My sweetheart and I went for a long weekend in Fort Bragg, in the course of which we hit one longtime favorite and two brand new new favorites.
Longtime favorite: North Coast Brewing Company. We ended up eating both dinners here (thought about trying Mendo Bistro, but recent reports were not encouraging). 1st night we split the fried calamari (very good), a bowl of clam chowder (always excellent), the seared scallop & bacon salad (fabulous), and the fish & chips (still outstanding–crisp outside, moist & tender inside).
2nd night we split the shrimp ceviche (very nice, served with fresh & crisp tortilla chips), the salad special for that night (blanking on what all was in it, but it was really good), and the caramelized onion pizza. This last was the only disappointment–the crust was not that flavorful, and could have done with another minute or two in a very hot oven. (Jody makes a great pizza crust herself, so she’s very picky about others’ crusts.)
So overall, they still have it; I wouldn’t recommend the pizza (based on that one experience, so take it with a grain of salt) but I would recommend everything else (including the beer, which should go without saying).
New favorite #1: David’s (in the Boatyard shopping center, just south of the Noyo Bridge), breakfast and lunch only. Jody had been here on a previous visit, having stayed at the motel next door; otherwise we might never have found it. It’s an unassuming-looking place in a strip mall with a fairly plain interior, ornamented with beautiful photography near the front and mediocre photography near the back (all for sale, and I think all local photographers–though I’m not certain of that). It’s definitely a locals’ hangout, the sort of place where a waitress might sit down at the table to chat with friends for a bit.
The first day I had the corned beef hash (with eggs over easy), which was a huge heaping plate of food. The potato component of the hash was hash browns, which I hadn’t seen before but worked really well; overall it was excellent–nicely but not over spiced, good texture, plenty of corned beef chunks. The second day (yeah, we had to go back) Jody had the eggs benedict (solid) and I had maybe the best chicken-fried steak I’ve ever had. Tender meat, perfect crisp, flavorful gravy (with bits of bacon in it). Chicken-fried steak can so easily go hideously wrong, but this was everything it should be.
Service both days was very friendly. The second day there was some kind of problem that backed up the kitchen, and we ended up waiting 30 minutes or more for our orders. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the owner/manager (?) announced to everyone that this was the situation, and said all of our beverages would be taken off the bill. They also came around with little plates of carrot & celery sticks and ranch for people to snack on. Disasters happen, but the difference is in how people deal with them; the fact that they were up front about it, and made those gestures to make up for it, bought them a ton of good will.
(Digression: in December Jody & I ate at a roadside cafe in Oregon where, unbeknownst to us, the power had gone out for several hours earlier in the day–long enough that the manager sent most of the staff home. Then it came on again. So they were hopelessly short-staffed with a place full of customers–which happens, and it’s a tough situation–but they didn’t tell anyone what was going on until we had already been waiting well over half an hour. The smart thing would have been to disclose the situation up front, so anyone in a hurry (we were driving home from Portland) could decide whether to stay or go. Instead they just pissed off a lot of people.)
New favorite #2: the second night we wanted to go for a cocktail before dinner, and ended up deciding on the Golden West Saloon. Good call. Divey but friendly, lovely interior, and they had what’s probably the best gin selection on the North Coast. (Off the top, I noticed all three St. Georges, Junipero, Death’s Door, and Sipsmith, among others.) If it were in my neighborhood I’d be going there once a week or more. Definitely our go-to place for cocktails in Fort Bragg.
Footnote: on the way up we stopped for breakfast/lunch at Hallie’s in Petaluma (next to the Petaluma Market). We had been here a couple years before and liked it a lot; this confirmed it. Very nice scrambled eggs with smoked salmon & cream cheese. Excellent home-fries, lots of paprika. Excellent, friendly service.