Need a not too crowded beachside restaurant
Me and my girlfriend would like to go to a place where we can sit and have lunch or even dinner. And probably take a quite walk by the beach side pretty close by.
Hope this place is not a totally overcrowded such as Fisherman Wharf or something.
I am ok with it being anywhere from San Francisco down to Santa Cruz or even more south.
Let me guess, you're visiting fom the E.coast and have some notion of an idylic, warm sunny day at the beach, right? Our beaches are cold, foggy, windy, the water is bone chilling and the surf is powerful and generally brutal. Sorry to partronize if you already know that. But when the fog departs, and the winds subside, there are some places to keep in mind. Just know that all too often the beaches are inhospitible.
In the Half Moon Bay area, Barbara's Fish Trap might work. I hear that Sam's Chowder House has a nice deck, but I have no idea about the food. Just north of that at the end of Montara State Beach is a place that used to be a Chart House location with mediocre food and a great view. It appears to have changed hands and is now called 7th Street Montara. No idea if it is any good, but the location fits your bill nicely.
The beach at Santa Cruz is a foodie hell. Absolutely nothing sold at or near the boardwalk is remotely edible. So sad. I'd love to discover some hidden gem in this area.
The beach town of Capitola is a better bet. But I have not spent time there in recent times so I have no idea what it is like now.
To the north, Bolinas has potential, if you can find it. I have fond memories of motorcycle trips ending at the Coast Cafe there. I vaguely recall they have excellent pies. You'd need a short drive between the trailhead at Palomarin on the south tip of Pt Reyes, or you could maybe putter around the shore in Bolinas lagoon, though that tends to be a tidal bog.
Stinson Beach can be nice, but I haven't found the quiet cafe type of place you're looking for. They do have pretty decent picnic facilites at the beach, if that appeals.
Stinson: The Sand Dollar is fairly nice. Not exactly an idyllic quiet cafe. I prefer to stop by outside the lunch and dinner rush, so it approximates such a joint.
OP: the cliff house is exotic? Oh dear. Check out half moon bay; there are a wide variety of eats along the main street ("main street", I believe).
Miramar Beach Restaurant fits the request. Great beach or blufftop walk south from there, there's a paved trail that goes as far south as Blufftop Coastal Park if not farther.
The food at Barbara's Fish Trap is good but it's usually crowded and you'd have to drive to a beach.
The Warming Hut is an expensive cafeteria with often long lines. Beautiful area for a walk but as the name suggests it can be pretty cold, especially after the sun drops behind Presidio Hill.
Duarte's is a few miles inland and is often packed.
Miramar Beach Restaurant
131 Mirada Road, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Walk on the beach: Fitzgerald Marine Reserve a few miles north of Half Moon Bay. Really great tide pools. Can be a bit crowded at the parking lot end so walk a ways south for a bit of solitary. Time your visit for low tide on a warm day. Bring a change of socks/shoes/pants.
And then eating: There are a half dozen places in Princeton-by-the-Sea a very short distance south of the tidepools. Barbara's Fish Trap, Ketch Joanne, the odd little place under the tent with the grill in the middle.
Here's a really off-the-wall suggestion. In China Camp by San Rafael, there's a funky living-history lunch counter which does just fine for casual chowing. You can get chowder, hot dogs, ready-made sandwiches, etc. Also beer (no wine). Open only on weekends.
Step outside the door and you're right on the beach looking across the bay. Bring your swimsuit - the bay water's way warmer than the ocean. There's an interesting little museum there, too.
I second the recommendation for the Cliff House. My wife and I were very pleasantly surprised there recently. It is by no means a tourist trap, and the food is very good. Prices are reasonable for the location and view. The atmosphere in the Bistro, on the left as you enter the front door, is excellent. I think they have a different menu than the more formal dining area on the right and downstairs, but you can ask. If you want something more casual in the same area, Louis', just up the street from the Cliff House, is OK, and popular with locals, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Yes, I'd be interested in details about the Bistro. It is not the more upscale Sutro's on the lower level. No connection at all with the kitchens. I think the Bistro is managed by an outside food service. My experience there is that prices are way too high for merely average food. I'd be happy if they did improve, but I'd like to hear what you ate.