Picnic possibilities from The Sunshine in Pescadero where you can rent a picnic basket. (Lakshmi Sarah/KQED)
Back in the day, Pescadero — a small coastal town about a half-an-hour drive South of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1 — was a fishing village. It’s since evolved into more of a farming and ranching community with a one-block main street and has become a popular weekend tourist destination in close proximity to beaches and state parks. It’s also a locale known for artichoke soup, artichoke bread and goat cheese.
My own family history with the area dates back to before I was born. After my hippie mom moved out West from the East Coast in the early 70s, she would drive her VW van along the windy Highway 84, just over the hill from Palo Alto to reach the coast with her younger sister, a student at Stanford at the time. In a tragic accident in 1973, my aunt drowned when the raft she and her boyfriend were in capsized as they went from the Pescadero Creek to the ocean.
After this and the loss of my grandmother, my mother sold her VW van for a backpack and a ticket to India where she met my father. Fast-forward to the 80s and ever since I was little, we’ve been coming to Pescadero to mark any sort of transition or visitor — a birth, a death, or an out-of-town-guest. Depending on the weather, we’ll bring our food to the beach or beach first then food.
Pescadero and the nearby beaches have always been our go-to staycation — a change of pace and a breath of fresh air. In case you are in need of an adventure that supports local businesses, and is also delicious, allow me to help guide you through what to eat in Pescadero.
Start with coffee and artichokes
Upon arrival into town or turning on to Stage Road, a snack is likely in order while you decide what to bring with you to the beach. Grab a coffee from The Downtown Local and walk over to the Arcangeli's Grocery for a loaf of fresh baked artichoke garlic bread (it’s ok to have a bite immediately if it happens to still be warm in the bag). While here, you could opt for a sandwich from the counter in the back to bring to the beach with you, or choose some items for a picnic from The Sunshine.
Pick up picnic supplies
The Sunshine is Pescadero’s most recent food addition, though nearly a year old. The small grocery store, founded by Nicole Sillapere and her husband, features gluten-free and processed sugar-free items selling mostly local, plastic free products one might find at a farmer’s market. “I’m very interested in exploring how businesses can be healing entities instead of destructive,” said Sillapere. “My goal is to be a regenerative business and find ways we are contributing to the wellness of a community and environment,” she added.
They also have picnic baskets for rent (with a deposit) and Sillapere says they can provide ice packs and will also dispose of the waste brought back. “We have local pigs we bring the scraps to,” she said. They have additional plans for ramen and pizza in the near future as well.
Get some goat cheese
If you have children with you, or eager adults, plan in advance for a tour of Harley Goat Farms and choose some goat cheese to go along with your artichoke garlic bread. There are some picnic tables around the farm, but if there are no screaming children — see if you can bring all your treats to the beach without eating them immediately. If it’s a cold day, you might want to swap this itinerary around to stop here first for a bowl of soup before a windy wander on the beach.
An iconic last stop
The Pescadero food tour wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Duarte’s Tavern. Their tag-line “where friends meet, since 1894” has been mostly true for my family, though my mother will often remark that the artichoke omelettes “used to cost $1.50!” Duarte’s has become known for their cream of artichoke soup and signature pies. A half-n-half of artichoke soup and green chilli soup will keep you warm and full on a drive home, and if you haven’t overeaten the day away, it should be complemented with a slice of Olallieberry pie.
On your way out
If you are in a rush to beat traffic or catch the sunset or just generally more of a taco person, and less of a soup-eater, grab some tacos while you fill up on gas from Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos on your way home.
No matter how foggy it may be, don’t forget to put your feet in the sand, a toe in the cold ocean water, stare at the waves and honor an ancestor.