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Half Moon Bay and other Coastside eateries - first reports

I've started a job in Half Moon Bay so the bulk of my meals here are lunches (still maintaining a Napa residence for several months) and thought I would start compiling a list of where I've been eating - especially since it won't take long for me to eat every where in the area...

- ARK North Indian Grill. This place is getting four stars on Yelp and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Maybe it is better if you order off the menu, but having had the lunch buffet (for $10.95), I have found it decidedly mediocre if not downright bad. The chicken korma had a sauce that is watery. The chicken tandoor was almost flavorless. A lentil soup was offered that was also very watery. There was a dal that was okay and the naan was acceptable, but overall, it was too expensive for what was being offered. The nearby New Leaf grocery store (a Whole Foods clone) has much better Indian food on their hot buffet.

- Sushi Main Street. I have had dinner here which was enjoyed tremendously but I am most impressed with their $8.75 bento box lunch. LIke my old J-town favorite, Takara, here you are given your choice of two items (teriyaki salmon, chicken or beef, pork katsu, fried fish, shrimp or vegetable tempura, etc. There is also soup and salad plus ice cream. The quality is good and the price affordable.

- White Elephant Thai. It was cold and rainy and I thought some Tom Kha would hit the spot. It was okay but not exceptional and I was talked out of larb instead for the daily special, "Thai Dim Sum." The waitress/owner admitted when I told her I was debating between the larb or spring rolls that they don't always have the whole menu every day so I opted for the Dim Sum since it seemed to be available. The dim sum (six) were served on a plate, surrounding some shredded cabbage, all in a pool of sauce. More than half of the dim sum were in a state of being un-wrapped and falling apart. They tasted just okay but the afternoon digestive distress indicated that *something* I ate was definitely NOT fresh. Won't be returning.

- Chez Shea. I've eaten here a few times now. They have a varied menu that includes Mexican and Mediterranean and there is always something different and interesting. When the weather is nice, the existence of an outdoor seating area in the back is nice as well. I have been most impressed with the Minestra soup - a chunky, minestrone-like offering with a sauce verte crouton served on top. Their falafel salad is different in that instead of meatball-shaped falafel, they are large patty-shaped which are deep fried and quite tasty.

- It's Italia. Yes, I know Pasta Moon is the restaurant of choice for Italian, but it is a bit on the pricey side for lunch except for special occasions. It's Italia has been used several time for last-minute office parties and I have enjoyed their pastas (pesto, vodka with shrimp, and chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms) and pizzas. Affordable and tasty.

- Barbara's Fish Trap. Went for dinner one night for mussels and was not very impressed. Don't care if I don't go back.

- Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Great fish offerings and much cheaper than the nearby Sam's. I liked their oyster offerings and steamed mussels.

- Cafe Classique. I stumbled on this little cafe which is off-the-beat-and-track in El Granada and was really pleased with a grilled burger that included grilled onions and bell peppers. Served with a salad (or fries) for $8.50, it was a decent burger and I'm interested in the fact that they have a hot lamb sandwich which I'll be trying next week. There are also some Mexican offerings on the menu.

- Mullins Bar & Grill. Had a breakfast meeting there... On the green of the Ritz Carlton golf course, it was exceptionally boring and staid with a standard breakfast menu. I had an omelet and was disappointed that besides mushrooms and cheese, they couldn't offer spinach. Breakfast for two was $50 and not worth it.

- Half Moon Bay Coffee Company. Very, very disappointing. I was the only one there, getting a simple mocha for my boss. In the middle of making the drink, the "barrista" walked into the lobby to talk to his girlfriend. I was standing there, waiting, before he came back to finish the job. No one else in line. No one else there to help. Lame.

- Raman's Coffee and Chai. There has never been a chai quite like this. It will be a growing addiction until I figure out what he is putting in it; slightly chunky bits that sink to the bottom (the herbs?). Authentic, spicy, and out of this world.

- Moonside Bakery. Decent pastries bought for office meetings. Nothing I necessarily crave or would go out of my way for (like for Tartine or Dynamo Doughnuts), but acceptable.

- La Costanera. Have now eaten there a few times. Some dishes (the pork ribs and ceviche) are quite good while others (grilled mushroom) leaves me disappointed. Occasional hiccups with the kitchen - like showing up for the Tuesday all-night happy house special at 8:15 and being told the kitchen is closed. At 8:15???? Got them to re-open it... But we shouldn't have to negotiate for something like that.

- Daddy O's. Located in Shoreline Station, this is an interesting eatery staged out of a re-used train car which has been painted very bright yellow. They take your order out of the back and, regrettably, there are only three small tables to sit at in a small, enclosed porch area so while you are eating, there are lots of people lingering about, waiting for their food. The menu is fairly basic; pulled pork, bratwurst, grilled hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, chili... I had the pulled pork sandwich which was $8.75 and served on a large bun with slaw. It was spicy and good, but the pork needed to be "pulled" a bit more as I was biting into some pretty large chunks of pork. I was really lucky I got a table and a few minutes after I sat, a dozen+ people showed up so they have a good following with interesting food. I'll be back to eat through the menu.

I'll add to this thread as I continue the adventure - pretty sure it won't take more than a month or so to have eaten at every restaurant on the coastside.

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  1. I wasn't expecting much from the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, but the seafood sampler (not the "crispy" -- the one with the ceviche) was pretty good. Two of us shared it for lunch. We enjoyed sitting outside there, protected by the glass.

    I do hope you aren't commuting every day!

    1. When you are in Princeton again, try Flavor. It's right at the main intersection across Hwy 1 from the harbor. They make a great burger, it's a little more pricey, but they grind their own blend which I believes includes short ribs. Some other interesting menu choices as well. They are definitely not another clone of the typical coastside tourist restaurant.

      At Chez Shea, my favorite is their Chilaquiles. If you just want some basic taqueria fare, Tres Amigos does the standards very well.

      Welcome to the fog!

      1 Reply
      1. re: pamf

        Pam - I forgot we took my BF's kids to Flavor for his birthday in June. Not very memorable considering I can't even remember what I ate, but I'm sure we will be back since his kids liked it.

        Glencora - you are absolutely spot-on with the seafood sampler! That was what we had it was cheaper and just as good as Sam's (which I forgot to include in my report - over-priced but good now and then.) No, I am not commuting every day; just early Monday mornings and late Friday nights. Still spending weekends in Napa!

      2. Thanks very much for the detailed & comprehensive report.

        1. You might want to check out Bankok House for Thai. I've always been happy with my meals there.

          1. I ate lunch at Caffe Mezzaluna today. While it technically has a Half Moon Bay address, it is on the west side of Highway 1, across from El Granada. I have to give this place a lot of credit for its young, attractive staff - all of whom were speaking Italian - so there are points for authenticity.

            I have ordered many pastries from them in the past and if you stick with the classic, Italian pastries, you won't be disappointed. My one foray into buying their macarons was a mistake as they were obviously several days old.

            Today, however - considering how gorgeously warm and bright it is - I opted for a Salmon Misto; essentially a lightly dressed plate of mixed green with two carrots, two cherry tomatoes, and two Greek olives. But on top was draped giant swathes of smoked salmon. Served with a few slices of bread and cube of butter, for $10.50, it was a bargain. It was almost TOO much salmon, but I'm not one to complain as it was of good quality.

            I'll be back here...

            4 Replies
            1. re: CarrieWas218

              Try San Benito House. I love the atmosphere.

              You had one bad service problem at HMB Coffee. I've been there a dozen times and suffered some lags, but nothing that bad. I always go there for a mocha and french fries when I'm on my motorcycle and I'm chilled - hot haught cuisine but warm cuisine.

              1. re: bbulkow

                Ironically, I went to San Benito walk-up deli yesterday with a bunch of co-workers. I was told beforehand that they have three home-made breads: olive walnut, French, and whole wheat.

                I ordered a hot pastrami on olive walnut bread and wished I could have had it toasted. The bread is rather thick and laden but I think because it is homemade, my co-workers really like it. I'm not as much of a fan. I also had the house-made potato leek soup which was interesting for being quite chunky versus smooth. A little heavy on the pepper and lacking some salt, it was okay but had the advantage of being homemade.

                Still deciding where to have lunch today...

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  I went to Bangkok House for lunch today and while it was infinitely better than White Elephant, it was no Lers Ros...

                  The appetizer soup they served was almost a joke; thin, watery broth (or was it just water?) with limp cabbage, a few carrot slices, and tofu chunks. Honestly, I could have done without.

                  A friend ordered Kao Soi, curried noodle combination with both beef and chicken meat that he tossed together and was quite good. I got a lunch special that included yellow curried chicken and fried shrimp rolls with pineapple sauce. Mine included a salad and scoop of white rice. I poured the bowl of yellow curry on the rice to see two really large chunks of potato and two really small pieces of chicken. I wish the pieces were all the same size. The sauce was fairly thin but acceptable. The fried shrimp rolls tasted exactly like the Trader Joe's Lemongrass Stix sold in the frozen foods section.

                  I'll head back and try the Tom Kha and Larb since those are my benchmarks. Acceptable, but not extraordinary by any means. Makes me miss the time I lived near J-Town in San Francisco and could go to Jitlada whenever I wanted....

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    Yeah, it's good for Half Moon Bay, not by SF standards. I've never had lunch there, only dinner. Last time was with Windy and we ordered the Miang kham, which was fresh and tasty.

            2. I went to the highly-lauded Tortellini Originali for lunch today. A lot of folks frequent this establishment for their house-made ravioli and I'll definitely be back for take-home dinner options.

              For lunch, I ordered what sounded good on this cold, rainy day; The Louie - a fried chicken cutlet with melted Provolone, caramelized onions, sundried tomato spread and arugula on a roll. I really big, fluffy, commercial roll that was mostly unimpressive. The chicken was surprisingly good; tender and moist with a decent tooth to the crunchy exterior. And I liked the complement of the rest of the interior ingredients.

              The problem was the roll and maybe because I've been watching my carbs, that I found just too overwhelming. I ate half the sandwich and regretted how much bread I consumed. I dismantled the second half and just ate the interior and enjoyed it much more.

              Even bringing the wrapped sandwich back to my office, many asked what I was carrying because it was so large.... Next time, I'll just try the pasta if they don't have any smaller bread options.

              1. Surprising that no one has mentioned Ketch Joanne in Princeton Harbor. Great fish & chips, especially the halibut and chips.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve Green

                  I'll get there - trust me.

                  I went to Cameron's last night. A "proper" British pub it isn't but their fish-and-chips are quite good. They don't really know how to correctly pull a Black-and-Tan (way too much Tan and not enough Black). There was a special side of Brussels sprouts which were fried and quite tasty and I liked the British gift shop - even though there were no Walkers chips.

                2. Here are some additions as I continue my noshing through the coastside...

                  - Moonside Bakery & Cafe. Lots of people eat here. My company occasionally orders pastries for the office and they are quite big and tasty. The other baked goods look decent enough. But one rainy afternoon, I wanted something as simple as soup and salad and stopped in for a Caesar and cup of soup. The salad was just mediocre; too many store-bought croutons and lifeless lettuce. I was more disappointed by the soup which was advertised as vegetable. Instead - while probably vegetable-based - was almost 90% corn. I would not have ordered it as I'm trying to avoid unnecessary sugars and while it was homemade and reasonably tasty, I felt a little gypped.

                  - Cafe Capistrano. This restaurant is not on the main drag and has to be sought out, one of the few offering Mayan food. The cochinita pibil is quite tasty and tender, offered with black beans, rice, "Mayan" coleslaw, salsa, and whatever they do to onions to make them fluorescent pink. Served with fresh, warm tortillas, I'll definitely go back as the chicken looked and smelled amazing.

                  - Tres Amigos. I had great hopes for this place since it was packed. I ordered two tacos, a fish taco and a carnitas taco. They don't offer any combination plates which is disappointing. I wasn't impressed as the tortillas were on the chewier side of fresh versus tender. The fish tacos didn't have the white sauce or cabbage that I expect, and the carnitas was no where near crispy enough and almost flavorless.

                  - Pasta Moon. I had certainly eaten hear before but was thrilled to learn that chef Preston DIshman had moved in last week. I knew his work when he was at The General's Daughter in Sonoma several years ago. He just arrived so no changes have happened yet but I have great hopes (and he hinted towards some porchetta on the menu soon). A friend and I shared a Caesar salad which was excellent; perfect leafy greens, the right amount of dressing, a single flat crouton that could be eaten or not, and an anchovy, if desired. I had a half-order of Pappardelle Pancetta with
                  mushroom, tomato cream, mascarpone, pine nuts, and basil. The mascarpone was a big dollop in the center of the plate and quickly blended into the already-rich sauce with the handkerchief-thin papperdelle. The pancetta was in large chunks and complemented the mushrooms. I still took some home and it was fabulous for breakfast. I wish I could eat here everyday, but that would kill my waistline and my pocketbook. Worth it for a once-a-month treat though!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    Oh, thank goodness I'm not the only one underwhelmed by Tres Amigos. Over the years many posters have raved about it; I've been twice and the second time just confirmed I was right the first time. I wasn't impressed by the little Mexican place in the New Leaf Market shopping center, either. Considering the number of Mexicans working on farms in the surrounding area you'd think there'd be more good options.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Tres Amigos scores points with its salsa bar, nice "ambiance" (by Coastside Mexican standards), and cooperative staff. The one by New Leaf is indeed mediocere; check out the one in Moss Beach as well, and ask for the hot salsa.

                      Gherkins, the sandwich place in Montara, is worth trying (sandwiches/salads/burgers), as is the Silver Star Grill.

                      1. re: xanadude

                        See, I'm not a salsa fan and when I was there, only two different salsas were offered and one of them was mostly empty. I've seen better salsa bars at Rubio's Fish Tacos (I actually *like* their Chipotle salsa...)

                        I eat through the existence of salsa on dishes, but never add to it myself, so I tend to judge Mexican food on the freshness of the tortillas and vegetables (quacamole or cole slaw/cabbage), and the quality of the meat.

                    2. re: CarrieWas218

                      I'll have to check out Cafe Capistrano . . . thought I'd been to just about every Yucatan place and here's another! Earlier mentions of it (at the previous location) said it was Oaxacan.

                      (P.S. Red onions turn fluorescent pink when you splash them with vinegar or other acid.)

                    3. A few updates...

                      Been back to Daddy-O's a few times and so far, haven't had anything on the menu I haven't enjoyed. Yesterday it was the bratwurst with caramelized onions and mustard. I've been having extensive dental work so I appreciated that the rolls were especially soft and didn't overwhelm the sausage.

                      Main Street Sushi for dinner did not impress. I brought my fiance's daughter and while her Unagi Don was quite tasty and full of eel, the Spider Roll was almost laughably bad: They had obviously fried the softshell crab hours ago and put it in a 'fridge - it was that COLD. I also ordered Maguro, Hamchi, Toro, and Ama Ebi. All were acceptable but nothing seemed exceptional or overtly fresh. I'll stick to my budget Bento Box offering.

                      I am slowly eating my way through Mezzaluna's menu and am happiest with their mussels appetizer at $10.50. Everything else is just on the pricier side...

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                        I drove up Hwy 1 to return to the City friday to avoid holiday weekend traffic on 101. I noted Daddy-O's rail car and wondered about it, and checking here see that you've got it covered. What attracted me on the signage was the "charred bratwurst". How charred? The menu also features grilled cheese sandwiches.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I've taken the family to eat here a few times and they have enjoyed it tremendously - however it is a pretty limited menu.

                          "Charred" is pretty heftily grilled, actually. I have found that ordering whatever is their special-of-the-day to be a great option.

                          Also, they are in the process of constructing some covering because the outdoor seating is consistently fogged in and quite chilly.

                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                            Thanks, I had wondered if cold weather might be the reason that it closed at 6pm on weekdays.

                            (And please do keep adding to this thread as your explore your new neighborhood.)

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Especially since the Devil's Slide tunnel is done.

                      2. I forgot to add that last week, I picked up a sandwich at Gherkins in Montara: an ostensibly hot pastrami with Swiss cheese on rye. I say ostensibly because while I requested rye bread, it ended up on whatever their white/sourdough sponge-like white bread was. The meat was good and warm and the cheese well-melted. And while I like pickles on my hot pastrami, I didn't realize the name of the eatery was so literal: I got gherkins on the sandwich, which makes it difficult to eat as they are small and tend to fall out.

                        Also, co-workers insisted on Tres Amigos today and as I had recent dental work, I played it safe with the $7.50 enchilada lunch. Two enchiladas - one chicken and one cheese - were okay but barely that. I found the chicken to be surprisingly dry, the rice beyond dry, and the refried beans limp and thin. Doesn't pay to play nicey-nice with the co-workers and waste money on mediocre food.