At the mouth of the Noyo River, Noyo Harbor is one of the last small fishing villages on California’s north coast. The collection of docks and piers of weathered gray pilings is a working harbor. A small fishing fleet works in the Pacific Ocean, just outside the harbor entrance. Fish is brought-in seasonally and sold to restaurants, markets, wholesalers, and straight off the boat.
Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor is where you’ll find caught-that-day salmon, rockfish, lingcod, tuna, halibut, surf perch, steelhead, starry flounder, rainbow trout, and urchins. Add to that Dungeness Crab, oysters, and mussels, and you have a captain’s platter you’ll never forget.
A day in Noyo Harbor on the Mendocino Coast places you in the center of a working quay, a way of life threatened by a shrinking catch. Noyo Harbor is a destination for sea foodies, water sports fans, boaters, nature lovers, and commercial fishing folk. It’s authentic.
There are nine eateries in the harbor. All serve seafood, but each has its own style, flavor, and atmosphere. All nine are in perfect locations to soak up the hustle of boats off-loading their catch, whale-watching cruisers heading in and out, a Coast Guard training exercise, or kayakers touring the Noyo River. Other Noyo Harbor tenants are seals, otters, ravens, osprey, and gulls. Mother Nature is an unending source of free entertainment in the water and sky.
Evenings are meant for sipping the sundown. Most harbor restaurants have decks and windows overlooking the Noyo River and the Pacific. Sunsets are spectacular, especially in the winter months when sunsets turn red and gold.
Noyo Harbor is a natural harbor in Fort Bragg, California, where the Noyo River empties into the Pacific. Fort Bragg is on the Mendocino Coast. A vehicle is your best bet when visiting the coast. Whether coming from the north or south, from Highway 101, take Highway 20 West at Willits. The scenic drive through redwood and conifer forests ends at CA Highway 1 in Fort Bragg. Turn north for half a mile, then go east on North Harbor Drive. Follow the road down to Noyo Harbor.
As you head down North Harbor Drive, the waterfront’s only street, the following nine restaurants are listed in geographic order.
1. Noyo Harbor Inn
Built in 1868, Noyo Harbor Inn‘s (NHI) guest rooms, restaurant, and tavern have been meticulously renovated, with final touches added in 2017. The inn has panoramic views of the Pacific, Noyo River, Noyo Harbor, and South Harbor Marina.
Table service for the restaurant includes inside dining and a tiered, wrap-around deck overlooking a marina on the Noyo River. Open for BLD (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), all menu items are made from local ingredients. Below the marina view deck, you’ll see a kitchen garden producing herbs, greens, and flowers for the kitchen and tavern. The bar serves local wine, beer, and spirits.
NHI’s daily happy hour offers drink and appetizer specials. The deck is open year-round with umbrellas or heaters when needed.
What To Order At Noyo Harbor Inn
The menu reflects a California casual mood. The seafood chowder is luxurious and creamy. It’s filled with oysters, clams, scallops, and fish. It’s perfect, paired with a glass of bubbly, but isn’t everything?
2. Noyo Fish Company
Noyo Fish Company (NFC) is a traditional “seafood shack.” They opened in 2019 with rave reviews from everyone proclaiming it the best fish and chips in Fort Bragg — and they are still going strong.
Order at the indoor counter, then find your seat outside. NFC has a captivating view of South Marina and the Coast Guard Docks. Outside there is covered and open-air seating. The waterfront stools are perfect for boat spotting and harbor seal antics. Fishing, whale watching, and other party boats tie up to NFC’s dock.
Open for lunch and dinner. Check their Facebook page for seasonal days and hours.
What To Order At Noyo Fish Company
Food is served in a basket. Fish and chips, prawns and chips, and a mix of both are the most popular. Baja-style tacos are served-up with crispy fish or shrimp, zesty slaw, plus chips and salsa. The cooler has an excellent selection of local wine and beer.
3. Slack Tide Café
The newest eatery in Noyo Harbor, Slack Tide Café, has beautifully refurbished one of the harbor’s long-closed restaurant, deck, and dock locations.
Slack Tide is owned by and benefits Noyo Center For Marine Science. According to NCMS, they are “a marine science facility along the dramatic northern California coast that will be devoted to innovative scientific research, hands-on education, and natural resource stewardship that engages the community, the visitor, and the scientist and inspires connection, communication, collaboration, and creativity.”
Fort Bragg is proud to be the home of this still-growing facility. NCMS has two other locations for visitors to learn about our marine world. One is on the coastal trail, and the other is on Main Street.
The café serves coffee, pastries, sandwiches, beer, and wine. Order at the counter, take your number, and head for the deck or the dining room to wait for your food delivery. The deck and dining room offer a unique view of the working harbor and Coast Guard Station. On your way out, shop a little in the gift shop featuring NCMS logo wear, books, toys, and sweet treats.
What To Order At Slack Tide Café
Have the albacore sandwich when offered; it’s made from locally caught tuna and is a delicious taste of the Pacific.
4. Princess Seafood Market And Deli
Princess Seafood Market and Deli, or “Princess,” as locals call it, is perfect for filling your picnic basket or lodging fridge. A few years ago, Captain Heather from the FV Princess reopened a long-time shut-down seafood market. She wanted a place to sell her catch directly to consumers. It was an instant hit. Locals flocked to the Princess for the freshest fish in town. Before long, Princess bought from other local fishing vessels to fulfill demand.
Two cold cases are filled with “sashimi grade and fresh, sustainably wild caught, west coast seafood.” In addition, some prepared fish dishes like chowder, sandwiches, and seafood cocktails are offered. The cooler holds local beer and wine. Take your goodies to go or take them to a table on the patio.
Check Princess Seafood Market and Deli’s website for changing seasonal days and hours.
What To Order At Princess Seafood Market And Deli
The seafood cocktails are yummy. Shrimp is my favorite, but crab is a close second.
5. Casa Del Sol
Served with a Latin beat, Casa del Sol is a family-run café. The menu features enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, and tacos made with seafood. The clam chowder is warming on a foggy day. Surf and turf nachos are my favorite. Add a cold cerveza from a local brewery for more local flavor.
Casa del Sol doesn’t have a direct water view, but inside you’ll be captivated by art and photo displays. The small eatery is relaxed and welcoming. Casa is open for lunch and dinner. Their Facebook page lists current specials, plus seasonal days and hours.
What To Order At Casa Del Sol
Taco Tuesdays are busy, but worth the wait. If it isn’t Tuesday, the Caesar salad with calamari is a real coast treat.
6. Sea Pal Cove Restaurant
Sea Pal Cove Restaurant is a small seafood shack with outside tables on a commercial fishing vessel dock. Watch boats going out to sea, returning and unloading the day’s catch. The Sea Pal cook may leave the kitchen now and again to get fresh fish from a nearby packing shed.
The small menu offers chowder, fish/shrimp and chips, and grass-fed beef burgers. The gluten-free clam chowder is a family recipe. Sea Pal serves microbrews and margaritas on tap, plus wine in single-serving bottles. The number and brand vary, but most are “made in California” libations. Sea Pal is dog friendly. They serve lunch and dinner.
What To Order At Sea Pal Cove Restaurant
Shrimp and chips get my vote. If you don’t care for fish, the burgers are excellent.
7. Silver’s At The Wharf
Silver’s at the Wharf has been operating since the 1950s in Noyo Harbor. Silver’s serves classic California seafood like steamed clams and mussels, oysters on the half-shell, seafood cocktails, fish and chips, and calamari. In addition, they are known for Dungeness crab, ling cod, halibut, night fish, and shrimp Louie.
Suppose seafood isn’t on your favorites list. In that case, you’ll find sumptuous steaks, juicy burgers, pasta, and salads made from fresh California greens and veggies. The bar has a wide selection of local wine and beer, plus a lively assortment of cocktails and spirits.
The waterfront restaurant is on the second floor with spectacular views from inside and at deck table service. Below the restaurant is Anchor Lodge, a motel with waterfront rooms and budget rooms on North Harbor Drive.
What To Order At Silver’s At The Wharf
When I want a shrimp Louie, I go to Silver’s. The salad is made traditionally and includes house-roasted beets, black olives, boiled eggs, peppers, cucumbers, crisp romaine, and heaps of succulent bay shrimp.
8. Noyo River Grill
Noyo River Grill sits on a dock tucked behind a tiny house community. Seasonal fish and shellfish are made into delicious appetizers and mains. Fish/shrimp and chips, soup, salad, and sandwiches join the lineup.
When crab is in season and crab cakes are the day’s special, get them! Chef Guillermo’s are some of the best on the coast. He blends Dungeness crab with just enough other ingredients to hold the cakes together. A green salad and a glass of bubbly make them a perfect lunch.
Musicians perform for your pleasure on the deck facing Noyo Harbor, Noyo Bridge, and the Pacific. While listening to local talent, you’re sipping the sundown or lingering over lunch. A full-service bar serves spirits, beer, and wine.
Table service is available inside and outside. Enjoy a covered or open-air deck table. Check their Facebook page for specials, performers, and hours.
What To Order At Noyo River Grill
The fettuccine Alfredo is legendary. The pasta is handmade to order. It is the lightest fettuccine noodles you’ll ever eat. In addition, Chef Guillermo’s Alfredo sauce is also light but filled with flavor.
9. Princess Seafood Restaurant
Princess Seafood Restaurant is almost under the Noyo River Bridge. Owned and operated by the team from Princess Seafood Market, it’s the last stop for food and libations in the harbor.
Princess features seafood entrees, sandwiches, and soups. You order at the counter, take a number and find a seat outside. You’ll find open-air seating and tent-enclosed tables.
Princess has live entertainment most weekends, perfect for sipping the sundown with their local beer and wine selection.
What To Eat At Princess Seafood Restaurant
Go for the grilled prawn po’ boy paired with a local IPA. Desserts change daily, but if flan is on the menu, don’t pass it up.
Spoiled For Choice
No matter which eatery you choose in Noyo Harbor, you’ll be satisfied with the quality and freshness of the seafood served. Your problem might be making a single choice. Instead, try a progressive dinner if your time is short. Stop at one place for an appetizer and cocktail, another for an entrée, then move on for dessert.
Fort Bragg is my hometown and Noyo Harbor is my favorite part of town. I’m proud to live here and proud of the men and women that make Noyo Harbor and its seafood a treasure on the northern California coast.
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