The village of Mendocino is surrounded by the wild Pacific to the west. Redwood forests and the California Coastal Mountains create a wilderness to the east. The natural beauty is well-known; the village, forests, and shoreline have been used in 43 movies. One famous TV series painted the town white and portrayed it as a New England village.
The small town bustled in the late 19th century when the logging and fishing industries were king. Today with a population under 1,000, Mendocino is an artist colony that attracts visitors from around the globe. So, take time to unwind, unplug, and explore this tiny village on the Mendocino Coast.
Mendo (as locals call it) is a foodie nirvana. Eateries are everywhere, serving wholesome local seafood, meat, veggies, fruit, and seriously good wine and beer. Counter service, table service, and indoor and outdoor dining are available. Additionally, there are several places to fill your picnic basket for an alfresco meal on the coast.
Chefs and cooks find inspiration in the wide availability of fresh seafood, grass-fed beef, lamb, and poultry. Fruits and vegetables from the warm inland valley adorn the plates of all the restaurants and cafes in the village.
1. Café Beaujolais
Café Beaujolais is a beautiful property with a Victorian home housing a fine dining experience, a garden for casual dining, and mouthwatering pizza. However, if you prefer a coffee shop/evening lounge vibe, there’s the Waiting Room, a place to gather with friends for libations.
The food is exceptional; whether you choose the café for fine dining or the garden for a pizza or sandwich, each part of Café Beaujolais utilizes seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms, ranches, and fisher folk.
Reservations are required for the café, but the Garden and Waiting Room are ok to drop in anytime.
2. Flow Restaurant And Lounge
Flow Restaurant and Lounge is one of the few Mendocino restaurants with an ocean view. You can see Mendocino Bay and the Pacific beyond from their second-floor location on Main Street. Inside the dining room and outside patio seating are available.
“We offer local, organic meats and vegetables blended to perfection, as well as many vegan and gluten-free options,” reads the menu. Flow serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a full-service bar where you can also order pub grub and pizza.
If mac and cheese are special, order it. I’ve dreamed about the velvety cheese sauce and fresh peas.
3. Fog Eater Café
Fog Eater Café‘s California cuisine with a southern twang is one of the newer eateries in Mendo. The vegetarian restaurant creates plant-based dishes with a strong southern flare. Their entire menu can be prepared vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Everything they serve is sourced in Mendocino or Sonoma Counties.
Stop in for happy hour where a flight of local and organic wines is offered at a friendly price. Stick around for dinner from the always-changing menu. Then, drop into the bottle shop for local wines, jams, snacks, and picnic supplies.
Frankie’s has served pizza, ice cream, falafels, beer, and wine in their Victorian building since 2007. Frankie’s is a model for green operations and wholesome, delicious, organic food. Pizza and falafels are the stars of the show. Soups, salads, and ice cream sing backup. Frankie’s has a beautiful selection of local wines with garden seating that is perfect for sipping and nibbling.
5. Garden Bakery Of Mendocino
Garden Bakery of Mendocino is a lovely downtown gem. Tucked away in a hidden garden, Garden Bakery bakes bread, pastries, and other desserts. On the savory side, try an empanada or breakfast burrito.
There are tables outside, in a beautiful garden. Order and pay at the counter, then take your treats to one of the tables. The serenity here is great for rest and relaxation after a day of sightseeing on the coast.
6. Goodlife Café And Bakery
Goodlife Café and Bakery is my go-to for breakfast or an afternoon tea break. Open all day, Goodlife is a local favorite for coffee and a good chin wag. Another of Mendocino’s fine bakeries, Goodlife’s pastry case will have you drooling as you wait to order.
Baked goods, soups, sandwiches, salads, and the creamiest quiche I’ve had, can be enjoyed inside or out on the dog-friendly deck. The coffee bar has all the usual favorite caffeine drinks, or you can select from local wine, beer, and soft drinks.
7. Green Rainbow Farmstand
Green Rainbow Organic Farm and Nursery have a farmstand in downtown Mendocino. Sharing a covered patio with Goodlife Bakery, this Lilliputian stand has seasonal produce from the farm. There’s a path on the north side of Goodlife Bakery. Follow the way to the farmstand and Goodlife’s outside seating. Green Rainbow is a superb place for picnic goodies.
8. Harvest Market
Harvest at Mendosa’s is Mendocino’s supermarket and your headquarters for picnic, RV, and vacation rental supplies. Harvest has the county’s best quality meat, fish, veggies, fruit, beer, wine, and spirits. You’ll find a cheese case that overflows with local, domestic, and imported cheeses. I’ve often grabbed one of their ready-made sandwiches and a little container of salad for lunch when working in the village.
In the same building is Mendosa’s, the village hardware store. I love browsing the aisles looking for a new kitchen gadget. There’s also a well-supplied pet department.
9. MacCallum House
“Absolutely everything we serve you is prepared in our own kitchen, including breads, hand-rolled pastas, and smoked meat, fish, and poultry. We use only the freshest seasonal ingredients and feature local and regional organic and wild-crafted products whenever possible.” says Executive Chef Alan Kantor.
MacCallum House will take you to the late 1800s when fishing and logging were Mendocino’s economic backbone.
Outside dining under a beautiful tent does not require reservations, but special tasting menus require advance booking.
10. Mendocino Farmers Market
Be sure to bring shopping bags to the market; you will need them. Mendocino Farmers Market is available on Fridays from noon until 2 p.m., May through October. Expect to find fruit, veggies, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, honey, baked goods, olive oil, plants, and some surprises. The market is another place to fill your picnic basket or the larder at your lodging.
11. Patterson’s Pub
Patterson’s Pub is an institution in Mendocino. Their “little bit of Ireland in Mendocino” saying is true. The minute you walk in, you’ll feel like you are in the Emerald Isle. The décor has an Irish pub style — low cozy ceilings, low lights, and loads of memorabilia.
Patterson’s food gets high ratings that are well deserved. The pub grub is made from high-quality ingredients that are expertly prepared. The entrée-sized shrimp Louie is one of my favorites, but my “I can’t resist, so I order it every time” is the patty melt. The beef is juicy and flavorful, and the onions are grilled perfectly.
Patterson’s is an ideal place to chat with locals and get the lowdown on happenings in town.
Trillium will capture your heart and your tastebuds. Lodging and dining at Trillium reflect California casual. With a spotlight on seafood, Trillium is another Mendocino restaurant where you will get an authentic taste of Mendocino.
You’ll find indoor and garden seating. Both are lovely and quite romantic. So. take your time and linger a bit. The local cheese plate with a local pinot is my idea of a “let’s take our time” starter. After that, the vegetable gnocchi with a light white is my perfect dinner. Did I mention the chocolate fudge cake? It has chocolate pudding frosting and a scoop of honey peanut ice cream. You will love Trillium.
Best Way To Get Around
Mendocino is on California Highway 1 in Mendocino County, California. Most folks find a car is the best way to get here and to get around. Once in the Village of Mendocino, park your car and forget it. The town is small with a compact street plan. It’s very walkable.
To get your bearings and learn a bit about this unique community, I suggest you try a walking history tour led by a Kelley House Museum docent. It’s an easy walk and very entertaining. In addition, you’ll pass by most of the eateries in this roundup.
Mendocino has lodging for every taste and budget. I suggest looking at Mendocino Lodging for your perfect Mendo getaway.
Why Eat In Mendocino?
Mendocino is a neighbor of mine just ten miles south. I visit there often and have tried most restaurants in town. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, I haven’t included every eatery in Mendocino; but I love them all. Still, whether you choose a place from my list or one you discover on your own, you will be welcomed by locals and partake in a lovely taste of Mendocino. So please, come and enjoy our wonderful food, wildlife, waves, wilderness, and wine.