Classic biker bars and pitstops
Nothing beats a warm weekend afternoon cruise on your favorite local road with lunch waiting for you at the end. California has an especially huge number of roadhouses and destination diners that cater to motoring crowds and travelers. Many Golden State watering holes have become famous haunts for motorcycle clubs, enthusiasts, hikers, and cyclists who come for the meal as much as the journey. Here are a few of the better-known joints that are worth the drive.
Nestled among the redwoods in the hills above Silicon Valley, Alice’s is a famous family destination where riders, hikers, travelers, and locals all flock on the weekends. The building was constructed around 1900 and served as a general store until the 1950s when it was converted into the restaurant. It has beers on tap, a hearty breakfast and lunch menu, and an adjoining single-pump gas station. Because it sits at the convergence of some of San Francisco Peninsula’s excellent twisty highways, Alice’s parking lots are always brimming with supercars, classics, and motorcycles of all types. Alice’s is a quick ride from San Francisco down beautiful Skyline Boulevard, or accessible from Highway 1 via the super-windy Old La Honda Road. If you’re out for a drive on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Bay Area, Alice’s is the place to be.
Neptune’s Net Seafood Restaurant
Neptune’s Net is a landmark seafood spot located right on the scenic PCH in Malibu. Thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles and idyllic ocean view, Neptune’s has been featured in numerous films and has become a wildly popular tourist attraction. You may remember it from scenes in Point Break or the very first Fast and Furious movie. On any given day, dozens of motorcycles will be parked out front and on weekends the joint is positively packed. Its location on Highway 1 across from the beach makes it too perfect a pitstop to skip on a warm SoCal weekend cruise. Neptune’s serves up everything from daily fresh catches to clam chowder and tall, cold beers.
Ethel’s Old Corral Cafe
Ethel’s Old Corral is a down-home dive bar that has been serving the oil workers, cowboys, and bikers of the central valley since 1964. This traditional western-style watering hole is a real hidden gem located on the outskirts of Bakersfield. Karaoke nights, live music, and comforting fried food hit all the right notes. Out back, there’s an actual corral where it’s not uncommon to see horses tied up while their riders throw back a few cold ones at the bar. Look no further than Ethel’s for a genuine slice of Americana in California. It’s a touch out of the way, but you won’t miss the fifty-foot Native American saluting the highway travelers.
Cold Spring Tavern
In the Santa Ynez Mountains over Santa Barbara sits a delightful piece of history. Cold Spring Tavern was originally built in 1865 as a stagecoach stop where weary travelers could water their horses and rest up while crossing through the San Marcos pass. It was converted to a tavern in 1886, and remains in service today as a popular destination, just a half-hour drive from downtown Santa Barbara. The menu features venison, buffalo, and wild rabbit, but the tri-tip sandwich is the famous choice. On the premises sits the county jail from nearby Ojai, built in 1873 and relocated over the mountains to the tavern. The four remaining buildings of the Gopherville, California ghost town were also brought over to complete the old west feel. Cold Spring Tavern sits along Route 154, with excellent access to windy mountain roads, making it a favorite biker haunt.
There might not be a Southern California grill with a better view than this one. The aptly named Lookout Roadhouse sits high above Lake Elsinore on Ortega Highway in Riverside County. It has an outdoor seating area overlooking the lake, and ample parking out front where many stop for the view but stay for the food. The country breakfast comes highly recommended and there is beer on tap. Riders and drivers coming down Ortega Highway will find this roadside grill to be a welcoming and relaxing lunch stop.
Cook’s Corner is a famous Orange County biker bar that started serving local ranchers and miners back in 1926. For decades, it has operated as a tavern and has become one of the staple Southern California roadhouses for bikers and travelers. A robust events schedule includes regular live music, and children are always welcome. Cook’s Corner sits at the corner of E Santiago Canyon Road and Live Oak Canyon Road, in the hills of Eastern Orange County, a popular area for cruising and hiking.
In the heart of Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Mountains sits a renowned establishment for motorists of all kinds. Newcomb’s Ranch is about 25 miles up the legendary Angeles Crest Highway, one of the most scenic Southern California drives and a premier driving road for LA residents. Visit their website, and you’ll see pictures of celebrity enthusiasts like Jay Leno, and for good reason. Newcomb’s is the only spot to grab a bite or drink for miles around, and it has built a friendly and community-like atmosphere over the decades. Make Newcomb’s the destination for your next Sunday ride and you’re likely to see some fabulous machines parked out front.