While the Gulf is known for its mild weather, summer temperatures can certainly rise into the 90s. You can stay indoors and sweat in misery, or you can soak up the natural air conditioning at one of the area’s many picturesque beaches. Here are some great restaurants around the Bay Area and beyond to enjoy fresh seafood with quick access to sand and waves to relax after.
Moose Beach Distillery
This historic talk was a favorite of California politicians and Hollywood celebrities. It is now a popular restaurant serving coastal cuisine such as crab cakes, shrimp alfredo and grilled fins. Its allure culminates in a sprawling ocean panorama. There is an outside patio perfect for watching sunsets and migrating whales where diners can sip cocktails such as the “Blue Lady” martini, named after a ghost said to haunt the building. (Note that reservations are highly encouraged.)
From there, it’s a 5-minute drive to Ross’ Cove with its wide open sand and hiking or, a little further south, the cluster of beaches along Half Moon Bay that are great for walking barefoot or lounging.
details: Moss Beach Distillery is open daily from noon to 8:30 p.m. at 140 Beach Way in Moss Beach; mossbeachdistillery.com.
Spud Point Crab Company, Bodega Bay
Some restaurants provide an atmosphere with music. Here, sea lions come from the weft in the marina. (Don’t worry, they don’t go after your food…probably.) Spud Point in Sonoma County has a small but impressive selection of award-winning sandwiches and fare, both in New England and Manhattan. While Dungeness Crab is the obvious choice—a skinny but dense hoagie of tender meat and mayonnaise—don’t sleep on a shrimp sandwich loaded with dozens of delicious Gulf shrimp. If you’re indecisive, you can get their version of the East Coast-style “peacemaker” with crab and shrimp sharing one lap.
Spud Point has friendly competition with the nearby Fisherman’s Cove deli. If you’re craving something different, it’s worth going there for the crunchy fish and chips or their specialty grilled oysters with toppings ranging from chorizo butter to jalapeno pickles to Worcestershire and bacon.
From there, it’s only two minutes to get to Campbell Cove Beach, a conservation area with fun caves to explore at low tide and gorgeous sunsets. For history lovers, there is also a water-filled hole called “Hole in the Head”. It was to be a nuclear reactor in the 1960s until local opposition and an inadequate earthquake fault line spoiled the project.
details: Spud Point is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay; spudpointcrabco.com.
Tognazzini’s Dockside Too, Morro Bay
Why do we include a restaurant nearly four hours south of the bay? Well, by the time you ask that question, you could be bound to drive to Dockside Too in Tognazzini, a casual joint in the most idyllic setting. You know you’re eating some delicious seafood when the website has a page dedicated to “ship”. Captain Mark Tognazzini is the navigator for this restaurant’s family name (not to be confused with its upscale cousin, Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant, although it’s also good).
A dedication to pulling fresh catches out of the water is evident throughout the menu. Stellar Fried Oysters: Huge crunchy crumbs served with the Holy Trinity of Tabasco, tartar sauce, and lemon wedges. The clam chowder is full of juicy bits and the specials are worth investigating, with scallop kabobs and fried whole fish. The place doubles as a seafood market, so you can point out the delicious halibut or salmon and grill it on a sandwich. There is a sunny outdoor patio with live music overlooking a bay full of unusually large sea otters.
And for a picnic there’s Morro Rock, a towering volcanic plug nestled in the dunes with stunning ocean views and usually at least one wedding.
details: Dockside Too in Tognazzini opens at 10 a.m. daily at 1235 Embarcadero, Morro Bay; morrobaydockside.com/dockside-too.
Hook Fish Company, San Francisco
Technically, this combined seafood market and retail market is located two blocks from the beach. But his food will take you straight to the water. Hook’s mission is to support local fishermen, and she pays off with fresh and simple dishes like black fish on tartare-cut brioche and taco baja with avocado and spicy aioli. The smashburger gets a healthy twist with ground albacore tuna, Thousand Island sauce and American cheese. There’s also bok burrito and smoked fish salads, and if you’re in the mood for lighter snacks, you can have oysters on half-shell with agua fresca to wash them down.
You can explore Ocean Beach with its huge waves and evening bonfires, as well as the ancient ruins of the Sutro Baths.
details: Hookfish is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at 4542 Irving Street, San Francisco; hookfishco.com.
Steamer Passage Supply, Santa Cruz
This Santa Cruz concession stand is clearly run by surfer Fran Grayson with its healthy ingredients, hearty portions, and avoidance of plastic serving utensils. Steamer Lane caters to early morning athletes with roasted coffee and breakfast tacos, as well as the afternoon crowd with salmon platters, cod sandwiches, and “dillas” with fillings ranging from house-made kimchi to kale and queso to Nutella and Nutella bananas.
On stormy ocean evenings, you can stoke your inner fire with hot cocoa or a “fire brew,” which is an apple juice mixture with spices and honey. Sometimes they serve carnitas for two with salsa verde and nopales that you can heat up and take to Mitchells Cove Beach, which happens to be an unusually popular destination for walking dogs off a leash. (The shop ambassador for the café is a dog named Nelly Frittata.)
Details: Steamer Lane is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 698 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz; steamerlanesc.com.