5 great beach eateries within striking distance of the Bay Area

While the Bay has a reputation for mild weather, summer temperatures can certainly sour into the 90s. You could stay indoors and sweat in misery, or you could enjoy nature’s air conditioner at one of the region’s many spectacular beaches. Here are some great eateries around the Bay Area and beyond to grab fresh seafood with quick access to sand and waves to chill afterward.

Moss Beach Distillery is popular for its seafood and ocean views; plus, it’s a short drive from many beaches. (Courtesy Melissa Ozbek)

Moss Beach Distillery

This historic speakeasy was a Prohibition favorite for California politicians and Hollywood celebs. It’s now a popular restaurant serving coastal cuisine like crab cakes, shrimp alfredo and seared yellowfin. Its crowning attraction is the sprawling ocean panorama. There’s an outdoor patio perfect for watching sunsets and migrating whales where diners can sip cocktails like the “Blue Lady” martini, named for a ghost that reputedly haunts the premises. (Note that reservations are strongly encouraged.)

From there it’s a 5-minute drive to Ross’ Cove with wide-open sand and bluff hiking or a little farther south, the collection of beaches along Half Moon Bay that are great for barefoot walks or lounging around.

Details: The Moss Beach Distillery is open daily from noon to 8:30 pm at 140 Beach Way in Moss Beach; mossbeachdistillery.com.

Spud Point Crab Co., Bodega Bay

Some restaurants provide ambience with music. Here, it comes from sea lions woofing at a marina. (Don’t worry, they’re not after your food… probably.) Sonoma County’s Spud Point has a small but impressive selection of sandwiches and award-winning chowders, both New England and Manhattan. While the Dungeness crab is the obvious go-to – a slim but densely packed hoagie of delicate meat and mayo – don’t sleep on the shrimp sandwich loaded with dozens of super-sweet bay shrimp. If you’re indecisive, you can get their version of an East Coast-style “Peacemaker” with crab and shrimp sharing one roll.

Spud Point has a friendly rivalry with Fisherman’s Cove deli next door. If you’re craving something different, it’s worth dropping in there for crispy fish and chips or their specialty, grilled oysters, served with toppings ranging from chorizo ​​butter to pickled jalapenos to Worcestershire and bacon.

And from there it’s only a couple minutes to Campbell Cove Beach, a sheltered area with fun caves to explore at low tide and spectacular sunsets. For history lovers, there’s also a water-filled pit called the “Hole in the Head.” It was going to be a nuclear reactor in the 1960s until local opposition and an inconveniently located earthquake fault scuttled the project.

Details: Spud Point is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm at 1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay; spudpointcrabco.com.

The seaside town of Morro Bay woos vacationers with aquatic recreation, including paddle boarding, kayaking and tours aboard the Subsea tour boat.  (Courtesy Danna Dykstra)
The seaside town of Morro Bay has sandy dunes around an ancient volcanic mound plus many seafood restaurants. (Courtesy Danna Dykstra)

Tognazzini’s Dockside Too, Morro Bay

Why are we including a restaurant nearly four hours south of the Bay? Well, in the time you’re asking this question, you could be buckling up to drive to Tognazzini’s Dockside Too, a casual joint in the most idyllic of settings. You know you’re in for some tasty seafood when the website has a page devoted to “vessel.” Captain Mark Tognazzini is the mariner whose family name graces this eatery (not to be confused with its higher-end cousin, Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant, although that’s good, too).

The devotion to pulling the freshest catch from the water is clear throughout the menu. The fried oysters are stellar: huge, crispy morsels served with the holy trinity of Tabasco, tartar sauce and lemon wedges. Clam chowder is loaded with tender chunks and the specials are well worth investigating, with scallop kabobs and whole fried fish. The place doubles as a seafood market, so you can point to a nice halibut or salmon and have it grilled on a sandwich. There’s a sunny outdoor patio with live music overlooking a bay populated with unusually large sea otters.

And for a picnic there’s Morro Rock, a towering volcanic plug nestled in sand dunes with spectacular ocean views and typically at least one wedding party.

Details: Tognazzini’s Dockside Too opens at 10 am daily at 1235 Embarcadero, Morro Bay; morrobaydockside.com/dockside-too.

Hook Fish Co., San Francisco

Technically, this seafood joint and retail market is two blocks away from the beach. But its food will transport you straight to the water. Hook’s mission is to support local fishers and it pays off with fresh, simple dishes like blackened fish on tartar-slathered brioche and Baja tacos with avocado and spicy aioli. The smashburger gets a healthy twist with ground albacore tuna, Thousand Island dressing and American cheese. There are also poke burritos, smoked-fish salads and, if you’re just in a snacking mood, oysters on the half shell with agua fresca to wash them down.

A hop and a skip away is Ocean Beach with its huge waves and evening bonfires, plus the ruins of the old Sutro Baths to explore.

Details: Hook Fish Co. is open daily from 11:30 am to 9 am at 4542 Irving St., San Francisco; hookfishco.com.

Families enjoy the sun and water at Mitchell's Cove in Santa Cruz.
Families enjoy the sun and water at Mitchell’s Cove in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Steamer Lane Supply, Santa Cruz

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