The ol’ Commander sang that he knew where paradise lies (1), but I don’t know if he ever made the 44 mile hour and a half trip south from his Stinson Beach home to Miramar Beach to eat and drink at the Miramar Beach Restaurant. For Kathy and me, that’s where paradise lies, especially after a long trip west come to visit the fam in nearby Pescadaro. Smack on the Pacific with the waves crashing in onto big rocks, California sun shining down, there’s no place we’d rather plunk ourselves as we wait for our seaside rooms to be ready at the generically named “Oceanfront Hotel” (once “Landis Inn”) next door. It’s a ritual we’ve been following for at least 2 decades: beers and a plate of oysters plus a view of the sea. It was the first place I seriously cheated during my enforced pee-tested abstinence in ’11, sipping that forbidden beer knowing they couldn’t chase me into the hills of Silicon Valley.
Miramar is a place name of Spanish and Portuguese origin. It means “sea-view” or “sea sight” from mirar (“to look at, to watch”) and mar (“sea”). Many luxurious places around the world bear this name.
The Miramar Beach Restaurant is steeped in sin. It was designed and built as a prohibition roadhouse. Half Moon Bay was an ideal site for boats laden with Canadian booze to unload, transferring their cargo to cars bound for nearby San Francisco. Then there was that prostitution thing. Let me paste in the story from the restaurant’s website and let that tell the story. From 1918 to 1955 a redheaded madam named Maymie Cowley, aka “Boss”, ruled the Miramar. During her reign, the roadhouse was raided numerous times for illegal liquor, gambling and prostitution during Prohibition. During this time the Miramar was a notorious drop off point for illegal liquor. Smugglers bought their booze in Canada and shipped it down the coast to Half Moon Bay. Under the cover of darkness, small vessels, known as “rum runners”, met the large ships off the coast and transferred the illegal cargo to shore. Rum Runners, because of their speed, were ideal vessels to make the transfer from ship to shore. Due to their agility and speed they were often able to out run Coast Guard patrol boats. Half Moon Bay was the ideal location for the transfer of this illegal cargo, as it was a small isolated yet still close enough to San Francisco for transport by car.
The Miramar Beach Restaurant (known as the Ocean Beach Hotel during this time) was originally designed and built as a Prohibition roadhouse. This meant that in order to keep the contraband hidden during raids, secret compartments and revolving kitchen doors were built into the building. The upstairs of the Miramar served as the Bordello. Ten small rooms each equipped with a sink, a light, hat rack and bell system to the kitchen below allowed the restaurant to serve their customers upstairs.
Since the Golden Era of the Half Moon Bay Coastside, nearly all the speakeasies of that time have disappeared. Miramar Beach Restaurant is one of only a handful of buildings from that time period still standing.
So as I sit in their outdoor deck taking my pleasure in my beer and the view, I wonder how my pleasures pale compared to prior denizens of this place.
But those pleasures are nevertheless ample, so let us review
Here’s the restaurant as a Rum Runner might see it (although I think they sailed at night).
You can only see the deck a little bit to the right, but since it’s a major feature now, see it all, inside and out
and what do you see from that perspective?
That’s Pillar Point off to the right. There’s been a military base there since 1940. Currently, that tower with the little ball is used by the United States Space Force for tracking polar-orbiting space satellites and operational intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from Vandenberg AFB,
But you can’t live by the view alone. The Restaurant offers an ample array of tasty victuals, mostly from the sea, of course.
Beverages are important, and you might figure a place born in Prohibition would appreciate booze. As indeed they do. I’ll bet the beer they serve now, even from their meager 8 taps, is tastier than anything those boats once deposited.
I can vouch that their 2 IPAs – Big Daddy and Animal – are outstanding.
The management has taken things a little modern here and there. They’ve even got a slick logo.
But thankfully, I don’t think the place has changed much since times when the action on the shore involved more than the crashing waves. Of course, now, I don’t think “Boss” can help you out with your desires upstairs. So far as I know.
And so to bed. Fortunately, right next door, the Oceanfront Hotel. Don’t try to book it online. Call 650-483-2228. All rooms face the ocean and who couldn’t sleep to the music and rhythm of those Pacific waves crashing against the rocks.
1. Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries – Commander Cody. YouTube 5/2/13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1Cvg5VCpT4