Where to Eat Along Highway 1 Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz
Gorilla Barbecue, Pacifica
In the early 1900s, the ill-fated Ocean Shore Railroad began building a harrowing coastal track to carry tourists from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Today, the only reminders of the short-lived railroad are nearly washed out pieces of track jutting from cliffs and railcars scattered down the coast. One of the most visited of the bunch is Gorilla Barbeque, which sits in a bright rust-colored boxcar on Highway 1 in Pacifica next to one of the old railroad stations (now Vallemar Station Grill). Since its debut on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, patrons should expect a line most days that forms before opening and runs into the afternoon. The take-out-only shop serves up smoked meats such as pulled pork, brisket, and chicken alongside helpings of mac and cheese, coleslaw, and flavor-packed grilled veggies. Gorilla is best as a lunch stop as it frequently sells out and closes shop before dinner on busy weekends.
Dad’s Luncheonette, Half Moon Bay
Housed in a red caboose, Dad’s Luncheonette delights with a wonderfully simple menu filled with local ingredients. Choose from a grass-fed hamburger sandwich topped with a soft egg, melted cheese, red onion, pickles, Dad's sauce (a secret housemade mayo-based condiment), and red oak lettuce on grilled Rosalind Bakery white bread; or a mushroom sandwich with hen of the woods (Maitake) mushrooms and the works. And while it’s possible to choose just one of the sides, we can’t see why you’d want to. Load up with homemade potato chips, mac and cheese topped with puffed rice and chives, a cup of seasonal soup, or, to lighten things up, Mom’s herb salad with a meyer lemon vinaigrette. Dad’s is only open Thursday through Sunday, and can sell out before closing time on weekends.
Cascade Bar and Grill at Costanoa Lodge, Pescadero
From breakfast to dinner, Cascade offers local and organic bites that change with the seasons. Nearby farms, including an organic one onsite, feature strongly on the menu. Indulge in the sourdough French toast with spiced vanilla custard and whipped butter for brunch, if you make it in time. If not, delicious alternatives include the fresh seafood—think fish tacos, Dungeness crab cakes, and fresh oysters; homemade pappardelle with rainbow chard, chèvre, and walnuts; and salt-brined French fries with rosemary, garlic, calabrese chiles, and grana padano. Reservations are recommended for dinner.
Abbott Square Market, Santa Cruz
Satisfy groups with options from the diverse vendors inside downtown’s Abbott Square Market. From poke and Neapolitan pizza to vegan, West African-inspired dishes and handcrafted popsicles, there’s something for everyone.
Penny Ice Creamery, two locations in Santa Cruz
This is the kind of ice cream shop that makes a scoop or three seem like an excellent idea even if it’s 50 degrees outside and raining. Penny Ice Creamery serves inventive and playful seasonal flavors that are based on what’s fresh from favorite nearby farms. Expect cones of spiced pumpkin and orange cranberry ginger in winter; peachy peach, whiskey custard, and strawberry sorbet in summer; and classic cookies n’ cream, Tahitian vanilla bean, and chocolate sorbet year round.