Here are some pier eateries that I found especially atmospheric.
—The ramshackle Chit-Chat Café at the foot of Pacifica Pier in San Mateo County opens at 7 a.m. and serves simple fare. Sixteen stools at the counter, a half-booth and two tables fill up with fishermen. Info: (650) 738-2380.
—On Monterey's Municipal Wharf No. 2 Lou-Lou's Griddle in the Middle specializes in relatively inexpensive lunches, with the self-explanatory "You Name It, We'll Make It" option a fave. http://www.loulousgriddle.com
—The Olde Port Inn on Harford Pier in Port San Luis is fresh seafood dining with a view in an old-timey setting near the pier's end. An adjacent fish market selling the morning catch is open to the public. http://www.oldeportinn.com
—Balboa Pier in Newport Beach has the original Ruby's diner, which celebrates its 40th birthday in December. This first location had 45 seats and rang up $63 at the register on its first day. Ruby's early strategy was to develop locations on local piers; it has diners at the end of Oceanside, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach piers. http://www.rubys.com
—The open-air Pier Shack & Grill at the end of the San Clemente Pier has a definite Hawaiian flair. A Spam Musubi (a grilled slab of Spam on a block of rice wrapped by seaweed), cholesterol-rich Loco Moco (hamburger, eggs, gravy) or the equally goopy Pepper Belly (corn chips, chili and cheese) are filling and inexpensive. http://www.piershackandgrill.com
—Christopher SmithCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times