Many restaurants have come and gone from Morro Bay since the late 1980s, but perhaps the most unlikely success story of the bunch—the quirky Bayside Cafe—has prevailed as one of the area’s most-beloved eateries.
Bayside Cafe isn’t on the tourist-driven Embarcadero. Diners will find it adjacent to the state park marina south of downtown on State Park Road, just across from the 13th green at Morro Bay Golf Course. The cafe looks out onto the estuary in a setting that captures what so many people love about Morro Bay: its rugged isolation, serenity and, of course, the aroma of fresh fried seafood.
Bayside, as regulars refer to it, has grown from a walk-up taco and burrito stand to a sit-down restaurant and patio that seats 90, all under the leadership of cafe owner, Dawn Borst.
While the menu doesn’t boast any New Age or fancy dishes, the fare is consistent and diverse. The most popular dishes are its salmon sandwich topped with grilled onions, fish and chips and the seafood pasta—all of which have been on the menu for years.
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Patrons can order the fresh fish of the day, a black bean burrito or have a simple hamburger, said Borst.
Warm patio is cool
The restaurant has slowly expanded over the years and now has ample patio seating, even in notoriously foggy Morro Bay. Since people want to enjoy their surroundings, Borst added outdoor heaters making the Bayside’s patio one of the most pleasant outdoor dining spots in the county.
Seafood is the focus of the menu, and it’s available fresh, fried, in tacos, in pasta or on a bun. I started with an appetizer of it, the bacon-wrapped albacore. Larger than I expected, it was two 3-ounce servings of seared-rare albacore (we had requested it that way). Cooked to our liking, the crispy bacon nicely enhanced the smooth fish, adding a bit of moisture and flavor. It was plenty of protein for an appetizer and it could have even made an entrée on its own if paired with a salad, perhaps.
Salads and salmon
Speaking of salads, Bayside’s offerings are good, though not especially notable. Served with house-made dressing, they include a heap of greens, red onion rings and sliced tomato — and are a pleasant way to start a meal. Fresh, warm sourdough rolls are served with dinner, which always go nicely with seafood.
The salmon filet was a generous piece of fish served with rice pilaf and sautéed vegetables. The salmon was slightly rare, keeping it moist and flavorful. The rice had a touch of butter, and the broccoli, cauliflower and squash were cooked just soft enough.
Paired with a glass of chardonnay, it was a light-yet- satisfying meal — perfect for an autumn evening.
The seafood pasta was packed with tuna, salmon, scallops, clams and shrimp. Topped with Parmesan and cream sauce, it’s a generous serving, albeit a little rich. The scallops were the star, with their delicate-yet-chewy texture.
Other recommended dishes are the monster-size nachos or quesadillas. Bayside’s fried brie and fresh fruit appetizer is also delicious.
For the sweet tooth
Desserts at Bayside are also house-made and popular with their $5 price tag. Borst, who used to bake the sandwich buns in the restaurant’s early days, continues to be the only one to make the pie crusts, a contribution that she won’t pass on to the cooks.
There are no reservations at Bayside so visitors on a weekend evening will likely face a wait. But it’d be an anomaly to find a customer complaining. With the bay just steps away at sunset, it’s hard to think of a better place to be.