Everyone knows that California Highway One (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH) south from San Francisco is one of the world’s most beautiful coastal roads. But listen to Aida Mollenkamp in the latest California Now Podcast and this food expert will tell you that thanks to a host of restaurant and foodie discoveries along the way, the classic drive tastes every bit as good as it looks.
San Mateo County Coast
A short drive from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is home to Sam’s Chowder House, which, as its name suggests, is a terrific destination for clam chowder. Duarte’s Tavern, a personal favorite of Mollenkamp’s, is another 21 miles down the San Mateo County—aka San Francisco Peninsula—coast in Pescadero. “Once you get to Pescadero, you’re heading into the part of the world where the most artichokes are grown…You’re going to see artichoke everything. But the artichoke soup at Duarte’s is a must.”
Before watching the surfers at Santa Cruz’s world famous Steamer Lane, Mollenkamp recommends a stop at Bonny Doon Vineyard's tasting room in Davenport for its distinctive Vin Gris de Cigare rosé, as well as the atmosphere. “There are great locals, and it just has really good vibes,” she says.
Along Monterey Bay, tiny Marina is home to the seafood newcomer Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette. “They have a phenomenal raw bar,” says Mollenkamp. “You’re going to want to go in there to get local seafood and a delicious, delicious brunch. I would say brunch is the key.
Mollenkamp describes Monterey County as “the heart of California agriculture outside of the Central Valley.” You’ll find the bounty of the county at Friday’s Monterey Farmers' Market, which she says rivals California’s very best. “We’re talking lettuces, artichokes, garlic, and all these things come from the greater area…It’s huge, absolutely huge. You definitely want to go there.”
Mollenkamp discovered that the area around Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the state’s most productive honey regions. You can learn all about honey, not to mention bees, on the A Bee's Life experience at Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel Valley. “There are a thousand different kinds of bees in California,” she says. “Who knew this except for beekeepers? You really want to get into the bees when you’re in Carmel.”
Past the dramatic coastline at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Garrapata State Park, Highway 1 reaches the heart of Big Sur. Mollenkamp recommends the Big Sur Grange for live music in a redwood grove along the river, as well as the Big Sur classic Nepenthe. “Nepenthe is probably the most famous place to go that’s great for views,” she says. “You can eat right on the cliff, basically.”