Monday, July 15, 2013

Speakeasy: Moss Beach Distillery

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and as such Mystery Playground (and fun loving friends) is visiting modern speak easy bars all over the United States in recognition. The latest in our series is the Moss Beach Distillery in Moss Beach, California near Half Moon Bay.  

Moss Beach Distillery was a real speakeasy in the late 1920s/early 1930s called Frank's Roadhouse. The building over looks the ocean and the alcohol reportedly came in on boats down on the beach. The local police were paid kickbacks to "protect" the joint and Frank's was never raided. Unlike other speakeasies located in basements and secret rooms, Frank's had a beautiful view of the beach. The place was frequented by San Francisco's gliterati including everyone from politicians and silent film stars.

The great mystery writer Dashiell Hammett even included Frank's in a scene in his short story, The Girl with the Silver Eyes.

"Well, it's a tough hole. Run by 'Tin-Star' Joplin, an ex-yegg who invested his winnings in the place when Prohibition made the roadhouse game good. He makes more money now than he ever heard of in his piking safe-ripping days. Retailing liquor is a side-line with him; his real profit comes from acting as a relay station for the booze that comes through Halfmoon Bay for points beyond; and the dope is that half the booze put ashore by the Pacific run fleet is put ashore in Halfmoon Bay."

Although the view is beautiful, the history interesting and the stories abound, Moss Beach Distillery is more like a classic beach restaurant and bar than a modern speakeasy. 

Relief of the Blue Lady at the Moss Beach Distillery
Resident Ghost:

Moss Beach Distillery also has it's own ghost, The Blue Lady. The story goes that she worked in the hotel next door to Frank's. Separated from her husband, she began an affair with the piano player at the bar. Her husband discovered this and came to confront the bartender. The two got in a major fight. The next day, the wife was found stabbed to death on the beach and the husband was nowhere to be found. The Blue Lady has haunted the place ever since and there have been multiple sightings. 

At one point male workers in the Moss Beach kitchen even reported that they are pinched or whacked on the rear end when they bent over. One male in our party expressed disappointment that this didn't happen to him at the restaurant. 

One of my friends who is a connoisseur of ghost stories said the story told inside the menu was a work of art. She particularly like the detail that the ghost missed eating strawberry ice cream.

The Blue Lady story has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings and America's Most Haunted Places, among others. We did not experience anything ghostlike. 


The cocktails were fun and of course they had one named after The Blue Lady. It contained Stoli Vodka, triple sec, blue curacao, simple syrup and fresh squeezed lemons. 

I had the Poison Apple and it had Crown Royal, sour apple liqueur and cranberry. We decided we'd adapt this for Once Upon A Time viewing swapping out the Crown Royal for Vodka once the TV show returns in the fall.    


Moss Beach Distillery has a full restaurant with seafood, pasta, burgers and salads. We enjoyed the fried artichoke hearts. 


Moss Beach Distillery is located at 140 Beach Way in Moss Beach, California. It's right on the Pacific Ocean in an area called the San Mateo County Coastside, a few blocks off of Hwy. 1, just 25 miles south of San Francisco, between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. Driving times are approximately 20 minutes west of San Mateo, 35 minutes south of San Francisco, 45 minutes from the East and South Bay. 

There are many signs to help you find the place. No password is required. In the summer it is helpful to make a reservation in advance. You can do this on Open Table

Moss Beach Distillery is dog friendly. Dogs even have their own entrance. 

What are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were secret bars that sprang up when alcohol was outlawed in the United States in 1919.

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. Today, there are many modern speakeasy bars that retain some of these traditions. They usually feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, in discreet locations that lack signage. Some model the decor after the periods and some require passwords. You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Isabella Alan's new book, Murder, Plain & Simple on the beach near the Moss Beach Distillery.