A Weekend Guide to Mendocino County
Mendocino County and its artsy namesake town are home to some long-standing food stars: Cafe Beaujolais (and its indie Brickery bakery) and the MacCallum House, to name a couple. This famed part of Northern California coast woven between wine country, redwood forests and the Pacific Ocean is a fog-laden destination with a slowed pace and cuisine focused on local, mindful sourcing and worldly inspiration. That means boundless organic vegetables, line-caught fish and winery darlings like Navarro and Roederer Estate paired with hearty meats and sauces.
Elk Cove Inn & Spa/Chez Marie restaurant
Just before Mendo (local speak) is a picturesque town called Elk, marked by rugged cliffs and dog-friendly beaches. The Elk Cove Inn & Spa, a revered B&B with 16 luxury rooms and an exceptional breakfast, now offers a prix fixe dinner on select evenings. The Chez Marie restaurant tempts passers-through with comforting French plates like bouillabaisse in a saffron tomato broth.
6300 S. Highway One, Elk; 707-877-3321
With a central location in one of the many water towers you'll see around Mendocino proper, this all-day option serves farm-to-table eats with creative twists. For example, tart coconut pancakes at breakfast, and tenderloin tasters — small cuts sauced three different ways (creamy caper sauce, pesto blue cheese and a red wine mushroom sauce) — on the dinner menu. Choose to dine on the outdoor patio with raised coastal views of Big River Bay or inside a dining room encased in glass where you can enjoy the outlook sans the foggy chill.
45040 Main St., Mendocino; 707-937-3569
Trillium patio [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
If you prefer your dreamy view over a lovely garden, Trillium (pictured above) is an emerging favorite that specializes in local wines and elegant presentations like a Point Reyes blue cheese salad and local Dungeness crab strudel.
10390 Kasten St., Mendocino; 707-937-3200
The Restaurant and Cowlick's Ice Cream and Point Noyo in Fort Bragg
Drive 15 minutes north and cruise through Fort Bragg, a friendly seaside town with must-eats like local darlings The Restaurant and Cowlick's Ice Cream. If you're paying attention to the blue horizon on your left, you can't miss the sign for Point Noyo Restaurant & Bar. This just-opened coastal overhang is taking on surf 'n' turf with lobster ravioli and herbed California quail doused in a Pinot Noir sauce.
Cowlick's: 250 N. Main St., Fort Bragg; 707-962-9271
The Restaurant: 418 N. Main St., Fort Bragg; 707-964-9800
Point Noyo: 1011 S. Main St., Fort Bragg; 707-962-3035
Neighbored by bait shops and seafood eateries, Mayan Fusion spices things up as an affordable casual spot on the Noyo River harbor of Fort Bragg. The owner, Silver Canul, who also owns Silvers At the Wharf on the river's edge, taps his Mayan roots for menus mixing Mexican and Central American influences with a seafood slant — notably, New York steak kebabs with chimichurri sauce and homemade chile-lime potato chips, and crispy cod tacos with Mayan slaw. One of the Mayan dishes, The Papatzul, swirls roasted butternut squash seeds with fire-roasted tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, garlic, queso fresco and habanero — this lively, earthy dip gives guacamole a run for the money.
32351 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg; 707-961-0211