places to eat along the California Coast
Don't expect to find a
complete list here of every hoity toity spot along the
California Coast. In fact, none of these places would
qualify as hoity toity, so if that's your bag, look
elsewhere. But if you like a place where you can go for
great, reasonably-priced food without worrying about
shaving or wearing fancy clothes, these places are for you.
The impetus for creating this page was my experience after
moving from Austin, Texas to the San Francisco Bay Area. My
wife and I had lived in Austin for several years, so we
knew every great place to eat, especially breakfast places.
In the Bay Area, things were different. Even though I had
grown up out here, I had no clue about dining
establishments, and so began the process of discovering the
places we liked, which is ongoing. This page reflects the
fruits of our search.
House. 1507 Park
Street, Alameda. One of the best breakfast spots in the San
Francisco Bay Area. This is an old-style diner, a Bay Area
fixture from a by-gone era when Bay Area residents didn't
turn up their noses and exclaim, "Eek, red meat," when
asked if they know of a good steak house. The restaurant
opened in the 1920s, and has not changed its menu to adapt
to the times. Thank God. Great waffles and pancakes, and if
you like your swine, get the breakfast special, which
consists of two eggs, 3 pancakes, and a very thick ham
steak. Also recommended for a hearty appetite is the pork
chops and eggs. A regularly-appearing daily special to get
when offered is the corned beef hash which, of course, you
should order with eggs over-easy. One owner supervises the
grill while the other waits tables.
Place. 1905 1/2
Encinal Avenue, Alameda. Marti's is another great breakfast
place in Alameda. The establishment is run by Noreen
Swafford, who waits on every customer herself. The dish my
wife and I usually get is the "Hungry Swede," which is two
eggs, bacon and swedish pancakes. Very good bacon, always.
Crisp, but not too crisp. The swedish pancakes are amazing.
In case you've never had them, they are more like crepes
than what we usually think of as pancakes, with lots of
butter, and served with lingonberry jam. Although they will
bring it if you ask, you definitely do not need syrup, just
spread the lingonberry jam over the pancakes. A little goes
a long way. For the child in you, there are also chocolate
chip pancakes. Hmm, Hmm. Marti's is open from 7:00 a.m. to
2:00 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday. Closed Mondays.
Pub. My wife and I
discovered this place on our first visit to Mendocino. It
was early evening in December, dark, hailing, the power was
out in a lot of places after a big storm, and everything
was closed. Everything, that is, except Patterson's Pub. It
was a warm, cozy oasis, assuming your idea of an oasis is a
friendly, neighborhood bar. The dinner specials are
amazing, and include a meat entre, very tasty green
vegetables, and potatoes, all for around ten dollars, with
large portions. This place fills up, and they do run out of
the more popular specials, so get there early. This is
where the Mendocino locals go, and for good reason. Sure,
there are gourmet places all over the village of Mendocino,
but Patterson's is a fraction of the cost, has food that
rivals that of the more expensive places, and you can hear
all the local gossip. If you visit Mendocino, GO THERE.
NOTE: children under 21 years of age are not allowed.
Patterson's Pub Website
Italian Restaurant. 3700 Bohemian Highway, Occidental,
California, 95465. Where is Occidental, you ask? It's on
the Bohemian Highway. Where is the Bohemian Highway? It
connects Freestone to Monte Rio. Still no help? In other
words, Sonoma County, west of Santa Rosa, near the Russian
River. Occidental used to be a stop for the train running
from Eureka to San Francisco. The train is long gone, but
the over one-hundred-year-old family-style Italian
restaurant remains. If you order the "old world" dinner
available with several entrees, you get massive amounts of
food. First minestrone soup. Then salad. Then antipasta.
Then ravioli. By this time, most people are already full,
but that's when the main course arrives, which itself comes
with sides. There is also sour dough bread, of course, to
go with all this. These huge dinners only cost about $17.00
(sometimes less, depending on what you get). A great place
for families and large groups. Plan the trip to Negri's to
include a visit to some of the local wineries.
House. At Pier 30,
Bryant and Embarcadero. This place has been there since the
early 1920s, a vestige of a time when "the Port of San
Francisco" was for ships and longshoremen, not tourist
traps and their prey. Their no-frills burgers come on a
sour dough roll, with onions and mustard (no lettuce). Be a
real working man (or woman) and get the double cheese
burger, fries and beer special. If you're the pretentious
type, pay a little extra to get an Anchor Steam rather than
Budweiser. They won't laugh at you. They also roast their
own coffee beans. Open for breakfast and lunch, but not
dinner. As the picture shows, just south of the Bay Bridge
on the Embarcadero.
1917 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA
94965, 415-332-4575. Not too many people “just happen
to be passing through” Sausalito. You have to make a
point of going there. One reason to go there is
Fred’s Coffee Shop. Fred’s has been a Sausalito
fixture since 1966. Fred’s is, or should be, world
famous for its French toast. The first time my wife and I
went there, she got the French toast, and I got something
else. Although my breakfast was great, her French toast was
amazing (I only ate about half of it). It is very sweet,
more like funnel cake than what you typically would think
of as French toast. The first unique thing is the batter.
It has eggs, of course, but also ice cream. Yes, ice cream.
Thick slices of bread are dipped in this egg-ice-cream
batter, then cooked on the grill. After that, they are deep
fried, and served with butter and powdered sugar on top.
This is really more of a dessert than a typical breakfast,
but if that makes you feel guilty, you should order it with
bacon, so it’s more like a traditional breakfast. And
the bacon – very thick and juicy, and you get five
Another dish unique to
Fred’s is marinated short ribs, which come with two
eggs, hash browns, and toast ($11.99). I have to admit,
although I like my eggs with meat, I had never had them
with short ribs before Fred’s. These are the Asian
style ribs, so if you like those, this is the dish for you.
Weekends can be crowded at Fred’s, but if your day
off is on a weekday, you can easily get a table. It’s
also a good stop on a longer trip up Highway 101. Finally,
be aware that since they have a limited number of tables,
parties of one and two share tables with others. This is
actually kind of fun, because it forces you to be social.
Fred’s is open every day, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00
p.m., and serves breakfast and lunch.
Cafe. Very good
breakfasts, and excellent fresh fish for dinner. If you
like salads, try the organic spring mix (I get it almost
every time). Parking is hard to find on the street, but
readily available in the parking lot for the beach. Just
enter the national park administered beach and pick a spot
away from the beach, which is right next to the cafe. There
is a walkway crossing a small stream from the parking lot
to the cafe. Since the beach parking lot closes in the
evening, you will need to park on the street for dinner.
Also, if you're in the mood for burgers, try the aptly
named Parkside Burgers, which is right next door. There is
no inside seating, but you can bring your food over to a
nearby picnic table next to the parking for the beach.
The Parkside Cafe Website
Dinners. If you find yourself driving on Highway 1
in Sonoma County, between Tomales and Bodega, you will pass
through the tiny farm community of Valley Ford, population
60. If it's dinner time, or lunch time on Saturday or
Sunday, and you are VERY hungry, Dinucci's Italian Dinners
is a must. Like Negri's in Occidental, Dinucci's is a
family style Italian restaurant. But -- dare I say it? --
it's better than Negri's. It's the minestrone soup.
Consistently, it's the best I've ever had. The bar looks
really cool, too; a large part of the ceiling is lined with
abalone shells. This is very much a blue collar place, bar
and restaurant, and I love it. I've had the veal parmesan,
chicken parmesan, and the fried chicken. All great. And
last time I went, I had french fries (rather than healthier
vegetables) as a side, and they were clearly freshly cut
and tasty. Of course, by the time you get your entree,
you'll probably already be full, since you've had soup,
salad, pasta, antipasto, and great french bread. But no
matter. You can take your leftovers home. And take a quart
of minestrone soup home while you're at it.
California (and beyond)
Burger. You have
not lived until you've had a Double Double (double meat,
double cheese). In-N-Out is what McDonalds maybe once was,
but definitely ceased to be years ago. The french fries do
not have gluten or dairy products added to them. Just
potatoes fried in vegetable oil. They are made fresh each
day: just look behind the counter at any In-N-Out and you
will see a recently-hired employee putting whole potatoes
in an old-fashioned hand slicer. The employees at EVERY
store are always totally on the ball, polite and hustling.
In-N-Out used to be only in the Los Angeles area, but now
they're all over California, Nevada and Arizona. So make it
a part of any trip to California. You will become a
convert. Buy a shirt and wear it proudly back home. People
will approach you, probably drooling, to talk about their
favorite burger joint on the planet.
In-n-Out Burger Website
in Places Outside California
Casino el Camino. A goth-decor bar with 3/4 pound angus
beef burgers, on 6th Street in Austin, Texas. A favorite
of Austin's service industry employees.
The Salt Lick. The best barbecue on the planet
happens to be located a few miles outside of Austin, in