A Taste of Highway 1
California’s Highway 1 is a state treasure—and one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. Luckily for Bay Area foodies, numerous culinary establishments, road stops and restaurants call this part of the San Mateo County coastline home. The 90-minute drive is a feast for the eyes, with plenty of beaches, farms and green open fields. However, it’s also a food excursion that offers an opportunity to slow down, stop and enjoy some serious roadside local fare. Whether you start from the south or north, you’ll experience our region’s coastal foods from the Pacific Coast Highway, the Cabrillo Highway or what locals call “the One.”
A perfect starting point is in Davenport, just south of the San Mateo County line. The Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn is a historic converted general store just one block off Highway 1. Take in the ocean view from expansive windows or warm up by the fireplace with a cappuccino and freshly baked croissant. Try a build-your-own omelet from the hearty breakfast menu and grab a baguette and cookies from the bakery for a picnic later in the day.
Just up the highway is Swanton Berry Farm, where you can wander through organic strawberry fields and pick ruby-red berries that are fresh and sweetly fragrant. Visit the farm stand to weigh and pay for your berries and check out the other items available for sale: from chocolate-dipped strawberries, homemade jams and truffles to cobblers and strawberry shortcake. The cooks are too busy in the kitchen making the treats to work the counter, so payment is on the honor system.
On weekends, visit Swanton’s other U-Pick olallieberry and kiwi farm, Coastways Ranch, located along Highway 1 just across from Año Nuevo State Park. Olallieberries—a cross between a blackberry and raspberry—are only available for picking in June and July, making this an early-summer stop for many fans.
Continuing north, Pie Ranch is a farm stand that is the retail front to a working organic farm and youth educational center. The farm stand sells a seasonal selection of organic fruit, vegetables and heirloom wheat, which they mill into flour for their homemade bread, cookies, brownies and, of course, pies. This is a great place to pick up picnic items, such as their unique walnut pie.
A few miles north is Cascade Restaurant at the Costanoa Lodge, an eco-adventure resort that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Wander through the native plant and kitchen gardens, filled with herbs and vegetables for Monaco-born Chef Serge Marchale’s coastal cuisine with French influences, which ranges from salmon with artichokes and pesto beurre blanc to a Left Coast Ranch grassfed hamburger. Enjoy the ocean view from the restaurant’s porch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the chef ’s popular duck terrine.
Highway 1 Brewery Company is close by for those who enjoy a good beer. Brewmaster and local boy Brian Gallagher learned his craft in Scotland and has six seasonal craft beers on tap, including Highway 1PA, Sailor’s Delight Red Ale and Storm Surge Oatmeal Stout. Order a beer flight and compare them side-by-side or grab a 64-ounce growler to go.
If you desire an ocean view for your picnic, Cowell Ranch Beach is an easy-to-reach destination. Trails lead you down to the beach or to the bluff overlooking the ocean. Spread out your bounty of the day’s goodies of bread, cheese, strawberries, crab, beer, wine and pie and feast in the best of settings. If you hit it just right, the sun will be setting.
Continuing north, you have options for dinner. Take a short detour off Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay’s Main Street, where local restaurants, bakeries, shops and bars abound. Or, stay coast side and try other not-to-be-missed dining spots that come with an ocean view. Stake out a seat on the deck at the Half Moon Bay Brewery, voted one of America’s Best Beach Bars by Travel + Leisure magazine, and enjoy one of 10 house-crafted beers on tap.
Check out the daily catch at Johnson Pier at Pillar Point Harbor, where the fishermen sell fresh fish directly from their boats. Pick up a cooked Dungeness crab at Princeton Seafood Company. Pull up a chair on the deck at Sam’s Chowder House, where locals soak up the rays and view and enjoy the award-winning clam chowder and steamers with a cold beer.
Dad’s Luncheonette, housed in a historic train caboose, masquerades as a roadside burger stand until you take your first bite of Michelin-starred Chef Scott Clark’s elevated comfort cuisine, which is made from local, organic ingredients and handcrafted condiments.
If you dare to head a little farther north, fine dining, cocktails and a panoramic ocean view await you at Puerto 27 in Pacifica. Peruvian food is their specialty, along with Pisco Sours—the latest trendy cocktail made with pisco, a grape-based brandy that is the national liquor of Peru. Owner Julio Calvo-Perez, whose passion for Peru is infectious, tells stories of his homeland almost as good as his food, which includes ahi tuna in passionfruit salsa, branzino with shellfish stew, slow-braised meats, empanadas and mussels with chorizo.
Enjoy the journey, the food, and the amazing view along Highway 1 and the San Mateo County coastline. It’s a vibrant and beautiful place that is home to a magnificent community of people dedicated to growing, creating, cooking and crafting the best of the Bay Area’s bounty from land and sea.