When planning a one-night visit to Half Moon Bay, the top suggestion I received was, “Go to Sam’s.” Not being a person to disobey direct commands, I made dinner reservations at this charming coastal chowder house for a Tuesday night.
Nestled into a stunning curve along Highway 1, Sam’s offers beautiful views along with traditional seafood dishes, warm sourdough bread and fresh produce. The fresh bay air piques visitors’ senses as they relax on the softly lit patio among cozy fire pits and much-appreciated heat lamps.
Dining inside the restaurant is almost equally as enjoyable and your hair will thank you for choosing the less wind-blown option. Above the bar is a row of well-placed mirrors that allow diners (and drinkers alike) to view the coastline, even with their backs turned.
This is where my travel partner and I found ourselves upon an extremely out-of-character early arrival. We decided to settle in at the bar to catch some of the Warriors game before the rest of the party arrived. As I scanned the selection of libations, I noticed a cheerfully colorful chalkboard displaying some amazing happy hour deals.
As it worked out, 6:45 p.m. on a Tuesday is an optimum time to be planted at Sam’s bar. Well drinks, beer and some wines are offered at half price from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. An impressive array of tasty beers were on tap including Hoegaarden and Stella Artois, but I wanted to go with something a little more out-of-the ordinary for this occasion.
At the bar tender’s suggestion, I went with a glass of Mum’s sparkling wine, which paired oh-so-nicely with the Tuesday special $1 oysters (what doesn’t go well with $1 oysters though, right?). My fellow happy-hour-crusader ordered a Hoegaarden, which also complimented the light, briny taste of the oysters.
From 4 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays through April, the bar offers the chef’s choice of $1 oysters accompanied by lemon wedges and three dipping sauces. I enjoyed the spicy, chunky horseradish the most, but the zesty cocktail sauce and lighter option of red wine vinegar were also enjoyable.
This particular Tuesday spotlighted Fanny’s Bay oysters. I feigned understanding and approval at this tidbit of information from the bar tender (“Ah yes, wonderful”), while really wondering if that was a location or flavor. After a little research, I discovered Fanny’s Bay is a seafood company in British Columbia, Canada. While a little disappointed that these were not local oysters, I don’t know if my palate could have discerned a difference due to the oysters’ long travel. They were delicious all the same.
Sam’s also offers 20% off of locals’ food and drinks on Wednesday nights and ladies get half off one appetizer in the bar from 4 p.m. to closing on Thursdays. These specials also only last through the end of April.
The happy hour deals were the highlight of our visit and would prompt me to return to Sam’s if in the area. However, for dinner, their famous lobster roll ($21.95) was not overly impressive. One of their claims to fame is that NBC’s The Today Show named the lobster roll one of the best five sandwiches in America. However, the sandwich was served at room temperature and was rather bland. The chunks of lobster were big and were not overly drenched in butter or mayonnaise, but they were not especially flavorful either.
The New England Clam Chowder ($6.25 cup, $9.95 bowl) on the other hand, remained hot throughout the meal and was fantastic, especially when eaten with the fresh sourdough bread that was consistently replenished. This chowder was not weighed down with overly heavy cream or flour like some chowders. Rather the clam broth, smoked bacon and spices were able to shine in this savory dish.
For future visits, I would go for the breath-taking view and happy hour. As the sun sets over the bay, I would order the chowder and dip warm pieces of the complimentary bread into the steaming bowl.
The New England Clam Chowder: $6.25 cup, $9.95 bowl
Lobster Roll: $21.95
Chef’s Choice Oysters: $1