Where the plus-fours crowd goes to unwind.
Thursday, February 6, 2003
There are drawbacks to living in a place constantly overrun by visitors, but it also means we don''t have to leave our backyard in order to sink ourselves into a variety of escapist delights aimed at vacationing hedonists.
This weekend, with the AT&T Pro-Am, there will be an army of bon vivants occupying our soil. But no one can golf, or even watch golf, all the time -even spectators require decompression, a seat to sink into at the end of a long day out on the greens. The following local watering holes fit in nicely between daytime and nighttime activities, and can hold their own for an evening of any length, should you prefer to stay put. Bar and food service is available continuously between lunch and dinner unless otherwise noted.
3690 The Barnyard, Carmel, 626-0430
Kitchen closed from 3pm to 4:30pm; bar stays open.
The Caribbean-themed Bahama Billy''s doesn''t take itself too seriously and won''t let you take yourself too seriously, either. In fact, don''t bother coming if you aren''t ready to drop that attitude you picked up while playing to win in the workaday world.
Willowy plants, colorful lighting, and an island motif create a good-time atmosphere that''s also in good taste. Try the rum-based mojito, served in gorgeous glassware with a stick of sugar cane.
The Forge in the Forest
Junipero and Fifth, Carmel, 624-2233
A zesty staff of 16 co-owners runs this Carmel institution and former blacksmith shop. The cozy main dining room retains the old forge, copper walls, and implements of the trade.
Sit at the antique mahogany bar where Buck has been leading the charge for years or opt for the heaters and fireplaces warming the large outdoor patio. The Forge is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors.
The Highlands Inn
120 Highlands Drive at Highway One (four miles south of Carmel), 620-1234
The Highlands Inn deserves mention, although part of it is under construction until Valentine''s Day.
There are two special vantage points. California Market, a cafe, has an outdoor deck and view over Yankee Point. The Fireside Lounge is a perch high in the treetops and looks down a magnificent, plunging coastline to Point Lobos. The lounge seating area is intact, but the room that holds the bar and the main dining room-Pacific''s Edge-is not yet receiving visitors.
California Market is a fine place to sit, or you can order there and take drinks and food to the Fireside Lounge. They''ll serve in the Lounge if they "aren''t too busy." You might also luxuriate on soft leather couches in the art gallery. It''s an awesome space, flanked on either end by stone fireplaces and featuring some of the best photographic exhibitions in Monterey County.
Ocean Avenue at Monte Verde, Carmel, 622-5100
When I lived in a city, my favorite restaurants were small and quiet. Now that I live in a rural valley, I return regularly to Il Fornaio where I can see and hear nearly everyone in the place whether they''re at the bar, at the open kitchen counter, in the dining room, or in the cafe.
The well-designed interior helps to create an ambience that''s at once sophisticated, welcoming, and kinetic. Meals are served continuously and anything on the menu can be ordered at the bar.
474 Alvarado St., Monterey, 645-9036
Open at 4pm daily.
If you''re more town than country, more nightclub than country club, this martini culture haven blurs the lines between bar and restaurant in true contemporary fashion. It''s lively and upscale and there''s an after-work crowd that swells the scene to a wave of fun long before most places warm up.
The Inn at Spanish Bay
2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, 647-7493
Bask in royal splendor at Spanish Bay for the price of an expensive drink or two; there are so many ways to do it.
My favorite is to begin at one of four fireplaces on the outdoor terrace just 100 yards from the beach. The improbably green vegetation rolls over hill and dale down to the sand. Just before sunset, a bagpipe player in Scottish Highlands regalia plays an evocative set of classic tunes. I remind myself how good life is.
When it gets cold or dark, the indoor Lobby Lounge beckons. Numerous sofas and cushy chairs are better than being at home. Someone else built the fire and will shovel the ashes. Someone else will wash the glasses. And someone else will play the jazz. Why should you bother with ten years of piano lessons when the price is so right?
The fun is over at 11, but you can cruise around the corner to Traps, the main bar. It''s open until 2am and looks like it''s built for serious drinking, serious deal making, or serious eavesdropping.
Then there''s Sticks, the lively sports bar and clubby restaurant, where international sporting events are broadcast on about 16 screens. You can also chow on pan-Asian-Euro-accented cuisine at Roy''s or Tuscan-inspired fare at Peppoli.
26270 Dolores St., Carmel, 625-9040
The bar opens at 4pm, dinner is served 4:30 to 11pm.
If the relentless luxury of Pebble Beach has you hankering to get real, do it at this historic dairy farm that has been preserved as an inn. Posers are pretty much ignored at the restaurant/bar where all kinds of folks come to have a good time. From the patio, you can gaze at the sheep, admire the wetlands, and squint at Carmel River State Beach in the distance.
After the sun sets, the piano is the place to be, especially when the sing-along begins. Usually some locals will perform from their repertoire. And if you''re into Clint Eastwood sightings, you might be able to score one here-he owns the place.
Schooners "Bistro on the Bay" at the Monterey Plaza Hotel
400 Cannery Row, Monterey, 372-BOAT
This bar/bistro is designed to look like a schooner. That might sound like a ride at Disneyland, but it isn''t. The room is beautiful. The walls, floor, and bar are of highly polished teak that can take a regular soaking from salt water-most likely, spilled margaritas. At night, the blue sky has romantic pinhole stars.
The building is on pilings in the bay and the full impact of the Pacific comes through large sliding glass doors when they''re open. A bar straddles the interior and exterior patio-a terrific place to sit on a sunny afternoon. If the wine list doesn''t meet your grape expectations, ask for the big list from the Duck Club restaurant next door.
Wickets Bistro at Bernardus Lodge
415 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 659-3131
Break away from the incessant waves and drive on a country road into lovely Carmel Valley where Bernardus Lodge is a bastion of pampered civilization.
Wickets, the less formal of two restaurants (it doubles as a bar), offers approximately 25 wines by the glass, including most of the wines produced by Bernardus Winery. There''s outdoor seating and a stunning river rock fireplace that makes it pleasant year-round. If standing around watching others swing clubs has you itching to hit a ball in a hole, play a round of croquet on the pristine course. Or sit in the lobby lounge and listen to live jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings.