Food-Focused Road Trips

We’ve scoured Northern California to bring you these 12 notable eateries well worth the drive.

Road trips are fun for their spontaneity and sense of adventure, and in Northern California, where we’re surrounded by such diverse beauty, the drive is often as rewarding as where you end up. Quaint towns, fertile valleys, rugged coasts — no matter which direction you head, there’s something to be seen and, usually, eaten. We’ve singled out some delicious dining that should be on your radar.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Juhu Beach Club55 minutes from Sausalito

When Anthony Bourdain visited chef Preeti Mistry’s Indian street food–inspired eatery in 2015, he wasn’t sure what to expect. After dining on chili paneer, crispy cauliflower and lamb kofta, he gave it a thumbs-up and described Juhu Beach Club as “an unassuming but utterly delicious new addition.” Now this Oakland locals’ favorite is the “it” spot for brunch and dosa waffles. 5179 Telegraph Ave (Oakland), juhubeachclub.com

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle 3 hours from Sausalito

Guy Fieri visited this bustling fish house on Monterey’s Pier 2 while filming his show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The kitschy atmosphere and warm hospitality are reason enough to make the trip, but if that doesn’t sell you, the famous abalone sliders and creamy clam chowder will. Municipal Wharf Number 2 (Monterey), loulousgriddle.com

Manresa1 hour, 15 minutes from Sausalito

In 2009, David Kinch, head chef of Manresa, competed against Bobby Flay on Food Network’s Iron Chef to see who could transform cabbage into five delectable dishes. Kinch proved victorious. A Michelin-rated restaurant since 2007, Manresa added its third star in 2016, and Kinch recently became a semifinalist for the James Beard Outstanding Chef award. With a daily tasting menu of creative contemporary California cuisine, this Los Gatos favorite is not to be missed. 320 Village Lane (Los Gatos), manresarestaurant.com

Sam’s Chowder House1 hour from Sausalito

Featured on Eat St. for its famous lobster rolls and shrimp po’boys, Sam’s Chowder House is no stranger to the spotlight. NBC’s Today Show called Sam’s lobster roll “one of the five best sandwiches in America.” Add the oceanfront dining views of Half Moon Bay and you have yourself a perfect pairing. Reservations essential. 4210 North Cabrillo Hwy (Half Moon Bay), samschowderhouse.com

BEYOND THE BITE

Bantam2 hours from Sausalito

In 2012 chef Ben Sims, formerly of Chez Panisse and Acquerello, and his wife Sarah opened Bantam, an upscale pizza joint inside an industrial warehouse space on the west side of Santa Cruz. While the wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies are the claim to fame, it’s the other parts of the menu that make this a spot to seek out, says food critic Michael Bauer. After dining on ragu Bolognese, walk across the street to the Swift and Ingalls Street courtyards, where it’s easy to spend a day shopping and sipping local wares in the six tasting rooms and brewery. 1010 Fair Ave (Santa Cruz), bantam1010.com

Coast Kitchen 2 hours from Sausalito

The drive north on Highway 1 is reason enough to venture out to Coast Kitchen, nestled in the recently remodeled Timber Cove Resort. Here, carefully crafted cocktails and wild mushroom risotto taste even better with views of the Pacific. Sitting atop a bluff, the restaurant is surrounded by dirt trails that wind along the coast. Walk to the cliff’s edge for a close-up view of Beniamino Bufano’s 93-foot sculpture “Peace Obelisk,” symbolizing beauty, spirit and tranquility. 21780 Highway 1 (Jenner), timbercoveresort.com

FARM at Carneros 1 hour from Sausalito

Chef Aaron Meneghelli’s fine-dining hideaway in the Carneros Resort and Spa serves inventive California cuisine in an elegant setting. Whether you come for the poached Maine lobster with medjool dates or the buttermilk biscuits with foie gras mousse, an after-meal game on the outdoor sand bocce ball courts is a must. 4048 Sonoma Hwy (Napa), farmatcarneros.com

Hog Island Oyster Co.1 hour from Sausalito

Shuck, grill and slurp at this oyster farm on Tomales Bay. Responsible for harvesting and selling more than 3.5 million mollusks each year, Hog Island sits on the picturesque sands, where you can get your fingers dirty shucking and grilling your own freshly harvested morsels. Feast on the results at outdoor picnic tables while you watch the sun set. Reservations required. 20215 Shoreline Hwy (Marshall), hogislandoysters.com

TOUR DE FORCE

Casanova 2 hours, 30 minutes from Sausalito

Walter Georis moved to Carmel in the days when the seaside town was an artist’s haven. Fusing his passions for art and wine, he opened Casanova in 1977 — a quirky French- Italian restaurant that exudes old-world charm. With more than 35,000 bottles of vino and crowd-pleasers like spinach parmesan gnocchi, Casanova has become a favorite among locals and travelers alike. For special occasions reserve the popular Van Gogh Table — a table that Georis received from a fellow French restaurateur that was known as being the place Van Gogh took his final meals. Fifth St and Mission St (Carmel), casanovacarmel.com

Chez Panisse55 minutes from Sausalito

Few restaurateurs of our time are as revolutionary and respected as Alice Waters. Chef, author and food activist, she opened Chez Panisse in 1971 with the vision of a neighborhood bistro, unintentionally launching the modern farm-to-table movement and changing the way we think and feel about food. If that doesn’t entice you to visit, what will? 1517 Shattuck Ave (North Berkeley), chezpanisse.com

Limewood Bar and Restaurant50 minutes from Sausalito

The Fairmont’s Claremont Club and Spa in the Berkeley hills may have a new restaurant headed by Michelin-starred chef Joseph Humphrey, but this dining room has a rich history. Stories say the hotel (now a historic landmark) was won over a game of checkers and recount its rebound from disasters, including a fire and the earthquake of 1906. The resort’s Limewood Bar and Restaurant showcases Humphrey’s take on casual shared plates in a contemporary space with bay views. 41 Tunnel Road (Berkeley), limewoodrestaurant.com

Oakville Grocery1 hour, 15 minutes from Sausalito

Founded in 1881, Oakville Grocery remains the oldest continually operating grocery store in California. Renovated in 2012, the building has a fresh new look yet retains its ties with the past: don’t forget to check out the display of the well uncovered in the process. Grab a sandwich, head out to the picnic area and savor a little bit of history. 7856 St. Helena Hwy (Oakville), oakvillegrocery.com

Photos by Eric Wolfinger (photo of Manresa) and Emily Nathan (photo of Timber Cove Resort)

Categories: Summer Guide