The San Mateo County Coast

Barbara's FishtrapYou know, if it weren’t for the fact that Barbara’s Fish Trap did not take credit cards so we had to expend our last dollars on lunch, forcing us to go to the BofA in Half Moon Bay on the way to having coffee at Downtown Local in Pescadero, then tasting some wine at Sante Arcangeli Family Wines and eating a purportedly life changing buttermilk-lemon pie at the Pie Ranch, we would not have to the Ritz-Carlton for a drink and then to Cowboy Fishing Co. back in Half Moon Bay where we had the best time ever.

But more about that later.

A couple of years ago, before the official launch of the Bay Area Rediscovery Project, we drove down Route 1 from San Francisco and through Princeton-by-the Sea just north of Half Moon Bay. We spotted some restaurants that looked intriguing and vowed to come back; the perfect foil for the Rediscovery Project. So on a rainy Saturday, we ventured south.

The one restaurant that we had spied previously that seemed to be the most intriguing was Barbara’s Fishtrap. It seemed popular enough with all of the diners that were packing the available tables sheltered from the rain. It also had enough kitschy decor to suggest that it was a dive. So we had high hopes going in.

Sadly, our hopes were dashed like the driftwood flung upon the breakwater by the waves outside the harbor. The food, with the exception of the crab cocktail, was utterly disappointing, particularly when considering that we selected items off the “specials” menu. The cooking was entirely uninspired. Perhaps we would have thought differently if we had ordered the fish and chips off the regular menu, but we were trying to eat healthy, which was probably our first mistake.

Disappointed and strapped for cash because Barbara did not take credit cards, we into downtown Half Moon Bay to the only BofA for miles around. Down in spirit, we spotted a sign for an eatery stating “craft beer and fine wine.” But as inviting as that sounded, we were still feeling gun shy after our lunch experience, so we forged ahead to Pescadero as per our original plan in the hope that our afternoon would improve if we put more and more distance between us and lunch.

Downtown LocalArriving at Pescadero, the outlook and our moods remained rather gloomy as we couldn’t find any place to park along the main drag. Turning around, we eventually found the one parking space that was available in front of Downtown Local, an interesting looking coffee shop with motorcycles in the windows and a couple of Apple IIe’s in the back. We ducked in and hoped the caffeine would raise our spirits.

Caffeinated, we crossed the street to Sante Arcangeli Family Wines, where we bought a bottle of Pinot Noir that we liked. The internet was down, hobbling the winery’s online credit card system. Luckily, we had cash given our earlier experience.

As we paid, we learned of an allegedly “life altering” buttermilk-lemon pie further south on Route 1 at the Pie Ranch. Emboldened by coffee and wine, we set out through the dense fog and drenching downpours along Route 1 to get some of the fabled pie.

Now, though I can’t say that the pie changed my life right then and there–it really just tasted like cheesecake–I believe that the pie another one of the keys to the events that followed. But more on that later.

Pigeon Point LighthouseDisappointed with the pie and feeling as though the day would end up a net loss, we headed back north from the Pie Ranch. We ducked into the Pigeon Point Light Station where we saw the giant Fresnel lens and some seals frolicking in the storm driven waves. Then we continued on to the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay to get a drink and brighten our mood.

Sadly, the Ritz took the last puffs of air from our sails as an utterly uninspired wine list left me chewing on ice from my water glass contemplating our next move.

Fresnel LensBreaking a large chunk between my molars, I recalled the inviting sign for craft beer and fine wine from earlier that day. Commandeering the Ritz’s wifi to search the internet for reviews so that we wouldn’t be going in entirely blind, all we could find were references to a wholesale fish monger. Still, we had seen what we had seen, so we drove back to the sign.

What we found was spectacular. The story as we understand it is that a couple of brothers who own a boat and who fish and crab out of Princeton Harbor on that boat decided to open up a restaurant. We were there on day 3.

I had a cream ale that was very tasty. We also ordered the Cowboy Kale salad, which came with pomegranate and pine nuts, a very tasty crab cake, and an immense basket of crab. All of it tasted great, but, wow; the basket of crab, which held one and a half crabs for $10!

So thank you Ritz-Carlton for your crappy wine selection and Barbara’s Fish Trap for taking all our cash, and the Pie Ranch for inspiring us to drown our disappointment in drink. If it weren’t for you, we would have never discovered Cowboy Fishing Co.

Sadly, the brothers have moved on and shuttered their restaurant in 2017.




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