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Photograph by Pete Shea
Heaven for $7: The fish tacos at Davenport Roadhouse are as tasty as they are colorful.

Whale of A Deal

Just north of town on Highway 1, the Davenport Roadhouse offers lunch values beyond the scenic setting.

By Christina Waters

Finding an exact fit is never easy, in appetite as in life. You know how it goes. You're in the mood for a great film, and all there is on the big screen is summer schlock. Or you find Mr. Right, only to discover that he comes with his very own parole officer. So when your needs and their satisfaction actually do mesh, it's, frankly, a big deal. It was a treat last week to enjoy a freshly prepared, generous lunch at the Roadhouse in Davenport--and then discover that it was a bargain to boot.

Let me back up and set the stage. We had hiked for an hour along our favorite north coast cliffs and cove beaches, scrambling up the hills perfumed with alyssum and tinged chartreuse by fields of oxalis. It was past noon and we were suddenly aware of raging appetites. The Roadhouse was conveniently nearby, so we parked along the little bungalow-lined street, inhaled the salt air and went inside.

How many meals have we enjoyed in this nostalgic location? In days of yore, when an eclectic array of global imports and rustic local artwork decorated every square inch of the rooms, we came, we dined, we glowed. Even now, in the substantially renovated interior, there are touches of the past. The stone fireplace towers against the far wall, and the assorted oak tables and chairs have been retained from the original cash store. An open kitchen, punctuated with its wood-burning pizza oven, is new. A full bar sits at one end, and a deli and pastry case fronts a little coffee bar area in front.

This Roadhouse offers many things for many appetites. The week we visited there was a new exhibition of coastal landscapes by plein-air painter Boris Tyomkin adorning many of the walls. And the view outside the tall windows never fails to enchant.

Menu in my hand, blue ocean over my shoulder, I was intent on lunch. Salads, sandwiches, pizzetti and a short list of fresh specials line the menu. At dinner, we would have selected one of the many local wines by the glass from the long list. But at midday, we decided on iced tea and a shared appetizer of the Riviera pizzetta ($8).

The little pizza--actually, it was a big little pizza, if you catch my meaning--was liberally topped with roasted eggplant, zucchini, tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, red bell peppers, mozzarella and fresh basil. We almost lost control, it was so tasty. Agreeing that we would have the rest for takeout, we were amply primed when our main entrees arrived.

A fan of the Roadhouse fish tacos ($7), Jack was one big smile when his plate arrived. Two soft flour tortillas had been outfitted with lightly breaded, lightly fried tilapia fillets. These had been drizzled with a gooey chipotle aioli and Day-Glo purple shredded cabbage. A viscous lake of almost liquid refried black beans, dusted with shredded cheese, sat on the side, along with wedges of lime.

While he feasted, I began on my pulled pork sandwich ($8). This was essentially two meals on a bun. A mound of pulled pork--so much that it fell over the minute I touched it--had been roasted to that glistening, tender point. It was lavishly piled on top of the aioli-moistened bun (delicious bun, incidentally), on the other half of which sat a slab of tomato and lettuce and red onion. I ignored that other bun and went for the pork.

The entree came with a choice of soup (my choice) or salad. A white bean minestrone, loaded with vegetables and tasting freshly made by someone who knew what he or she was doing, this soup was exactly what you want on a foggy day. So I abandoned the pulled pork--it was lunch for both of us the next day--and finished up the terrific soup. Are you getting this? Pizza: $8. Soup and pulled pork sandwich: $8. Two large fish tacos and beans: $7. Fresh and delicious, a major value.

But why the loud, late-night bar music in a room with such upscale chandeliers, I wondered, finishing my dessert of Swanton Berry Farm chocolate truffle ($3.50). It didn't fit with the rest of the experience. The Roadhouse is making friendly gestures toward the local clientele, and not just with Taco Tuesdays or Pizza Wednesdays. Good value for money is the sort of invitation many foodies will find hard to refuse.

Davenport Roadhouse

Address: 1 Davenport Ave., Davenport

Phone: 831.426.8801

Hours: 8am-9pm Tue-Sat, 8am-8pm Sun, 8am-2pm Mon

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