Skip to content

Part of the fun of a California beach vacation is definitely the dining. And while you’ll find everything from fancy fare to casual seaside fish and chips, sometimes it’s fun to have a totally unique dining experience. And these are a few of the restaurants where you can do just that.

Forbes Island, San Francisco

Located on Fisherman’s Wharf, Forbes Island provides a fantasy dining experience. This 100-seat restaurant, decorated like the inside of an 1810 sailing ship, looks absolutely incredible inside. Even better: The food, which consists of a four-course dinner, is quite good.

Sam’s Anchor Cafe, Tiburon

Tiburon is a quiet coastal community just north of San Francisco, and Sam’s Anchor Cafe is the place to go for delicious dockside dining. You’ll enjoy classic seafood dishes along with views of Angel Island, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline.

Cold Springs Tavern, Santa Barbara

Located on Highway 154 just outside of Santa Barbara, the Cold Springs Tavern is the kind of place that you won’t even believe exists anymore. Visiting feels like going back in time (the building dates back to 1865), but there’s nothing stuffy about the menu. From their famous Cold Springs Chili to the Charbroiled Venison Steak Sandwich, you’ll have plenty of hearty options to choose from.

The Vintage Steakhouse, San Juan Capistrano

Speaking of going back in time, at the Vintage Steakhouse, you can dine in a Pullman car from 1927. The restaurant is located at the historic Capistrano Depot in San Juan Capistrano, which was built in 1894.

Pacific Dining Car, Santa Monica

Since its 1921 beginnings, Pacific Dining Car has given thousands of people the opportunity to dine in a replica of an old dining car, and this vintage steakhouse remains are charming as ever. Best of all, they’re open 24 hours a day, so you can have a gourmet meal whenever you’re craving it.

Playground, Santa Ana

At Playground, the unique part of the experience is the food itself. It’s a tapas-style dining establishment with menu items like Waffled Kaya Toast and Brian’s Pan Fried Noodle Nightmare, you can count on creative fare here. The menu itself changes daily since the ingredients are mostly local. Next door to Playground you’ll find the very intimate Playground 2.0, were tickets are required to be purchased in advance.

Corvette Diner, San Diego

You’ll be sent straight back to the 1950s when you visit this San Diego gem. It’s located in the charming Liberty Station, and the menu includes things like Hula Hoop Onion Rings and the Ike & Tina Tuna Melt.

The Lark, Santa Barbara

The Lark was named for the overnight Pullman train of the Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910 -1968. The menus here are locally sourced and responsibly grown, and the food is served family style intended for sharing.

Sir Winston’s at Queen Mary, Long Beach

Not only can you dine on this historic ship, now permanently located in Long Beach, you can dine with the spirits, literally. This special dinner includes a spooky tour like no other. After dinner, you will be guided by a trained paranormal guide to explore the Queen Mary’s most notorious paranormal hotspots and hear harrowing tales of the ship’s haunted past.

Pizza at the Beach!

Domino’s is now delivering pizzas and all other menu items directly to some beaches and parks. Visit Domino’s website for their new “hotspots” and see if they have a delivery location that is close to the beach you will be at. Note that it is probably safer to eat the pizza in the parking lot rather than on the beach. Sandy pizza is not good!

Other Unique Dining Experiences

  • Jalama Beach Grill, Lompoc
  • Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur
  • The Marine Room, La Jolla
  • Samoa Cookhouse, near Eureka
  • Elk General Store, Elk
  • Cafe Nouveau, Ventura
  • The Pelican Inn, Muir Beach
  • Shadowbrook Restaurant, Capitola
  • Cameron’s Restaurant & Inn, Half Moon Bay
  • Cascade Bar & Grill at Costanoa, Pescadero
  • Davenport Roadhouse, Davenport
  • Sardine Factory, Monterey
  • Olde Port Inn Restaurant, Avila Beach
  • Jalama Beach Grill, Lompoc
  • Spud Point Crab Company, Bodega Bay
  • Egghead’s Restaurant, Fort Bragg
  • Ruddell’s Smokehouse, Cayucos