Pescadero is a charming spot just two miles off Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Half-Moon Bay. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track activity to do in easy driving distance of San Francisco, look no further. Nestled amongst the farms and fields that dot the scenic Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Monterey, it’s just a quick day trip from anywhere in the Bay Area. Though tiny– with a population of 643 at the 2010 census, it isn’t big enough to merit town designation– this census-designated place more than makes up for what it lacks in size with an excess of charm.
Having heard delightful things about Pescadero’s famous artichoke bread, I decided to hop in the car and go check it out for myself.
There are three main routes to access Pescadero from Palo Alto, where I live and none of them are a particularly straight shot. Though it’s not far as the crow flies, there’s a stretch of mountains separating the coastal town from the main hubs of Silicon Valley. The best ways to reach it are to drive south on Highway 1 from Half-Moon Bay, or, if you’re starting farther south, head north up the PCH from Santa Cruz. Both routes offer some other fun stops along the way, like Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Tasting Room in Davenport, Highway 1 Brewery, and Highway 92 Succulents— for all your drought-and-neglect-tolerant plant needs.
What to Eat
In all honesty, there are not a lot of options for food in Pescadero, but that’s fine because you can’t go wrong with a stop at Duarte’s Tavern. Duarte’s is one of those places that appears to have accidentally slipped forward in time, completely unchanged, from when it was originally opened in 1894.
The menu offers a tasty cream of artichoke soup, as well as a cream of green chile, but the smart move is to get them swirled together where the light spice from the chiles nicely compliments the creaminess of the artichoke.
And definitely don’t forget to order a slice of olallieberry pie before you go. Yumm!
What to Do
Need a post-pie coffee? Stop by the funky Chikken Revolution for a latte to go, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try their Dandy Blend– a dandelion and chicory-based coffee substitute. I happen to think it tastes kind of like dirt, but who knows? Maybe you’re into that.
Also be sure to check out their slightly manic and heavily nostalgic sense of decor, and, if you need a moment to recover from your food coma, duck into their movie nook and catch a flick.
Then, after you’ve caffeinated be sure to walk down the town’s one main street, where you’ll find a handful of shops to peruse– ranging from kitschy antiques to made-on-the-spot pottery to for-a-cause retro and artisan finds.
Grab a Souvenir
In my humble opinion, the best kind of souvenir is an edible one. Before you leave Pescadero, make sure to stop by Arcangeli’s Grocery for their baked-fresh-by-the-hour Artichoke & Garlic Bread.
It’s best fresh out of the oven, but if you’re still stuffed from your lunch at Duarte’s, you can also get this partially baked version so that you can recreate the magic at home.
Arcangeli’s also offers hand-crafted goat cheeses from nearby Harvey Farms, which I’ve heard is a great place to visit, though they weren’t open to visitors in the middle of the week when I was passing through.
On the Way Out
As I mentioned earlier, Pescadero is a postage-stamp of a place, so you probably won’t need to spend more than an hour or two in town to feel like you’ve taken in the sights. But before you head back to your daily lives, wherever they may be, do yourself a favor and head just a couple more miles south to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Sit by the water a while and drink it in. Life really is beautiful.