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Mar 23, 2009 07:54 PM

Half Moon Bay - late lunch on a Tuesday

Ok, chowhounders, our SF trip is two weeks away from now. We arrive at SFO about noon from Cleveland, will get our rental car & head to Half Moon Bay for lunch & the spend the afternoon in the vicinity. We can't check into our hotel in the Cow Hollow area until 4pm. Anyways, our lunch choices in the Half Moon Bay area are narrowed down to:

1. Princeton Seafood Co.
2. Sam's Chowder House
3. Barbara's Fish Trap
4. Moss Beach Distillery

Ketch Joanne is closed for lunch on Tuesdays. Cetrella is not open for lunch. Duarte's does not have ocean views. Flying Fish Grille does not have ocean views. Of the four above, which would you pick and why??? We are not interested in clam chowder or lobster rolls- lived in Boston & New England is where you go for clam chowder & the best lobster rolls. Want LOCAL fresh seafood & the ocean views after a 5 hr flight from Cleveland & the drive down US 1. Thanks Chowhounders!

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  1. Not Moss Beach Distillery! You realize you don't have to drive down US1. The best route from SFO to Half Moon Bay is 101-92. You can drive back up US1 back to San Francisco if you want the scenery.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      You are right - 101& 92 to HMB- and taking US1 back to SF late in the afternoon. I looked at the Moss Beach Distillery menu online & I've read the reviews here too - they are mixed. That's why we are having a hard time deciding on a lunch destination. My husband and I will be travelling with our 14 year old daughter so I thought the water views might be kind of fun & maybe also observing sea wildlife. We are going to want to get out and walk around after being on a plane & in a car for awhile. Thanks for your input. It helps.

      1. re: CurryLover

        We had a really bad experience at Sam's. Not merely inept service, far beyond that. Style over substance. Nice looking place though. So I guess it follows the old adage that a really nice looking place with a great view that caters to tourists isn't a great restaurant for food.

        Barbara's Fish Trap is a funky little place. Kind of a dive, actually. We loved it.
        But if you want upscale, this isn't it.

        Can you go another day when Ketch Joanne is open?

        If cost is no object and upscale and ocean views important, consider the Ritz-Carlton restaurant.

    2. Hi -
      What makes you think there is local seafood?

      Here's a blog post that's not terribly informative -

      We used to have salmon locally. No longer. Two years, no commercial or sport fishing.

      We used to have crab - this would be late in the season normally, but with such a lousy year even the peak of the season was weak.

      Oysters are local and good, but they're not in San Mateo, they're tomales bay and north.

      You might get rock cod, ling cod, sand dabs. Keep an eye out for uni. If you're paying under $30 a plate, ask if it's line-caught, wild, never frozen, and exactly where it was caught (oregon is sometimes considered local). Expect to get a laugh - although you might get lucky.

      Places with a view of the water tend not to have high-end, gourmet fish. So enjoy the view, have a nice walk with your daughter, get a nice burger, and forget about the fish.

      6 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        Well, the ignorance is mine as far as thinking there is local seafood on the west coast. I guess I am spoiled by the gulf coast of FL where we can get locally caught fish & shell fish from the Gulf of Mexico just about anywhere up and down the gulf coast. Lived in New England and had locally caught fish, lobster & shellfish available.

        1. re: CurryLover

          There is local seafood available -- you just have to adjust your expectations as to the range of offerings. In addition, while crab season may be over for all intents and purposes for large commercial crabbers, there are still small operators who provide a limited amount of crab to local restaurants. There may well be locally caught Dungeness crab available in Half Moon Bay. Other popular local fish that you should try include Rex and Petrale (pe-tra-lay) sole and sand dabs (a smaller member of the sole family).

          In addition, it depends on what you mean by "local" -- just off the pier? Within 50 miles? Within 100 miles? etc. Oysters may be "local" from just up the coast at Tomales Bay (Hog Island Oyster Co., etc.). Clams will not be local and should be avoided if you're used to eating clams in New England. If you want "local" ask your server specifically where the fish you're interested is from -- they should be able to tell you. If they can't, eat elsewhere!

          You might try emailing Princeton Seafood Co and asking them what's being caught locally at the moment:

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Cioppino is a regional seafood specialty of this are too, right?

            1. re: WCchopper

              Yes. Cioppino was a dish that came out of the immigrant Italian fisherman community in San Francisco (and environs). For those not familiar, it's a California(ingredients, including Dungeness crab)/Italian (flavors) version of bouilliabaisse.

          2. re: CurryLover

            The west coast fisheries are very different from gulf coast and east coast. You don't expect fresh wild shrimp out of boston, either - that's warm gulf water, I think fresh shrimp east coast-ways is farmed.

            Ruth's post is spot on - petrale sole I had forgotten. You have to ask the exact location of the catch.

            When you're enjoying the differences in topology on the west coast beaches (cold! windy! rocky!), think about the differences in habitat we have for our little fishies. Such should be the joy of traveling, yes?

            You might not be aware of how serious our drought is either, and how deeply that effects our wild fisheries. When the salmon run's going, prices plummet, I'll often get some big slabs of salmon and make refrigerator gravlox - haven't been able to do that in the last couple of years.

            If your daughter is into natural history, I bet you could stock up on some books about our local ecosystems. In general, John McPhee is an excellent and engaging writer on such topics, not too lexically abstruse, and has a few good california books, although I can't think of any on west coast fishing.

            I do hope you end up finding some local fish. What's here is excellent.

            1. re: bbulkow

              Thank you- being in Ohio I don't know these little inside things - but the topology of west coast beaches sounds a lot like New England beaches as far as cold, windy & rocky - but I know there are many differences on both coasts. I'm trying to make sure we can experience local culinary delights....thanks for all your suggestions.

        2. I'm going to go with Barabra's. It's friendly, pleasant location, and I've enjoyed the food. Maybe go check out the Mavericks while you're there.

          8 Replies
          1. re: WCchopper

            we had great chowder and lobster rolls at sams. i've read other reviews too that those are the best items and if that's what you wanted...
            also, one of the best views in the area
            we also had very good service, maybe we just had a really good day???

            1. re: toncasmo

              He said that *wasn't* what he wanted -- he wanted local seafood specialties, not New England.

            2. re: WCchopper

              Mavericks is pretty flat in the summer

              1. re: EmoryJ

                What about early spring, like two weeks from now when the poster is visting?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  We're still waiting for the email to announce the contest!

                  1. re: WCchopper

                    This is going to get interesting - so many options on food! I guess we're going to have to make multiple trips to CA to fit in all these wonderful places to eat!

                    1. re: WCchopper

                      Mavericks has been canceled for this year. Obviously climate change.

              2. Sometimes it is best to not plan too much. Rarely are the finest views in existence with the best cuisine.( except Ritz $Carlton) You may be starving after you get your bags and go north to rental car area. If so I suggest you be open to dining first then going to enjoy the ocean view. Keep in mind traffic in Easter week is heavy . Have a safe and fun trip

                17 Replies
                1. re: Giselle

                  Good point. You could grab a burrito or some deli stuff and eat on the beach, too. New Leaf market (a small local Whole-Food-like chain) right off 92 in Half Moon Bay has great prepared foods, and Tres Amigos on Hwy 1 just south of the junction with 92 has decent Mexican.

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

                  New Leaf Community Markets
                  150 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Good suggestions, too. I'll keep that in mind - not sure how warm it is going to be in two weeks or whether the weather will be suitable for a "picnic" on the beach!

                    1. re: CurryLover

                      I love Barbara's Fish Trap for the food and funkiness!!!

                      1. re: Brisbane

                        >I love Barbara's Fish Trap for the food and funkiness<

                        I agree and always take visitors there. It is literally over the beach. A few things to know are:
                        - you can have most anything broiled if you don't want it deep fried.
                        - their crab cocktail is a large serving of crab, no filler.
                        - the artichoke hearts are very lightly breaded, tempura style.

                        Barbara's Fish Trap
                        281 Capistrano Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

                        1. re: Mick Ruthven

                          Hi, last time I was at Barbara's (which I do like a lot) it was cash only and no reservations, so if you hit it at a busy time there will be a wait. Just something for the traveler to be aware of.

                          Oh, and fried artichoke hearts, please give those a try, they really are a central coast specialty, that you won't find in a lot of other places.

                          1. re: Mick Ruthven

                            I was going to say Barbara's too. We go there when we crave fried, but then we feel guilty (and full). It's funky, and there's always a wait. Very tasty. Maybe next time I'll ask for broiled.
                            While you wait you can walk down to the beach.

                          2. re: Brisbane

                            Love Barbara's Fish Trap as well. Their fried scallops are excellent!

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                          New Leaf is a GREAT store........Tres Amigos is good if you're not gonna get to the Mission District. But it's certainly not the best taqueria you're gonna pass on your trip

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Tres Amigos in Half Moon Bay is not very good.

                            Unless your a stoned surfer or tourist from Kansas.

                            However they do give you large portions of C- food for the money.

                            But it's really bad Mexican food for California.

                            Sadly...I have eaten at Tres Amigos many times over the last 20 years.

                            And it did not get better after the super remodel.

                            1. re: Mission

                              i always enjoy Tres Amigos. It was pointed out to me by Murray Circle chef Joseph Humphries when he lived in HMB--oh yes, he was a surfer too.

                              1. re: plainfood

                                Thanks for your input, Mission & plainfood. I will report back to all of the wonderful chowhounders after our SF trip that includes HMB on the first day - we're just days away from leaving Cleveland, OH now - Tuesday. Our Tuesday lunch (or dinner time EST) in the HMB area, after much discussion among the three of us (my husband, myself & our 14 yr old daughter) is to head for Barbara's Fish Trap from SFO. I got a very nice email back from the owners of Princeton Seafood Company answering my question about what's being caught locally as Ruth suggested I do. If Barbara's Fish Trap doesn't work out (too busy, etc.) our 2nd choice back up plan is Princeton Seafood Co. We don't want to be overstuffed b/c we are meeting an old friend of my husband's when we check in at our hotel in Cow Hollow who lives in San Rafael & again going for another meal - late night sushi dinner, at what he says is the best sushi in town, according to him. All of you chowhounders have been so wonderful & I've been so grateful for all your advice on food destinations, HMB, post-Alcatraz lunch, Cow Hollow breakfasts & dinners, etc. I can't wait to brag about my fellow chowhounders to my husband's friend, haha. Thanks so much!

                                1. re: CurryLover

                                  So, what is being caught locally?

                                  I'm looking forward to your report. The weather has been gorgeous, but it's supposed to get more showery early next week.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Marty Botham from Princeton Seafood responded that the local catch is crab, halibut & rock cod. He also said Princeton Seafood was featured on "eye of the bay" channel 5 for the best clam chowder - that was April 1st.

                                    1. re: CurryLover

                                      Thank you! On the Atlantic coast halibut (and other flat fishes) are overfished, but Seafood Watch considers Pacific halibut a "best choice" (along with other Pacific flat fish and Dungeness crab).


                                  2. re: CurryLover

                                    And what's the best sushi in town?

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      I have no idea - he hasn't told us yet - we'll find that out when we get to SF & meet him at our hotel. I'll report on that, also, when I get back home.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        Update - it's Ace Wasabi in the Cow Hollow neighborhood. I just read RW Orange's recent report. Should be interesting what kind of an experience we have there.

                            2. I agree with the route down there being 101/92, but maybe skip all the restaurants and get something seafoody at that big stand right there off Highway 1. Then drive home along the coast...very pretty...but check if they're repairing the road around Pacifica (dry winter probably not) it can cost you a lot of time.....also, remember to pick up a mess of smoked salmon jerky while you're there (O....M......G!)...have fun!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: EmoryJ

                                Any idea what the name of the seafood stand is that you are referring to off Highway 1?? I suppose I could check google earth and see what shows up.

                                1. re: CurryLover

                                  I think he probably is referring to Flying Fish grill, which is at the corner of 92 and Hwy 1 in a little cluster with a seafood market, produce market, etc.

                                  Flying Fish Grill
                                  99 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    There's also Creekside Smokehouse for yummy smoked fish. They don't have anything else (except schmears I think), but if you like smoked fish, these are the best.