Fun, hearty eating is a must on any road trip, and a great way to immerse yourself fully in the local experience. These five restaurants, from gourmet vegetarian to classic West Coast brewpub fare to authentic North Beach Italian, are the best flavors if you’re road tripping the northern coast of California.
Wildflower Café and Bakery (Arcata)
A healthy and tasty choice in Arcata is the Wildflower Café and Bakery (1604 G St., 707/822-0360, 9am-3pm Mon.-Wed., 9am-3pm and 5:30-9:30pm Thurs.-Sun., under $15), specializing in fresh and delicious vegetarian meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with gourmet espresso and delicious house breads.
North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg)
Fort Bragg’s North Coast Brewing Company (455 N. Main St., 707/964-3400, from 2pm daily) opened in 1988, aiming at the then-nascent artisanal beer market. Come in, grab a classic brewpub meal, then check out the latest beers. Whether you choose an Acme, a Red Seal Ale, or an Old Rasputin (yes, really), you’ll definitely enjoy.
Station House Café (Point Reyes)
The star of the Point Reyes Station restaurant scene is the Station House Café (11180 CA-1, 415/663-1515, 8am-9pm Thurs.-Tues., $12-21), which is both casual and upscale. Since 1974, long before “organic” and “local” were foodie credos, the Station House Café has been dedicated to serving food with ingredients that reflect the agrarian culture of the area. More comfort food than haute cuisine, you’ll find lots of familiar dishes and fantastic takes on old classics. The oyster stew is not to be missed.
Mama’s on Washington Square (San Francisco)
For a hearty breakfast, head to San Francisco’s North Beach and look for the big awning with little pink hearts at Mama’s on Washington Square (1701 Stockton St., 415/362-6421, 11am-3pm Tues.-Sun., $8-13.50), which serves 10 types of French toast, to-die-for eggs Benedict, and the best Monte Cristo.
Trattoria Contadina (San Francisco)
No North Beach visit is complete without an authentic Italian meal, and Trattoria Contadina (1800 Mason St., 415/982-5728, 5pm-9pm daily, under $25) is the best in San Francisco; the proof is in the crowds at every meal.