Enjoy the best food on California’s Northern Coast, from chic cafes to neighborhood favorites.
Looking for a quick gourmet getaway? Try Mendocino, the tiny coastal town in Northern California that punches above its weight in terms of food.
With its saltbox cottages, antique stores, and romantic inns, Mendocino is like a little piece of Maine transplanted to the West Coast.
Naturally, you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood in Mendocino–not so much lobster, but clam chowder, rockfish, and cod make regular appearances on restaurant menus.
However, you’ll also find a strong interest in healthy and sustainable living, reflected in the organic produce from nearby ranches incorporated into many dishes here.
So, whether you’re hoping for a romantic sunset meal overlooking the Pacific Ocean or a healthy, family-friendly dining spot, read on for all the best restaurants in Mendocino.
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Mendocino Restaurants Map
Little River Inn Restaurant
Best restaurant for families
Little River Inn Restaurant offers classic coastal favorites like beer-battered fish and chips, Ribeye steak, and Cioppino served with crusty bread.
Plus, the food comes with a side of friendly hospitality from Little River staff.
This fine-dining restaurant is a five-minute drive from downtown Mendocino. If you’re dining in, you can either sit indoors with a view of the ocean or outdoors on the plant-filled garden patio.
It’s also one of the best restaurants in Mendocino to eat with children and offers a kids’ menu with crayons for younger guests.
I found the whole place very kid-friendly when I visited a few years back and stayed in one of the very comfortable (and affordable) Little River Inn rooms.
MacCallum House Restaurant
Best restaurant to eat a romantic candlelit meal
MacCallum House Restaurant is a warm and cozy eatery in Mendocino. The charming restaurant features a wood-paneled dining room warmed by a fire on cool evenings.
There’s also the option to dine outdoors in the MacCallum House garden. The outdoor set-up at MacCallum House is pet-friendly, so your pooch can join you for a romantic meal.
The menu at MacCallum House changes seasonally, but the French and Italian-inspired mains may include confit of duck, saffron risotto, or tasty pasta dishes.
If you can’t decide, opt for the five-course tasting menu, which is available with or without meat.
Best restaurant for fine Italian cuisine
Head to Luna Trattoria for hearty Northern Italian cuisine, including wood-fired pizzas, beautiful housemade pasta dishes, and delicious lasagna. It’s by far one of the best restaurants in Mendocino for Italian food.
Save room for the dessert menu, including a delicate panna cotta and everyone’s favorite: tiramisu. A nicely curated wine menu pairs well with the food.
While dining at Luna Trattoria, sit in the comfortable dining room or go outside to enjoy the sunshine in the garden at the back.
Best restaurant for modern California cuisine
Trillium Cafe specializes in fresh seafood, but there are enough delicious items on the seasonal menu to please everyone.
Dine indoors in the elegant clapboard cottage or outside among the colorful flowers and fragrant herbs that brighten the patio.
With Wild Fish now closed, Trillium Cafe is now one of the best seafood restaurants in Mendocino. It also offers some of the best outdoor dining in Mendocino.
Plus, the lunch menu is different from the dinner menu, which means you can eat at one of the best restaurants in the town of Mendocino twice in one trip.
Alternatively–and this is my recommendation–ask for a picnic box. These elegant boxes contain everything you need for a romantic picnic: tablecloth, silverware, a bottle opener, food, and drinks.
Mendocino has some incredible beaches and state parks where you can enjoy a romantic dinner for two.
For more ideas on how to sweep your partner off their feet, read our article on the best romantic getaways in California.
Best restaurant for farm-to-table vegan dishes
I usually like to eat at vegetarian and vegan restaurants because the menus make up for what they lack in meat with creativity and flavor.
Ravens Restaurant at Stanford Inn offers a variety of dishes drawing inspiration from cultures across the world.
Check out the Thai red curry with Kabocha squash or the Sea Palm Strudel for something new. And be sure to save room for the tempting dessert menu.
There’s a good selection of organic and natural wines to pair with your meal as well. You can expect everything from a high-end Black Kite Angel Hawk Pinot Noir to an affordable and tasty Navarro Vineyards Riesling.
Also, many of the vegetables used in the restaurant are grown organically in the property’s garden.
One of two great restaurants in Mendocino catering to vegetarians and vegans, Ravens is open daily.
Albion River Inn Restaurant
Best restaurant for fine food with an incredible view
Albion River Inn Restaurant’s oceanfront location guarantees spectacular views of the Pacific while you savor California coastal cuisine.
The menu focuses on fresh seafood, but the grilled filet mignon served with fresh vegetables is also an excellent choice.
With its panoramic views, this is one of the top restaurants in Mendocino County to watch the sunset while dining for a memorable experience.
If you’re not hungry, the bar at Albion River Inn is also an excellent place to hang out and watch the sunset over a tasting flight of single malt whiskies or a glass of wine.
Best restaurant for classic pub food
Patterson’s Pub is the perfect pit stop for a tasty sandwich and a beer after a hard day browsing the boutiques and galleries of downtown Mendocino.
This bar is strictly over 21s, so this is not a place to bring the kids, but adults will enjoy a warm Irish-style welcome at this community hub.
The filling sandwiches at Patterson’s Pub are a reliable choice for a hearty midday meal, but check out the whiteboard as you walk in for fresh seafood specials.
As you’d expect from an Irish pub, there is an outstanding selection of over 20 available beers, including the obligatory Guinness on tap.
Best restaurant for eclectic comfort food
Walk-ins are welcome at this casual downtown eatery serving up a diverse menu.
You’ll find Asian-influenced dishes, like their popular Thai burrito or steamed clams served in a red curry broth, alongside American seaside classics like clam chowder.
Mendocino Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Mendocino for getting a seat when you’re hungry, rather than having to make a reservation.
Pretty flowers surround the outdoor deck seating area, an ideal place to eat out on a sunny day. There is indoor seating available, too, for when the fog creeps in.
Wash down your meal with a local beer or get your caffeine fix with a locally-roasted coffee.
Best restaurant for pizza
Cafe Beaujolais is a Mendocino institution that has been serving great food in Mendocino Village since 1968.
After initially opening as a small cafe, it has grown over the years into several restaurants: a pizzeria, bakery, and a fine dining restaurant.
The only thing that has remained the same is the high-quality, delicious food.
There are three linked establishments at Cafe Beaujolais. There’s the main restaurant, The Waiting Room (for light bites or drinks), and The Brickery ( for pizza).
Eat at Cafe Beaujolais during lunchtime for a memorable dining experience in the garden.
Order pizza that features San Marzano tomato sauce and toppings like housemade fennel sausage from the brick oven.
Later, head back to eat an evening meal inside the historic Victorian farmhouse.
The menu is a prime example of Californian cooking since the chef blends locally sourced ingredients with global cuisines to create an innovative selection of dishes. Just note that a reservation is wise.
If you’re just stopping by for a drink, The Waiting Room is open during the day for coffees and pastries and at night for alcoholic beverages.
Best restaurant for a coffee and a pastry
Goodlife is a buzzy breakfast and lunchtime spot where you can grab a sweet pastry to-go or linger a little longer with an avocado toast or spicy scramble. The lunch menu offers bowls of healthy Latin food like black bean burritos and tostada.
Local, organic vegetables feature prominently on the menu, so this is a perfect spot for vegetarians or anyone looking for lighter fare.
The cozy atmosphere at Goodlife comes from small tables close together, and local artwork displayed proudly throughout the restaurant.
It’s also one of the best restaurants in Mendocino for souvenir shopping, as you can take your time to pick out the perfect ceramic planter as you sip your latte.
Fog Eater Cafe
Best restaurant for plant-based dishes with a southern twist
Fog Eater Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Mendocino that serves vegetarian and vegan food with southern spice.
The menu at Fog Eater is small but thoughtful, using delicious Mendocino County produce to its advantage.
Drop by for Happy Hour to try a flight of natural wines and nibble on a punchy plate of pickles or crispy Hush Puppies.
Afterward, pick up a bottle of wine and snacks for a picnic, and head to the bottle shop next door to Fog Eater Cafe.
5200 Restaurant and Lounge
Best restaurant for an elegant meal with incredible sunset views
Address: 5200 N Hwy 1, Little River, CA 95456 (Part of Heritage House Resort and Spa)
Contact info: (877) 828-7080; [email protected]
Best for: Breakfast and dinner
They don’t take reservations
The Heritage House Resort and Spa in Mendocino sits in a prime position for stunning views on a cliff overlooking the forest and ocean, which you can enjoy through the floor-to-ceiling windows with a cocktail in hand.
You can find classic breakfast dishes at 5200 Restaurant until 10.30 am, including an omelet and a delicious breakfast burrito.
Later, the 5200 Lounge is open for drinks, snacks, and a limited but delicious menu. There’s a lovely little kids menu, too, so you can bring the family to soak up those breathtaking sunset views.
Ledford House Restaurant
Best restaurant for French cuisine
Located seven miles south of Mendocino in Albion, Ledford House Restaurant is perfect for fine dining on special occasions.
The weathered-wooden building blends naturally into the landscape, facing the west for those romantic ocean views.
Northern French cuisine is the menu’s focus, along with some Italian dishes.
Celebrate with a filet mignon or mussels Provencales with a glass of sparkling wine. Otherwise, go for the three-course prix-fixe menu at a very reasonable price for a memorable French restaurant dining experience.
Best restaurant for pizza and ice cream
Frankie’s is Mendocino’s ice cream parlor/pizza joint/community hub and one of the most popular restaurants with locals and tourists.
The restaurant often hosts events for holidays like Halloween and the Fourth of July. The food here is fresh and tasty, made with local Mendocino ingredients.
There’s seating in the small interior, or you can get takeout and enjoy a pizza on the beach.
Made by local Cowlick’s Creamery, the ice cream comes in various flavors, from the kid-favorite Candy to the more intriguing Mushroom.
No need for reservations here; just turn up with your appetite.
Best restaurant for fresh-baked cookies and a coffee
From its location tucked away on a side street, Garden bakery is a hidden gem.
Pick up a sweet empanada, hot breakfast burrito, or blackberry Danish and sit while you eat in Garden Bakery’s tranquil garden. It’s perfect for a quick breakfast or snack on the go.
Garden Bakery is usually not as crowded as Goodlife, so check this spot out if Goodlife’s lines are too long.
Flow Restaurant and Lounge
Best restaurant for Californian fare in a unique location
Flow Restaurant occupies a unique building in Mendocino–at the top of a water tower. The lofty setting offers sweeping sunset views of the town and the Pacific ocean.
Flow’s sunny deck is a great spot to look out for migrating whales, which swim close to the coast between December and May.
There are plenty of opportunities to investigate the menu because Flow Restaurant and Lounge is open from 10 am to 9 pm.
You’ll find classic American favorites on the daytime menu, like Caesar salad, burgers, sandwiches, and seafood chowder. And most ingredients are sourced locally from organic producers.
If the outdoor deck is too chilly, you’ll still get great ocean views from the panoramic dining room windows, making Flow another one of the best Mendocino restaurants with a view.
Harbor House Inn
Best restaurant for Michelin-star fine dining
Although there’s no Michelin star restaurant in Mendocino, Harbor House Inn is a two-Michelin star restaurant in Elk, a 25-minute drive south of Mendocino.
Chef Matthew Kammerer, formerly of San Francisco’s triple-starred restaurant Saison, has created a refined tasting menu based on local ingredients from the sea, surrounding farms, and the restaurant’s own garden.
The wine list features many local Mendocino wines and international bottles.
Harbor House is a further distance than the other restaurants on this list, but the exceptional dishes are worth the drive. This is easily one of the best restaurants on the Mendocino Coast.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers. She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.
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