Northern California Road Food
Next week I am taking a three day ride through Northern California. I'll be starting off just south of Monterey, heading north up the Coast past San Francisco (I don't want to eat in SF) then north up the coast through Mendocino. Next onto Eureka and out to Shasta. Back south through Ukiah, Clearlake, Santa Rosa. Finally home back down 101.
I'll be on the back of a bike and travelling light so I am really looking for some road food, local and honest. Any recommendations?
Morning in Santa Rosa gave me some choices. One of which was Willy Bird's. A turkey joint. That serves breakfast. I had too. As it turns out, turkey is not really a breakfast food, but the place was fun. Turkey fried steak was a patty of ground turkey flavored with sage, tough as all get out. Willy Bird's Breakfast - 5/10.
Now I was on 101 barreling toward home, not planning to stop for a want to see my kids and wife but in Gilroy gas and hot dogs called me off the road. A&W stand hot dogs, big glass of root bear. Good anytime. A&W 7/10.
I rolled into home mid-afternoon, happy for the experience, wiser with regard to road eating and in serious need of fruits and vegetables.
Report Continued - Day Two
The next morning I woke up and set off along what I think must be the most beautiful road I have ever seen. About an hour later I was hungry and excited, I had arrived in Elk and was looking forward to a breakfast at Queenie's. As soon as I saw the place I knew there was trouble. A closer look proved out my worries. Closed until further notice. [Insert series of expletives here] It turn's out that the woman who runs Queenie's has fallen ill and the town is hopeful she will be back in time. Queenie's may have been closed but I was still hungry and since I had no idea when I would come to another twon I began to reconnoiter. I found one restaurant, some vaguely named cafe. Reluctantly I entered. I am tempted to describe my entire experience but to do so would just be mean. Suffice it to say that I had stumbled into the breakfast end of a B&B and was faced with a breakfast buffet. Random semi-un-named cafe - 2/10
I moved north from Elk and soon found myself in the midst of fire. The smoke was miserable, I am so sorry for those who live in the affected areas. The fires altered my path and for lunch I found myself in Willits. My intention in Willits was to eat fast and get out of the smoke but as I rode into town I found Vassar Family Pizza, one of those perfect places filled with red vinyl seating, dark wood, green glass and honest pizza. I had to stop in. I ordered up a mini pepperoni and sausage, a loaf of garlic bread and I big ol' glass of root bear. At that moment, having ridden through two hours of acrid, tear inducing smoke, it was perfect. Vasser Family Pizza - 9/10.
My detour led me back through Mendocino, but the crowds turned me away from eating there. I continued on along the Navarro river, stopping in at a well named winery. My day rolled to a close in Santa Rosa. I had to do it... Johnnie Garlic's. It was surprisingly good. In style akin to any chain restaurant, but with food and service several steps up. I had a Mojito Chicken that was very nice. The chicken was juicy and well seasoned, the glaze playing a ncie counterpoint to the spice. You can tell a lot about a place from it's veg and at Johnnie Garlic's the veg was perfect, flavorful with a pleasant toothsomeness and plenty of butter. The service was excellent, a welcome respite from the mindless drones that all too often populate the casual dining experience. Johnnie Garlic's = 8/10
I am back from my three day ride up along the Northern California coast and I thought I would report in my food adventures.
Day one I made my way up from Monterey past Santa Cruz, lunchtime landed me at Duarte's in Pescadero. First off the place was packed, since I was traveling alone I bypassed the wait and sidled up to the counter. The feel of Duarte's is that of an old authentic seaside tavern, gruff but kindhearted proprietor included. I ordered a plate of fried oysters, not quite the season but I could smell the water so I figured I'd give them a shot. They were good, full bodied, very tender, maybe a bit too mild in flavor. Next came a good loaf of crunchy sourdough followed soon by a bowl of cream of asparagus soup. The soup was nice, creamy and sweet with asparagus flavor. Next I came to my first major decision on the road, should I order the cioppino? It was very large and expensive and since I was traveling alone much of it would go to waste. So instead I ordered a BLT which was as ever satisfying. I knew halfway through the sandwich though that I had made a mistake, I made up my mind then and there to order with abandon for the rest of the trip. Over all Duarte's - 8/10.
I rode hard for the rest of the day, happily bypassing San Francisco and heading north up the coast. As the weather rolled in and my backside began to inform me that my day of riding was over I came across the town of Gualala. Soon I saw the Surf Motel, parking lot lined with motorcycles, this was the place for me. They have no food, but if you are every staying in Gualala and want a place on the cheap, the Surf Motel is your game. Super nice rooms, amenities and people. When I asked the proprietor where to eat, he looked me over and said, "Go to Bones, up the road a half mile." A few minutes later I was walking into Bone's Roadhouse. First off, not a roadhouse, but that's not a big deal. This was a BBQ joint with a weird pirate motif. Yarr pirates. I ordered up an enormous plate of brisket, st. louis ribs and links. The ribs were excellent, nicely crusted, no sauce (as ribs should be) and tooth tender. The brisket was also good, though it tasted more of tri-tip than brisket. The links seemed bought in. As for sides I got a piece of corn bread that I only manage my requisite two bites of before I decided that it wasn't fit to eat and beans that followed suit. Overall Bones - 6/10.
looking for NorCal chow may involve some change of route plans:
use the map to find more detailed info below in the charts
also: http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi Hiway 1 is closed in a short section near Big Sur, but no detours available TMK. Check w/ CHP if going up 1 to "below Monterey"
Have fun and Please Report Back to us! :)
We were there the year that Black Bear Diner started in Mt. Shasta and had wonderful meals there. Then they expanded to a lot of new locations and the others were never "quite" as good as the original but still good food. I still like the original location the best but it is consistently good food no matter where we stop. I think there will be one at several of your stated destinations...
The Albion River Market has a little deli that sells great desserts. We didn't eat any of the other items, but I imagine they are good, too. They have a good selection of all sorts of groceries, including some local organic items.
Also, the fellow pouring at Roederer (delicious sparkling wines) recommened the Albion River Inn Restaurant.
There's a bakery in Mendocino that sells cinnamon buns with a cream cheese frosting that everyone raved about on our camp trip. I don't know the name, but it sounds like it is worth researching. It might be the Mendocino Bakery & Cafe which gets good reviews on Yelp.
Enjoy your ride.
Sounds like you're taking Hwy 1 through Santa Cruz County.
Stop in Freedom for a superb marinated Tri-Tip sandwich:
For an authentic Chicago Dog, stop at Santa Cruz News. You'll be driving by it on Hwy 1/Mission Street:
At Eureka there is the Lost Coast Brewery on 4th st. Hwy 101 north is 5th st, and 101 south is 4th st., so if you are traveling north it will be one block over. http://www.lostcoast.com/restaurant.html They are open for lunch and dinner. Good Pub food and local Eureka beer. The Great White wheat beer is my favorite.
Just north of Eureka is Samoa and the Samoa Cookhouse. This is used to be a lumberjack cookhouse. It has a little logging museum. I've been there a couple times for breakfast, very basic, but good and as much as you can eat.
Ukiah has a couple of Thai restaurants. One is on the main drag and the other is at the buddhish monastery.
if you haven't been inland in summer before, it'll be H O T. Take lots of water. Redding south to SR.
you are going to stop at navarro winery, i hope! how about the boonville hotel in, well, boonville - located in anderson valley and home to many fabulous wineries, including navarro, roederer, goldeneye, greenwood ridge (to name some of my faves!) boonville hotel has some really fabulous food -
14050 Hwy 128
707 895 2210