Road Journals Blog—A meal at an ocean-side restaurant is a great reminder of just how lucky we are to live or travel along the central and northern California coast. Here are four spots where you may pay a bit more for the view, but the ocean vistas are sublime and there's good food to be had.
Waves crash against Seal Rocks just outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of Sutro's, part of San Francisco's Cliff House  complex. The food is spendy, but it soars above tourist-trap fare with well-executed seasonal dishes like seared scallops accompanied by nettles, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp-stuffed peppers. 1090 Point Lobos Ave., (415) 386-3330.
At Sam's Chowder House , bowls of the namesake soup, lobster rolls, and a host of other seafood-centric dishes come with a view of Pillar Point Harbor and Half Moon Bay. The vibe is casual, and the fire pit-equipped outdoor deck is a perfect spot for watching sunsets. 4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy., (650) 712-0245.
If you want to feel like a bird soaring above the Big Sur coast, the outdoor terrace of Nepenthe  might just be the ticket. The restaurant perches literally on the side of a coastal mountain, and the ocean vista sometimes includes passing whales. The lunch menu here runs to well-prepared, straight-ahead dishes like a burger and a Dungeness crab Louis, with a pricier dinner menu offering more options. 48510 Hwy. 1, (831) 667-2345.
Restaurants don't come more intimate and romantic than the Albion River Inn , in tiny Albion, about seven miles north of Mendocino. A flickering fireplace, live piano music, and views of cove, ocean, and coastal cliffs create magic. So does the cooking of chef Stephen Smith, whose changing California menu might include grilled wild king salmon on a bed of caramelized bacon, onion, mushrooms, roasted fennel, and wilted spinach. 3790 N. Hwy. 1, (707) 937-1919.
Photography courtesy of Albion River Inn
This blog post was first published in September 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.