Thanks to a pair of veteran Bay Area restaurateurs, there’s a sunny new dining option at Half Moon Bay’s regional airport. Husband-and-wife team Sachin Chopra and Shoshana Wolff, who also own and operate the once-Michelin-starred All Spice in San Mateo, celebrated the soft opening of Pilot Light Cafe on Saturday, January 29, bringing a casual menu of daytime options including Dutch baby pancakes, avocado toast, and smashburgers to 9850 Cabrillo Highway North.
The couple, who live close to the airport, say the opportunity to take over the space moved them to expand with a second restaurant. “We just loved the idea of being in that beautiful old building set out by itself on Highway 1 and four minutes from home,” Wolff says.
For now, Pilot Light Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch only, though the couple hopes to make the cafe an all-day dining option down the line. The current brunch menu includes a golden Dutch baby pancake covered with a layer of fresh fruit (“our signature dish,” Wolff says), plus buttermilk pancakes, a Belgian waffle, and a selection of pastries. Avocado and ricotta toast round out the morning meals, or for a heartier lunch, there’s a cheekily named $100 Burger that actually costs $15, as well as an Impossible option for herbivores. Bleary-eyed travelers can count on a full espresso bar, and there’s beer and wine for anyone not planning to drive or fly themselves home.
The space, which hosted 3-Zero Cafe for a full 25 years of breakfasts on the coast, was originally built in the 1940s and sports a large bank of window in both the front — providing pastoral views of rolling farmland — and the back — offering uninterrupted views of the tarmac. A spacious and dog-friendly back patio dressed up with picnic tables also makes for easy viewing of the runways, Wolff says. And while the couple says they weren’t exactly looking to open a second restaurant, Pilot Light does provide them with a little bit of a contingency plan considering the uncertain future of All Spice in San Mateo; as SFGate reported earlier this year, the real estate developer that owns the 116-year-old Victorian the restaurant calls home plans to demolish the building at some point in the future. For now, the couple has a two year lease, which means at least two more years in operation, but at some point they will have to close. “Our plan is to have the restaurant in Half Moon Bay as a way to give us some leeway once All Spice has closed,” Wolff says.
For now, they’re aiming to make Pilot Light a “casual, family-friendly” counterpart to All Spice’s fine dining, special occasion vibes. There are a number of pilots who park their plans at the airport, Wolff says, so they’re looking forward to feeding them, as well as to providing a solid breakfast and lunch option to those who live in the area. The airport also makes a convenient pit stop for anyone driving along the coast from Pacifica to Half Moon Bay, she says. “We’re hoping to be a destination,” Wolff says.
Pilot Light Cafe is located at 9850 Cabrillo Highway North and open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.