Best of Monterey Bay Visitor Guide 2011 – Dining
A cuisine for every taste.
Friday, July 1, 2011
First things first: Thank you. You are to thank for the seemingly bottomless bounty of restaurants in this section. You see, Monterey County doesn’t have the population to support the wealth of nice eateries that proliferate here, but the thick bands of visitors mean there are many more restaurants per capita in the area than there would be otherwise.
That means cut-throat competition for restaurateurs, which is tough, but it also means a big, fat buffet of worthy options for you, which is delicious. Dig in.
Abalonetti Seafood Trattoria | Treat yourself to the joy of squid at this local seafood landmark with an unbeatable view. You can order Abalonetti’s famous calamari prepared six different ways or choose from a full menu of other seafood dishes. Full bar. 57 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, 373-1851.
CafE Fina | Cafe Fina serves fresh local seafood and Italian dishes in a beautiful waterfront setting. Featuring pasta and ravioli made in-house, seasonal organic home-grown vegetables, wood-grilled meat and seafood entreés and pizza from the wood-burning oven. 47 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, 372-5200.
Domenico’s on the Wharf | For a steaming, flavorful bowl of seafood cioppino and a gorgeous view of the water, Domenico’s is second to none. Brothers Dominic and Sam Mercurio and Sam’s wife, Angeli, serve the freshest seafood available with an Italian accent and a view from every table. 50 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, 372-3655.
Fish Hopper | If it’s seafood and a view you want, here’s your place. Fish and crab from the bay are served along with lobster, prawns, pastas, prime rib and award-winning clam chowder. 700 Cannery Row, Monterey, 372-8543.
Fishwife | Consistently chosen the best seafood restaurants in a county filled with quality competition, Fishwife’s two locations offer variations on a theme: California cuisine with Caribbean flair. The Asilomar location is a casual beachtown gem serving delicious dishes like salmon with cilantro and serrano aioli; the Seaside location has a similarly inventive menu notable for its Tilapia Cancun and catfish sandwiches. 1996 Sunset Dr., Pacific Grove (at Asilomar Beach), 375-7107; 789 Trinity St., Seaside, 394-2027.
Flaherty’s | Still fresh after 33 years, this place packs in locals addicted to executive chef Francisco Cocova’s lobster BLT, halibut fish and chips and their famous Flaherty’s cioppino. The oyster bar, signature crab cakes and central Carmel location don’t hurt either. Sixth Avenue between Dolores and San Carlos, Carmel, 625-1500.
Golden Fish Seafood Restaurant | Sensuous textures and succulent flavors are the watchwords at this Caribbean/Latin American-style eatery, where the service is excellent and a wide variety of seafood is available. Try the halibut. 221 Main St., Salinas, 422-4946.
Isabella’s Italian Seafood | For some of the freshest and most inventive seafood on the Monterey Peninsula, try colorful Isabella’s, located right on historic Fisherman’s Wharf. 60 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, 375-3956.
Monterey Fish House | As the name implies, seafood is the Fish House’s strong suit. Traditional homestyle cooking with an Italian influence and a touch of Japanese flavor characterizes many dishes, including the Holiday Pasta, a combination of seafood served in a tomato sauce, and a whole cod sautéed in sake. 2114 Del Monte Blvd., Monterey, 373-4647.
Old Fisherman’s Grotto | For over 55 years, Old Fisherman’s Grotto has been serving great fish, lobster, crab, pasta, chicken, steaks and its famous original Monterey-style clam chowder. There’s a full bar and banquet space on site, too. Another plus: Every table has an ocean view. 39 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, 375-4604.
Passionfish | This out-of-the-way jewel has attained near-cult-like status among local foodies who swoon over its Wine Spectator-award-winning cellar and mouthwatering menu. Dishes like Alaskan halibut with black-pepper rum sauce and rack of lamb with goat-cheese ratatouille timbale are made with only the finest sustainably harvested ingredients. 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 655-3311.
Phil’s Fish Market | Phil’s is a landmark in the funky, charming fishing village of Moss Landing, 20 miles north of Monterey. Sit at a picnic table inside or out on the heated patio and enjoy chowder, cioppino or fried fish the way they did back in the old days, then bring a cracked crab back to your room for a late-night snack. 7600 Sandholdt Rd., Moss Landing, 633-2152.
Sandbar and Grill | Suspended just a dozen feet above the water beneath the commercial wharf, the Sandbar offers carefully prepared classic seafood dishes in a warm and friendly setting with a lovely view. It’s a locals’ favorite, thanks in part to its excellent calamari appetizer and crab sandwich. Municipal Wharf 2, Monterey, 373-2818.
Sardine Factory | Overlooking Cannery Row, this landmark restaurant boasts one of the area’s finest wine cellars as well as a reputation for impeccable service, excellently prepared local seafood and quality meats. Elaborately decorated dining rooms and live entertainment nightly in the lounge make for a memorable dining experience. 701 Wave St., Monterey, 373-3775.
Sea Harvest Restaurant | All three of the Sea Harvests are top choices for fresh ocean catch. Grilled or broiled fish, 18 varieties in all, are available in the market and the adjoining restaurant. Three locations: 100A Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 626-3626; 598 Foam St., Monterey, 646-0547; 2420 Highway 1, Moss Landing, 728-8686.
California Classic American
Andre’s Bouchee | Newly renamed and reinvigorated, this cozy locals’ favorite offers a modern bistro menu based on local ingredients. The wine list is superlative; the atmosphere magnetic; the ownership warm, enthusiastic and attentive. Mission between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel, 626-7880.
Aubergine Carmel | Soon-to-be superstar Justin Cogley orchestrates the excellence at this 12-table gem, which features an underground wine cellar that houses a 4,500-bottle collection. Diners create their own three-, four – or five-course meals from a menu progressive in flavors. Or ask the chef to create an exclusive tasting menu inspired by the farm-fresh foodstuffs of the moment. Monte Verde between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel, 624-8578.
Bahama Island steak house | Sit back and relax in the tropical setting of Bahama Island Steak House. The Caribbean-inspired cuisine is as creative as it is delicious, with innovative dishes such as sweet potato fries, Calypso ciabatta bread, prime steaks, lobster tail and Alaskan king crab. Full bar and outdoor heated patio. 3690 The Barnyard, Carmel, 626-0430.
Big Sur Bakery | Much more than a bakery, this laid-back, airy house-turned-restaurant offers perfect coffee drinks and sandwiches during the daytime and wine, pizza and heartier entreés at night. The style is hippie nouveau, with an emphasis on simple preparations and fresh produce. 26 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Big Sur (near the Post Office), 667-0520.
Big Sur River Inn | American-style comfort food made with organic ingredients and grass-fed beef await at this cozy roadhouse on the river. Summertime sees live music every Sunday afternoon as locals drag bent-willow chairs into the shallow creek for a cool little getaway. 25 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Big Sur, 667-2700.
The C Restaurant | The brand-new Clement Monterey Hotel has put its sparkling oceanview C Restaurant into the trusty and talented hands of local culinary master Jerry Regester, whose impressive resume includes stints at Wente Vineyards and The Lodge at Pebble Beach. He has created a menu defined by two words: local and sustainable, partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to serve up eco-friendly seafood. A full bar, outside seating and its on-top-of-the-bay placement help make it the most talked-about eatery in town. 750 Cannery Row, Monterey, 375-4800.
Cafe Rustica | Located in sunny Carmel Valley, charming Cafe Rustica brings the flavors of Italy, Alsace and California together in one irresistible package. The setting is casual but upscale, and so is the food; thin-crust gourmet pizzas, fresh seafood and abundant seasonal vegetables are the order of the day, as is the carefully crafted wine list. Reservations advised. 10 Delfino Pl., Carmel Valley, 659-4444.
Chart House | Just because one’s expectations are high upon walking into the Chart House doesn’t mean a meal there can’t be surprising. Slow-roasted prime rib, Caesar salad and fresh seafood specialties anchor the menu. And then there’s the to-die-for chocolate lava cake. 444 Cannery Row, Monterey, 372-3362.
The Restaurant at Ventana | Organic seasonal produce harvested from Ventana Inn’s own gardens is paired with the freshest seafood, poultry and steaks on chef Truman Jones’ menu. Ventana Inn, 28 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Big Sur, 667-4242.
Dishes Bistro & Grill | California and the Mediterranean come together in flavorful, fresh and natural cuisine. Dishes boasts everything from fresh seasonal seafood, steak and chicken to gourmet pizza. Full bar. 330 Reservation Rd., Marina, 883-1207.
The Duck Club Grill | Located 15 feet above the Monterey Bay, inside the stunning Monterey Plaza Hotel, The Duck Club pairs its picture-perfect location with classic American cuisine and a dash of California flair. Lobster, oak-grilled Harris Ranch steaks and pomegranate-lacquered halibut are a sampling of what’s in store. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations recommended. 400 Cannery Row, Monterey, 646-1706.
Earthbound Farm’s Organic Kitchen | Since 1984, Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley has delivered fresh, organic and pesticide-free produce to the world at large. Its Organic Kitchen, next to flower fields and an organic farm stand, continues this tradition with healthy and delicious soups, salads and much more. 7250 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 625-6219.
Edgar’s at Quail Lodge | Local star Julio Ramirez has ushered in a new era at Quail and, man, does it smell good. Farm-fresh ingredients rule the menu and Guinness-braised beef short ribs, standout sand dabs and blockbuster burgers rank among the can’t-misses. A full bar, outdoor patio seating and panoramic views sweeten the deal. 8000 Valley Greens, Carmel Valley, (831) 620-8910, www.quaillodge.com
Forge in the Forest | The Forge is a decades-old Carmel tradition that sets the standard in local al fresco dining. Choose from hearty soups or sandwiches served with thick, satisfying fries or indulge in steak, seafood or pasta. At night the cozy garden patio is heated with brick fire pits so you can dine in comfort beneath the stars. Fifth and Junipero, Carmel, 624-2233.
Fuse Lounge Cafe | This lounge/restaurant nightspot enjoys a modern design and bold tastes like “Ahi Three Ways” (sesame tartare, blackened rare and tempura), a house-smoked salmon tostada with mango salsa, crispy cayenne baby artichokes and “firecracker edamame.” The live music matches any in Carmel; the free happy hour buffet, meanwhile, might be the best on the Peninsula. Carmel Mission Inn, 3665 Rio Rd. at Highway 1, Carmel, 624-1841.
Hog’s Breath Inn | Clint Eastwood’s famous Carmel eatery is steeped in cool Western ambiance, thanks to rustic decor and numerous paintings of Our Hero, plus a nice tucked-away patio lit by a half-dozen fireplaces. The no-fooling-around menu appears to be straight-ahead American fare but has a tasty California twist. San Carlos and Fifth, Carmel, 625-1044.
Jack’s Lounge and Restaurant | An elegant nautical-themed restaurant and pleasant outdoor patio enhance the experience of dining on Colorado rack of lamb and serious cioppino. Portola Plaza Hotel, 1 Portola Plaza, Monterey, 649-2698.
LALLApalooza | This airy restaurant/martini bar in downtown Monterey overflows most evenings with well-dressed professional types. The American menu highlights gourmet burgers, grilled salmon, ribs and Angus steaks. The full bar has almost two dozen martinis. 474 Alvarado St., Monterey, 645-9036.
Marinus | Chef Cal Stamenov’s mastery of European-inspired cuisine and Bernardus’ magnificent wine cellar, coupled with four-star service, explain why Marinus is one of the Peninsula’s only Zagat-rated dining rooms and a frequent choice for Best Restaurant in the county by Weekly readers. A must-visit for any serious foodie. 415 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 658-3595.
Max’s Grill | Owner/Chef Hisayuki Max Muramatsu has enjoyed chef stardom in his native Tokyo, where he regularly won best-chef awards at the city’s famed Maxim’s of Paris. Stateside, he earned the same nod at Carmel’s Anton & Michel. His mastery of classical French and Japanese cuisine makes this a local treasure for fans of delicious California food and warm hospitality. 209 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 375-7997.
Mission Ranch | Sheep grazing on green lawns against views of Point Lobos, white picket fences, a large outdoor patio; there’s plenty of charm to go around at Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch. Add great preparations of food like steaks and salmon, a Sunday brunch and a piano bar, and it’s clear why Mission Ranch is the place to be for casual dinners and laid-back nightlife. 26270 Dolores St., Carmel, 625-9040.
Montrio | Montrio’s bustling downtown location, stylish decor and friendly service have won it a place in locals’ hearts, but it’s Chef Tony Baker’s flavorful California cuisine that locked in a culinary award from Esquire magazine. Try any of the creative “small bites” and one of the outrageously tender steaks. The ever-changing seafood specials are a sure bet, too. 414 Calle Principal, Monterey, 648-8880.
Nepenthe | People come for the scenery and fall in love with the food. For 55 years, Nepenthe has been cooking up all-American favorites like steak, seafood and burgers; it also boasts one of the world’s best views of the Pacific Ocean. Whether you sit outside on the oak-shaded deck or dine within the rustic wood interior, be forewarned: Once you relax in this very special restaurant, you may never want to go home again. 30 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Big Sur, 667-2345.
Pacific’s Edge / California Market | Soul-stirring ocean views mark this beautiful, upscale Carmel Highlands restaurant, where a huge wine list and award-winning California cuisine always make for a memorable evening. Downstairs, the less formal California Market offers its own stunning views and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options, either inside or on the heated terrace. Highlands Inn, 4 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, 622-5445, 622-5450.
Point Pinos Grill | From Belize-style Caribbean chicken salbutes to buttermilk pancakes made from scratch, from the steel-cut oatmeal with coconut and flax seeds to the eight-ounce all-natural burger, Point Pinos’ reveals the skill and versatility of Chef Dory Ford, formerly of Ventana and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The seaside location at the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links help make it one of P.G.’s most dynamic (and under-the-radar) eating destinations. 79 Asilomar Blvd., Pacific Grove, 648-5774.
Red House Cafe | Simplicity, comfort, and relaxation reign here, from the decor to the food to the service. Three small dining rooms and a porch fill up with locals looking for “contemporary American” that includes robust salads and outstanding small plates. 662 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 643-1060.
Restaurant 1833 | 1833 takes more than its name from the year its historic adobe building was erected. It borrows much of the inspiration for the apothecary-style craft cocktails, the rustic-chic decor and fresh, accessible tastes from the era when Spanish and Italian settlers dominated the local landscape. A variety of beautifully outfitted spaces – from the comfortable library lounge to the lively firepit-dotted garden – offer contexts for a range of experiences. 500 Hartnell St., Monterey, 643-1833, www.restaurant1833.com
Rio Grill | A vibrant, lively atmosphere provides the perfect complement to the Rio Grill’s innovative mix of California and southwest regional cuisine, which has only evolved further with a recent reinvention and a spread of new mouthwatering dishes – like the trio of South American ceviches and the crispy pork shank – from exec chef Cy Yontz. One way to run with Rio: Start with the fire-roasted Castroville artichoke, then move on to the pork tenderloin or the pumpkin-seed-crusted salmon. You’ll know why the Rio is one of the area’s top restaurants. Crossroads Center, Highway 1 and Rio Rd., Carmel, 625-5436.
Rocky Point | When asking for the best seat in the house at Rocky Point, you’ll have to be more specific. A spectacular view of the ocean and coast is visible from every table. The menu includes fine steaks, fresh rainbow trout and baked lobster tail. 10 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, Big Sur, 624-2933.
Rosine’s | Rosine’s has taken American comfort food and elevated it to an art form. Generous portions, friendly staff, reasonable prices and a terrific old Monterey location make Rosine’s a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Don’t miss the towering layer cakes. 434 Alvarado St., Monterey, 375-1400.
Tarpy’s Roadhouse | Whimsical sculptures and beautiful watercolors adorn this attractive stone ranch house, built in 1917. Excellent salads and innovative entreés, ranch-raised venison, game chops and fresh seafood are prepared and served with impeccable style. Highway 68 and Canyon Del Rey Blvd., Monterey, 647-1444.
Terrace Grill at La Playa | Fresh Monterey Bay seafood and lush Salinas Valley produce culminate in tasty European-inspired creations. Enjoy dinner on the open-air heated terrace while the sun sets over the Pacific. La Playa Hotel & Cottages-by-the-Sea, Eighth Avenue and Camino Real, Carmel, 624-4010.
The Whaling Station | At celebrity chef John Pisto’s dining emporium, intensely flavorful seafood pasta dishes and tender-aged beef are the stars of an innovative menu of legendary quality. Superb service and a strong selection of fine wines and spirits help make this a destination for special celebrations. 763 Wave St., Monterey, 373-3778.
Wickets | Situated between the outdoor fireplace and the manicured croquet lawn at Bernardus is the fun, casual bistro version of the resort’s award-winning restaurant. This is wine – country dining at its best, and with a view. At Bernardus Lodge, 415 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 658-3400.
Basil Seasonal Dining | Like the cute little storefront that houses Basil, the menu is small but extremely appealing, with carefully selected wines, inventive upscale cocktails and exactingly crafted California-Mediterranean food served über-fresh. Try the Pisco sour, the ahi salad and the halibut (if they have it). Then again, hard to screw up here. San Carlos between Seventh and Ocean, Carmel, 626-8226.
Bistro Beaujolais | Bistro Beaujolais’s roster of tapas is certainly inviting: country-style pate, lentils with smoked bacon and caramelized fennel, warm spiced olives with citrus and rosemary, chickpea crepes, smoked salmon, wild Burgundy escargot. But the roasted turkey panini, saffron bouillabaisse and a white truffle mac-and-cheese rank among the lunch favorites. Carmel Plaza, Ocean and Mission, Carmel, 624-5600.
Bistro Giovanni | The bar is central, with a cool wrap-around counter of mustard-hued cement where customers can drink, dine and chat with their neighbors on the stools next door. The food is California bistro style, with wine-country accents and Mediterranean influences. Bistro Giovanni is one of the best values in town, and a Bambino Menu makes it reasonable to bring the kids. Fresh Caesar salad with polenta croutons, pomodoro fresca, lamb stew with artichoke, and eggplant lasagnette with goat cheese might whet your appetite for more. Lincoln between Fifth & Sixth, Carmel, 626-6003.
Bistro Moulin | The 10-table scale here means expert chef Didier Dutertre watches each plate of superb (and best-selling) mussels or Osso Buco Milanese come out of the kitchen. The wine list, meanwhile, is as full of dynamic and intense flavors as Dutertre’s sauces, thanks to Colleen Manni’s direction, which also makes the neighboring kitchen boutique and the warm bistro run smoothly. 867 Wave St., Monterey, 333-1200.
Carmel Food Company | European trained chef Sven Hoffmann presides over this new intimate bistro by offering an appealing sampling of European country dishes – think savory arancini, Hungarian goulash, hanger steak with frites, chicken “coq au vin” style made with the best available local produce, seafood, and meats, organic when possible, and always following Seafood Watch guidelines set by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A worthy wine list, two heated patios (one dog-friendly) and the tented Garden Pavilion await a romantic dinner or a bright lunch, inside or out. Junipero between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel. 624-0300.
Casanova | Love reigns supreme at this decidedly romantic European-style restaurant. Casanova presents one of the area’s finest wine selections and a menu full of delightful French and Italian country-style fare. Old World ambience and a large, heated dining area in a garden setting make for a special lunch or dinner. Fifth between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel, 625-0501.
Esteban | Here the tapas, especially the grilled prawns, baby squid and seafood chowder, are hard to top and fun to share, but so, too, is the swanky marble-and-sandstone setting right in the middle of Monterey. 700 Munras Ave., Monterey, 375-0176.
Fandango | Flavorful food and an exceptional atmosphere are the hallmarks of this European country-style restaurant. Fresh seafood, numerous grilled specialties, French regional dishes and a wonderful paella have all made Fandango one of the Peninsula’s top restaurant picks. 223 17th St., Pacific Grove, 372-3456.
Fifi’s | An inviting oasis of music, candlelight and delicious French cooking, Fifi’s offers an imaginative menu (the duck with huckleberry sauce never disappoints) accompanied by an expertly chosen wine list. Here’s a pleasant surprise: a great meal with soup and salad can be had for under $20. 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 372-5325.
Fresh Cream | After 27 years at Heritage Harbor in Monterey, the now 32-year-old Fresh Cream Restaurant broke loose from its moorings and dropped anchor in the heart of Peninsula restaurant country: Dolores Street in Carmel. A beautiful 90-seat dining room and sleek, roomy U-shaped bar shuttle award-winning California cuisine with French roots. Dolores and Eighth, Carmel, 250-7943.
Taste Cafe & Bistro | In Taste Cafe’s food (best described as European/New American), the main ingredient nicely anchors each dish, with additional ingredients adding contrasting accents. The remodeled room, which sits atop Forest Hill in Pacific Grove, is airy and warm. It all adds up to an impressive restaurant. 1199 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 655-0324.
Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria | A longtime institution Allegro is a local’s favorite for pizza, pasta and salads that marry authentic old-world Italian recipes with a 21st century California vibe. The food is worth talking about, and the look is low key, the prices family friendly which all combined makes the atmosphere very welcoming. 3770 The Barnyard, Carmel 831-626-5454
Cantinetta Luca | One of the brightest new stars on the local dining scene, Cantinetta Luca offers hard-to-find rustic Italian dishes like handmade bresaola in a sleek, modern setting. Two-ounce tasting pours and flights provide a nice entreé into a truly superb wine list. Dolores between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel, 625-6500.
Casa Sorrento | The gigantic salads, legendary lasagna, pasta dishes and pizza pies have given this cozy neighborhood joint a faithful local following. Its live entertainment and dance floor (not to mention local wines and beers on tap) also make it a favorite for professionals and those out for an uncomplicated night on the town. 393 Salinas St., Salinas, 757-2720.
Cibo Ristorante Italiano | Appetizers like carpaccio and organic baby greens prepare patrons for a rich excursion into pasta with wild mushrooms or Griglia Mista, a mixed grill of sausage, ribeye and chicken breast. 301 Alvarado St., Monterey, 649-8151.
da Giovanni | If there’s one type of restaurant upon which Carmel has staked its reputation, it’s the genre of cozy, intimate, out-of-the-way places. da Giovanni, located above the San Remo and Su Vecino courtyards, nicely fits the bill, and surpasses most. The menu is focused on warm-blooded Mediterranean fare made up mostly of Italian dishes, and occasionally flirting with Greek, Spanish and Moroccan specialties. Desserts are made in-house and the wine list is strong on California and Tuscan wines, in both traditional and Super-Tuscan styles. Lincoln between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel, 626-5800.
Gianni’s Pizza | Since 1974, Gianni’s has been a favorite pizza connection for those who love a truly sublime pie. The pizza features a fresh, delicious crust covered with a rich tomato sauce, loads of mozzarella cheese and the freshest meats and vegetables in any combination of your choosing. Pasta, Italian sandwiches and salads are also available. 725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 649-1500.
Gino’s Fine Italian Food and Pizza | This 32-year-old family-owned restaurant serves traditional Italian home-cooked meals with care that bring back satisfied customers year after year (and Best Italian Food votes from Weekly readers). The most popular dish is the blackened chicken fettuccini alfredo, with the simple spaghetti and homemade meatballs a close second. 1410 S. Main St., Salinas, 422-1814.
TusCA Ristorante | The exquisite Tuscan-Californian cuisine matches the immaculate, freshly-remodeled setting. TusCA specializes in cheeses, salads, pasta, pizza and oven-baked homestyle dishes prepared fresh daily in a spectacular show kitchen. Hyatt Regency, 1 Old Golf Course Rd., Monterey, 657-6675.
Japanese / Sushi
Benihana Japanese Steakhouse | Teppanyaki-style steak, chicken and shrimp, as well as the traditional sushi, are specialties at this local iteration of the national franchise. 136 Olivier St., Monterey, 644-9007.
Crystal Fish | The sake is bomb, the quarters are cozy and the sashimi is so fresh it’s still flopping. The winning combination makes the family-owned-and-operated spot a favorite for work meetings, families and tourists too. Crystal Fish earned Best Sushi award from Weekly readers in 2010, and in a town where sushi joints pop up year-round, that’s saying something. 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 649-3474.
Harumi Sushi | This recent addition to the Seaside food scene provides a wide variety of Japanese cuisine. For the traditionalist, Harumi offers nigiri and simple makis; for the more adventurous, a variety of specialty rolls. The menu also features many cooked dishes, tempura and bento boxes. Good service and reasonable pricing only help. 1763 Fremont Blvd., #H4, Seaside, 899-9988.
Oh! Sushi | Though there are many hot dishes, the massive menu is mostly cold, raw sushi and has 80 small but sincere photographs. Hotties include rice bowls, udon, soba, teriyaki, short ribs, sesame chicken and dinner combos. Rugrats under 12 can order a platter for $7.50. Most of the 16 lunch specials cost $9.50 or $10.50. 2030 Fremont St., Monterey, 333-9292.
Robata Grill | An impressive sushi bar and expert sushi chefs are the centerpieces of this colorful Japanese restaurant. Robata keeps the central dining room grill hot, offering salmon, chicken and red meats along with side dishes with a distinct flair for the unusual. Try the mushroom madness or grilled eggplant in miso sauce. 3658 The Barnyard, Highway 1 and Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel, 624-2643.
Sakura | This down-home neighborhood sushi bar has the best hamachi in town, a voluble local clientele, late-night hours and a new sushi boat moat. 574 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 373-1767.
Sapporo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar | Teppan tableside dining, fresh sushi and Japanese delicacies are prepared right before your very eyes. But will you be able to tear your gaze from the magnificent view of Monterey Bay? Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey, 333-1616.
Sushi Heaven | This cozy Carmel sushi joint gets rave reviews for its winning combo of fresh seafood, complex flavors, creative presentation and friendly service. Stellar sashimi and nigiri options complement a solid lineup of sushi rolls. Dolores and Eighth, Carmel. 625-2067.
Baja Cantina | Baja Cantina features delicious Southwestern/Mexican cuisine in peaceful, bucolic Carmel Valley. The back patio is a beautiful place to enjoy the valley view, gourmet enchiladas and Monterey County’s best margaritas (as designated year after year by Weekly readers). 7166 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 625-2252.
Chapala Restaurant | Since 1983, Chapala has doubled as Salinas’ unofficial city hall, serving flavorful Mexican cuisine to local politicians and once to President Bill Clinton. Chapala’s signature entreés include chile verde and chicken fajitas on flour and corn tortillas made fresh daily. 438 Salinas St., Oldtown Salinas, 757-4959.
El Callejon | As if an established night life with regular live music is not enough reason to come to this Salinas Mexican and seafood grill, maybe dollar tacos and El Callejon’s authentic Mexican cuisine of spicy beef and broth menudo and a wide array of unique flautita-like botanas will convince the rest to come to Oldtown Salinas’ latest addition. Not to mention the full bar and lush happy hour. 66 W. Alisal St., Salinas, 758-6600.
El Mariachi Restaurante y Cantina | Mechanical bull riding. Homemade table-side guacamole. Happy hour with $2 beers and half-priced appetizers. Brunch and vegetarian options. Killer pomegranate margaritas. Was mechanical bull riding mentioned? Family owned El Mariachi is the hot place to be with friends, watching the latest game at a festively decorated full bar, or with family, grabbing a plate of Leslie’s spicy enchiladas made with homemade corn tortillas. Sombrero wearing recommended. 711 Cannery Row, Suite 1 (Above Starbucks) Monterey, 324-4953.
El Palomar | Right in the heart of Monterey sits El Palomar, with a spacious setting, cantina, full bar and outdoor patio. Owners Rudy and Kathy Torres put their personal spin on first-class renditions of Mexican favorites, often with a hefty helping of fresh seafood. A vegetarian menu is also available. 724 Abrego St., Monterey, 372-1032.
Haute Enchilada Cafe | A fish taco topped with mango salsa and an ice-cold Corona make for one mighty refreshing summer combination, and Haute Enchilada makes for a natural place to enjoy it. This colorful gallery and cafe, with its antique-strewn patio, is a favorite haunt of Moss Landing locals in need of sustenance and chit-chat. 7902-A Moss Landing Rd., Moss Landing, 633-5843.
Jose’s Mexican Grill | The perfect stop for no-frills, authentic Mexican cuisine, Jose’s boasts fresh ingredients and a friendly environment. Enchiladas, carne asada, chimichangas, $3 happy hour margaritas and a casual atmosphere add up to a good time. 1612 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside, 899-0345; 638 Wave St., Monterey, 655-4419.
Lopez Restaurante y Cantina | This down-to-earth, authentic Mexican gem offers classics like chiles rellenos and ceviche, as well as spiced shrimp burritos, all from family recipes. Lopez also features happy hour specials and margarita pitchers, with full bar, wine list and beer. 635 Cass St., Monterey, 324-4260.
Mariscos Puerto Nuevo | Mariscos presents a huge variety of Mexican-style seafood dishes as well as more traditional fare. Try the shrimp, octopus and fish in a spicy tomato sauce. 580 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 583-0411.
Mando’s | The price is right at this comfort style Mexican restaurant in Pacific Grove. A la carte menu offerings like the moist, clean chicken tamales and tender pork tostadas are less than $5, and nice complements like home made thick corn tortillas and fluffy and light rice round the meal well. Breakfast, lunch and dinner versatility is a reason to come back; and, just as importantly, the staff is friendly and fast. 162 Fountain Ave., Pacific Grove, 656-9235.
Peppers Mexicali Cafe | Fresh, spicy Mexican food with just a hint of California and Central American influences makes Peppers a favorite with locals. Succulent seafood dishes and grilled tacos al carbon are just some of Peppers’ specialties; the potent top-shelf margarita, made with fresh lime juice, is another. 170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 373-6892.
Plaza Linda | This cheerful, family-friendly outpost is a Carmel Valley institution. Beside the full bar and charming outdoor courtyard, the staff serves up consistently good enchiladas, burritos and tortilla soup in as many combinations as one can imagine. Regular live entertainment and a sustainable-seafood strategy sweeten the deal. With reasonable prices, both your stomach and your wallet stay full. 9 Del Fino Pl., Carmel Valley, 659-4229.
Turtle Bay Taqueria | “Taqueria” doesn’t quite do justice to these two Caribbean-themed restaurants. In addition to the fine tacos and quesadillas, both the colorful downtown Monterey location and the original spot in Seaside offer wraps and bowls filled with tasty items like pork loin yucateca and shrimp la playa-all at taqueria prices. Two locations: 431 Tyler St., Monterey, 333-1500; 1301 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 899-1010.
The Whole Enchilada | A staple of the Monterey Bay culinary landscape, The Whole Enchilada is a local favorite for Mexican food and margaritas. The restaurant overlooks the fishing boats in Moss Landing and features fresh catch, Mexican fare and vegetarian entreés. The full bar offers its own personality to complement the food. Highway 1 at Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, 633-3038.
Amarin Thai | This charming Thai restaurant right across from the Monterey Bay Aquarium serves delicious spicy curries, light creamy soups and fresh seafood dishes with local wines to match. The fiery kra pow with seafood is a special treat. 807 Cannery Row, Monterey, 373-8811.
Baan Thai | Also known as “Barn Thai” due to a typo in the original sign, Baan Thai is known locally for its heaping helpings and fiery homegrown chilies. 1760 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 394-2996.
Siamese Bay | Open for lunch and dinner daily, Siamese Bay offers some of the best traditional Thai food to be found in the area. And if you’re looking for a filling lunch, the buffet is served Monday through Friday. 131 Webster St., Monterey, 373-1550.
Thai Bistro II | Thai Bistro II is the go-to place for chili pepper lovers, but with an extensive selection of curries and seafood, it caters to the faintest of palates as well as the bravest cast-iron mouths. A popular item is the tom kha gai, a chicken soup with coconut milk. 159 Central Ave., Pacific Grove, 372-8700.
Ambrosia India Bistro | Sublimely aromatic and spicy cuisine from every region of the subcontinent is served in a beautiful dining room at this slightly-off-the-beaten-path restaurant. A true gem from a talented chef whose last restaurant was rated the best Indian food in the Bay Area by The San Francisco Chronicle. Full bar. 565 Abrego St., Monterey, 641-0610.
Amir’s Kabob House | Monterey County’s only Afghan restaurant serves delicately spiced meats, rice and vegetables accented with mint, cumin and garlic. The owners’ hospitality suffuses the sparsely decorated dining room, where haunting Afghan music plays in the background. Try the lamb kabobs. 794 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 642-0231.
An Choi | Start with a selection from the trendy cocktail list and dive on in to a comprehensive pan-Asian menu featuring clay pot, pad thai, sashimi and everything in between. 1120 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 372-8818.
Babaloo Cuban Food Truck | Pastel chalk against an onyx black chalkboard functions as the menu, a vibrant mural works as the paint job and the food is just as colorful as both, including the exotically sauced “Fred and Ethel,” two mini seafood burgers and the “Lucy Lucy” sandwich with mango salsa, avocado, grilled chicken and muenster. To further complement the Cuban sandwiches and fresh-veggie plates, the truck serves up orange and berry mojitos sprinkled with mint. If you detect an I Love Lucy theme, you’re catching on. Award yourself a Little Ricky Cuban coffee ice cream. Various locations, 262-4150, www.babalootruck.com
Cafe Stravaganza | A Carmel meeting spot since 1991, Cafe Stravaganza adds a touch of fun and good cheer to each dish that comes out of the kitchen. Traditional Mediterranean favorites are paired with daily specials that feature local fish and the area’s fresh vegetables. Conveniently located in the Crossroads Center. 241 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 625-3733.
China Delight | One of Carmel’s favorite Chinese restaurants specializes in Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan-style cuisine. Try the asparagus chicken, Szechuan shrimp or Hunan beef. Crossroads Center, 145 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 625-3367.
Dynasty Restaurant | Welcome to the home of dim sum genuine enough to please a knowledgeable palate, and then sum. Dynasty rules with a diverse and authentic lineup of Mandarin/Szechuan-style dishes. More good news: They don’t use monosodium glutamate (MSG). Despite premium prices, the high standards and personable staff have made the Forest Hill-adjacent place a local favorite. 1116 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 648-9264.
Epsilon | Authentic Greek vegetarian dishes like dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and spanakopita (spinach in phyllo dough) join chicken, lamb and other Adriatic specialties on the menu at this venerable downtown institution. Always noisy, friendly and enjoyable. Try the garlicky dipping sauce with pita. 422 Tyler St., Monterey, 655-8108.
Hula’s Island Grill | This delightful slice of Hawaiiana in New Monterey serves island-inspired dishes like poke (marinated raw fish), shredded pork and coconut-crusted mahi-mahi in a charming, kitschy split-level room festooned with surfboards, photographs and a TV showing surf videos. 622 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 655-4852.
Indian Summer | Indian Summer serves its traditional Indian cuisine next door to the Memory Garden in Monterey. A beautiful outdoor patio with fire pits, belly dancers and a hookah bar make this a popular late-night hangout for locals and visitors alike. 220 Olivier St., Monterey, 372-4744.
Petra | You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars flying to the Mediterranean for great hummus and baba ganoush. Petra serves mouthwatering couscous, a creamy chicken/veggie dish called chicken delight and eye-opening Turkish coffee. A new location in Monterey offers a partial menu. Two locations: 477 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 649-2530; 435 Alvarado St., Monterey, 646-2080.
Roy’s | Under the guidance of chef Roy Yamaguchi, award-winning Roy’s has become a Peninsula favorite since opening in 1995. Roy’s specialty is its appetizers: Try the Mongolian baby-back ribs or the Szechuan tea-smoked duck spring rolls. The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, 647-7423.
Tommy’s Wok | If your knowledge of Chinese food is limited to oily chow mein, visit Tommy’s to expand your horizons. The dishes here are light from start to finish, with tasty spring rolls, jasmine fried rice, naturally colored mu shu pancakes and other traditional dishes. Mission between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel, 624-8518.
Breakfast & Brunch
First Awakenings | Puffy pancakes stuffed with all manner of fruits and fiber are the specialty at this favorite breakfast spot. Try the “bluegerm” (blueberry/wheat germ) pancakes, an omelet or a massive skillet. Two locations: 125 Ocean View, Pacific Grove, 372-1125; 171 Main St., Salinas, 784-1125.
From Scratch | Everything on the menu, from the hollandaise on the famous eggs Benedict to the special-recipe cheese blintzes, is made, yes, from scratch. Light lunches and dinner are also available. 3626 The Barnyard, Carmel, 625-2448.
Katy’s Place | In a town like Carmel, Katy’s is the cozy cafe where you can bring your family. As you wait for one of 10 styles of eggs Benedict or an order of wholesome waffles, a server offers toys for the kids. Sit under the redwoods on the patio and enjoy sandwiches, salads or a calamari Jack cheeseburger. Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel, 624-0199.
Loulou’s griddle in the middle | Tiny, sunny, friendly and charming, LouLou’s is a treasure. Home fries and fluffy pancakes at breakfast give way to generous salads and affordable fresh-off-the-boat fish specials at lunchtime. Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey, 372-0568.
Old Monterey CafE | What makes breakfast so special at Old Monterey Cafe? The selection of delectable omelets and scrambles. Choose a staff favorite or create your own. For those watching their weight, the cafe also offers a selection of low-cal, healthy choices. Lunch and dinner served too. 489 Alvarado St., Monterey, 646-1021.
Three Flags CafE | The Three Flags is a casual all-American, restaurant serving breakfast buffet-style or a la carte and lunch inside the Monterey Marriott. 350 Calle Principal, Monterey, 649-4234.
Toasties CafE | Fresh breakfasts are the highlight of this popular eatery that draws rave reviews for its huevos rancheros. 702 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 373-7543.
Trailside Café and Coffee House | Adjacent to the walking trail near Cannery Row lies this quaint patio restaurant serving fresh, beautifully prepared breakfast and lunch specialties. The setting is cozy and relaxed, indoors or out. Don’t forget to try the New Orleans-style beignets. 550 Wave St. (lower level), Monterey, 649-8600.
Light Lunch & Dinner
Archie’s American Diner | Besides favorites like the sourdough cheeseburger and the garden burger with all the fixins, Archie’s offers a full menu of sandwiches and salads. Try the garlic fries and come back the next day for breakfast. 125 Ocean View Blvd. (near the Aquarium), Pacific Grove, 375-6939.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. | The menu at this friendly family-style restaurant boasts almost a dozen shrimp dishes. A great place for the kids; Mom and Dad will enjoy the oceanside view. 720 Cannery Row, Monterey, 373-1884.
Carmel Belle | Carmel Belle’s motto is “Slow down, say no to fast food!” Chalkboards are crammed with menu items built around fastidiously sourced meats, artisanal cheeses and impeccable produce arranged in creative dishes like green eggs and ham and a popular meatloaf sandwich. Coffees and wines live up to the same high standard. Doud Craft Studios, Ocean and San Carlos, Carmel, 624-1600.
Crazy Horse Restaurant | Crazy Horse serves American favorites like a tempting rib eye steak with seasonal vegetables and has a mind-boggling salad bar. Serves breakfast and lunch, too. Bay Park Hotel, 1425 Munras Ave., Monterey, 649-4771.
Eddison & Melrose | Mini tea sandwiches made of cucumber, smoked salmon, fennel and curried chicken, Victorian cakes, sugar cookies and cupcakes and – yes! – divine teas make E&M the classic English-style escape. 25 Soledad Drive, Monterey, (831) 393-9479, www.eddisonandmelrose.com
Goodies | Delicious New York-style sandwiches stuffed with fresh ingredients are what you’ll find at Goodies. Be sure to save room for one of the homemade desserts. 518 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 655-3663.
Santa Lucia CafE | Here’s a European-style market just blocks from Oldtown Monterey that’s a favorite for German and Italian cuisine. It’s also the only place in town to get authentic Hungarian goulash. Now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 484 Washington St., Monterey, 333-1111.
Schooners | Some locals in the know peg this bistro, located inside the Monterey Plaza Hotel, as the best place in town to close a business deal; others say it’s a perfect spot for an after-work cocktail. Either way, the sandwiches and salads are as inspired as the waterfront setting. 400 Cannery Row, Monterey, 372-2628.
Steinbeck House | In 1900, the Steinbeck family moved into a Queen Anne Victorian in Salinas. Seventy-four years later, a nonprofit organization transformed this historic landmark into a restaurant to preserve author John Steinbeck’s boyhood home. With a delicious, simple lunch menu that changes weekly, the Steinbeck House makes history fun. 132 Central Ave., Salinas, 424-2735.
Wild Thyme Deli | Chef-owner Terry Teplitzky’s tasty deli sandwiches, innovative salads, desserts and meals to go have won him a loyal following. It’s a natural choice for lunch when you’re anywhere near Marina. 445 Reservation Rd., Marina, 884-2414.
Central Texan Barbecue | Serving some of the best oak-smoked brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs this side of the Lone Star State, the Central Texan Barbecue is well worth the short drive to Castroville. 10500 Merritt, Castroville, 633-2285.
Cannery Row Brewing Company | Executive Chef Mark Ayers masters the standout sliders with crispy shallots and brie, the slow-smoked fire wings, the ahi tuna tower, the ribs, the grown-up grilled cheese and a bunch of other robust salads, sandwiches and indulgent meats. The most draft beers in Northern California, slick throwback brick-and-copper designs and strategic location all collaborate with his good grub to make CRBC, at just a year old, one of the most popular restaurants in the area, and Weekly readers’ pick for best 2010 debut. 95 Prescott Ave., Monterey, 643-2722.
Curly’s BBQ | Curly’s platters pile chicken, tri-tip or pork and two sides onto a plate, taking you back to Fourth of July block parties and family reunion cook-outs. Try the barbecue pork sandwich – with cole slaw on the soft roll – as it might be the best in town. 1107 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 394-7274.
Henry’s BBQ | Henry’s offers a wide variety of barbecue options, from ribs to pulled pork to chicken. Owner-chef Henry grinds his own beef, and rumor has it that his burgers are second to none (and everything’s better when he’s manning the grill). The preferred wine pairing for barbecue is beer, and Henry’s has a limited selection of domestic and import brews. 401 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, 646-6999.
Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse | Executive Chef Darroll Rose does everything from Hawaiian staples like macadamia-nut-crusted mahi mahi and coconut shrimp to certified Angus steaks and sushi. Kula’s festive atmosphere makes it a great tropical getaway, even in breezy Marina. 3295 Dunes Dr., Marina, 883-9479.
RG Burgers | Gourmet hamburgers are the almighty mission here, where the Real Good (“RG”) burgers come in Western barbecue, Mediterranean or even béarnaise/mushroom styles. RG also serves bison, turkey and falafel burgers. 201 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 626-8054; 570 Munras Ave., Monterey, 372-4930.
Running Iron Restaurant and Saloon | Steaks and country-style fare are served up in the casual atmosphere of a neighborhood restaurant. In this case, the neighborhood is Carmel Valley, so look for lots of cowboy memorabilia in this restaurant where longtime ranchers mingle with local vintners. 24 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley Village, 659-4633.
Will’s Fargo Dining House and Saloon | Will’s Fargo has been one of this area’s most popular and enduring steakhouses for four decades and recently got a highly successful makeover. Whether you select your own cut from Will’s generous sampling of choice aged beef or go with the lamb chops, you can be assured of a meal grilled to perfection. 14 W. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, 659-2774.
Happy Girl Kitchen Co. | This whimsical, charming location is not only where all the company’s award-winning jams, marmalades and pickled vegetables are made and sold, but it is also an appropriate location to grab a simple vegetarian and organic meal. In house baked goods, orange-essence polenta, and toast and jam rank among the breakfast offerings, and lunch’s homemade soup and sandwich change daily. Come Wednesdays and Fridays for pupusas, a Salvadoran dish of corn pancakes stuffed with beans, cheese and vegetables, served with Happy Girl’s spicy kimchee and tangy sauerkraut. Drinks include Blue Bottle Coffee and specialty drinks, and kombucha on tap. 173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove. 373-4475.
Jamba Juice | After a stroll along the Recreation Trail or a day of window-shopping, stop by Jamba Juice for blended-to-order fruit smoothies, fresh juices and snacks. 398 Alvarado St., Monterey, 655-9696; 1552 N. Main St., Salinas, 449-3200; 2160 California Ave., Sand City, 583-9696; 463 Canyon del Rey, Del Rey Oaks, 583-0577.
Tillie Gort’s | Casual and cozy, Tillie Gort’s proves that healthy can be delicious. Tasty Mexican – and Italian-influenced dishes, veggie burgers and salads with herb dressings satisfy discriminating vegans and vegetarians. Tillie’s also offers several non-vegetarian entreés. 111 Central Ave., Pacific Grove, 373-0335.
Bagel Bakery | The sesame, poppy and cinnamon-raisin bagels with unique spreads are Weekly staff favorites for breakfast. The bakery also serves hot deli sandwiches for lunch. Eight locations (four in Salinas) in Monterey County: Pacific Grove, 649-6272; Carmel, 625-5180; Salinas, 449-1110 and more.
Dippin’ Dots | Venture into the heart of Cannery Row for America’s favorite futuristic treat. Try 20-plus different flavors of microscopic marbles of ice cream, from the vanilla and chocolate classics to banana split and coffee. Nostalgia will arise from the quaint location and a vintage atmosphere with a jukebox to boot. 711 Cannery Row, Monterey, 655-5080.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop | In the same vein as San Francisco’s wharf-side factory, this chocolatier headliner’s Cannery Row shop features creamy and decadent treats for passersby. Sundaes, hot fudge, banana splits, hot chocolates and more, with plenty of outside seating so you can enjoy your ice cream topped with an ocean breeze. 660 Cannery Row, Monterey, 373-0997, www.ghirardelli.com.
Mrs. DeLish’s Cupcake Boutique | Mrs. Delish – or, sans fictitious name, Mary Font – started the cupcakes after a stint as a P.G. stay-at-home mom and began selling them at local farmers markets. The boutique’s size is on the cozy side, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in sweet-toothed intensity. The desserts of honor go well beyond basic flavors, including chocolate peanut butter, Oreo, coconut, and double strawberry. 800 Lighthouse Ave, Ste. B., Monterey, 612-1884.
MYO Frozen Yogurt | You wouldn’t consider a place where folks dump Butterfingers and Heath Bars in their cups “healthy,” but healthy things are surprisingly present. The locally-owned MYO does such a good job with its range of indulgent and sugar free/probiotic yogurts that it won Best Local Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Shop. Flavors range widely and wildly: white chocolate macadamia and Dutch chocolate, Irish mint and pomegranate-raspberry, mango and strawberry-banana. And though there are sprinkles, M&M minis, chocolate turtles and gummy sharks, there are also nourishing nuts and fruit delivered daily. The Alvarado venue has tables, unlike its Cannery Row original, including some outdoors. 491 Alvarado St. (649-3769) and 685 Cannery Row (375-3769), Monterey.
Nestle Toll House CafE | Anticipate a rainbow of cookie flavors, oatmeal, chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, white chocolate macadamia, English toffee, etc., as well as other complementary treats, like shakes, ice cream, and the necessary milk. Custom-flavored ice-cream-cookie sandwiches for those with a particularly sweet tooth and a good dentist. 751 Cannery Row, Ste. 105, Monterey, 641-9300, www.nestlecafe.com.
Paris Bakery | Both of Paris Bakery’s pleasant locations offer light lunch selections like sandwiches and salads along with a dazzling array of cakes, Napoleons, fruit tarts and buttery cookies. 271 Bonifacio St., Monterey, 646-1620; 1234 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 394-7798.
Parker-Lusseau Pastries | This superlative French bakery, with its croissants, brioches and galettes, also serves quiche and sandwiches at two small and utterly charming downtown locations, one of which (on Hartnell) is in an historic building. Worth a stop. 731 Munras Ave., Monterey, 643-0300; 539 Hartnell St., Monterey, 641-9188.
Sweet Elena’s Bakery | Sweet Elena’s used to be a strictly wholesale business until the pastries’ and pies’ popularity demanded otherwise. Now you, too, can start your morning with delicate, fresh-baked pastries and coffee from the espresso bar. Light soups, quiches and sandwiches are also served. 465-D Olympia Ave., Sand City, 393-2063.
ACME Coffee Roasting Company | This friendly cafe in an industrial neighborhood serves expertly roasted coffee along with loads of personality. Stop in for an individually brewed Valve Job (dark roast) or Powerglide (light). 485 Palm Ave., Seaside, 393-9113.
The Alternative Cafe | The edgiest art gallery in town also brews a mean cup of Acme espresso (see above). As you sip, check out the multimedia art from up-and-coming stars both local and regional, including Shepard Fairey and Eric Joyner. 1230 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, 583-0913.
CaffE Cardinale | Tucked away down a beautiful garden lane, Caffe Cardinale boasts Carmel’s only on-site coffee roaster. Featuring 25 daily roasts, baked goods and sandwiches, with dining inside or outside on the beautiful patio. Ocean and Dolores, Carmel, 626-2095.
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company | With a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of pastries to pacify any sweet tooth, the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company is a beloved local institution. Various locations in Carmel and Carmel Valley. 319 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley, 624-5934; 3720 The Barnyard, Carmel, 620-0844; Lincoln and Ocean, Carmel, 626-2913.
Cherry Bean Gourmet Coffeehouse | Located in Oldtown Salinas, the Cherry Bean is a favorite hangout for the denizens of Salinas, thanks to its high-octane coffee drinks and friendly staff. It’s situated just down the street from the Steinbeck Center on a strip with a variety of unique shops. 332 S. Main St., Oldtown Salinas, 424-1989.
Coffee Mia Brew Bar | Longtime locals Horace and Sarina Mercurio’s new cafe boasts a menu with seductive selections that you won’t find at your average coffeeshop: 11 different paninis (and a daily special to boot), homemade soups and cannoli. Anything not made in-house comes fresh from the area’s best local bakeries. 250 E. Reservation Rd., Marina, 384-0148.
East Village Coffee Lounge | Located just two blocks from downtown Monterey, East Village has won a passionate fan base since its 2006 opening. With its sleek, Asian-inspired decor, strong coffee drinks, desserts, mini-sandwiches and free wireless Internet access, it’s a great place to chat, refuel or study up. 498 Washington St., Monterey, 373-5601.
The Works | A popular spot for live music, poetry readings and book signings, not to mention organic coffee, loose-leaf teas, local food and lots of literature, The Works is an appropriate name. 667 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 372-2242.