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Nov 8, 2010 04:39 PM

The impossible: top-notch cuisine with oceanfront view?

(first-time caller, long-time reader)

This may be an impossible request, but: I'm looking for Michelin-caliber cuisine with an oceanfront view anywhere in California. I've been researching carefully from Mendocino south to Big Sur, and have only found a handful of options which come close to the level I'm hoping for.

I've followed this board's recommendation for years, and haven't seen a thread which really captures this request. Most of the recommended small town restaurants seem to feature fairly old-fashioned menus and don't emphasize the kinds of ingredients and flavors which one might find in, say, San Francisco.

My wish list:

-- directly on the ocean or an oceanfront bluff
-- patio or terrace for outdoor dining
-- locally sourced seasonal ingredients, line-caught fish, grass-fed beef, etc.

Here are a few contenders to set the tone:

-- Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn (ate there recently, some dishes excellent)
-- Beach Club at Pebble Beach (never eaten there, but obviously great views)
-- La Costa Nera (won Bib Gourmand rating this year, haven't been personally)
-- Pangaea, Gualala (now closed)
-- Sea Ranch Restaurant (have read mixed reviews)
-- Timber Point Inn, Jenner (also mixed reviews)
-- Ravens' Restaurant, Mendo (anybody been?)

Non-contenders include:

-- Restaurant at Ventana Inn (too far inland)
-- Nepenthe (great views, but very mediocre food)
-- Passionfish (solid food, but no views)
-- Moss Beach Distillery (overpriced, old-fashioned menu)
-- Café Beaujolais, Mendo (apparently nice food, no views)

Any advice or ideas, other than to give up? Have I missed any gems?

Thanks in advance!

701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Sierra Mar Restaurant
Highway 1, Big Sur, CA

Beach Club Cafe
3089 Norm Niver Rd, Thermal, CA 92274

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  1. Nothing in Santa Barbara south or north meets your criteria. Julienne in downtown is our only LA city class restaurant, though we have several others that are very good. But all downtown. How about a catered dinner on some wonderful sea side bluff?

    Just back from a hike to Oso Flaco Lake State Park north of Guadalupe and the board walk out to a stunning ocean view and they have a viewing platform that could work as a dining table for two, with a bit of wind in your hair probably but what a gorgeous ocean bluff view and what a gorgeous walk through mounds of wild flowers shrubs to get there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Don't know about Michelin caliber on the coast.. I do know about views. check these out
      La Petite Rive , Little River
      Ledford House, Albion
      Albion River Inn, Albion
      These are south of Mendocino. Ravens in Mendocino ,Big River doesn't serve seafood at all. I think It may be vegan, so I haven't been.
      Ate this summer at Timber Cove Inn, the place has been revamped,nice ocean views with tasty seafood. Check the respective websites.

      La Petite Rive
      7750 N Highway 1, Little River, CA 95456

      Ledford House
      3000 N Highway 1, Albion, CA 95410

      Albion River Inn
      3790 N Highway 1, Albion, CA 95410

      1. re: ambercontegssa

        Michelin! The Ledford House!?! We suffered through a meal there just last week. The entrees for dinner are in the 23-30 range and were so ill-prepared neither of us ate our food. (ie rancid-tasting tartar sauce) We had been sent there by friends of the owners, so all we could do was pay and leave and avoid any mention of how miserable the meal was. To make matters worse, a big, old fat cat lodged itself under our table. The waiter asked if he could just leave it there. We demurred, but the couple at the table beside ours panicked and left immediately, as the husband was extremely allergic to cats. The decor, food, and service was possibly the worst I've experienced in a very long time.

    2. foodwithaview, I too have searched for the perfect marriage of view with memorable food, often to no avail. Your post reminds me of an old friend who told me years ago,"Life is a series of compromises and until your realize that, you'll be hitting your head against a cement wall." As I've grown older, I've come to terms with her meaning.
      Now, sitting at Nepenthe, or others you mention, nibbling on an ambrosia burger enjoying a bottle of wine with the one I love...priceless.

      1. Geoffrey's in Mailbu at least has the seaside, bluff top setting, but you will need to check the LA board for the food:

        It looks like they try to do things right, but a lot of LA is style over substance so you need some confirmation.

        1. Thanks for the tips! I'll keep you posted as my search progresses.

          glbtrtr: Catering is certainly an option, good point. Also, thanks for the Geoffrey's note: looks promising! A little concerning that they serve Chilean Sea Bass, but I'll check the LA board for advice as you suggest.

          ambercontegssa: Agreed, those 3 establishments have great views. Glad to hear a positive review of Timber Cove; I'll drive up and check it out. Thanks.

          Ravens is vegetarian, I believe, not vegan; has anybody dined there? Veggie is not a problem for us.

          Gail: thanks for the words of wisdom... Nepenthe is gorgeous, and a great place to relax, agreed. Personally, my favorite coastal scenery is far away from buildings and people. In this particular case, I'm a dedicated foodie planning a dinner for an ocean-loving partner, so figured it was worth a quick check to see if I was missing some hidden gem.

          1. I'm afraid your "top notch" qualifier may be the deal breaker. If willing to accept very decent (at least the last couple of times we were there) try the Mussel Shoals restaurant in the Cliff House Inn.


            1 Reply
            1. re: PolarBear

              I love the setting of the Mussel Shoals and think this place is a real sleeper for its ocean side ambience. But agree, "top notch" would not describe its food so glad to hear it has moved past pleasantly okay and into something a bit more inviting. But it is a very worthy stop for the grand combo of pretty okay food basics and treasured little special oceanside setting on the long Highway 101 drag between LA and SB.

              Palm trees and the gentle crash of waves on a sunny south facing poolside setting outdoors under patio umbrellas really says this is everything one expects to find along the Southern Californian coastline.