Words by Johanna Harlow
When’s the last time you visited Half Moon Bay? If it’s been a while, you’re bound to notice a number of new storefronts and signs cropping up around the neighborhood. Though it’s still the cozy coastal town you’ve always loved, Half Moon Bay isn’t sitting still. From buzzy restaurants and gleaming shops to faithful standbys providing fresh offerings, plenty of new discoveries await.
There’s something comforting about placing your go-to order at a tried-and-true restaurant—but fortune (and food) favors the bold. HMB’s Main Street is a prime place to find your next favorite dining spot.
Sit and sip a spell at Jettywave's garden patio by one of the firepits. Photo: Paulette Phlipot
After closing its Burlingame location during the pandemic, farm-to-table-forward Fattoria e Mare re-emerged closer than ever to the source. Partnering with local fisherman and farmers, this Northern Italian restaurant ensures that seasonal veggies are treated as intentionally as the dishes they adorn—and plated artfully around light, flaky branzino and pan-seared scallops alike. Considering that the restaurant’s chef/owner Pablo Estrada grew up kneading bread alongside his dad at the bakery, you can also expect the pizza and focaccia to rise to the occasion. On the pasta side, twist your tines around bright, citrusy linguine with clams and prawns or cacio e pepe prepared in the traditional way in a hollowed-out wheel of pecorino cheese.
Also along the main drag, you’ll discover Ciya Mediterranean Cuisine, which specializes in making traditional Greek and Middle Eastern dishes really, really well. Like heavenly creamy hummus or fragrant lamb and beef skewers served over buttery orzo rice pilaf. For a medley of Mediterranean flavors, order the appetizer sampler with everything from ground-chickpea falafel to pungent feta rolls, grape-leaf-wrapped dolma to spicy ezme. Turkish coffee served in an ornamental silver cup and a honeyed piece of baklava make for a satisfying conclusion to the meal.
Photo (& Cover Photo): Courtesy of Kevin Henney
For both the kiddies and the kids at heart, swing by Full Hearts Arcade and Eats for burgers and games, like Ms. Pac Man and Moon Patrol. Continue to nibble your way down Main Street with lemon ricotta pancakes at Johnny’s, the newly-renovated, not-your-grandma’s diner—or with blueberry bars and tuxedo cookies at Fishwife Sweets. Sage Bakehouse with its 25 kinds of New Zealand-style savory pies is worth venturing off the main drag for. So is Jettywave, with its nautical-themed bar, award-winning gin and sprawling garden patio with firepits.
ADDITIONAL EATS Velvet Hippo Lounge — Charcuterie plates and classy craft cocktails at downtown’s hot new cocktail lounge. Blue Dragon Pho — Takeout-only Vietnamese spot that all the locals are raving about. OceanCiders — A waterfront lounge along Pillar Point Harbor. Breakwater Barbecue — BBQ in El Granada, so popular they were added to the Michelin Guide and serve up brisket at Levi’s Stadium now. Maverick’s Creperie — Not new-new, but recently changed owners and boasts a revamped menu.
Photo: Courtesy of Anthony Averson
Cycle and See
Everyone knows Half Moon Bay is plentiful in picturesque shorelines—but there’s a new way to soak in those beachy views. For guided e-bike tours along the coast, soar along with the sea breeze with Ride California (iridecali.com). Embarking from the Mill Rose Inn, you’ll spend two hours cruising through downtown, past the newly opened Coastside History Museum, by the Brussels sprout fields and along miles upon miles of coastal beach trails. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale! As you’re pedaling, your tour guide will point out historic buildings like HMB’s historic Johnston House and county jail, offer restaurant and beach recommendations and fill you in on all things HMB (from its agriculture to its surf scene).
Though not new per se, Coastal Repertory Theatre has a number of exciting plays lined up for its 2024 season. Don’t miss the upcoming Boeing-Boeing, a 1960s-era comedy of errors involving three stewardesses unwittingly engaged to the same man.
Photo: Courtesy of Joyce Morrell
Same goes for the upcoming lineup at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, where trios, quartets and full orchestras perform smooth jazz and classical music in a snug venue with ocean views. You’re in for a great show whether you wade into the crowd near the stage or prefer to people-watch from the balcony.
Time to hit the shops! First stop: home decor and accessories store Home Town Mercantile to welcome the longstanding store’s new owner. Since taking the reins last April, Marika Holmgren has continued to curate “comfort and luxury” items, while expanding the store’s offerings with a jewelry collection and some exciting new brands.
Photo: Courtesy of Marika Holmgren
Art got your heart? Swing by M Stark Gallery, which opened last year. Be it Jennifer Roberts Almodova’s untamable wildflower paintings or Ethan Estes’ seascapes textured with fishing rope, the gallery showcases Bay Area artists with work that “evokes the spirit of the West Coast and is in dialogue with contemporary fine art movements.” Come back every month or two for new exhibitions.
If you believe in the magic of books, find your way to Ink Spell Books, a beloved local bookstore that recently moved to a larger location. Locate it between the Ocean Blue Vault art gallery and the verdant Garden Apothecary and take your time perusing the shelves.
Don’t miss time-tested favorites like Jupiter and Main, Juno’s Little Mercantile and Abode before you wind your way back over Route 92 for home.
Photo: Courtesy of Carla Peña
Extend Your Stay
No need to rush back? Bask in HMB’s full glory at The Ritz-Carlton, where grand stonework and lofty architecture give the impression of Hogwarts at the ocean. Perched along the sea cliffs, the hotel presents coastal views, along with vistas of the rolling green hills of the Half Moon Bay Golf Links. The on-site spa will lift the tension with massages, body wraps and facials, but expect your room to also feel like a zen experience with soothing neutral colors, geode wall art and a large luxurious tub. Notch up the coziness factor by selecting soothing music and cricket sounds on the bedside stereo, then turning the TV to the fireplace channel. Poke your head out of your room at dusk when the resident bagpiper takes to the cliffs and sends off the sun sinking into the sea.
As the moon rises, retreat to the cozy indoors for an on-site dinner at The Conservatory. Standouts include the citrusy jicama salad with pickled onion, avocado, cucumber and a touch of tajin as well as the lamb with rosemary, a zesty garlic butter marinade and red chimichurri sauce. If the ocean views out the windows get you craving seafood, sample the sea with a cioppino loaded with littleneck clams, Mediterranean mussels, Dungeness crab and shrimp in a spicy tomato broth.