We love where we live, Monterey, CA. We often meet a lot of vacationers wanting to know where they should go for lunch or dinner that's not too touristy. So, here is our list of favorite places to get a meal or a drink.
PACIFIC GROVE: It's a quiet town at night so don't be surprised if you don't see anyone walking around. Everything closes up at around 10 pm here.
- Pepper's Mexicali Cafe: A staple in PG. It's been there a long time and it's yummy! Always crowded, too, so reservations are definitely recommended. I always get the Smoked Gouda Quesadilla. It's an appetizer but I ask them to add steak to it and make it my meal. Great margaritas!
- Passionfish: Dinner place. We love this place! All sustainable (don't ask for a straw because they don't use them). Wonderful wine list and they don't upcharge the wine at all! Market price for all wines. Small menu but all is yummy. They have the most amazing biscuits, too. One time, I ordered the biscuit as my dessert and they poured honey over it. HEAVEN! It's hard to say which dishes are my fave. But, we were there recently and the Black Bean Goat Cheese Fritters were so good. And their spicy seafood stew is something I always get, too. But, it is spicy.
- Jeninni Kitchen and Wine Bar: Happy Hour and Dinner place. Surprisingly, we haven't been here, yet. But, we've heard great things about it. Specializes in Spanish food.
- Red House Cafe: Great breakfast, brunch, lunch place. They have outdoor sitting, but not a lot. It does get crowded as well.
Cannery Row (where the Monterey Bay Aquarium, restaurants, souvenir shops live): This is the touristy place but still has a couple of great places. We go here a lot because there's a couple of tasting rooms that we like and our friends work there 😊.
- Carmel Ridge Winery (dog friendly): My friend Stacey manages this place. Great view of the bay. They have a lovely Rose and I typically don't like Rose. Their Sauv Blanc is yummy, too.
- A Taste of Monterey: Located in the same building as Carmel Ridge Winery, but they are upstairs and they overlook the bay. I think it's one of the best views of the Monterey Bay. You can do a tasting or buy a glass of wine or a bottle and sit and watch the ocean. Not outdoor sitting, though. But you do get a 180 view of the ocean. They have a great menu!
- Hula's Island Grill (dog friendly): This is actually 2 blocks up from Cannery Row. They do everything well. Hawaiian fusion food. Outdoor dining
- Wave Street Cafe (dog friendly): : Great breakfast and lunch place! Ocean view and outdoor dining. There typically is a wait.
- Schooner's at the Monterey Plaza Hotel: Great brunch/lunch place. Outdoor dining and an outdoor bar. We frequent this place.
- Bistro Moulin - delicious French cuisine. Yummy spinach gnocchi!
- Whaling Station - Steak house. Bar menu is great!
- Sardine Factory - Dinner place, piano bar and they have tator tots on their bar menu. Happy Hours are 5-6 p.m. and 9:30 – 10:30 p.m.
- Crystal Fish for Sushi - A couple streets up from Cannery Row. Popular place so there typically is a wait but they move people in and out pretty fast but they don’t rush you.
- Alvarado Street Brewery (dog friendly): Lots of different beers on tap. They have a beer garden but the beer garden has a limited menu. If you want the full menu, you have to order in the restaurant.
- Revival Ice Cream: If you like ice cream, this guy has some amazing flavors. All organic, hand crafted, and all from local sources.
- There’s a lot of other little restaurants but Alvarado and Revival are consistently good
- Of course, it's touristy. Walk around and enjoy all the samplings of clam chowder that the restaurants will offer you as you walk by 😊
- There's a really cute tea/coffee/bakery at the end of the wharf called Waters and Leaves. You can sit outside in the back and enjoy watching the water, sea otters, and seals. Newest and pleasant addition to the wharf
- Carmel-by-the-Sea is interesting in that they don't have actual numbered addresses. Places are listed by the street that they're on and the cross streets
- Lots of little shops and galleries
- Street parking is usually a 2 hour limit. So that you don't have to keep moving your car, there is free and unlimited parking listed on this on this site (scroll down to the middle of the page).
- Carmel Beach is at the end of Ocean Avenue. Very dog-friendly beach. Dogs are able to run freely!
Tasting Rooms: There's about 13 wine tasting rooms. We like:
- Scheid (dog friendly) for the variety of wines they have
- Cariccioli for their sparkling and pinot noir
- Wrath (dog friendly) for all of their wines: Next to them is the Cheese Shop. If you love cheese, you can taste any cheese you want . . . for free!
- Basil (outdoor dining & dog friendly): Open for lunch and dinner. Everything is delicious here. Love their lamb meatballs. There are 3 tasting rooms within the same courtyard as Basil. Yummy wine, too.
- Il Tegamino (outdoor dining & dog friendly): Open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Closed on Wednesdays. Authentic Italian comfort food. Cute, cute restaurant. Hidden, too. You can even order a variety of their meatballs
- La Bicyclette (no outdoor dining): Open for lunch and dinner. Charming place. You feel like you're in Europe.
- Casanova (outdoor dining & dog friendly): Sister restaurant to La Bicyclette. Another charming place. HUGE wine list. Another place where you feel like you're in a small cafe in Europe. Open for dinner Monday – Sunday and lunch only on the weekends.
- La Balena (outdoor dining & dog friendly): Another charming, Italian restaurant. They have fried chicken 😊. Lunch Saturday – Sunday 12-3:30; Dinner Tuesday – Sunday 5-10 p.m.
- Il Grillo: Sister restaurant to La Balena. They are open for breakfast (pastries), lunch and dinner. Closed on Sundays.
- Vesuvio: Open 4-11 p.m. with happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Has a rooftop bar. Great menu!
- Carmel Belle: Casual, cafeteria style dining. Open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. Great food and atmosphere. They even do smoothies and juices.
- California Market at Pacific's Edge: South of Carmel-by-the-Sea is Carmel Highlands. Here is where the Hyatt Carmel Highlands sits on a cliff and has breathtaking ocean views. I think it was voted #1 ocean view in Conde Nast a few years back. They just renovated their restaurants and it's a must see. Definitely outdoor/deck dining here. This would be a great place to stop at for breakfast/brunch before heading down to Big Sur
On your way to Big Sur. You can check out Rocky Point and take in the views. It's before you hit the famous Bixby Bridge. You can even see it from Rocky Point. There's also a restaurant here called Rocky Point Restaurant. They have adirondack chairs where you can order a drink or snack and just enjoy the views.
Also, I think Nepenthe is still accessible as you get into Big Sur. More breathtaking views and huge outdoor dining area. They have a big gift shop, too.