Pacifica, just down Highway 1 from San Francisco, has always been known as a town that loves outdoor activities, from surfing to hiking or biking along the coast. Now, residents and visitors alike will have a restaurant to go to with that very idea in mind.
The Surf Spot is the brainchild of chef/co-owner Derek Burns and partners Taitten Cowan and David Szeto. Cowan and Burns live in Pacifica and Burns said the restaurant is something the town has been missing for years. “When you think of Pacifica, you think of all the outdoor activities. But there hasn’t been a spot where residents and out-of-towners could sit out on a patio and enjoy the outdoors, yet still get a wonderful meal or cocktail,” he said. “The Surf Spot offers a casual dining experience, both in and outdoors where people can get together, meet up, have some great food, drinks and enjoy all that Pacifica has to offer.”
I recently got a chance to tour the expansive space. Most of the outdoor areas are still under construction as Burns said he hopes that they are complete in the next month or two. That includes private cabanas made out of recycled shipping containers. The cabanas will be meant mainly for private gatherings as each will be outfitted with a flat-screen tv, rooftop deck and access to plenty of tasty small bites from the outdoor kitchen. Burns said there are also plans for a stage which will host smaller concerts and shows. “Think of it how the Mountain Winery is except with a different feel for artists,” he said. “We’re thinking more like the Jack Johnson type of musical acts. With the cabana, grass areas and seating, we hope to be able to host 200-300 people for each show.” There will be fire pits and tiki lanterns to give it that tropical feel. But perhaps the coolest aspect will be the Imu, a traditional underground Hawaiian oven, which will be used for cooking pigs like Hawaiians do at a luau. As they say in the islands, “broke da mouth!”
The interior of the main restaurant is also very environmentally-friendly. The bar is made of a huge redwood tree that was diseased. Tabletops also come from reclaimed wood and the walls are meant to represent that surfboard feel, with a similar material and look. Photos and paintings line the walls with pictures “inside the barrel.” There is a private room in the front of the space, two areas for counter seating and a “green room,” which in surfer lingo is the inside of a large barrel.
As for the menu, Burns explains that it will be separated into three different sections. “You’ll have the Surf Spot section which will feature international cuisine from some of the great surfing destinations around the world. We might have something from Hawaii like a poke dish, or maybe something from Peru, Mexico or Tahiti. We wanted the name The Surf Spot to represent a place for surfers who traveled the world to gather and find dishes they might have experienced in their travels,” said Burns. “We will also have a Locals Menu which will have more of a comfort food feel with a lot of local produce. Finally will be the Garden Menu, which will have a hyper-focus on local ingredients. These are the items just coming off the fishing boats that day. This menu will be very seasonal in nature and depend a lot on what our distributors are able to get each day.” Burns said that many dishes will be fairly simple but he also wants to get into some of the nuances and finer aspects of cooking, including possibly dabbling in molecular gastronomy. There will also be a wood-burning oven and rotisserie.
Cocktails will not be as tropical as you might think. “I didn’t want a full-on tiki bar,” Burns said. “I wanted to have a cocktail program that matched what we were doing in the kitchen. The drinks will take full advantage of the produce available and will be full of the mixology that customers come to expect when dining out at the best restaurants in the Bay Area.” The wine list will be small, maybe 20-25 wines total, but will be served on tap, with all the wines available by glass. “We didn’t want to have diners paying $100 for a bottle when they might not really want the whole thing. So we’re making everything available by the glass. It gives us a few options to have a more concise wine list with plenty of great bottles to choose from.”
Burns said he wanted a spot for locals and visitors alike that offered plenty of options in a comfortable and relaxed setting. The Surf Spot is located at 4627 Coast Highway (near Fassler Avenue) in Pacifica. It will be open to the public starting on Tuesday, June 19. The restaurant’s normal business hours will be Monday-Saturday from 11-11 and on Sunday from 9am-11pm.