A report by Dana Massey-Todd: Just a quick trip down Highway One to Pacifica, the SURF SPOT opens today in the parking lot adjacent to Sea Bowl. Derek Burns, a Pacifica resident, surfer, and former chef at Bay Area restaurants like Vertigo, Stars (Palo Alto), and Elka, has partnered with David Szeto and Tait Cowan, also of Pacifica, to fill a long-vacant niche in the area: a casual and vibrant spot to get a great meal and a serious cocktail.
The location has been in the works a long time, and the wait has paid off. The restaurant interior seats 80 and features a stunning bar of reclaimed redwood and other warm wood details. The atmosphere is definitely casual and beachy, but the sleek, minimal aesthetic is design-forward and modern. Lovely as the inside is, though, the real treasure is outside. In the back, stretching up into the coastal hills, is an expansive back patio with rolling lawns, a beach volleyball court, and Adirondack chairs clustered around fire pits. There are multiple smaller structures as well, which in the future will house more spots to get a drink. One currently stores a pizza oven that I can only hope will be fired up soon, though at the time of my visit it was still wrapped up tightly in plastic.
There is also a stage for live music, and each of the huts has a roof deck with views of the mountains to one side and the Pacific to the other. On the evening of my visit, the fog was rolling in and the wind had picked up, but the restaurant building itself provides an excellent windshield, and well-placed fire pits mean that even a cold-blooded creature like myself was comfortable in only a sweater for warmth. If you do grow cold, or forget your layers at home, there is a basket of blankets provided for bundling as the marine layer approaches. The patio is festively lit with overhead lights and gas torches, which will set the right mood for either a raucous party or romantic encounter.
The menu’s signature is a list of seasonally changing small plates that are each inspired by the street food of an international surfing destination. Current selections include Vietnamese chicken wings from Nha Trang, bacon-wrapped dates with chorizo from Spain’s Mundaka, Pays Basque, and mixed seafood poke inspired by Hawaii’s Pipeline. The rest of the menu is a familiar take on California-Mediterranean cooking to suit a broad range of appetites, including pizzas from the wood-fired oven (the ham and dill pickle one is calling my name), cioppino, porchetta, and New York steak.
There is a full bar, with classics like the French 75, Hurricane, Pegu, and sidecar, and more innovative twists like the Rubicon (green Chartreuse, rosemary, gin, maraschino, and lemon juice) and the Porcini (bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters, and Cointreau). Wine drinkers will find a California-heavy wine list, plus six beers on tap and more by the bottle.
Reservations will be available for both inside and outside areas, and parking is ample. Surf Spot is opening today, Tuesday June 19th, and their hours will be Mon-Sat 11am-10pm and Sunday brunch 9am-3pm. 4627 Coast Hwy. 1, Pacifica, 877-625-2929.
A portion of the patio, lit by torches. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.