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Tips for Noshing (& Drinking) Along California’s Pacific Coast Highway

By May 26, 2017October 3rd, 2017One Comment

It’s time for a road trip! What better place to hit the open road than California? Those highways were practically made for adventure; cruising along the Pacific Ocean and taking in all the sights. There’s a reason so many people who love to travel in groups flock to the west coast for the ultimate road trip experience. So, where is a good place to start, especially when it comes to figuring out where to eat and drink?

pacific coast highway road trip california

Authentic Discoveries

At the start of the adventure, San Francisco is a bit of a mecca when it comes to foodie fan favorites. While catch-of-the-day is popular along the harbor and coastline, head into the Mission District for incredible Mexican cuisine and craft beer. Most places are taqueria-style, but do offer both sit down and take-away options. Grab some burritos or at El Farolito or papusas at La Santaneca. As for pints, the Pacific Brewing Company is a great place to relax in an large, open setting with at least a half-dozen local varieties on tap.

Several of these San Fransisco breweries allow for takeaway fill-ups as well. This can come in handy when hitting the road quickly the next day but wanting to sample a few more varieties. We loved the Growler Werks portable beer mini-keg for this very reason, as it was like having fresh pours no matter where we roamed. It fills like a regular growler and is similar in size (about a half-gallon), but comes with a C02 cartridge as well. Cheers to craft beers, especially ones on the go!

ukeg ocean view california

Farm-to-Table Experiences

Agriculture is alive and well throughout California. On your drive you’ll most likely pass some farmland, groves and other fresh produce ready for the taking. Different seasons allow for various food options, but you can almost always guarantee you’ll find something local on most menus.

ocean sunset california

For instance, stop at Linn’s in Cambria to sample a whole bunch of locally made produce and handcrafted food items. You can have a meal at the restaurant then take home various preserves, dried fruit and baked goods, to name a few.


Another fantastic place to find great food is at California wineries. You can certainly hit Sonoma and Napa Valley a little bit north of San Francisco, but we fully enjoyed the Paso Robles area a few hours south instead. It’s a little drive off the main PCH but well worth the detour. Here you’ll find more than 300 wineries to choose from, many of which offer restaurants on the property and even accommodation.

winery halter ranch

Depending on your preference, various vineyard have different kinds on offer, so do some research before your group arrives. One option is Halter Ranch – a great spot for wine tastings and strolling through lush vineyards.

Picnic Bliss

The best part about having your own set of wheels as you move through California is being able to load up the car. No worries about space, a trusty road trip vehicle is clutch for packing snacks and even meals while on the road.

halter ranch pond paso robles california

In a group, we took turns driving each day so everyone had a chance to relax. This also allowed people to designate a sober driver so the rest could partake in a couple pints when on a break. Our Growler Werks carrier was great for these picnic lunches as well. It allowed us to try several brews without breaking the bank or being tied to a dim or dingy bar in the middle of the day. I think beer tastes much better with a great view, don’t you think?

What was the best thing you ate while in California? What’s your favorite go-to snack on a road trip?

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

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