A Michelin Star Dinner and Coastal Stay at Harbor House Inn in Northern California

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Along the Mendocino coast in Northern California, about 150 miles (around a ~3 hour drive) north of San Francisco, you’ll find a charming place called the Harbor House Inn. This Inn isn’t just an inn though. In addition to being a beautiful place to stay, the Harbor House Inn houses a two-Michelin starred restaurant on the property helmed by Chef Matthew Kammerer that is an absolute must-visit.

Sunset over the Mendocino Coast.
The view from Harbor House Inn

The Property:

Before we talk about the amazing food here, let’s set the scene for the property: the Harbor House Inn is perched on the edge of the Mendocino coast with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s located in a little town named Elk, just below the town of Mendocino and depending on how you drive up to Elk, you’ll pass through some windy roads, Redwoods and some stunning views of the rugged coastline. Drive too fast and you might miss the red cottages and main building of the Harbor House Inn which is just off of Highway 1.

The Inn’s grounds are gorgeous, with gardens onsite and a chicken coop, and you’ll be able to fully enjoy the outdoor space with Adirondack chairs around a fire pit and a hammock. Hear and see the waves crashing against the rocks down below, or take the (semi-steep) path of stairs down to the private cove to get your feet wet (literally). It’s worth the climb if you can muster the energy. As you walk around, you might just find some of the chefs wandering around the property foraging for items that will be served up at dinner (more on that later).

View of Harbor House Inn entrance.
A view of Harbor House Inn from the entrance.
Harbor House Inn grounds overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
From the grounds of Harbor House Inn, overlooking the Pacific ocean.
Staircase leading down to Harbor House Inn's private beach cove.
Staircase leading down to the private cove.

The Rooms:

Harbor House Inn has six traditional rooms in the main house, in addition to five cottage suites (in three separate buildings). The rooms in the main house feature either a garden view or an ocean view, and the cottages feature French doors that open up to private terraces to enjoy the stunning ocean view.

These cottages are worth the splurge in our opinion for more space and the private terrace, (especially in the two cottages with terraces facing the ocean straight-on).

Having only stayed in the cottages, I’d describe the aesthetic as “modern beach cozy” – think white crisp sheets, accents of grays, coastal blues and an overall warmth so your stay feels nothing less than comfortable.

View inside the bedroom of one of the cottages.
View onto the private terrace from one of the cottages.

The Food: 

The Inn has a lunch and dinner service (reservations can be made through Tock), and if you booked a room, breakfast is included in your stay. And as previously mentioned, Harbor House Inn has a two-star Michelin restaurant, as well as a Michelin green star (which is awarded to restaurants ‘at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices,’ per the Michelin Guide.

The Harbor House Inn is all about immersing you into the local area – a.k.a. The best of the Northern California coast – and this applies to the food Chef Kammerer serves. So you can expect to find hyper-local and foraged ingredients in your dishes. How hyper-local? Well, the farthest thing sourced on the menu might be the uni from Monterey County which is just about a five hour drive away. And the closest item sourced might be the seaweed and sea water from the property’s private beach cove, or the lichen from the trees on the property (yes, lichen!).

You’re truly dropped right into the local area so you can really experience the Mendocino coast at its fullest and best. The ingredients are pure and the flavors are delightful.

The Dinner Tasting Menu:

We’ve been lucky enough to stay and dine for dinner at Harbor House Inn a few times, and every time has been a delight.

When we visited in late 2022, we had the pleasure of eating at the restaurant on two consecutive nights, and both nights were incredible. Knowing we were eating at the restaurant two nights in a row, the kitchen even changed up a few menu items for our second night so that we could enjoy a couple new dishes which was incredibly thoughtful.

For the dinner tasting menu, you can expect a seasonal menu with 8-12 courses.

Some standouts from the tasting menu we had during those two nights include:

Sea urchin, dulse, chopped chawanmushi – this might have been my favorite bite of both nights!
Maitake mushroom fried and infused, lace lichen, sesame.
Abalone
Devil’s Gulch squab, farm thinnings, unripe blackberries
New potatoes, cucumber, pine oil. Served with sea lettuce sourdough bread and their sea lettuce cultured butter.

The Harbor House Restaurant team likes to end dinner on a warm note, so the last items served were some sweet treats (umeboshi caramel, muscat grapes) and a very aromatic tea which was an infusion of douglas fir accompanied by a little bouquet of fresh herbs and flowers that you can dip into the grilled honey and stir in your tea. Talk about a way to end the meal!

Douglas Fir infused tea
Mignardies

In-Room Dining:

If you’d prefer to opt for dinner served family style from the comfort of your room, in-room dining is also offered for dinner and is a delicious option.

We enjoyed their in-room dining service in early 2021 and it included nine dishes, some of which were: seaweed sourdough with cultured butter, a local rice porridge with turnips and beech mushrooms, yellowtail rockfish with hatcho miso and avocado oil, and a bay nut ice cream.

In-room dining

Breakfast:

Yes, there’s a separate section just to talk about the breakfast (included in your stay if you booked a room) because it’s that good. It might be one of our favorite hotel breakfasts. Ever.

When you check in, you’ll be asked to fill out a form regarding some breakfast choices (tea versus coffee, or tea and coffee, time of delivery etc.). The next morning, your breakfast will be delivered to your door on a tray and it is a sight.

You can expect the same care with your breakfast that you receive for dinner. The food is of course seasonal so items change day-to-day, and the baked goods are out of this world. The seaweed bread and cultured butter made a reappearance at one of our breakfasts which was a true delight, and we’ve also had brown butter cookies accompany breakfast on a separate stay which we’ll never stop thinking about.

Breakfast with a view out on the terrace of one of the cottages.
Day 2 breakfast.

Overall:

The Harbor House Inn is set in a beautiful location that only the California coast can provide, and it makes for a stunning getaway to enjoy the fresh air, disconnect and indulge in one-of-a-kind food. An experience at the Harbor House Inn can’t be missed. I recommend booking a stay at the Inn and then making your dinner reservation shortly after (Inn guests get priority). 

We’re looking forward to seeing where Harbor House goes from here, but we have a feeling it’ll keep getting better.

Have you been to the Harbor House Inn or are you planning on going? Let us know in the comments!

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Harbor House Inn: a Michelin-Starred meal and coastal stay in Northern California.

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