Ocean-to-table cuisine is more than a slogan in Morro Bay, California. The fishing boats that line the docks along the downtown Embarcadero of the small California Central Coast city offer a picturesque tip-off of what is in store in the many seaside restaurants.
Diners can expect catch-of-the-day choices featuring halibut, rockfish, and lingcod that is common in the bay. Fresh seafood is regularly served up in dishes ranging from grilled fish to fish and chips to entrees sautéed in butter. Add in the region’s famous clam chowder and calamari served deep-fried or as steaks, and you have a veritable seafood wonderland.
Morro Bay sits along the Pacific Coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Along with its active fishing scene, the town is known for its distinctive 576-foot-high volcanic plug that rises from the bay.
At most of the restaurants that line the Embarcadero along the bay, diners can enjoy outstanding views of Morro Rock along with the creative seafood offerings.
Here are nine incredible restaurants to try in Morro Bay.
1. Dorn’s Breakers Café
Perched along Market Avenue overlooking Morro Rock, Dorn’s Breakers Café has been an institution in Morro Bay since the 1940s. Today, the third-generation family café offers a wonderful variety of seafood and other dishes.
For a chance to watch the morning sunlight as it illuminates Morro Rock, consider stopping by Dorn’s for breakfast and ask to be seated on the heated patio. That’s what I did on my recent trip to the Central Coast community. I also took my server’s suggestion to try Dorn’s pancakes, which she said are legendary. I have to agree. The stack of fluffy pancakes fulfilled all of my expectations of what a decadent breakfast should be. I ordered the pancakes with an apple topping, and the warm, spicy apple slices and melting dollops of whipped butter were the perfect accompaniment to the generous pancake stack.
Dorn’s is perhaps even more well-known for its seafood offerings. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant features favorites like its award-winning clam chowder, calamari steak sautéed in butter and white wine, linguine and clams, and fish and chips.
2. House Of JuJu By The Bay
For gourmet burgers, creative flatbreads, and delectable seafood choices, it’s hard to beat the House of JuJu by the Bay along Morro Bay’s Embarcadero. As the name implies, you also get a fabulous view of the bay and Morro Rock thrown in.
My visit to JuJu’s was based on another recommendation I got from a local — this time from the front-desk clerk at my hotel, who told me JuJu’s was her favorite restaurant in town. The tip turned out to be spot-on. I loved the location of JuJu’s, right beside the Anchor Memorial Park, which is a great spot to watch a sunset.
The burgers seemed to be the go-to menu item at JuJu’s. Among the six delicious burger varieties, there is the standout JuJu Bleu, a burger served with creamy and crumbled bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon. Diners get a choice of burger meats, including Angus beef, bison, chicken breast, ground turkey, and a portabella mushroom — all served up on a grilled brioche bun.
I opted for the build-your-own flatbread, also a great choice featuring a crispy crust and a huge assortment of sauce choices like kalamata olive, chipotle, spicy garlic, and barbecue, and topping choices that range from caramelized onions to bacon to artichoke hearts.
Pro Tip: JuJu’s has indoor and outdoor seating as well as an enclosed patio with big windows overlooking the bay. I visited on a cool winter evening, so I asked for a table in the enclosed patio, and the sunset views were great. During warmer weather, the outdoor tables would be even better.
For another Morro Bay mainstay, check out Hofbrau, a seaside restaurant that has been serving hand-carved roast beef sandwiches since 1971. The menu also includes a selection of burgers, salads, and seafood, along with draft beers and local wines.
Hofbrau’s specialty is its beef, and the menu has plenty of options for trying it. The French dip sandwich section includes choices such as roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, turkey breast, ham, sausage, and corned beef. Of course, there are also seafood choices, from fish and chips to clam chowder.
And, owing to its great location right along the waterfront, Hofbrau’s views are great. The restaurant’s website urges customers to “watch the sailboats drift by” while enjoying a glass of wine.
4. Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant
Featuring two restaurants, each with its own unique atmosphere, Tognazzini’s Dockside restaurants on the historic Morro Bay Embarcadero have been favorites of locals and visitors for years. Dockside came first in 2004 with an indoor dining room overlooking the water and serving up the freshest of seafood choices.
Then in 2009, Dockside Too Fish Market and Patio Dining was added directly behind the Dockside Restaurant. Dockside Too offers all-outdoor dining and allows customers to place their orders at the counter and wait for their name to be called. Local musicians are often on hand to add to the fun atmosphere.
Menu items at Dockside range from favorites like crab melts and steamer clams to grilled salmon and Central Coast surf and turf (boneless lamb loin, scallops, and shrimp served with polenta and seasonal vegetables). Dockside Too specializes in choices like fish and chips, barbecued oysters, and fish tacos.
5. Windows On The Water
The name says it all: Windows on the Water on Morro Bay’s waterfront offers splendid views of the bay in a fine-dining atmosphere. The restaurant is perched on the second floor of its Embarcadero location to better capture a full view of the harbor.
Windows on the Water is best known for its local halibut served with warm herb heirloom tomato salsa, but the menu also includes everything from creative cocktails like the Blackberry Bramble made of gin, muddled blackberries, and blackberry liqueur, to a starter of gingered Dungeness crab cake with wasabi aioli and pickled ginger and a main course of cioppino with snow crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, sea bass, and calamari served in a tomato sauce with garlic toast.
6. Blue Sky Bistro
Waterfront dining at its finest awaits at Blue Sky Bistro, a relaxing spot that is known to offer beautiful views of Morro Rock and the Estero Bay from almost every table.
Featuring locally sourced and seasonal seafood and vegetables, the bistro’s menu is known for its stellar Mexican shrimp cocktail that combines shrimp in a spicy cocktail sauce with avocado, cucumber, jalapeño, red onion, tomato, and cilantro and is served with warm flour tortillas. Entrees include selections like seafood linguine tossed with prawns, salmon, clams, and mahi-mahi and a tomato, wine, and butter sauce.
7. The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar
A fun atmosphere that offers seafood from the local waters and vegetables direct from the head chef’s family farm in nearby Los Osos is the specialty of the Galley Seafood Grill and Bar located along Morro Bay’s Embarcadero.
The restaurant describes its menu as “Fresh from the sea. Fresh from the farm,” and it includes a range of local favorites like Dungeness crab cakes, steamed clams, and blackened Pacific rockfish. The Galley also has a full bar and a world-class selection of wines, including local choices from nearby Edna Valley, Paso Robles, and Napa Valley.
8. Taco Temple
If tacos with a twist sound intriguing, Morro Bay’s fun Taco Temple is the place to go. After starting out with a menu of Cajun-seasoned fish with fresh greens served on a tortilla with Caribbean black beans, Taco Temple’s menu evolved to feature “California fusion,” with a non-traditional take on Mexican food.
The menu includes standouts like a calamari taco, a crab cake taco, a veggie burrito, and sweet potato enchiladas featuring corn tortillas filled with caramelized sweet onions, roasted poblano chiles, and cotija cheese covered with warm tomatillo sauce and roasted pumpkin seeds.
9. Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley
For three decades, Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley has not only served up some of the best clam chowder around but has also served as a purveyor of a huge variety of seafood products.
On my recent visit to Morro Bay, I joined the crowd lined up at the walk-up counter to sample the chowder that has been a consistent winner in the Morro Bay Annual Chowder Cook-Off. After sampling my cup of creamy chowder that was chock full of clam and potatoes, I was sold as well. With a cool outdoor patio overlooking Morro Rock, Giovanni’s is the perfect spot for a casual lunch or dinner. It is also an ideal place to take in a Morro Bay sunset.
Pro Tip: Along with its Galley overlooking the water, Giovanni’s features Gio’s Take-Out Express, a convenient place to pick up a quick poke bowl or an order of fish and chips.
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