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Pacific Coast Highway - from San Francisco to Carmel and Big Sur


Rovers2000

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Next Friday I'm flying out west for a dear friends wedding which happens to be in Carmel, CA.

At this point, my plan is to fly into SFO on Friday morning, make the drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, spend the weekend in Carmel then head back to SF early Sunday morning.

My question is: Are there any great spots to drink some California brews that I can't get here on the East Coast or are there any must stop restaurants / eateries that I should be checking out as I make the drive? I have more flexibility on Sunday b/c we're staying the night so I can go farther afield on my way from Carmel to SF as well as check out some spots in SF itself Sunday evening (we fly out Monday am).

I've perused the other forums, but figured this might be the best place to get some targetted advice for the trip.

Thanks!

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Having done this trip, and being somewhat of a beer nerd... I don't have great news for you. I had also assumed that anywhere between San Fran and San Diego must have suds aplenty. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a beer desert south of Santa Cruz (for California). san Jose has some stuff, but that's basically a poor man's San Fran (could stock up on SF beer to go here!). Your best bet is Santa Cruz which has a few local breweries and a well known pub, 99 bottles. Russian River counts them as an account, so that's always a win in my book.

My advice: enjoy some very nice wines in Carmel and a beautiful drive and scenery. Then blow all of your beer budget on Sunday night in San Francisco!

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My question is: Are there any great spots to drink some California brews that I can't get here on the East Coast or are there any must stop restaurants / eateries that I should be checking out as I make the drive? I have more flexibility on Sunday b/c we're staying the night so I can go farther afield on my way from Carmel to SF as well as check out some spots in SF itself Sunday evening (we fly out Monday am).

RoadTripsForBeer.com has a section on the Pacific Coast Highway.

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FWIW, the drive on the PCH from Malibu north to Carmel is one of the most beautiful in the world. One night, sixteen years and one month ago, I got my then girl friend loaded and talked her into marriage. A trip to the L. A. county courthouse and our vows in sight of the Pacific Ocean at a former hippy temple (OK, a Methodist church that Timothy Leary would have been a member of...) in Zuma Beach. The next year for our first anniversary we drove to Carmel.

I used to drive from SFO down to Carmel Valley Village with a business stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk along the way. I also once represented a company in La Selva Beach just south of there.. They never asked me to move but they should have...

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Fred Church designed the Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz ('24). He also designed the coaster at Mission Beach ('25) just north of San Diego which still stands. And the Dragon Coaster at Rye Playland ('28). His greatest coaster, Rye's Aeroplane, was torn down in '57. Dorney Park's 200'+ tall steel coaster was designed and built by the company from La Selva Beach which also operated the coaster at Mission Beach.

The company that Fred Church designed for in the late '20's, Harry Traver, had the slogan: "the greatest hair raising thriller you can get."

is the coaster that he used this advertisement for, the original Cyclone which operated at Palisades Park from 1927 to 1933. You'll see it starting around 55 seconds. Some will argue this is the most violent roller coaster ever built. For perspective the Coney Island Cyclone (which still operates) cost around $100,000. The Traver Cyclone (one of three at Crystal Beach, Revere Beach and Palisades) cost $175,000 in '27. When working on my Master's I once drove to NY believing that I would find footage like this at the NY Public Library Annex (from Movietone News). When I opened the can it had disintegrated.

Note that this coaster was only three years after the Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz.

Sorry for the digression. Please feel free to delete this if you want, Don.

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Having done this trip, and being somewhat of a beer nerd... I don't have great news for you. I had also assumed that anywhere between San Fran and San Diego must have suds aplenty. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a beer desert south of Santa Cruz (for California). san Jose has some stuff, but that's basically a poor man's San Fran (could stock up on SF beer to go here!). Your best bet is Santa Cruz which has a few local breweries and a well known pub, 99 bottles. Russian River counts them as an account, so that's always a win in my book.

My advice: enjoy some very nice wines in Carmel and a beautiful drive and scenery. Then blow all of your beer budget on Sunday night in San Francisco!

Firestone Walker in Paso Robles comes to mind.

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In two weeks, I will be heading to California to meet my nephew for the first time and to take a road trip with the baby and my sister.  We'll be in LA for a wedding, but then we'll be (slowly) taking the Pacific Coast Highway back to San Francisco.

We have hotel stays booked for one night in Santa Barbara, one night in San Luis Obispo, and two nights in Monterey.  Any places we should eat/drink?  Any wineries/breweries worth stopping at?  We will have a 2-month-old with us, so that is our only real limitation.

Don, if you want to break this into a separate thread, feel free - thanks, all!

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Sometime shortly after it opened I visited Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay.  I loved it.  Been back a number of times.  Its hugely popular and commercial.   It featured lobster rolls.  How great is that?  Lobster rolls in California.   A lovely set up with wonderful windows overlooking Half Moon Bay...not the most gorgeous view off the Pacific Coast, but wonderful for dining.

Its right off Rte 1.  You can walk into the back of the restaurant from the parking lot.  Grab an adirondack chair, get a lobster roll or different dishes.  Have beer or wine.  Very relaxing and enjoyable.

It is hugely popular.  I can't speak to how it would be with a new infant, but I always return when I'm in the area.

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I know you said that you already have a hotel in San Luis Obispo but The Madonna Inn is a riot. We haven't been there in many years but the rooms have themes and many are built into the mountain, resulting in in-room waterfalls, showers that are rock walled, etc.  If nothing else, you have to look at the website and check out some of the rooms.  If I remember right, the dining area is a kitch filled (dolls on swings hanging from the ceiling"¦ well, you get the idea) hallucination.  And that drive from LA to SF is fantastic on the PCH.

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Steve R., we are staying at the Madonna Inn.  :D  We will be in the "Old Mexico" room. 

That place cracks me up! You'll have fun. We were in SB, SLO, and Pismo Beach recently, posts are at the end of the CA Central Coast thread (linked from the CA temp master thread) and in the SB thread. I'd recommend ice cream at McConnell's and the Blue Owl for sandwiches (lunch or late night) in SB and ice cream sandwiches at Batch, Santa Maria Tri-Tip somewhere, and the Thursday Night Farmer's Market (if you happen to be there) in SLO. There's also a walking wine trail in downtown SB from tasting room to tasting room. The baby might be a little young for it, but this park near Pismo Beach is a great place to walk on the cliffs for a moment, take some pics of the kiddo, and take a car break: Dinosaur Caves Park.

Also not to miss on the drive is the elephant seal rookery right off the 1 here. Those guys are humongous, smelly, and hilarious.

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That place cracks me up! You'll have fun. We were in SB, SLO, and Pismo Beach recently, posts are at the end of the CA Central Coast thread (linked from the CA temp master thread) and in the SB thread. I'd recommend ice cream at McConnell's and the Blue Owl for sandwiches (lunch or late night) in SB and ice cream sandwiches at Batch, Santa Maria Tri-Tip somewhere, and the Thursday Night Farmer's Market (if you happen to be there) in SLO. There's also a walking wine trail in downtown SB from tasting room to tasting room. The baby might be a little young for it, but this park near Pismo Beach is a great place to walk on the cliffs for a moment, take some pics of the kiddo, and take a car break: Dinosaur Caves Park.

Also not to miss on the drive is the elephant seal rookery right off the 1 here. Those guys are humongous, smelly, and hilarious.

Didn't know about the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail (great name).  Thanks for mentioning it.  We're going to be in SB in early November and will definitely go for a walk.

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The Madonna Inn was a highlight of the trip, for what it's worth.  The rooms are great, but the pool was a welcome respite (with beautiful views) and the restaurant/steakhouse was actually pretty freaking good.

What a spectacular drive.  It was definitely challenging with a 2-month-old, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  Highly recommended.

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I am going to bury this in this thread and, perhaps, a half dozen people will read it:  Sanguis '09 Six White Horses is the single best red wine I have ever tasted in my life.  I had it tonight.  I picked the empty bottle up, turned it upside down over my mouth and let the last few drops drip in.  Never mind the fifty years of wine that led up to it but it is unctuously, mouth coatingly evenly jammy, structured and satisfying.

I also made a spectacle of myself but it was worth it.

...Romano Dal Forno would have wanted a taste.  Quintarelli, too.  (Yes, I've had each of their '97's)

Reservations on Friday and Saturday at their tasting room by appointment only.

By the way,  the Wine Enthusiast agrees with my comment except limits it to the "best CA syrah ever."

Some time soon I am going to have this side by side with '07 Royal City.  This is not a wine to compare to Bionic Frog or Stonessence.  It is a big, opulently rich 15.8% bomb.  I have not had Sanguis 1/1 of which there is literally a single barrel.  But having had their Six White Horses (helluva image!) I no longer need to.

Stops right here.  Best red I have ever had.  With all due respect to Sine Qua Non's ten+ year waiting list this, too, would have been worth the wait.

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