If you want to know what the new Half Moon Bay brew pub Cowboy Fishing Co. is all about, just read the writing on the wall.
Painted on the side of the restaurant is the “Cowboy Code” — a simple set of 10 business rules: “Rule No. 1: Live each day with courage. Rule No. 2: Take pride in your work. Rule No. 3: Always finish what you start.”
A huge fan of Western films, owner Tom McGuirk first took those rules to heart as the mantra of his commercial crabbing business, also called Cowboy Fishing. For many years, McGuirk made his way like many other crabbers, casting off in his boat, pulling up crab pots and selling his Dungeness catch fresh off the docks.
But his creative spirit was revved up last year after he noticed a vacant Half Moon Bay restaurant space on the market. What if, instead of selling his crab raw, he cooked it up and served it at his own pub? Why not design his own seafood recipes to serve? Could he also run a microbrewery? Why stop there — could the space also be home to brewing classes?
When he signed the papers to buy the restaurant, McGuirk might have been breaking Rule No. 10 of the Cowboy Code: “Know where to draw the line.” Nevertheless, he was thrilled to have all the things he loved under one roof — local seafood, craft beer and his family working beside him.
“I just love it; this is all my passions,” he said. “This is just an extension of the crabbing. It’s sharing the treasures of the Coastside.”
Partnering with his brother and wife, McGuirk will be juggling a lot of different roles at Cowboy Fishing, which opens for business early next month. The pub is nothing if not unique. McGuirk may be the first local restaurant owner to catch the bulk of his food supply with his own hands. He plans to serve up whatever is in season, whether it’s crab, salmon or tuna. The workload didn’t frighten him.
“Fishing isn’t an all-day thing. You just go out for four hours and you pull up 80 pots,” he said. “It’s always going to be fresh if we have it.”
In his mind, the seafood is a bit of a sideshow for the beer. A fan of craft brewing, McGuirk has recruited some of the local brewing talent to supply his taps. On an afternoon last week, he excitedly described a cream beer and India pale ale made by Steve Travis, an active member in Coastside brewing circles. He was also partnering up to stock beer from other established breweries in the area, including Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. and El Granada-based Hop Dogma. To fill out his taps, McGuirk also planned to serve the less-common creations from larger Bay Area breweries.
McGuirk also hoped to occasionally showcase his own beer. Right behind the Cowboy Fishing bar counter was a well-equipped brewing station with wort cauldrons, fermenters and kegs. It was a perfect space for future brewing classes, he pointed out.
His newly outfitted pub is nearly ready for showtime. The space was formerly occupied by the hamburger bistro Local FATT until it closed in 2013. Since taking over the spot, McGuirk and his family repainted the place, bought a new set of furniture and built a second bar for the pub. At the side of the bar, they already had a line of Cowboy Fishing merchandise ready for sale, including T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Walking back to the kitchen, McGuirk went to work cracking a fridge full of crab. Soon, he said, it would be served up as crab cakes, crab ravioli, or simply as a bucket of crab legs.
“There’s something about cracking crab that just leads to conversation,” he said. “It’s a slow process, everyone’s chitchatting and it really brings the whole table together.”
Cowboy Fishing is located at 730 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. The pub should be open early in February from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.