When it comes to seaside destinations, California’s North Coast boasts more than sandy beaches, sunsets, and sequoias. Here, seafood lovers can find endless taverns, shacks, and fish houses dishing out the freshest coastal fare the Pacific has to offer. Grab a bib and get cracking at these five seafood restaurants harnessing the Golden State’s briny bounty.
After trekking around the misty redwood forests, refuel at this beachfront café in Crescent City Harbor. Choose from mouthwatering Cajun favorites: shrimp bisque, beer-battered fish and chips, crawdad fritters, snapper po’ boy, and shrimp-filled jambalaya with peppery andouille sausage. Meat lovers will want to try the zesty boudin balls but remember that you’re here to eat seafood in its natural environment—every meal is served with a side of ocean view.
A short stroll from Trinidad’s teacup harbor, this homespun diner serves fish-hearty cioppino, fresh salmon in season, and New England–style clam chowder in a grilled-on-top bread bowl. Put your name on the waiting list and browse the gift shop’s homemade fudge, trucker hats, postcards, and locally made ceramics. The Eatery has welcomed Trinidad diners since 1975, so the chefs know their way around a fish dish. They also know dessert—order the blackberry cobbler.
Trade in your chunky sweater for something more svelte and plan a date night at Arcata Plaza’s hip seafood spot. Sip a maritime-themed cocktail— maybe a Sunken Treasure or a Green Flash—while you survey the whimsical pendant lights, modern-chic furnishings, and a green octopus mural that covers an entire wall. For appetizers, order Pacific oysters, ceviche tostadas, or smoked steelhead dip, then work your way down the menu to curried mussels and charred octopus with chili jam. Cap off dinner with a chocolate brownie served with two spoons.
Tucked below Noyo Bridge in Fort Bragg, this seafood market and eatery serves bay shrimp, sablefish, Humboldt Bay oysters, Dungeness crab, and more—all harvested by the female fishing crew of the Princess. Order a salmon burger, grilled wild prawns, or a Princess poke bowl, plus one of 12 beers on tap. Sit out on the deck with your food, watch seals frolicking in the Noyo River, and savor one of life’s perfect moments.
A great seafood shack has bubbling deep-fryers, no-frills counter service, and jeans-wearing patrons eating off paper plates. This unassuming Gualala eatery has all that, plus fish that comes straight out of Anchor Bay. Ask what the boats delivered this morning and order accordingly—shack rockfish burrito, Dungeness crab Louie, salmon tacos. Anything you get will benefit from a side of crispy shoestring fries.