west coast road trip eats

chateau radishes

It all started with a couple of radishes by the pool at the Chateau Marmont. Fresh off the plane, I had no idea what to expect from this two-week journey up the West Coast. But one thing was for sure: I was hungry, ready to devour everything from LA to Seattle. In total, we traveled 1,959 miles and didn’t have one bad meal (or stop at one gross bathroom). Here now, some highlights (of the food, not the toilets, silly).

Malibu seems like a good place to start, right? My friend Britt took us to the Reel Inn where we sat outside and had some killer fish tacos and slaw. I’m still thinking about that slaw, almost three weeks later.

reel inn, malibu

She then took us to Son of a Gun for dinner, which came highly recommended from two other friends, and while I didn’t get any good photos, I did find a recipe online for their famous shrimp toast. This is one of the many dishes I’ll be recreating back here at home. Then we hit the road for Santa Barbara, and stopped for some fresh strawberries: sweet like candy, and only $2.50 for a huge basket.

roadside strawberries

After lunch in SB, we made it to Big Sur for dinner. There were no shortage of meals with a view on this trip, but Nepenthe might’ve taken the cake.

nepenthe, big sur

A few days later we woke up in San Francisco and I told B about this tweet I got from a friend of a friend, recommending we eat toast at The Mill. Yes, toast. That’s their entire menu: toast and coffee. She admitted to it sounding crazy, but told me to leave my better judgment behind and go eat the toast. So we did; it was tremendous.

toast, mill SF

While I loved the toast, lunch later that same day was perhaps my favorite meal of the trip — at Slanted Door, in the Ferry Building. I had been there years ago and loved it then; now, I loved it even more. Maybe it was the company? It might even be my favorite restaurant in the country, but that’s a discussion for another time. We started with the yellowtail sashimi appetizer…

slanted door app

…then ordered one of basically everything else on the menu — drinks too — cause that’s how B rolls. When I like it somewhere, he wants to make sure we enjoy it fully, savor it, try everything. (I’m gonna keep him around a little longer.) He got some meat thing, I got monterey squid with hot peppers and we shared cellophane noodles as well as all kinds of other yummy delicious side dishes.

slanted door, main

You’d think we’d be full by now. But no, time for dinner at Greens, somewhat of a landmark vegetarian restaurant with my friend Julie and her boyfriend Cameron. I didn’t get any good photos of the food, but the sunset view rivaled Nepenthe. (That’s the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.)

sunset, greens SF

The next day we stumbled upon Cliff’s Variety, this adorable store in the Castro District, and look what I found! (I bought it, obviously.)

tvdinner plate, cliffs variety

Then before we left SF our friend Conor told us to get burritos at his favorite place in Mission: Pancho Villa Taqueria. We’re good listeners.

tacos, pancho villa

Next stop: Napa, where we picked up picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery. Sandwiches, salads, chips, you name it — all fresh, all delicious — it’s a must if you’re in town.

oakville grocery

After a full day of drinking, we settled into Bottega for the early bird special. My good friend Noah recommended this place, and he’s never steered me wrong in the food world. I’m not one to rave about polenta, or even usually order it, but this mushroom version served in a cute pop-top jar melted in my mouth. Sure, it was 90 degrees and I had had more than my share of vino — but trust me on this.

mushroom polenta, bottega

After a night at Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, the most magical place I’ve ever stayed, we were on the road to Portland. Along the way we made our only real fast stop for food, at Abby’s Legendary Pizza. The only thing legendary about it was the two and a half minutes it took me to down a 7-inch greek vegetarian pie with no cheese. (You can see how much B ate of his in that same amount of time.)

pizza, abby's

In Portland, we ate oyster hash at Bijou Cafe on the recommendation of one of B’s colleagues, and Voodoo Doughnuts on the recommendation of everyone.

oyster hash, bijou cafe

voodoo donut

We were told they take brunch very seriously in Portland, and nowhere is that more evident than Tasty n Sons. Again we got one of everything, but this shakshuka was among the most beautiful, and tasty. I even found the recipe online so I can try to make it for B at home.

sharshuka, tasty n sons

After a night in Port Townsend and a day of whale watching in the Puget Sound we made our way to Seattle, our last stop on this glorious food tour. So many great meals here, but so few photos. Brunch at Sitka and Spruce was as delectable as their place settings are charming…

sitka and spruce

…but the real highlight of the trip was when I caught not one, but TWO salmon at Pike Place Fish Market. Call me weird but I’ve dreamt of doing this for years — being a part of their famous fish toss, ever since I saw it on Real World Seattle, I think — so I was ecstatic when Taho agreed to teach me, and do the honors. Make sure to watch the video!


Kind of amazing, right?! Also that I didn’t gain 20 pounds out there. To think, I didn’t even tell you everything. I actually plan on writing up a longer, more detailed account of our trip sometime soon, so stay tuned for that. Meantime if you’re ever going to any of these cities, I’m more than happy to give you hotel, site seeing and food recommendations. Til then, enjoy some other photos from our vacation here and here. Now, back to some home cookin!

4 thoughts on “west coast road trip eats

  1. Jamie! I’m hungry just reading this!! We’re going in April for Portland to Indio, CA, and we’d love some recommendations! We still haven’t figured out what exactly to do in Portland and Napa (obviously wine tasting but haven’t picked wineries yet)! Let us know your favorites!

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