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Sit Down to a Great Meal
North Coast Brewing Co. Taproom & Grill is probably Fort Bragg’s most famous restaurant, thanks to North Coast’s designation as one of the top 10 brewing companies in the world by the Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Championships. Order the Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale, an Old No. 38 Stout or a Scrimshaw Pilsner, paired with a steak or the grill’s Carolina barbecue. At the Mendo Bistro, down the street and upstairs in the Company Store building, relax in the spacious, wood-heavy dining room and savor the local, sustainable, organic dishes. Everything that can be house made is. Order off the entree menu or go with the “Choice Menu,” which means you pick your main slab (chicken, fish, beef, tofu or portobello mushroom), determine how you’d like it cooked (roasted, grilled, sautéed, etc.) and what sauce you would like (eight options, including “charmoula”—an earthy, tangy Moroccan sauce that is great on grilled tri-tip). Across Main Street, Piaci Pub & Pizzeria draws crowds for its calzone, focaccia and, yes, pizza. If you go, pair your pizza with one of the nearly local microbrews, like Death and Taxes Black Lager from Moonlight Brewing in Windsor. For your pizza, go simple or branch out and try something fancier, like the Gustoso, with pesto, chevre, pears, prosciutto and herbs. One more favorite restaurant: Nit’s Cafe, which takes some heat for its high prices and cash-only payment policy, turns out some of the best Thai fusion—red curry with chicken, pad Thai with big prawns and organic veggies, pineapple fried rice, dayboat scallops, among other inventive dishes. Nit herself takes and cooks the orders. Allergies or aversions? She’ll make sure it’s done right. If you’re looking for seafood—fish ’n’ chips, chowder, cioppino, linguine and clams—head down to Noyo Harbor, most famous for the sailing scene with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell at the end of Overboard. Silver’s at the Wharf and Herons by the Sea are a couple of longtime favorites—both overlook the water.
Trek the Trails and the Trestle
Take a 3 ½-mile hike along the Ten Mile Beach Trail, which leads from the Pudding Creek Trestle—a former log-haul railroad bridge that has been renovated and opened a couple of years ago to foot and bicycle traffic—to Ten Mile River in MacKerricher State Park. The trail lines the ocean, crossing sand dunes and providing broad views of the Pacific Coast. About a mile and a half along, cross Virgin Creek, and after another mile or so, you’ll come upon Lake Cleone, a tidal lagoon often crowded with shorebirds.
At MacKerricher State Park, which lies about three miles north of Fort Bragg, day use is free. Go for the beaches and bluffs, and watch for seals, birds and whales. (The gray whales could be migrating as early as this month.) Eye the crabs and anemones in tide pools, and collect treasures at Glass Beach—a garbage dump until the ’60s, it now is piled with glass that’s been scoured by the surf. Check out the whale skeleton on display at the MacKerricher Visitor Center.
Spend the Night
Do not attempt to do Fort Bragg in a day trip. It’s too long a drive, plus there are plenty of sleepover options in town. The Weller House Inn, a B&B in a historic 1886 mansion, has 10 individually decorated rooms, including two in the renovated water tower. Dance in the inn’s 900-square-foot redwood-paneled ballroom and explore the pristine garden—a great place to relax on a bench with a novel. Another 1890s structure, The Country Inn, sits within walking distance of the Skunk Train depot and downtown’s shops, and has eight rooms, all different, all decorated in country style. For a different experience, stay at the Coast Inn & Spa, where the rooms range from basic to luxurious, but are disguised by a lackluster motorlodgelike exterior. Word to the wise: Request a room that has been renovated. Reserve one with heated clay floors or a jetted tub or a fireplace, and make an appointment at the adjacent Natural Healing center for a massage, far-infrared sauna or vibration therapy. If you’re really committed, stay awhile and do Dr. Bernard Jensen’s Whole Body Cleansing and Detoxification program or partake in one of the other longer-term healing regimens.