Down Highway 1 lies one of California’s most impressive stretches of coast dotted with tiny towns and the charming restaurants, cafes, and bars that make them up. Spending even a day in and around Half Moon Bay is worth it, hopping from sandy Montara State Beach to the Barn for a burger, or hiking through the surrounding hills to end the day with one of Ciya’s falafel plates. There really is something for everyone in San Mateo County, evident in its diversity of eateries, such as booming relative newcomer Costanera. Head down from the city if you’re a traveler or find a new favorite if you’re a local with any of these 14 outstanding options.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink in Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay’s top spots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Moss Beach Distillery
A bit north of Half Moon Bay proper lies this historic and haunted bar and restaurant that doubles as a California Point of Historical Interest. The nearly 100-year-old distillery has a dog-friendly patio, a wide array of dinner and brunch options including crab cakes and linguini, and plenty of strong drinks including the Blue Lady martini, named after the ghost that keeps the venue company.
La Costanera, the Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant from prolific chef Carlos Altamirano, reopened in a new location overlooking Pillar Point Harbor in June 2020 (it spent 10 years in Montara before closing in March 2020). The two-story, 10,000-square-foot restaurant offers floor-to-ceiling views and a large side patio, serving Altamirano’s menu of famous cebiches, lomo saltado, empanadas, and, now, rotisserie-cooked pollo a la brasa. Dessert is a highlight here, with shareable options like mini churros and hot chocolate and shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche, so save room.
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Gibraltar Gems at Jettywave Distillery
The Jettywave Distillery features an indoor tasting room and an outdoor bar with excellent California cuisine including dishes inspired by the Mediterranean, Thailand, and local seafood. Expect happy food with happy vibes in a casual but classy outdoor space. Don’t sleep on the dessert offerings, including a delectable cherry berry cobbler.
This 52-year-old beachside spot specializes in simple, traditional seafood dishes like a variety of fish and chip combinations and Louie salads. Its chowder also has a loyal fan base, with many claiming it’s the best in the area. The formerly cash-only spot now accepts credit cards and offers an ATM on site.
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Sam's Chowder House
A lobster roll on the deck at Sam’s is a quintessential Half Moon Bay experience, whether you want to catch a sunny brunch or cozy up to a fire pit at night. The owner and chef are both originally from the East Coast, hence the interest in New England crustaceans and chowders, but rest assured, they also pay due respects to our local Dungeness crab, in crab cakes, cioppino, or sandwich form. Dogs are welcome on the patio. (Pro tip: Check the local weather on the website’s “SamCams.”)
This El Granada barbecue joint, which opened during the pandemic, specializes in just a few barbecued meats and side dishes, with weekend additions such as smoked chicken or turkey. Enjoy sandwiches on thick-cut sourdough or soft buns, or tender, smoky brisket on the yellow outdoor patio picnic tables.
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This roadside stop converted an old barn into a restaurant for burgers and beers. It’s super casual, with an outdoor space filled with picnic tables, and a tented outdoor dining space. They source produce from local farms and sling grass-fed burgers, as well as a griddled hot dog that’s fully loaded, plus fried mac and cheese nuggets with buttermilk dressing for dunking.
Monsoon Himalayan Cuisine
Yes, you can get good dumplings by the beach. Chef-owner Ram Chandra Subedi grew up in a small village in the Himalayas in Nepal, and he’s now serving chicken, lamb, and prawn curries, as well as momos and samosas.
Diners who usually drove straight through Half Moon Bay hit the brakes in 2017, when a former fine dining chef from Saison started serving burgers out of an old caboose that’s parked on Highway 1. The burgers come sandwiched on white sliced bread and cost all of $14.50, and rosé comes by the can.
Fattoria e Mare
Chef and owner Pablo Estrada, a native of Yucatan who spent years in esteemed Bay Area restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine, relocated his Burlingame restaurant to Half Moon Bay in 2021. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner on the weekends at this Michelin-starred joint.
Ciya Mediterranean Cuisine
Located in downtown Half Moon Bay, Ciya provides a huge variety of Mediterranean fare, everything from moussaka to kebabs to whole lamb shanks to prawn guvec, named after the earthenware pot the cheesy dish is baked in. For dessert try kunefe, another cheese-based dish, or the fan-favorite stalwart baklava.
This spot started as a Hawaiian dessert spot, but has since expanded its menu to offer island-style treats like spam musubi, loaded hot dogs, and a slew of Hawaiian barbecue offerings that are available every Friday and Saturday. There’s an expansive patio out front and a large backyard for outdoor dining.
Whenever you need a break from the fish and burgers, head to Pasta Moon, a sweet Italian American spot that’s been putting out pizza, pasta, and pork chops for more than 30 years. Chef-owner Kim Levin has always loved the fruit and vegetable stands that dot the coastal highway and has close relationships with local farms. Throughout October 2023, a portion of the restaurant’s proceeds go toward Maui fire relief.
Never least, south of town, the Ritz Carlton shines like a fine dining lighthouse with Navio, the seafood restaurant within the hotel. For dinner, Navio’s rotating three-course tasting menu is focused on local and seasonal seafood ($155). Its weekend brunch buffet has been replaced with a two-hour, unlimited ala carte experience including breakfast standards, oysters, and salads (a cool $199 per person). Reservations can be made here.