San Francisco, established in the late 1700s bleeds history through its architecture. Fight your way west through traffic and tourist crowds to arrive at Ocean Beach, a 3.5 mile sand dune bordered beach. You’ll find some raging history and fine San Francisco cuisine at the following restaurants at Ocean Beach.
Sutro’s and The Bistro at the Cliff House
The Cliff House is perched above the Pacific Ocean at the end of Ocean Beach. Sutro’s one of two restaurants inside the Cliff House is a modern addition to the famous establishment. The walls and ceiling are all windows to best view the crushing waves and piercing rock formations just below.
The Bistro restaurant is located in the recently refurbished 1909 Cliff House. Hints of the past lash out in historical photographs, antique furniture and decoration. The Cliff House looks young and polished now but has gone through several reincarnations and originally opened in 1863.
There may be a wait for a table at the Cliff House restaurants. If it’s just a bite to eat and a drink you want, walk up to the bar and lounge at either restaurant and put your order in.
A short sprint up the hill from the Cliff House, Louis’ restaurant is a surviving 1937 family owned diner. The interior is classic with party booths, tables and bar seating. American comfort food is on the menu: cup of chili, burgers and monster sized milkshakes with refill tin on the side. Louis’ looks out to the ocean and to an only in San Francisco sight – Sutro Baths.
A good portion of the cement floor plan remains of the Sutro Baths, a Victorian era swimming pool complex, are laid out in the valley below Louis’. Watch people explore the mysterious urban archeological find while tossing back a bowl of clam chowder. Bring cash with you for the meal because old school Louis’ doesn’t take cards.
Beach and Park Chalet
Another two-for restaurant duo is located down the hill from the Cliff House, at the foot of Golden Gate Park and across the street from the expansive Ocean Beach. The building these two restaurants occupy opened in 1925. During the Great Depression artist, Lucien Labaudt covered the reception area in a floor to ceiling mural depicting life in San Francisco.
Park Chalet Coastal Beer Garden is just that. Specialty brews, indoor or outdoor relaxed seating and Golden Gate Park location make this restaurant special. Experience garden and park views from inside Park Chalet as the walls and ceiling are windowed. Beware, once the sun goes down the San Francisco fog can make both indoors and outdoors chilly. Bring a warm coat to the Park Chalet.
Beach Chalet is located on the second floor of the historical building overlooking the Pacific. The restaurant has an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Watch cargo ships cruise into the mouth of the Bay while beach goers surround raging bonfires across the street from the restaurant. If the Beach Chalet is for you, put your reservations in early, it’s the smart thing to do.
Carmel is the perfect distance from the San Francisco Bay Area for a quick weekend get-away. It’s beautiful with lush green hills, farmland, rugged coastline and crashing Pacific Ocean waves. There are tons of activities and places to explore in Carmel. Here are the places I explored with my spouse on our mid-January trip to Carmel.
1) On The Way: Moss Landing
On the way to Carmel, we drove over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz or Capitola are both seaside towns with lots of character and would be great places to stop for lunch or sightseeing on the way to Carmel. We decided to keep driving on HWY 1 towards Carmel and ultimately stopped in Moss Landing for a much needed lunch break.
Moss Landing’s pair of power plant smoke stacks are the defining landmark of the fishing village. The stacks interrupt the marshland and harbor feel of the area with their industrial purpose.
We had our lunch at Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant. The restaurant is located at the harbor’s entrance channel where fishing boats come in and out from sea. Kayakers pass by and so do large families of sea otters! The restaurant has great tasting seafood and the best view to take in all of the harbor activities.
2) Where to Stay: Carmel Mission Inn
Carmel Mission Inn is my go-to hotel when staying in Carmel. I’ve been there several times and love the fact that it has updated amenities and a spa-like feel. It’s an affordable place to stay when compared to other hotels in the area. The hotel is right off of HWY 1 and there’s plenty of shopping and eating choices in walking distance.
The moment we got our bags up to our room, I started changing into my bathing suit for a dip in the hot tub. The pool area is nicely furnished with sun chairs and beds to relax on. There’s even a statue of a life-sized happy cow who watches over the swimmers in the heated pool.
3) What to do When It’s Dark: Del Monte Shopping Center
If you go to Carmel in the winter months, it may be sunny and warm during the day but the nights get frigid! Both nights on our quick trip to Carmel were spent at the indoor movie theater, Cinemark Monterey 13, at Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey. The mall is a quick ten-minute drive on HWY 1 from the Carmel Mission Inn or any other hotel in Carmel.
When waiting for the next movie time to roll around you can do some mall shopping or hang out in one of the many restaurants to grab dinner. We went to Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks. As the name says they serve burgers as well as a selection of tacos and your favorite island drinks. I got my buzz on with the help of a Mai Tai and my husband stayed smooth with a Pina Colada.
Then we watched “Hidden Figures” the first night and “La La Land” the second. I enjoyed both films and was glad we found something to do after the sunset over the ocean.
4) Breakfast, Breakfast, Breakfast! From Scratch Restaurant
From Scratch Restaurant made my list because of two things. One it’s a two-minute walk from the hotel, located at the Barnyard shops next door. And two, it was featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” so it has to be great.
There’s close quarters indoor dining and outdoor patio seating with room for dogs to come along. I’ve visited From Scratch a few times and decided I like the homemade cinnamon bun bread dressed as French toast. My husband tried the crab omelet this time and ate it all.
I just watched the “Triple D” review of the restaurant and found that the “extreme sausage biscuits and gravy” featured on the show doesn’t look too daunting to eat. I have new-found courage to try it the next time I’m in Carmel.
5) Do Not Miss Sunday Brunch at Mission Ranch Restaurant
The Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant is a short three-minute drive from our home base. It’s a historic hotel with multiple buildings facing ranch-land. The most photographed flock of sheep in Carmel live at the ranch. You can hear the sheep munching on grass as they mow the pasture. They also terrorize the lone tree in their yard by tugging at it and scratching themselves on it.
Brunch is only on Sundays from 10 am to 1:30 pm and is $40 per person. We went on a beautiful sunny morning and were fortunate to be seated on the patio with a vibrant view of Carmel’s coastline. Beyond the lush green field, is a sandy beach that leads out to the blue ocean and a craggy rock point.
Since this is an all-you-can-eat meal my husband stacked his plate high with, prime rib, beef rib, eggs benedict and tender salmon, enough food to get him through the entire day. I tried not to stuff myself right away, so started with a made to order omelet and chocolate covered strawberry. I went back for seconds and picked up spinach salad, French toast and key lime pie. I enjoyed the hot coffee and a mimosa which were included in the price. In conclusion, the food was delicious and the best buffet we’ve ever had. That’s saying a lot!
6) Walk it Off at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Carmel is blessed with a ruggedly beautiful coastline. One of the best places to explore the coast is at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The entrance gate to Point Lobos is in the middle of a wooded forest that leads to your pick of a rocky beach or sheer cliff bluff. Wildlife of the sea, shore and air abound at the reserve.
One of my favorite things to do at the ocean is whale watch. I was not disappointed on this winter’s day to see puff upon puff of whale spouts in the distance. Yes, I wouldn’t mind if the whales were a little closer to shore but just knowing they are out there makes me happy. I also heard the “arf arf” call of sea lions at Point Lobos.
Point Lobos is a photographer’s wonderland. My husband waited for the right moment to photograph the sun’s light passing through a wave to capture the crystal essence of the water.
7) Carmel Art Galleries and Shops
Everyone thinks of art galleries when they think of Carmel. Or at least they should. It’s estimated that there are one hundred galleries concentrated in downtown Carmel. My husband is an artist so gallery perusing is always on our list of things to do in Carmel. A few of his favorite galleries are the Wyland and New Masters Gallery.
The architecture of the buildings downtown is historical and even fairytale like. Just looking at the buildings and imagining what fairytale they are inspired by is almost as interesting as looking in the shops themselves.
My favorite place to shop in downtown Carmel is the Sockshop where I just picked up a supply of cute and warm socks to get me through winter.
8) Carmel Sunset Beach
After a morning of gallery hopping walk or drive the rest of the way down Ocean Ave and hang out on the sandy Carmel Sunset Beach. This seems to be a local favorite because everyone and their dog is playing hard out in the waves and wet sand. I like to sit on a blanket and dogs like to come up to me and see what I’m up to on this beach.
The beach is part of the semi-circle of Carmel Bay. The waves are calmer in the bay and dolphins like to put on shows for people watching from the beach. This is a great place to relax, enjoy a snack and watch all of the action laid out in front of you.