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Lunch recommendations for drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz

Arriving in San Francisco on Friday, September 12th at 11:30am. Plan on driving from SFO to Santa Cruz and need some lunch recommendations. Doesn't need to be fancy or ridiculously cheap, just worth my time and money. I've identified some spots in Santa Cruz, but unsure how long the drive will take (i.e. I don't want to eat lunch at 2pm). Can anyone suggest some places just off the Highway that might be worth hitting for lunch if we just can't wait until Santa Cruz? Looks like my route will take me on US-101, CA-85S and CA-17 before arriving in Santa Cruz.

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  1. San Mateo, Palo Alto, and Mountain View all have lots of good places to stop along 101 and 85, depending on when you get hungry and when you actually get out of SFO after navigating baggage claim and the rental cars. Search for those cities for ideas. It would also help to know what type of food you like or dislike, and where you are coming from so you can get things here that you can't at home.

    Michael

    1. I'd suggest you take a different route: 101 to 92 to 1 south to Santa Cruz. It's a very pretty drive, it's only a little longer (and 17 over the mountains is not fun), and there are places to stop for lunch in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I'll second that route suggestion, especially since it won't be on the weekend so traffic should be OK on Hwy 1. Searching will get you many suggestions for Half Moon Bay and Princeton-by-the-Sea (just north of Half Moon Bay). In Pescadero (just off Hwy 1 south of Half Moon Bay) is Duarte's, a history-steeped roadhouse type of place with OK to very good food depending on what you order.

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        Duarte's Tavern
        202 Stage Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

        1. re: Mick Ruthven

          I agree with Ruth and Mick, go highway 1 but keep your eyes on the road -- most of the time. At Duarte's the artichoke or green chile soup is great -- you can order 1/2 of each if you can't decide. I love the ollalieberry pie. Very informal place. It's located inland from Hwy 1, just turn left inland when you see the Pescadero sign. You go a mile or so and the town is about 1 block long.

          1. re: Mick Ruthven

            Duarte's is about an hour from SFO. Second on the half-and-half soup. Read some of the past reports to know what to avoid.

            Definitely 1 over 17.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            I also agree with that route, and those suggestions of cities to stop. Though, if you're hungry when you land, there's some good dim sum in Millbrae off 101 shortly after you leave the airport.

          3. If you get out of the airport by 12:30 with your car, etc, you'd probably be best served by something close to the airport. Santa Cruz is easily an hour from SFO on a clear day. One extremely convenient just-off-the-highway stop on 101S from the airport is El Metate on Harbor in Belmont. This is an excellent taqueria (35 feet off of 101, 10 mins south of airport). Non-chain, huge turnover, and gets you on your way. Excellent salsa bar and the best house-made chips in the area.

            The drive from SFO to Half Moon Bay, as some others have suggested, is only about 25 mins. Try Pasta Moon in that town.

            1. As mentioned, there's a few very good dim sum places close to SFO.

              Besides taking Hwy 1 to Pescadero and Half Moon Bay, you could also hit some taquerias in Redwood City and San Carlos. Taqueria La Bamba is 3-5 mins off the freeway in Mountain View...on the divey side but exceptional carnitas.

              5 Replies
              1. re: ML8000

                I appreciate all of the suggestions and will do some additional research into the alternate route outlined above. We are from Cleveland, so just about anything you have in Cali is something we don't have here. The dim sum and taqueria ideas are of particular interest to me, but we'll go for just about anything. Thanks again!

                1. re: ladybugthepug

                  Assuming you're heading back to SFO, you might hit the dim sum on the way back. If you have time and want to try one of the best haute places on the West Coast (maybe the U.S.), look up Manresa in Los Gatos on Hwy 17 between Hwy 101 and Santa Cruz. It will be worth it.

                  1. re: ladybugthepug

                    Dim sum is a good idea if you're hungry right off the plane (which you probably will be if you're on Eastern Time). Hong Kong Flower Lounge is really easy to find, since it's right on the corner of two major streets. Since you're from Cleveland, I'm going to even more strongly suggest you take the Hwy 1 route. Why come all the way to California and drive through miles of suburbs on ugly freeways when you can drive along the ocean? Hwy 17 over the mountains is scenic, but the road and traffic conditions are so awful that you really can't enjoy it, while Hwy 92 takes you up and over the mountains very quickly, and then it's flat and fairly straight (in addition to being scenic) all the way. There's a good taqueria -- Tres Amigos -- right on Hwy 1 in Half Moon Bay, if that appeals to you. But if you have the time, Duarte's is very atmospheric (get the half-and-half soup, some sanddabs or petrale sole, and the ollieberry pie) and Pescadero is a beautiful little town that has managed to survive without becoming a tourist trap.

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                    Hong Kong Flower Lounge
                    51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

                    3 Amigos
                    270 Cabrillo Hwy S, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I wouldn't go so far as to say hwy 17 is "awful," but it certainly is the commuter route, not the scenic one. Unless there's traffic. Then it's awful. =)

                      P.S.
                      In Pescadero, the grocery store deli makes great sandwiches, and they sell their famous artichoke/garlic bread. Yum.

                    2. re: ladybugthepug

                      ladybugthepug, you'll be driving past several thousand restaurants in an hour of driving (for example, my town, Palo Alto, has about 300 in the city limits - we're about 30 minutes south of the airport, and we're not even a good eating town, compared to San Mateo, Millbrea, and Mountain View). The number of Taquerias in Redwood City is astonishing. To make the best of this list, consider being a bit more specific in what you might enjoy. And the seaside places in Half Moon Bay and similar can be quite nice.

                      Given your interest in dim sum and taquerias, I'd suggest looking up San Mateo, which has good Dim Sum in Joy Luck and Taquerias in La Cumbre and Pancho Villa. (I'd put Joy Luck above the Millbrea places just because it's more accessible to the uncommon dim sum eater, but read up on Millbrea too).

                      The other strength is real down-home chinese in San Mateo, places like Shanghai East, Little Sheep hot pot, Everyday Beijing. These places are not exactly "accessible" - Everyday Beijing, for example, is pretty much all chinese language, and Shanghai East it's best to be able to tell the Shanghai style dishes from the northern fare.

                      But really - more info, better rec.

                  2. There are many great dim sum places in Millbrae which is the exit right after SFO.