Santa Cruz Good Times

Dec 01st
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North Coast Ghost

dining_DistilleryWhether it's fine dining or a snack, at Moss Beach Distillery marvelous ocean views are on the house
During Prohibition, under the cover of darkness and fog, Canadian rum runners landed just north of Half Moon Bay at Moss Beach to unload their contraband. While most of their cargo was destined for San Francisco speakeasies, some of it made its way up the cliff to Frank's Roadhouse, a restaurant frequented by well-heeled celebrities and civic leaders. Today, the white building is home to Moss Beach Distillery and perhaps also to the charming but ghostly Blue Lady.

It was a pleasant stroll to the restaurant from the Seal Cove Inn, where our overnight package included a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant. Above the bar, which serves nice Bloody Marys, is a stamped tin ceiling. The overstuffed swiveling barstools, each with its own footrest, are fixed to the floor. Occasionally, the hanging lamps will unexpectedly begin trembling. The bar menu included snacks such as Tempura Green Beans ($11) and Cheesy Garlic Bread ($10) with pesto butter and pomodoro marinara sauce as well as quesadillas, burgers and salads. A Kidz menu ($8) offers pleasers like "Kraft" Mac 'n' Cheese, Lil' Corndogs, and Mini Cheeseburgers. Bottomless glasses of sparkling wine and mimosas are served at Sunday brunch.

We were seated at a table which overlooked the dog-friendly patio where patrons draped in colorful woven Mexican blankets huddled around flagstone fire pits in anticipation of the sunset. Clouds on the horizon lifted as the sun, like a spotlight, shed its final path of gold across the ocean to the tide-covered beach below.

For starters, a sheet of mild melted cheese covered the cup of French Onion Soup ($6). At the bottom of the dark broth lay the characteristic slice of bread. A single Crab Cake ($17), more bread-like than what we encountered on our last visit, was dotted with corn and green onions. It was served with an absolutely delicious salad of cucumber, red onion and cilantro— plus aioli lightly flavored with Bay Seasoning. The Half Garden Salad ($9) of locally grown greens, dressed with tangy vinaigrette, was topped with strips of shaved vegetables.

Perpendicular grill marks decorated the Scottish Salmon ($30) in a tart tomato bisque sauce, which rested upon creamy, al dente garlic risotto, green beans, asparagus and slender baby carrots.

Pan-roasted Bluenose Sea Bass ($32) was served with capers over wilted greens and cannellini beans. The nicely cooked firm white fish flaked into thick chunks.

For dessert, I couldn't resist the deep-fried Wontons ($9). Four crisp triangular pockets, which were served with a ramekin of warm, thick chocolate fudge fondue, were stuffed with bananas, white chocolate and marshmallow.

I was disappointed to leave again without catching a glimpse or sense of the Blue Lady, or 'Cayte' as she apparently wishes to be called. It is believed that this ghost of a stylishly dressed young woman, who in the 1930s was murdered on the beach below, still hopes to reunite with her soul mate, a man who played the piano at Frank's.

Moss Beach Distillery, 140 Beach Way, Moss Beach, 650-728-5595. Full bar. Serving lunch and dinner daily from 12 noon, and from 11 a.m. for Sunday brunch. Currently, the last dinner seating is at 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends. Visit

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