The best places to eat along California’s Highway 1

The winding coastal road between Los Angeles and San Francisco has some of the best grub in the country. You just have to know where to pull over

by Kate Krader

Six weeks ago, Highway 1 fully reopened in Big Sur, following devastating mudslides in May 2017. After US$54 million (RM221.4 million) worth of repairs and the removal of millions of tonnes of earth, rocks and debris, travellers can once again enjoy an uninterrupted drive along the gorgeous coastal highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But, it’s not just the views that make the trek one of the most famous road trips in the world. There’s also the food to contend with: Dotted along the winding route, you’ll find peppery smoked-fish tacos, juicy burgers smothered in eggs and melted cheese and homemade doughnuts oozing with jelly.

Our version of this journey begins in Point Reyes Station, north of San Francisco. There, you’ll want to stock up on triple cream Mt Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and scarf as many straight-from-the-bay oysters as you can get down. Your eating adventure will continue from there — you’d better start hungry. — Bloomberg


Point Reyes

Side Street Kitchen

The specialty at this year-old, bright, modern diner is the crispy skinned rotisserie chicken, fragrant with herbs and served half or whole with an array of sauces, including curried yogurt, salsa verde and chimichurri rojo. The other specialty: Puffy, sugar-coated, fruit-filled apple fritters. 60 4th St, Point Reyes Station

The Boat Oyster Bar

The oysters on o er at the Boat rotate, but they’re always ultra-fresh (Photographer: Remy Hale)

Hog Island Oyster Co is famed for the oysters it pulls out of the bay and supplies to top dining rooms around the country. A reservation-only café on the water features those world-class bivalves; the menu changes often, but it frequently includes Hog Island’s singular kumamotos. You can get a dozen raw for US$36; even better are the barbecued ones, grilled and dripping with chipotle bourbon garlic butter. 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall


Half Moon Bay Area

Dad’s Luncheonette

Chef Scott Clark used to cook at San Francisco’s Michelin-three-starred Saison. He’s transformed a red-painted train caboose into a cozy, wood-lined diner with a small menu of comfort food favourites. The US$12 hamburger sandwich has melted cheese, a soft egg and red onion pickles on grilled white bread; the mushroom version substitutes maitakes for the grass-fed beef. 225 Cabrillo Highway South, Half Moon Bay

La Costanera

Peruvian food is having a moment in the US, and La Costanera, with its wall of windows overlooking the water from a second-floor dining room, has been recognised by Michelin’s Bib Gourmand. The menu has a mix of classics such as antichuchos (grilled skewers) with marinated beef heart and pork belly; empanadas; tender beer-braised lamb shank; and lomo saltado (beef tenderloin with onions, soy sauce and a fried egg, if you want one). 8150 Cabrillo Highway, Montara

Sam’s Chowder House

Seafood makes up almost the entire menu at Sam’s, including a “Captains Platter” of oysters, clams, shrimp, poke and ceviche; an appetiser of grilled sardines; steamed clams (with the option of linguine); and lobster rolls, “naked” with butter or “dressed” with aioli. At night, the place highlights fresh catches such as Pacific swordfish and local halibut. The seats on the deck offer a panoramic ocean view. 4210 Cabrillo Highway, Half Moon Bay

Hop Dogma Brewing Co

The rotating array of craft brews at this locally popular beer hall might include Pyro’s Prost chili beer (pilsner brewed with jalapeño); Every Third Inquiry, a Bourbon barrel-aged stout; and the flagship Alpha Dank IPA. Guests can order food from nearby Lamas, a Peruvian and Mexican restaurant, and the tacos, burritos and arroz con pollo will be delivered to the taproom. 270 Capistrano Rd, Half Moon Bay

Duarte’s Tavern

Dating back to 1894, when Frank Duarte bought the place for US$12 in gold, this venerable restaurant specialises in a California version of Continental cuisine. The menu runs the gamut from shrimp cocktail to pork chops with fresh applesauce. The specialties are anything with artichokes, plus the cioppino, packed with clams, shrimp, cod and especially crab, which people drive down from San Francisco to eat. 202 Stage Rd


Santa Cruz

The Picnic Basket

The view from the Picnic Basket, enhanced by a turkey sandwich. (Source:The Picnic Basket)

Set on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the picturesque luncheonette has an all-day menu with a powerful breakfast selection: Golden-brown turnovers stuffed with seasonal fruit or Niman Ranch ham and cheese; an egg-potato-greens frittata sandwich on toast; and house-made jelly doughnuts. Later in the day, hot dogs and elbow macaroni and cheese turn up on the menu. The nearby Penny Ice Creamery, where everything is house-made under the same ownership, is equally popular. 125 Beach St, Santa Cruz


Monterey Peninsula

The Meatery

A serious, whole-animal butcher shop with impressive cuts of meat on display, this white-tiled space also serves as a deli. Sandwiches range from a hefty Reuben to banh mi made with caramelised pork belly slices, pickled vegetables, a hit of cilantro and kewpie mayo on a French roll. A highlight is the house corned beef with sauerkraut on rye. The hot food offerings change daily: On Sundays and Mondays, there’s buttermilk-fried chicken; on Thursdays, visitors line up for the baby back ribs. 1534 Fremont Blvd, Seaside

The Bench Restaurant

Outside at the Bench, you get a view and a fire-pit table. (Photographer: Sherman Chu)

Set on the impossibly scenic Pebble Beach Golf Links 18th hole, the Bench has a crowd-pleasing menu that offers all kinds of pizza-styled flatbreads: With pepperoni; with ratatouille, fennel ricotta and heirloom tomatoes; and with bench bacon and grilled, pickled red onion. The 24-oz (680.39g) short rib, the Smokey Joe, is smoked for 10 hours. Aside from the best views, the outdoor deck has fire-pit tables. 1700 17 Mile Dr, Pebble Beach

Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel

Chef Justin Cogley operates one of the country’s best under-the-radar fine-dining restaurants. Set in a Relais & Châteaux property, the intimate dining room has a US$175 tasting menu that combines local ingredients in unexpected ways: A Morro Bay oyster with caviar has a hit of sea water and seared abalone is accompanied by romaine lettuce that’s been braised and sliced in thick rounds, with lobster-infused lettuce puree. Monte Verde at 7th Ave, Carmel


Big Sur

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

Amid the trees in the hills off the highway, this exceptional café produces terrific pizzas from the wood oven, with a charred, bready, chewy crust and such toppings as creamy greens, mushrooms and tangy taleggio, and red sauce meatballs. The place is first and foremost a bakery: The creamy lemon curd pie in a pistachio crust is addictive, as is any pastry in the display case. 47540 Highway 1

Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn

The view from Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn is enough to put diners in a happy place, even before they encounter the massive wine list (Source: Sierra Mar)

Post Ranch Inn, renowned for its modernist, cliffside, treehouse rooms overlooking the ocean, has a new manager, Gary Obligacion, formerly of Chicago’s celebrated Alinea. The property’s Sierra Mar restaurant is home to one of the country’s largest wine collections, with 14,000-plus bottles. It complements an elegant four-course tasting menu from which the seared foie gras has a garnish of hazelnuts and king salmon is paired with smoked split peas and sweet apple. 47900 Highway 1

The Sur House at Ventana Big Sur

In 2017, Ventana went through a multimillion-dollar renovation. The renovated Sur House restaurant now has outdoor fireside seating and a bar menu with smoky spice-rubbed chicken wings and open-faced tuna melt accented with pickled fennel. The dinner menu has deceptively simple dishes, such as grilled pork loin on a bed of jalapeño-spiked grits. The wine cellar is also notable: Some 10,000 bottles with a focus on the Central Coast. 48123 Highway 1


San Luis Obispo

Ruddell’s Smokehouse

There’s not much barbecue along Highway 1. The notable exception is Ruddell’s, where founder Jim Ruddell set up shop in 2001 in a small building with a few tables outside. The place smokes albacore and salmon with a brown sugar and kosher salt rub; chicken is slow-cooked over hickory. The smoked seafood and poultry are available as tacos in a big French-roll sandwich or salad — and by the pound. 101 D St, Cayucas

Cracked Crab

The seafood backet for 2 at Cracked Crab is a formidable endevour (Bloomber)

In the surfing town of Pismo Beach, the unpretentious Cracked Crab has a blazing neon sign and lines stretching out the door. The menu changes according to availability of seafood and features an ocean’s worth of crab: Dungeness cocktail with lime and avocado; puck-size, pan-seared lump blue crab cakes; and New England-style lobster rolls stuffed with crab instead. The seafood buckets offer the opportunity to mix and match wild Gulf shrimp, Alaskan crab, clams, mussels and lobster tails; they go for US$61 for one person and US$79 for two and come with all the mallets and scissors you’ll need to extract the shellfish. 751 Price St, Pismo Beach


Santa Barbara

Jalama Beach Store & Grill

In Lompoc, the epicentre of Santa Barbara winemaking, is this grill, set inside a store that’s set inside the county park. The specialty is the Jalama burger: It’s quintessential Cali-style, with shredded lettuce, tomato, onions, special sauce and a griddled bun. The burger has gotten so popular over its almost 40-year history that the name is trademarked. 9991 Jalama Rd, Lompoc

La Super-Rica Tacqueria

A spread of tacos at La Super Rica will include chorizo and adobado, plus lots of salsa. (Bloomberg)

Famous for being name-checked by Julia Child, Super-Rica is a cheerful, white-and-turquoise stand with a large selection of options that feature stellar homemade tortillas. The tacos are filled with all kinds of grilled meats — chunks of spiced, brick-coloured chorizo; adobado with tender strips of marinated pork. The Super-Rica Especial is made up cheese-stuffed green pasilla chiles that are roasted and draped over tortillas with marinated pork and more cheese, for US$6. 622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co

The Santa Barbara Shell sh Co is about as close as you can get to the water without getting wet. (Source: Santa Barbara Shellfish Co)

At the end of a dock on the harbour, this photogenic counter started out selling local seafood almost 30 years ago. Customers can still buy fish from commercial fishermen here. (There’s also a robust online store with trays of uni and stone crab claws.) The chopped caesar comes with a choice of grilled, skewered shrimp or sweet scallops. There’s more local shrimp, coated with coconut and crispy fried, garnished with onion rings. Also highly recommended are the linguine studded with garlic-sauteed clams in the shell and the monumental, steamed two-pound crab, along with a selection of local wine and beer by the pitcher. 230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara


The Los Angeles Area

Malibu Farm

What started as a pop-up dining room by Helene Henderson in 2013 is now a farmers market-driven restaurant and café on the Malibu Pier, with outposts in Miami and Hawaii. The all-day café at the end of the dock has a lightbulb-lit menu that boasts a pile-up of Swedish pancakes with whipped cream and whatever the seasonal berries are, as well as kale caesar and BLTs (becon, lettuce and tomato) with lemon aioli brushed on whole wheat. Down the pier, a slightly more serious version of the restaurant offers a tofu, spinach and tomato scramble on weekend mornings, and nachos, featuring blue corn chips laden with black beans, melty cheese and drizzles of sour cream in the evenings. 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Tallula’s

Not your standard Mexican: At Tallula’s, sh tacos come with malted sauce, and the quesadillas are stuffed with squash blossoms. (Source: Tallula’s)

Chef Jeremy Fox, who heads up the nearby vegetable-focused Rustic Canyon, now puts a creative spin on the Mexi-Cali dining room. In a colourful space decorated with hanging plants, Fox uses exceptional local corn, served Mexican-style with smoky chipotle aioli and accents black-cod tacos with malt tartar sauce in tender, house-made tortillas. A daily taco special is dreamed up by rotating cooks in the kitchen. The serious bar programme features mezcal Manhattans on draft, as well as the obligatory margaritas. 118 Entrada Dr, Santa Monica

Father’s Office

The wall at Father’s Office is lined with dozens of craft brew taps. (Source: Father’s Office)

Chef Sang Yoon began serving one of the — if not the — country’s first gourmet burgers almost 20 years ago. The Office Burger is made from freshly ground, dry-aged beef, so it’s got a deep, meaty flavour that’s further accentuated by sweet caramelised onions, bacon, gruyere and blue cheese. Accompanying fries, standard or sweet potato, are presented in a mini-shopping cart. Father’s Office is equally known for pouring dozens of local craft beers. 1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monic