Some of my earliest summer memories involve feasting on fish and chips and chasing squirrels and seagulls in the sleepy coastal town of Morro Bay. Having been a Bay Area baby, we would often head down into SLO county on family day-trips. Although a bit off the beaten track from the more inland areas in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, Morro Bay is a great destination for those looking to slow it down a bit.
My first goal on this recent trip into Morro Bay was to grab lunch at Giovanni’s Fish Market. Giovanni’s has been around for over 25 years and features an amazing fresh fish market and restaurant. This casual spot has you lining up to order at the window so you can dig in al fresco with a killer Morro Bay view. This place is easily one of the most popular dining options in the area with great prices, hearty portions, and supreme quality. Don’t bother paying top dollar for linen table cloths and an ocean view; hunker down at Giovanni’s with a cup of their creamy clam chowder and enjoy the simple things in life. You will not regret it.
The order: Fried combo (fish, chips, scallops, shrimp, and squid perfectly battered and fried), Dungeness Crab Quesadilla (loaded with fresh crab and avocado), and a cup of clam chowder.
When you’ve gotten your fill, walk off that satisfied belly and check out all the little shops along the waterfront. You’ll find an interesting mix of touristy beach shops and hidden gems. Since I was looking forward to this trip down memory lane, I made sure to load up on delicious salt water taffy, fresh local jerky, and post cards to send friends. There was a really inexpensive bay cruise available every hour for only $10, but we were short on time for that. I also recommend driving down to the state beach to get a different view of the bay.
Walking away from the water, you’ll start to see more of the local mom and pop shops that make Morro Bay a great place to explore. We stumbled upon the old Rock Espresso, which has recently changed hands in the past handful of years, and found the former coffee joint to be in lovely and capable coffee-loving hands. Much cleaner and inviting, The Rock is a solid coffee spot in an area that is overrun by cheap coffee a la gas station-style.
We were able to chat with Amanda who has owned The Rock with her husband for the past three years. While the shop has been around for about 20 years, they recently took ownership and have made it a true local hub. Their coffee beans are of excellent quality and are locally roasted by a small-batch roaster in Cambria, CA just a few miles away. Our latte and Mexican Mochas came out perfectly and were exactly what we needed to relax after a busy weekend.
Last but not least, no trip to Morro Bay would be complete without visiting Coalesce Books. As one of the oldest independent bookstores in California,this awesome shop just around the corner from The Rock Espresso has loads of quality new and used books and a garden chapel in the back, too. My mother and I used to come here often when I was younger and I am glad to see it thriving until this day. Prices are great and there’s a little something for everyone.
Giovanni’s Fish Market is located at 1001 Front Street, Morro Bay, CA.
The Rock Espresso is located at 275 Morro Bay Blvd, Morro Bay, CA.
Coalesce Books is located at 845 Main Street, Morro Bay, CA.