The best restaurants on the Pacific Coast Highway to taste your way through the highlights of California cuisine.
It can make all the difference to have a string of fantastic restaurants to keep you going and fueled up on a road trip.
Car snacks only go so far and one of the best aspects about doing a road trip in the first place is to experience the local culture of the places you’re driving through.
And as I’ve learned from my travels around the world, one of the best ways to get to know a local culture is through its food.
Similar to the demographics in the Golden State, Coastal California cuisine is a melting pot. It’s a hodgepodge of different styles and flavors that change as you make your way up and down the coast.
There are a lot of good places to eat along the Pacific Coast Highway, but these are my top foodie picks down Highway 1 to keep you happy and full throughout the whole trip.
Note: the Pacific Coast Highway officially runs from Leggett to Dana Point (not all the way down to San Diego), so you won’t find any restaurants north or south of that area in this article.
19 Best Restaurants on Pacific Coast Highway
Cafe Beaujolais (Mendocino)
Address: 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino, CA 95460
If eating European fusion cuisine in a Victorian farmhouse built in 1893 doesn’t scream Mendocino, I’m not sure what does.
In other words, this area of the Pacific Coast Highway can be equally pretentious and down-to-earth.
The Mendocino area is also known for its scrumptious farm-to-table cuisine and one of the best places to experience that is at Cafe Beaujolais.
Right off Highway 1, Cafe Beaujolais offers a relaxing dining atmosphere in the midst of a garden where you can sample things like wood-fired pizzas and beef bourguignon.
Read my guide to the best things to do in Mendocino.
The Marshall Store (Marshall)
Address: 19225 CA-1, Marshall, CA 94940
Looking to try some of the best oysters in California? The Marshall Store is the place to go.
There are two sister oyster spots in the Tomales Bay area – Hog Island Oyster Company and The Marshall Store.
They’re run by the same people but The Marshall Store is the restaurant version where they cook up the oysters for you.
As I learned the hard way last time I was visiting and found myself with dozens of raw, unshucked oysters, Hog Island is where you pick up the uncooked oysters to take home.
The Marshall Store has a nice outdoor dining area and there’s really nothing better than sipping on some cold white wine in the sunshine while having fresh oysters near the bay.
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Burma Superstar (San Francisco)
Address: 309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
One of San Francisco’s most famous restaurants just so happens to be located right off the section of Highway 1 that cuts through the Inner Richmond neighborhood.
With its growing popularity, Burma Superstar has become somewhat of a beloved Bay Area chain but its original location is the restaurant in the Richmond district.
As you can probably guess from the name, Burma Superstar serves up Burmese dishes in a variety of unique ways.
This is probably bad to admit, but I actually like the food at Burma Superstar much more than I liked the food in Myanmar when I was living there for a month.
But, then again, maybe that’s because I dealt with food poisoning for most of the month I was in Myanmar. In any case, I digress.
At Burma Superstar, you’ll find everything from more traditional Burmese dishes like tea leaf salad to fusion options like firecracker cauliflower. They have both vegetarian and meat options on their menu too.
Taco Bell (in Pacifica)
Address: 5200 CA-1, Pacifica, CA 94044
Okay, okay, before you write me and this blog post off completely (who does she think she is recommending Taco Bell to me!?), hear me out.
What if I told you the Pacifica Taco Bell is one of the fanciest Taco Bells in the world? Intrigued yet?
This might not be a place to eat for everyone but if you’re curious to see what a “nice” Taco Bell looks like, head on over to the one in Pacifica.
You’ll find the Taco Bell cantina right on the beach, complete with an ordering window for surfers to walk up to.
Grab some chalupas and a margarita slushie to enjoy on the sand or on their outdoor deck area and indulge to your heart’s content.
At the very least, it’ll give you an excuse to eat Taco Bell and not feel guilty because it’s part of the sightseeing, right?
Sam’s Chowder House (Half Moon Bay)
Address: 4210 CA-1, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
There’s a lot of good chowder places up and down the Northern Pacific Coast Highway, but one of the best can be found in Half Moon Bay.
Sam’s Chowder House serves up fresh and sustainable seafood in the form of fish and chips, fried calamari, oysters and clams, lobster, crab, salmon, halibut, and, of course, clam chowder.
My personal favorite meal to have here though is the lobster rolls.
Sam’s Chowder House has both indoor and outdoor dining looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
El Palomar or Taqueria Vallarta (Santa Cruz)
El Palomar Address: 1336 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Taqueria Vallarta Address: 1221 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Mexican food in Santa Cruz is on the healthier side compared to Southern California Mexican taquerias, but I find it just as delicious.
If you don’t want to go too far off Highway 1 and you’re just looking for a quick stop, you can grab a burrito at Taqueria Vallarta.
They have a few different locations in Santa Cruz but the one on Mission Street is right along Highway 1.
Or, if you’d prefer to check out the atmosphere of downtown Santa Cruz and eat at a sit-down Mexican restaurant, head over to El Palomar.
El Palomar is probably my family’s favorite restaurant-style Mexican place in Santa Cruz.
It’s where we’ve had a lot of celebratory dinners (like my 18th birthday dinner!) and I’ve still never found myself tired of their menu, which serves up somewhat traditional Mexican fare.
Inside, you’ll find a relaxing atmosphere, a lively cantina, and high and lofty ceilings. Just note that serving sizes are huge so it’s not uncommon to share a meal.
Everything on their menu is good but I’d recommend their fajitas or going for a combination plate with a sope and an enchilada or tacos.
Riva Fish House (Santa Cruz)
Address: 31 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Located on the Santa Cruz Wharf, Riva Fish House is one of the most scenic restaurants in Santa Cruz and a good option to eat at if you’re craving fresh seafood.
With huge windows looking out over the Monterey Bay, Riva Fish House is a laid-back restaurant with large portions and tasty food.
From their menu, you can get everything from clam chowder to fish n’ chips, crab cakes, a variety of seafood pasta and Mexican dishes, and their popular Fisherman’s Plate with Alaskan cod, calamari, prawns, and scallops.
They also serve gelato near the entrance that you can grab on your way out if you want to walk around the beautiful Santa Cruz Wharf after dinner.
Pizza My Heart (Santa Cruz & All Over the Bay Area)
Address: 2180 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010
Okay, you may have guessed by now that there are a lot of places I like to eat in Santa Cruz, but Pizza My Heart is my last Santa Cruz suggestion for this list.
Pizza My Heart has become somewhat of a Bay Area chain in recent years with locations that are all over the South Bay and, of course, a couple in Santa Cruz. It was originally founded in Capitola in 1981 but there are now 23 locations!
Known for its unique pizza toppings and surf-themed branding, Pizza My Heart is the very California version of pizza.
This is a quick place to pick up a slice or two on your way down the coast. The closest location they have to Highway 1 is on 41st Avenue in Capitola.
Nepenthe (Big Sur)
Address: 48510 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
If you’re looking to dine at one of the most beautiful restaurants along the Pacific Coast Highway, head over to Nepenthe for a sunset cocktail and dinner in Big Sur.
Nepenthe is located on one of those postcard-perfect cliffsides in Big Sur and the views from the swanky restaurant are unbeatable.
They have a huge outdoor dining area that takes up two sides of the restaurant and it’s by far the best place to grab dinner with a view along the Big Sur coastline.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how friendly the staff is here.
When we dined here in February, everyone we encountered was incredibly welcoming and accommodating, which made the experience that much better.
Read our guide to Big Sur camping.
Shine Cafe (Morro Bay)
Address: 415 Morro Bay Blvd, Morro Bay, CA 93442
For all my vegan-friendly people out there, the Shine Cafe in Morro Bay is one of the best vegan restaurants along the PCH (and it’s approved by my mom who is vegan and gluten-free).
Located right in downtown Morro Bay, the Shine Cafe is one of those laid-back hangouts where you can rub elbows with locals at communal tables, order fresh juices, and indulge in organic jackfruit tacos.
This is a great spot for lunch but you can also grab breakfast here on the weekends.
And as a bonus, their menu is very farm-to-table friendly with dishes being made from fresh produce that they get from the local farmers market.
Want to stay overnight? Read our guide to camping in Morro Bay.
Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery (Solvang)
Address: 1529 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Solvang is one of those quick detours that you have to make when you’re driving down the Pacific Coast Highway.
I mean, how often is it that you come across a Danish-inspired village in California?
One of the Danish-themed goodies that Solvang is most well-known for is its Danish bakeries.
There are a few good bakeries in town but my top recommendation would be Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery.
At this Old World bakery, you’ll have your pick of delectable Danish treats like Danish Waffles, Kringle, Kransekage, and butter cookies.
It’s the perfect spot to pick up some sweet road trip snacks to keep you going all the way down the coast.
Read our full guide to the best things to do in Solvang.
McConnell’s Ice Cream (Santa Barbara)
Address: 728 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Another sweet treat spot to not miss, McConnell’s Ice Cream in Santa Barbara has become an institution in the California ice cream scene.
So much so that they now have five different locations around Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and the Los Angeles area. However, the original location is the one on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.
Serving scoops since 1949, McConnell’s touts itself as being “California’s oldest and finest” ice cream parlor.
They make all of their ice creams from scratch and people are more than happy to wait in line for their homemade scoops.
This is a great place to stop by for a cold treat and to taste one of California’s most famous ice cream spots (although we have a lot!) that’s along the Pacific Coast Hwy.
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company (Santa Barbara)
Address: 230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
One of my favorite things to do in Santa Barbara is to have dinner near the water at sunset.
And one of the best places to do that is at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.
Santa Barbara is one of those almost unbelievably pretty places on the California Coast and this restaurant only highlights that fact.
Located on the scenic Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is where you can indulge in all things seafood while enjoying a nice view.
The menu features different types of fish served up in a variety of ways from steamed to fried and sauteed.
Take your pick between shrimp cocktails, lobster rolls, a warm bowl of cioppino, or fish tacos.
Address: 21150 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
Located in the stunning Malibu area, Duke’s is one of those restaurants on Highway 1 that features ocean views and offers up a tropical Southern California vibe.
Named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a famous Hawaiian who helped popularize surfing in the US, Duke’s is a place where it actually feels like you’ve been transported to Hawaii for a meal.
Their menu features seafood dishes and burgers, usually with a Hawaiian spin, and delicious tropical drinks complete with mini umbrellas.
Bay Cities Italian Deli (Santa Monica)
Address: 1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
If you’re looking for a good sandwich shop and traditional Italian deli, look no further than Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica.
With their extensive sandwich menu, they have something for everyone in the form of cold and hot sandwiches.
You really can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches but if I had to choose one, I’d recommend the Godmother sub.
This place gets packed, especially around lunchtime, so it’s best to put your order in ahead of time via their website. Otherwise, you’ll probably be waiting for a good 45 minutes or so if you’re visiting during peak hours.
Note: They don’t accept credit cards here so make sure you have cash or a debit card handy.
Address: 513 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291
One of the more unique Pacific Coast Highway restaurants, Flake has been serving flakey breakfast sandwiches, croissants, and cereal with milk since 2008.
The most unique feature of this family-owned restaurant is the cereal box art lining the walls when you walk in, which is a nod to the many different kinds of cereal you can order from the menu.
If you’re looking for an affordable place for breakfast or brunch, this is a good stop to make before you explore Venice or continue road tripping down the coast.
George’s Greek Cafe (Long Beach)
Address: 135 Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802
What once started as a small family-run delicatessen has expanded to a local Long Beach chain with a full sit-down menu that serves up traditional Greek dishes.
At the restaurant, you can dine on anything from souvlaki to spanakopita, lamb chops, saganaki, and everything in between.
Although not exactly part of Greek culture, they also sometimes put on fun belly dancing shows during weekend dinners.
In-N-Out Burger (Various)
You can’t do a California road trip and not eat at In-N-Out Burger at some point along the way, it would be such a shame.
Founded in 1948, In-N-Out is the fast-food chain in California and the place to go if you want cheap burgers and shakes (that are addictively good).
Their menu is deceptively basic, which is all part of the genuine charm of eating at In-N-Out.
If you want more options, you can Google their secret menu to order like the locals do (*ahem* go animal style or go home).
There are a ton of In-N-Out Burgers around California but the ones that are along Highway 1 are the following:
- 260 Washington St, Daly City, CA 94015
- 1350 Del Monte Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955
- 4865 Calle Real, Goleta, CA 93111
- 2070 E Harbor Blvd, Ventura, CA 93001
- 381 W Esplanade Dr, Oxnard, CA 93036
- 13425 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
- 9149 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045
- 600 N Sepulveda Blvd, El Segundo, CA 90245
- 6391 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
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