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Former Saison Chef Lives the Dream With Half Moon Bay Roadside Stand

Dad’s Luncheonette will serve gussied-up hamburgers and hot dogs

A rendering of Dad’s Luncheonette
A rendering of Dad’s Luncheonette
Alexis Liu

After spending the last three years at Saison (one year as chef de cuisine), helping blast it to number 27 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Scott Clark has stepped away from the three-Michelin-star restaurant to open a roadside stand in Half Moon Bay. Called Dad’s Luncheonette, it will be a casual, counter service stand that only operates Thursday through Sunday, to cater to the weekend crowds.

Clark and his partner (both business and personal) Alexis Liu found a historic train caboose on Highway 1, and said the concept fell into place from there. “Alexis found this space, and it was so unique and felt very much us — kind of quirky with a lot of soul and character,” Clark told Eater SF. “It’s the only space we ever looked at, but we knew when we saw it that it was something we needed to move on.”

The two followed the roadside stand aspect of the space, settling on a local produce-focused, but very approachable menu — everything is under $15 — with dishes like a burger with grass-fed local beef, grilled white bread, melted cheese, pickled onions, and lettuce (with the option of adding grilled belly bacon or a Ben's Coastside farm egg); a chicken fried hen of the woods mushroom sandwich with instant ramen slaw; and an okonomiyaki dog, which is a corn dog with shaved bonito, scallion, barbecue sauce, house mayonnaise, and cabbage. Wine will be sold by the can.

Scott Clark (left) with Joshua Skenes (right), celebrating Saison’s spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list
Clark (left) with Joshua Skenes (right), celebrating Saison’s spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list
World's 50 Best

For Clark, his top priorities for the food were — most importantly — making it delicious, and also very local, since Half Moon Bay is a major farm town. “The main thing we did at Saison was serve delicious food in a beautiful, incredible space with a lot of really fun tools to work with, but down to the core it was about making the most delicious things. Something Josh [Skenes] always said was if you put it in your mouth and you weren’t immediately saying, ‘Wow that is absolutely delicious,’ then you have to start over and it’s wrong,” Clark explained. “That has a lot to do with this. Although it will be very casual and much different than a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, I want to be really proud of the product like I was at Saison, because I know where it comes from and I have a first-name relationship with the person who brings it to me, and also it’s just really, really good.”

Liu is heading up the design side of things (she has a background in fashion), with a clear aesthetic and concept vision. “Since it is a roadside stand, we’re never going to forget that fact and as far as the menu goes, it’s going to be what you expect from something on the side of the road,” Liu said. “Hamburgers and hot dogs are the backbone of our menu, but we’re certainly going to put our spin on all of those classics while we draw upon what’s the best of the best of the area.” Liu also owns Beacon Coffee & Pantry in North Beach, and once things settle in at Dad’s, Clark will be bringing a little satellite counter of Dad’s to Beacon.

As to why Clark left such a prestigious position? “It definitely started with having a baby. I viewed my time a little differently, and I wanted to be able to spend more time with her and Alexis,” he explained. “So it seemed like the reasonable option to pursue my passion — and also do it on my own time — and focus the energy within the family as well.”

Dad’s Luncheonette will open at 225 Cabrillo Highway South in early February, and will be open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with patio seating only.