Review: Sam’s Chowder House

Sam’s Chowder House
4210 Cabrillo Highway North
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019-5221

Let me just start by saying that this place is soo amaazing that we had it for dinner one night, and again for lunch the next day. That’s 2 visits to Sam’s in less than 24 hours. The staff even recognized us. YES. It was THAT goood. We HAD to come back.

After a rough week at work, both David and I needed a quick getaway, and so we drove along the coast on Highway 1 to take in the sea breeze and sunset. We stopped at our favorite spot (Ritz Carlon Half Moon Bay), and watched the ocean engulf the fiery setting sun. Every crest of the undulating waves and every inch the sun fell helped dissipate the tension and stress we had felt at work. It wasn’t until about 8pm when the sun had made it’s final au revoir, with promise of returning the next day. We drove north on Highway 1 in search of good eats, and spotted a crowded local hotspot – Sam’s Chowder House.

Live music from a local band welcomed us as we entered. We were quickly served bread and butter as we perused our menus. We started out with oysters Rockefeller, which is essentially oysters on the half shell that have been drowned then baked in a cheese and buttersauce. Sam’s did a good job not overcooking the oysters, but you really can’t mess up on this dish. Cheese and butter ALWAYS taste good.


For our main course, we decided on the lobster clambake – one of Sam’s many specialities – for two, which came with 2 portions of clam chowder (we got both New England & Manhattan style) and coleslaw. The difference? Well, Manhattan style chowder has a tomato broth, as opposed to the usual cream base we see in typical New England chowder. Both chowders still had heaps of delicious salted pork/bacon, starchy yummy potatoes, and visible clams in the mix. Both were absolutely delicious, though I honestly favored the lighter Manhattan chowder more that night.


The lobster clambake was no disappointment. Served on a giant steamy platter that took up most of the table, the mountain of clams, mussels, giant red lobster, and sausage, completely covered the pile of potatoes hidden underneath all the seafood. What a surprise! Served with buttery sweet corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw – this meal was worth any heart attack. Succulent lobster meat. Briney and buttery clams and mussels in the clambake juice. All the juices running down the side of my arm, sticking to the corners of my mouth – oh gosh, I couldn’t stop licking my fingers. Buttery, salty, herby – what an absolutely satisfying entree!

Empty Plate

And for dessert – what better way to end a rich, sumptuous seafood meal than with a fresh and fragrant key lime pie? Topped off with a marshmallowy toasted meringue, the sweet key lime custard center sat on a gingersnap crust. David wasn’t used to the meringue, but I thought the overall dessert was good, though I would have appreciated a slightly more tart custard, to contrast more strongly with the sweet pie crust.


We went back to our room very satisfied and tucked in for the night. The next morning after an early continental breakfast consisting of the BEST waffles ever, we get a call from a very hungry (and very hungover) Dan. We decided to meet him and Nancy at Sam’s, and thus continues our Sam’s saga.


To start, we had fried oysters. I didn’t have any actually – after a week of hockey play off games and eating bar food, I was tired of battered and fried anything. However, I did have a cup of delicious gumbo – filled with slimy okra and spicy Andouille sausage, and topped with a generous portion of lump crab meat. Wow, it was seriously a meal in itself…


Which is why when our main dish came out, I barely had any room left.


Sam’s boasts one of the TOP 5 sandwiches in the USA, and I dare any one to contest that claim. Sam’s Lobster Roll is exploding with lobster meat that’s tossed with melted butter, diced celery, and chopped herbs – for a refreshingly atypical lobster roll. There is not a drop of mayonnaise in sight – and we approve wholeheartedly. The lobster roll is served on a buttered roll split like a hot dog bun, and alongside house-made chips and delicious sweet and tangy coleslaw. Here, we ordered 2 lobster rolls and had them split in half.


Also to be fair, Nancy and I ordered mimosas after lunch, and we were sorely disappointed. Not so delicious for a $10 drink. I don’t hold it against them – they are known for seafood, not cocktails.

So, in less 24 hours, we made 2 visits to Sam’s and spent something like $+150 for both meals. And you know what? We’ll be coming back next time for sure.


Sandy beach and good eats,

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4 Responses to Review: Sam’s Chowder House

  1. FishLover says:

    September 27, 2010

    Went here because we had hear they had the “Lobster Roll”
    sandwich which was suppose to be one of the top 5 best
    sandwiches in the USA.

    Hah! We go suckered in by the hype and had a terrible meal.
    The lobster is from the east coast, and if you know
    anything about lobster it is low on taste, especially when
    compared with Australian lobster tail.

    We paid $20 each to have some tasteless east coast lobster on
    a hot dog bun! It wasn’t worth $5.

    Go anywhere else in the Half Moon Bay area and you will get
    a better meal for less money.

    Don’t be suckered in by the hype – worst restaurant in HMB !

  2. Stinky LaDuka says:

    Try Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero …down the road a way …….You won’t be disappointed.

    East coast anything is puke!

  3. Pingback: Fallin « Confessions from the Cookie Jar

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