Carmel Beach Cafe
Thursday, February 11, 1999
Sitting squarely on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Carmel-By-The-Sea, Carmel Beach Cafe is privy to the view of a steady tide of passersby, a flow that on most days seems without end. Unless you're a Carmel resident, the decline in the number of visitors to these few square blocks is undetectable, no matter the season.
Rafael Hernandez, general manager of the Cafe acknowledges that they're grateful for the attentions of the itinerant population, but it's the locals who are their bread and butter. With a background in restaurant management in Mexico City, Hernandez worked his way up to the GM position almost a year ago when the restaurant made a shift in ownership. He admits that it's a consuming challenge, while simultaneously working toward a degree in International Business Administration.
But since taking on the new role, he and Chef Raymundo Perez have concentrated on making the atmosphere even more attractive to local patrons.
"We often see the same people for lunch every day, five days a week," attests Hernandez. How they do it, he'll explain, is by offering a from-scratch menu that first gets your attention for its everything-under-$10 attitude, dinner included.
"Definitely the prices attract a lot of people, locals and tourists, who eat out often," says Hernandez. "And then there are our specials that are really attractive." Beginning with a breakfast special that includes three as-you-like-them eggs, spicy herb-roasted country potatoes and toast, a rib-sticking kick-start in the morning for under $3.
The dinner special is another lure for budget-minded diners. Offered seven nights a week, a choice of any entre for two guests is served along with your selection of one of several varietals of wine, a night on the town for only $24.95.
While the friendly price points do no harm, it's the food that brings people back, according to Hernandez. "Our clam chowder is made right here, along with all the soup we serve. Raymundo makes his own stocks and sauces, and even all the desserts--except the gelato and Italian ice cream. We buy the best there is, made homemade style, without all the air pumped into them, or any artificial flavors. We give out a lot of samples," he laughs, "because we offer so many different flavors." With an ice cream freezer that reaches almost to the front entrance, it's easy to understand why.
Other popular breakfast fare includes the San Juan Bautista Benedict, three Hollandaise-smothered eggs over fresh spinach, tomatoes and onions. Omelettes are also big on this part of the menu, as well as the breakfast burrito.
As for lunch, the salads (the ever-popular Caesar, Carmel Valley mixed greens with grilled salmon, shrimp Louie over baby greens), pastas (spaghetti times four, done with meat sauce, seafood, baby artichokes, or a la Roma), and sandwiches all rule, the fresh-grilled salmon sandwich being most in demand on this sizable list. On both the lunch and dinner menus, eight-inch pizzas are also an option: choose veggie, Margarita, or pepperoni.
After 4:30pm, a few more items appear on the list of entres. Roasted pork loin is served with cracked peppercorn-Merlot sauce, and chicken breast is sauted Mediterranean-style, finished in the oven with thyme, garlic, rosemary and white wine. And a six-ounce salmon fillet is brushed with pesto, and goes into the oven with mushrooms and tomatoes, each one a bargain for under $10. At prices like these, it's tempting to try them all.
Carmel Beach Cafe
Ocean between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel, 625-3122
Hours: 8:00-11am breakfast, 11:00am-4:30pm lunch, 4:30-10pm dinner Sunday through Thursday, until 11pm Friday and Saturday