The sun is setting out over the ocean and silhouetting the pier as you enjoy a cold beer or sip one of the Central Coast’s best wines Schooners beachfront restaurant in Cayucos, last of the great California beach towns. You can’t go wrong with a dining establishment whose philosophy is to “offer the finest wild-caught fish and sustainably raised meat together with the freshest local produce.”
With one of the best locations on the California coast, Schooners is right on the beach where you can watch surfers ride the waves near the pier or catch a glimpse of dolphins at play in the surf. You might even see a breaching Humpback whale, all while enjoying the varied menu at this favorite eatery for locals and visitors alike.
Rustic décor reminds you of the old days when sailing ships tied up to the pier in Cayucos bringing goods from afar for local ranchers and farmers and taking dairy and meats back to cities and towns along the west coast.
The establishment was once a soda fountain shop, then a diner called Jack and Flo’s until Bill Larkin – tavern maker of local renown – bought it and renovated the building into the current nautical theme. It opened as Schooner’s Wharf in 1994. Bill later turned the restaurant over to his son and nephew before current owner Brendan Fritzsche bought it in 2010.
Seating is available up on the deck with its iconic view of the ocean and pier. Tables at ground level are situated in different nooks, and there is a fantastic bar height counter running along the beachside entrance to the property where you can say hi to all the people walking their dogs along Front Street. Beachside take-out is also available at their Front Street window.
Indoor seating is currently available at reduced capacity, including the upstairs bar and a newly renovated downstairs dining room that features open-air counter seating overlooking Ocean Avenue. This would be an ideal spot for people-watching and offers front-row viewing for the famous 4th of July parade in Cayucos.
The menu offers many excellent choices, starting with their rich and creamy clam chowder. You can pair that with crisp Sesame Crusted Ahi or BBQ Chicken salads. Or begin with crab cakes over mixed greens with fire-roasted corn and black bean relish, or maybe some raw oysters, locally sourced from Grassy Bay Oyster Company in Morro Bay when available, as well as from Point Reyes and the Puget Sound.
Stop in for lunch beginning at 11 A.M. and enjoy the finest fish & chips – with your choice of Halibut, Alaskan Cod, Jumbo Shrimp, or Calamari. Schooners also features excellent fish tacos, Guacos, as well as an Albacore Tuna Melt and the Cayucos BLT, with local avocado and chipotle aioli. Just want a burger? Schooners has you covered with their 6-ounce all-chuck patties and several builds to satisfy your taste, including their top-selling ABC Burger – with local avocado, bacon and cheddar – and the Cowboy Burger, topped with an onion ring, bacon, BBQ sauce and pepper jack cheese. All sandwiches and fish and chips come with Schooners killer beer battered fries, or you can sub sweet potato fries, onion rings, or a garden or Caesar salad if you like. There’s also a great menu for the kids!
Dinner begins at 5 P.M. with an assortment of seafood specialties, including the Parmesan Crusted Halibut over a creamy pesto risotto, Teriyaki Glazed Mahi Mahi with pineapple fried rice, Maple Bourbon Glazed Coho Salmon, and the perennial favorite Seafood Pasta over fettucine in a creamy marinara sauce. A spicy and savory Cioppino, the generous Lobster Mac, Single & Twin Lobster Tail Dinners, and the freshest wild Catch of the Day rounds out the seafood entrees. Steak lovers can enjoy a Wagyu Flank Steak with a zesty Chimichurri sauce, or the Petit Surf & Turf, which pairs a tender petite filet mignon and split lobster with fingerling potatoes and crispy Brussels sprouts. Dinner guests are also free to order fish and chips and burgers if that’s where the evening takes them.
Schooners bar has long been a locals’ favorite for enjoying craft cocktails, rotating draft selections, and some of the Central Coast’s finest wines. While capacity is currently limited, the bar remains the perfect hideaway for a date night with your partner, or an afternoon Bloody Mary with your friends.
The owner of Schooners also owns the property, which includes long term and short-term beachfront rentals. There are two beachside cabanas for overnight guests, which can also be used for specialty offsite events as needed. Private events have also been part of the offerings at Schooners. Additionally, the town annually hosts several marquee events, such as the popular Cayucos Sea Glass Festival and the Independence Day Celebration.
Of course, while live and large events are not currently being held, Schooners still offers a virtual happy hour twice monthly, featuring music by the talented Rachel Santa Cruz and special guests. This virtual event is broadcast live to their Facebook page, or you can link to the event through their website, schoonerscayucos.com.
For reservations or more information call (805) 995-3883.
–By Ruth Ann Angus