Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: Reviews

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Fish and ChipsWarm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
Fish and Chips, Mixed Seafood Grill, Portuguese Fishermen’s Stew, Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream


Ryan Navratil
Name: Ryan
Occupation: Environmental Scientist
Location: Palo Alto
Favorite Restaurant: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Reviewed Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: Sunday March 2, 2008


Pilgrims going to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company have a few choices for lunch or dinner: they can sit inside in the dining area, or at a fireside table in the bar, or outside on the patio. The bar, easily distinguished from the dining area by the presence of a bar, seats about 10 comfortably at tables and another 15 or so at the bar itself. Keep in mind that seating is limited when there’s live music playing.

Expect a full-ish house on the patio if you show up on a sunny Saturday or Sunday. Travelers from all over the peninsula bring their kids and dogs (both equally welcome) to relax in the sun and grab a bite to eat or sip one of the Brewing Company’s unique libations. If you happen by after sunset, you’ll find friends and strangers alike huddled around one of the patio’s three fire pits.

The menu at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company might best be described as your standard seafood collection; fish and chips, clam chowder, fish tacos, and a short list of “bar food” (e.g. burgers, chicken sandwiches, etc.). Do not expect to leave with an empty stomach. I’ll admit, the food, though decidedly “good” in its own right, probably won’t make the cover of any culinary magazines, but the menu really does help to showcase HMBBC’s collection of beers (tantalizing even to a wine drinker such as myself).

Be sure to heed the restaurant’s pairings on the menu, such as the Albacore melt sandwich and the Mavericks Amber Ale. I, myself, have likely spent the lion’s share of my wages on the fish and chips married with the Pillar Point Ale, but I am a creature of habit. Extra points for Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for keeping a stack of Seafood Watch cards in plain sight for those of a sustainable fisheries mind.

You’ll find plenty of parking at this seaside spot, and the price of dinner usually won’t creep up past $30 per person with a drink or two. The waitstaff is friendly, and most of them eat at the restaurant anyway, so feel free to ask as many questions as you can. If you’re looking for a fantastic destination spot with satisfying food and killer atmosphere, consider a trip to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for some fish, a drink, and a fireside chat by the ocean.


Zee Woods
Name: Zee
Occupation: Photo Editor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Chez Maman
Reviewed Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: Sunday March 2, 2008


We arrived at the restaurant on a beautiful clear day in Half Moon Bay. The restaurant has indoor/outdoor seating. The patio was filled with locals and tourists having pints and enjoying the weather. After checking in with the hostess, I headed to the ladies room. There was a line, with 3 people ahead of me waiting on two stalls. While I was waiting in the ladies room, my friend was standing near the hostesses, who wondered out loud if I was “lost in the bathroom”. Obviously, they forgot she was there. We were then seated in the back room with a two large families (2.5 kids each) and a group of males who all resembled Vanilla Ice. The rest of the tables were empty except the dishes left over from the previous guests. The inside of the restaurant is also quite large and it was packed — except the back room.

After about 10 minutes, the waitress arrived to take our order. I asked here what were her favorites and she listed a few items that were popular (fish tacos, fish and chips, hamburger, ribs). I then asked her again about her favorite seafood and not what was popular and she stated that she “was the wrong person to ask as [she doesn’t] eat seafood.” I commented maybe she was working at the wrong restaurant (ha ha).

We started with two Arnold Palmers and a pint of the Harbor Light Ale. The ale was light and clean, so I ditched the Arnold Palmer. Our drinks were followed by the calamari, which was fresh and lightly battered with a nice crisp crust. The seasoning was on point and very tasty. After about 25 minutes, our main courses of fish and chips and Yucatan baby back ribs arrived. The fish was quite moist but the batter was on the soggy side. The ribs were cooked with their house made sauce. The ribs were somewhat tender but definitely dry. The ribs are served with very wet coleslaw. Both were served with french fries as well as coleslaw with the ribs. Although they could have used a little less dressing for the coleslaw, it had lots of flavor.

We had quite a bit of food left over so the waitress was kind enough to bring us containers (lots of leftovers of the calamari, french fries, and ribs for my boyfriend). The waitress then brought us the check before offering dessert and coffee. I asked about the dessert menu, which she kindly brought over, and we ordered the apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and coffee. The crisp wasn’t quite crisp (think finely ground unbaked crumbs) and served warm with lots of large chunks of apples.

The prices are a bit over the top for average pub food and the service staff seemed to be filled with inexperienced local students. I would definitely return when I’m in the area, but will request a seat outside, order beer and appetizers only, and talk with the locals.


Paula Li
Name: Paula
Occupation: Massage Therapist
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Kirala
Reviewed Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: Saturday February 23, 2008


Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is located in the most scenic spot, at a corner overlooking the ocean, with a huge outdoor seating area. The rustic indoor area also has large windows with views. This would be a spectacular spot during the summer months. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain and the wind was probably blowing 70 miles per hour when we were there. I can imagine the sunset view on a clear nice day, but we just saw tree branches blowing and raindrops as large as golf balls beating against the windows.

In general, I found the service lacking here and the food mostly disappointing. After we ordered, it took almost half an hour before the beverages even came. (We had water, though!) Fortunately, I was impressed by the first serving of garlic cheesy bread. Although lacking in garlic, this appetizer was unusual in that the cheesy bread came with a bowl of hot marinara sauce for dipping. Then a different server (not our waitress) brought us our main course. When I expressed surprise because we never got the oyster appetizers yet, he seemed surprised to hear that we had ordered them. Our waitress finally came over and apologized, admitting that she forgot to order the oysters. She asked if we still wanted them. We said yes, and they came AFTER our entrees. The oysters were fresh enough, but not the most succulent or the tastiest oysters I’ve ever had. I half expected them to give us the oysters as a complimentary dish, or to offer us a free glass of beer or dessert as compensation for messing up our order. . . nothing like that happened.

We both ordered seafood because upon arrival, I asked our waitress what they were proud of in their menu. She recommended the dishes we ordered as well as the fish and chips. She never mentioned the meat dishes on the menu, so we didn’t consider them. In retrospect, we probably should have tried one meat dish and one seafood entree, because later we saw the baby back ribs and the bacon-wrapped filet being served to another party and they both looked better than our mediocre entrees. I actually liked the soup or sauce that the fishermen’s stew came with. It was garlic and wine-based. Very tasty and savory. The seafood in the stew was fresh. It’s just that both the stew and the mixed grill were predictable and nothing special. I also thought the brownie was misrepresented in the menu as well. What we got was excellent, but it wasn’t a brownie. I would have called it a cake-like brownie at best. It was fluffy and airy like a dark chocolate cake.

The saving grace for Half Moon Bay Brewing Company was the brew and the music. I tried five of the ten beers they offered and like each and every one. I especially enjoyed their featured brew of the month: the dopplebock. In another section of the complex is the bar where there is a dance floor and live music. A small down-home blues band was playing. We danced for a while and really enjoyed the tunes and the ambiance. Everyone there seemed to be having a great time, including three toddlers and babies with moms on the dance floor. (I didn’t think minors were allowed in bars?!!?)

In summary, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has something to give, but it ain’t their food, which, in my opinion, is ordinary and costs too much. I would go back for the live music, dancing, and their delicious beers. (And try for summer months when I can enjoy the view and the outdoor seating as well).

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  • Ellen Gibran-Hesse

    I just went to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company last week for the first time. It was a Thursday and quiet, so my nephew and I ate at a table in the bar. We waited a long time and finally grabbed the bus boy who was the only wait staff present most of the time. He went to find us a waiter and we waited. Finally he showed up. There were only 5 tables with people so I don’t know what he was doing as he wasn’t waiting on any of us most of the time. I tried the Pumpkin ale and found it disappointing as did my nephew. We waited a lot. My nephew had to go to the bar to get a drink. The food was good but I noticed the best service was sitting at the bar. The bar tender brought people their drinks and food promptly. If I go back, I’d definitely sit at the bar which was crowded. Obviously locals have figured out that is the way to get service. Management needs to fix this problem.

  • Elizabeth Berl

    Half Moon Bay Brew Company is one of my favorite restaurants in the South Bay. I love to sit out on the patio on a sunny day or in the evening and enjoy one of their excellent beers around the fire pit. I prefer a light brew and usually go for the Harbor Light or the Sandy beach Blonde Hefeweizen. As for the food… i like the nachos and Beer Battered Artichoke Hearts for apps and the Burger with the saute’ed mushrooms and onions for the entree. I have always had good service there, especially outside on the patio and at the bar.
    Also…a sidenote, I think Ryan is adorable and wonder if he is single? That scruffy five o’clock shawdow he had going on is hot!

  • John H Gruver

    Go for the beer, not the food. I love the beer at HMB Brewing Co. I had one the first day it opened, before they were actually brewing their own beer. Now they brew their own, the IPA is even better. The food, however, has been less-than spotty, very much Dennys-quality. Occasionally the fried squid can be stellar as long as it is delivered immediately upon removal from the fat. If, as frequently happens, the waitperson is busy doing whatever it is they do instead of their job, and it sits around for 5-to-10 minutes, it’s a soggy mess. I have not eaten there since Mark Hamilton took over as executive chef, so YMMV.
    Outside suds-sipping is great on any day (sunny, foggy, whatever), except if you are, like me, unhappy about cigarette smoke while you drink/eat. The restaurant allows smoking on the patio, and many locals and tourists are there every day drinking and smoking. Upwind is OK, downwind is unbearable.
    In short, unless the food & service has appreciably improved since Mark Hamilton took over, go to HMB Brewing Co., get a pint (or 2 ;-}) of IPA from the bartender (don’t wait for wait staff), enjoy it upwind from the smokers, and hustle over to Cafe Gibralter (walking distance across Hwy 1) for your dinner.

  • Liz

    The review of Zee about the crappy service at HMB brewing were right on. It’s funny because we had the exact same experience of the catty hostesses/waitresses hanging outside the women’s bathroom making snide comments about the customers (rather than actually providing service). It could be a great spot since the beer is good, the food is decent and the location is fantastic, but the service is such a turn off I never bother going anymore.

  • Bill

    I go often go on Sunday afternoons for the setting, music and beer. The food is mediocre at best and the service has been pathetic for years. The place is a goldmine due to the location, and the owners don’t simply don’t care enough to make it a good restaurant. Eat at Barbara’s across the street, and come to the HMB Brewery for the music and beer!