Restaurant News & Reviews

Bayside Café in Morro Bay serves fresh seafood, burgers with unbeatable views

Jam-packed with clams, mussels, crab claws, scallops and shrimp, the hearty steamers bowl at Bayside Café in Morro Bay is big enough to share.
Jam-packed with clams, mussels, crab claws, scallops and shrimp, the hearty steamers bowl at Bayside Café in Morro Bay is big enough to share.

In 1986, Dawn Borst opened Bayside Café at the Morro Bay State Park marina, serving a modest menu made with her own recipes.

The casual spot quickly developed a devoted lunch following for its burgers on housemade buns, from-scratch chili verde burritos and handcrafted desserts.

Over the past 30 years, Bayside Café has evolved in response to its customers. With the addition of a dinner menu (now served four nights a week), the restaurant has settled in as a comforting landmark for locals and visitors seeking hearty, fresh fare with unbeatable views.

A covered dining area overlooks the marina, estuary and the southern end of the sand spit. It’s an absorbing vista even when the marine layer drifts in, but on sunny days, the prime seats are on the dog-friendly patio in back.

As expected, given its waterfront locale, seafood is a popular option here. Some tried-and-true dishes are char-broiled salmon filet sandwich, fish and chips with housemade tartar sauce and bacon-wrapped albacore skewers.

Other Bayside favorites are from-scratch New England-style clam chowder and the hearty steamers bowl. Jam-packed with clams, mussels, crab claws, scallops and shrimp, it’s definitely big enough to share.

So are the nachos, made with fresh tortilla chips and heaped with all the fixings.

If you’re not in the mood for fish, not to worry. The café serves up a wide range of other options.

Go for a hand-formed hamburger on a brioche bun or a club sandwich on toasted sourdough, pasta primavera or slow-roasted tri-tip, Caesar salad or chicken fajitas. (Gone are the days when the café could keep up with the demand of making all of its own burger buns and sandwich breads; those now come primarily from local bakeries such as Edna’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo and Brian’s Artisan Bread Co. in Atascadero.)

Bayside Café is also well known for its housemade desserts. All the decadent options are made from Borst’s own recipes and include a three-layer carrot cake, boysenberry crisp topped with heavy cream and tres leches cake soaked with sweet milk and a splash of rum.

Other dessert temptations are the cream pies — chocolate, coconut and key lime. And Borst still makes all the delicately flaky pie crusts herself.

The Bayside Café is celebrating its 31st year of operation in the wake of a recent setback. Borst and her staff hadn’t planned on taking a five-day vacation in mid-February, but Mother Nature had other ideas.

On Feb. 17, as President’s Day Weekend had just begun, a fierce storm pummeled the Central Coast. Toppled trees and downed electric lines forced the closure of Morro Bay State Park campground, and the road leading to it. Across the street, Bayside Café was among the peripheral casualties.

Though the café itself escaped damage, surprising given all the surrounding eucalyptus trees, “we lost all of our electric, and we were closed for five days,” Borst said.

Thanks to a diesel generator, she managed to maintain freezer temperatures, but “we lost everything in the fridge — all the perishable dairy and all the food that we’d hand-prepped for the day.”

That was a significant loss given that “everything possible is made from scratch,” Borst said.

After the Morro Bay area mopped up from the storm, Bayside Café got right back into the swing of things.

On a recent visit, helpful servers answered questions from visitors about the area, and Borst greeted patrons who have been coming to the café since she’d opened.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

Bayside Café

10 State Park Road, Morro Bay (at the marina)

805-772-1465 or baysidecafe.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The scene: A longtime favorite of locals and visitors, this casual waterfront café offers indoor and outdoor seating.

The cuisine: Hearty from-scratch fare, including seafood options, burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and housemade desserts; predominantly local beer and wine available.

Expect to spend: Most lunch entrées $10 to $20, dinner entrées $10 to $30, desserts $6 to $8.

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