A few weeks ago I left San Francisco down Highway 1 headed for the border. I didn't get that far before I stopped for lunch at the newish Dad's Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay. It had been open for four months at that point and gotten a lot of early press coverage due to the Michelin-starred experience of its chef/owner as Saison's chef de cuisine .
Dad's Luncheonette is housed in a vintage train caboose car fitted with an enclosed patio for seating. The menu is small but includes vegan/vegetarian options, and nearly every ingredient is organic. The counter lady confided that customers are at the door each morning that she has opened, and things often sell out before closing time.
We started with the herb salad. It changes every day depending on what's fresh and seasonal. This one was mostly Italian parsley and mint with some thinly shaved radishes and mustard flowers dressed with a light, citrusy vinaigrette.
Velvety mac and cheese was on the mild side but the topping made it sing. A blizzard of pungent snipped chives and crunchy puffed wild rice added color and texture.
Soup of the day was curried yam. The exotic and fiery curry seasonings were quite prominent making this a warming dish both from temperature and spice and much appreciated on a chilly and breezy coastside afternoon.
We finished with one each of the sandwiches: Hamburger and Maitake Mushroom. They're served on buttered and grilled white bread with melted cheese, kind of like a patty melt. The beef is sourced from San Gregorio's Pomponio Ranch http://pomponioranchmeat.com/. The steer are pastured and finished on small grains, so not entirely grass fed. I was not asked how I wanted the burger cooked, and that apparently is a thing here. The chef has his own platonic ideal, and that's the only way he serves it. Medium-well, no mustard, ketchup or mayo, and no modifications allowed. The two versions are dressed the same with a runny-yolked egg, tender whole leaf lettuce, red onion pickles and Dad's sauce. Since we were sharing, I asked for ours to be cut into quarters. I think that made these drippy and overflowing sandwiches a little less messy to eat. The beef patty was too firm for my taste and verged on rubbery. I preferred the mushroom version, finding that the maitake harmonized better with the other components. Yet, I'd happily eat either one again, if I could convince chef to cook that beef on the rarer side of his comfort point.
Despite the damp and cold, the spot felt cozy and friendly. It was a kick to be able to interact with Scott Clark and taste his passion. Lunch for three of us, including a bottle of local lavender kombucha, came to about $45. Not inexpensive, but worth it.
225 Cabrillo Highway South
(at Kelly Ave)
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(Pro tip: The parking lot can be entered from the side street to the south that has a traffic signal where it intersects with Hwy 1. Much easier to get in and out that way.)