Summer stretches well into fall in terms of fine, mellow weather in Humboldt. Revel in the sunshine and eat with your sunglasses on.

click to enlarge Sweet potato and black bean empanadas at Bittersweet. - ROCKY ARROYO
  • Rocky Arroyo
  • Sweet potato and black bean empanadas at Bittersweet.


Honestly, we are struggling to find the bitter here. This tag-team venture with Slice of Humboldt Pie and The Local Cider Bar is a very sweet deal. Stake out a couple of seats on the patio — maybe on the up-cycled highway sign/bench?

There are two separate lines, one for cider and one for pie. Get in the cider line and prepare to make some hard choices about hard cider, as there are 24 taps and more than 30 bottles (mostly cider, but some craft beer and a couple of wines). Fear not, the staff know their stuff and will walk you through flavors like the pink cactus cider and imperial blueberry. Sip and savor before you hop over to the pie counter.

The selection changes, but you can count on a selection of savory and sweet. Expect pot pies, like old-fashioned chicken ($5.50 small, $25 large), empanadas with fillings like black bean and sweet potato ($3). For dessert, there is a bevy of dreamy options, like the French silk chocolate topped with a cumulous cloud of whipped cream ($4.50). All of them are cradled in a flaky, buttery crust that will test your poker face when you try and tell your grandmother that hers is still the best. (Sorry, Gram.) Of course, Bittersweet sells whole pies, too ($18-$30) so you can always bring her one if you blow it.

828 I St., Arcata
Monday through Thursday | 11am - 10pm
Friday and Saturday | 11am - 11pm
Sunday | 11am - 8pm

click to enlarge Eel River's Thai peanut chicken salad. - AMY KUMLER
  • Amy Kumler
  • Eel River's Thai peanut chicken salad.

Eel River Brewing Co.

Eel River Brewing Co. was organic before it was cool — in fact, it was the first certified organic brewery in the country. And while the taps runneth over all year round with craft brews, summer and fall are a fine time to enjoy the beer garden out back, where a lumber mill once stood. Say hello to the brewery's cat, listen to the babbling of the little waterfall and toss a few horseshoes in the sun.

Start with the calamari steak strips, dipped first in beer, then in flour spiked with Cajun seasoning, then fried and served with warm marinara sauce ($11.99). There are lovely salads to be had if you can resist the smell of the smoker, in which Madrone wood and the house stout are adding deep flavor to tri-tip beef, pulled pork, chicken and ribs. Many answer its siren call by ordering the tri-tip sandwich piled with thin-sliced meat, fried onions and pepperjack from nearby Loleta Cheese Factory, plus a swipe of either Cajun mayonnaise or barbecue sauce.

For your beverage, search your soul and talk to your server. IPA fans should check out the hopped up Emerald Triangle IPA. Health nuts might consider the Açai Berry Wheat, and for the truly adventurous, there's the Mexican chocolate-infused Kumamoto Oyster Stout. Cheers.

1777 Alamar Way, Fortuna
Daily | 11am - 11pm

click to enlarge The River Runner Burger runneth over at Mad River Brewing. - AMY KUMLER
  • Amy Kumler
  • The River Runner Burger runneth over at Mad River Brewing.

Mad River Brewing

It's always sunny in Blue Lake — at least that's how it seems to the rest of us. And where better to bask with a beer than Mad River Brewing's Tap Room and its vitamin D-rich patio? You can even bring your dog.

Double down on Humboldt's grassfed beef with the two-patty River Runner Burger, topped with onions braised in the brewery's Steelhead Pale Ale and cheddar ($12.99). The brewers and the chefs are collaborating on the fish and chips, too — the Pacific cod is dipped in batter made with Mad River IPA ($11.99). If you crave a little heat, the fried chicken sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll spices things up with sriracha sauce, smoked bacon and pepperjack cheese ($10.99).

All of this, needless to say, is even better with something from the baker's dozen of taps. Can't decide? No worries. Order up a tray of 12 tasters and sip your way to finding a favorite for the next round. And you will want to stay for that next round, even linger past sunset. On warm nights, the lights go on, the band warms up and folks get down.

101 Taylor Way, Blue Lake
Sunday through Thursday | 11am - 9pm
Friday and Saturday | 11:30am - 10pm

Editor's Note: Bittersweet is now called The Local Cider Bar.

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About The Author

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

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