cafe is also fun as it has a clam running around, looking in the windows, surfing and doing other activities. It is like an unofficial mascot.

Now San Luis Obispo has a Splash Cafe as well, and it is also great, but for the experience you really need to try the main one in Pismo Beach at least once. I really do hope you like it as much as me, but I have little doubt of that as everyone I know that has gone here has left happy. Leave me a comment if you know of a better clam chowder place or get directions below to go yourself.

Get Directions

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  • Shelly C.

    SLO has two now, one downtown and another on Monterey St., but I agree, you have to go to the original! I can’t help ordering grilled cheese and dipping it into my clam chowder every time I eat here.

    • Oh man that is awesome! I wish they had one further down South near me!

  • GooliZAP

    Moe’s BBQ one block to the east of Splash is really good too!!

    • Thanks, I will have to try that as well!

  • Kim V

    Thanks for all the insight. I have been reading your blogs the past few days to get ideas for my stay and places to eat. If you had to pick between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo for an overnight stay, which would you choose? I am excited to try Splash Café so I am leaning towards Pismo but not sure ….

    • You should stay in Pismo if you are wanting to visit Splash, that way you can take your time and walk the boardwalk area and visit the beach. Have fun!

      • Kimmer

        Loved loved loved Splash Cafe.thanks for the tip

        • Awesome! So glad! Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

  • We were just up there this past week and stopped at Splash. The clam chowder was so yummy!! The bread bowl was amazing. Loved the laid back atmosphere.

    • Thanks for the comment, I agree Spalsh is amazing!

  • sophocles

    First of all, I am not a fan of bread bowls. They are the most wasteful food item every created. Does anyway eat more than a few bites of the bread? There are cheaper and better ways to have bread with your soup. The clam chowder at Splash was average to average + (I thought the chowder was better at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company). The fried oysters with curly fries, on the other hand, was memorably bad. Greasy oysters and lukewarm crispless fries when I was expecting world class. The fish and chips at a bar near home (Dympha’s) are far, far better. Splash has all the signs of a tourist trap, and certainly was NOT worth a special stop.