clock menu more-arrow no yes
A dish at Aubergine
Instagram/Aubergine

Where to Eat and Drink Near Monterey and Carmel

Innovative pastries, tasty tacos, and fresh sustainable seafood on the California coast

View as Map
A dish at Aubergine
| Instagram/Aubergine

Though it’s an ever-popular tourist destination, there’s more to the Monterey Peninsula than a cool aquarium and an epic golf course. This has never been more evident than this past year, when travel and tourism were stifled by the pandemic. Like many places along the California coast, Monterey closed, then opened, then closed again, charting the COVID-19 wave along with everyone else.

By this point, locals are getting the knack for takeout and outdoor dining, and even limited indoor dining in some cases. And while the pandemic brought about some restaurants’ demise, others appear to be thriving — and a few even had the courage to open up for the first time. The fortunate thing is that Monterey County is positioned incredibly well to offer great eating and drinking: Abundant seafood, local farms, and nine different wine appellations make this a true food locale. Here are our top picks for eating and drinking through Monterey, Carmel, and beyond.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Passionfish

Copy Link
701 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 655-3311
Visit Website

A pioneer in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and Restaurant Partner program, family-owned Passionfish has served sustainable seafood for nearly two decades. The seasonal menu offers small plates and entrees that are balanced, thoughtful, and fresh. Dishes such as smoked trout ceviche and Dungeness crab salad are offered alongside a considerable 400-item list of local and imported wines offered at close to retail prices.

Slices of seared fish over a green puree in a bowl Michelle Magdalena

2. Poppy Hall

Copy Link
589 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 204-9990
Visit Website

Poppy Hall serves a menu of classic comfort food at lunch and brunch only. Lunch brings dishes like the Hippy Hand Grenade, a half avocado with a veggie-packed salad topped with sprouts and carrot ginger dressing. Dine in the bright, cozy dining room or grab a seat on the outdoor sidewalk patio with twinkly lights and room to relax.

3. Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar

Copy Link
542 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 920-2662
Visit Website

A gem of Pacific Grove, Jennini is an unassuming wine bar situated on Lighthouse Avenue. The menu is best described as Coastal Mediterranean, with dishes influenced by the flavors of Greece, Southern Spain, the Middle East, and North Africa. Crispy lamb shank is served with chickpeas, harissa, poached radish, brown butter, and herbs. The wine list, curated by seasoned somm Thamin Saleh, offers abundant options by the glass or bottle.

A.K.Carroll

4. Cafe Guarani

Copy Link
111 Central Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 747-1551
Visit Website

Liliana Rodas de Araujo grew up making and selling empanadas in Paraguay, and after a long career in the pastry arts, she has opened Cafe Guaraní during her retirement, hoping to introduce the Monterey Peninsula to traditional Paraguayan foods. This cute cafe, full of cheerful folk art and a welcoming atmosphere, serves a wide selection of empanadas. There are typical versions, like chicken and ham-and-cheese, but also specials, like a recent pulled pork variety. They all come with the magnificent house chimichurri sauce, which alone is worth the trip. Sandwiches are served on homemade brioche along with mandioca fries, and the pastry case is full of fancy-looking cakes, guava-filled croissants, and dulce de leche alfajores. Everything tastes great with any of the yerba mate drinks.

Amber Turpin

5. Noodle Bar

Copy Link
1944 Fremont Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955
(831) 392-0210

With all of the buzzy new food businesses opening up shop in Seaside recently, it would be remiss to not mention some of the diverse spots that have been serving locals this whole time. One such restaurant is Noodle Bar, an aptly named skinny hall with sparse seating (pre-COVID) and affordable Vietnamese-leaning takeout: flavorful pho, as well as soupless rice vermicelli bowls topped with cilantro, mint, house dressing, and chopped peanuts. Vegetarians have a full menu page of options to choose from.

6. El Cantaro

Copy Link
791 Foam St
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 646-5465
Visit Website

El Cantaro defies any resistance customers might have toward the idea of vegan Mexican food by offering fresh, traditional flavors that nobody can deny. And it happens to be non-GMO, mostly organic and completely devoid of animal products. The menu is astoundingly large, broken into appetizers, soups, salads, traditional plates, combination plates, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and tostadas. Those looking to try something new might opt for the kipes (fried bulgur and potato croquettes) or the empanaditas made with red beet flour. There are also traditional dishes like mole, pozole, and enmoladas, all made with Chickin’ instead of chicken. If you still can’t decide, just ask the cashier: She won’t miss a beat in telling you to order the crispy potato tacos.

7. Pearl Hour

Copy Link
214 Lighthouse Ave
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 657-9447
Visit Website

Aside from a handful of dive bars, hotel bars, and Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants, the cocktail scene in Monterey isn’t necessarily buzz-worthy. But now there is Pearl Hour, an eye-catching turquoise storefront on Lighthouse Avenue, aptly named by proprietress Katie Blandin (of Good Food Award-winning Golden Bear Bitters) after Steinbeck’s poignant quote: “It is the hour of pearl — the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself...” Here, Blandin mixes inventive concoctions like the “Pearlescent” with mezcal, gin, bergamot liqueur, dry vermouth, and yarrow. During daylight hours, the bar transforms into a Euro-inspired coffeehouse.

8. Other Brother Beer Co.

Copy Link
877 Broadway Ave
Seaside, CA 93955
(831) 747-1106
Visit Website

The often ignored strip-mall town of Seaside, in North Monterey County, is having a food and drink revival, and Other Brother Beer Co. is one of the main attractions. This breezy craft beer spot, founded by two brothers who helm a California olive oil company with the same name, offers a diverse variety of fresh brews (not just IPAs) for local pickup and delivery. They also just unveiled a new outdoor parklet called “Heermann’s Landing” — the perfect spot to enjoy the remarkable onsite baked goods of chef Ron Mendoza’s Ad Astra Bread Co.

Amber Turpin

9. Las Cazuelas Taqueria

Copy Link
880 Broadway Ave
Seaside, CA 93955
(831) 641-7832
Visit Website

This is the newly opened sister location to the original Las Cazuelas in Marina, which has many fans. It serves a vast menu of solid, generous, fresh taqueria food with a spiffed-up ambiance. The variety of wet burritos, tacos (including hard-shell and soft), and tender sopes make it easy to frequent this place, especially during this time when takeout reigns supreme. A nice breakfast menu and freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice are a bonus. Other Brother Beer Co., located directly across the street, offers a great solution to post-beer dinner dilemmas.

10. The Meatery

Copy Link
1534 Fremont Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955
(831) 656-8810
Visit Website

First and foremost, the Meatery is a butcher shop. Chef-owner Kevin Hincks opened the shop in 2019, bringing a strict whole-animal, small-batch, sustainable philosophy to an unassuming Seaside strip mall. But the Meatery is also an excellent place to get sandwiches like the customer favorite bahn mi or Italian po’boy. Weekly specials include pulled pork on Thursdays and smoked brisket on Saturdays. Quintessential deli case items, like mac salad and a bacon-loaded potato salad, are at the ready, along with fermented hot sauce by the bottle.

Amber Turpin

11. Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill

Copy Link
426 Alvarado St
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 655-2337
Visit Website

This local craft brewery and restaurant has pivoted well to accommodate its legions of fans with even more outdoor sidewalk seating to supplement its original 50-seat beer garden out back. The menu offers varied but straightforward options of the pizza, burger, and big salad variety, with a few twists like a spicy Korean fried chicken sandwich and a bacon Loco Moco. Fan favorite IPA’s, kettle sours, and sessionable lagers are served all day with 3 to 6 pm happy hour all week long, plus bottles and cans to go. (Alvarado Street also recently took over its own Carmel Plaza spinoff, the former Yeast of Eden, where it now serves a smaller, seasonal California-leaning menu, plus a handful of the sought-after Yeast of Eden mixed fermentation brews.)

12. Alta Bakery and Cafe

Copy Link
502 Munras Ave
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 920-1018
Visit Website

The Old Town District of Monterey is chock-full of history and lore, and one of the richest places to absorb some of it is in the newly rehabilitated Cooper-Molera Adobe and the surrounding grounds. The project to revitalize this property was no small feat, and one of the principal players was Ben Spungin, formerly of Post Ranch Inn and now culinary director of Alta Bakery & Cafe, which is housed in this historic corner on Munras Avenue. The tucked away garden courtyard is a lovely spot to sip a pine and huckleberry latte or rosemary vanilla mimosa, while nibbling on one of Alta’s daily doughnuts like lemon verbena or miso glazed. Try the anchovy and manchego tartine or delicata squash and burrata pizza later in the day.

Amber Turpin

13. Toro

Copy Link
Dolores 5 SE of 5th
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
(831) 574-3255
Visit Website

This tiny new sushi spot in Carmel took its chances by opening during a pandemic. Luckily, Toro’s ethos of only serving extremely fresh fish and simple, high-caliber ingredients has ensured return customers. It is a traditional menu, with a few appetizers, salads, and simple rolls. Nigiri is the star, and the omakase is a great way to try 16 pieces of the chef’s choice. The sommelier has curated the sake list, offers flights and interesting sake-based cocktails like the Tokyo Smoke (Junmai sake, Japanese Bermutto vermouth, shiso, and mesquite smoke).

Amber Turpin

14. Stationæry

Copy Link
San Carlos Street, 3 NE of 6th Avenue, San Carlos St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
(831) 250-7183
Visit Website

Stumbling upon Stationaery, hidden within the quaint San Carlos Square, is like discovering a secret note written just for you. Except it is no secret, as everyone now knows about the delicious food to be found here. The tiny 34-seat space has outdoor seating too, which helps accommodate the long wait for the popular brunch featuring items like the potato pancake with salmon, miso, creme fraiche, and soft boiled egg (get decadent and add caviar for $12) or a lobster roll on an Ad Astra brioche bun. Dinner includes some of the same delicious brunch items, with the addition of comforting things like spaghetti Amatriciana and butterscotch budino. Online ordering and takeout are available for those who don’t feel like waiting. 

15. Cultura Comida y Bebida

Copy Link

In a city sated with French and Italian eating options, Cultura is a breath of fresh, worm-salted air. Founded by Sarah Kabat-Marcy and John Cox (of Sierra Mar/Post Ranch), the Oaxacan-inspired restaurant offers a seasonal menu of fresh, artistic dishes that range from street tacos to mole to a great huevos rancheros at brunch. The full bar features a hand-picked library of mezcals, many of which are sourced directly from small producers in Oaxaca, along with traditional chapulines (grasshoppers), local orange slices, and sal de gusano (worm salt). Don’t miss the toasted peanuts with garlic and chile arbol while sipping an excellent cocktail. Cultura’s sister taco joint, Cult Taco in downtown Monterey, is also worth a visit.

Cultura/Facebook

16. La Balena

Copy Link
Junipero Btw 5th & 6th
Carmel, CA 93921
(831) 250-6295
Visit Website

Don’t be fooled by the inconspicuous location and worn-in appearance of this family-run Italian restaurant. The minimal decor and straightforward use of simple, fresh ingredients are intentional, and resemble the classic osterias of chef Emanuele Bartolini’s hometown of Florence. Menu highlights include tender grilled octopus, crispy fried chicken, hand-made gnocchi, and compulsively eatable chili-infused fried cauliflower. The extensive wine list features small producers and highlights female winemakers, as well as organic and biodynamic wineries. The bubbling fountain and soft twinkle lights set a romantic Old World mood on the front and back patios, which is suitable for their outdoor-only dining and takeout service.

A.K.Carroll

17. Akaoni

Copy Link
Mission & 6th Ave
Carmel, CA 93921
(831) 620-1516
Visit Website

A local favorite for industry folk and avid eaters alike, this little no-frills spot serves artful sushi that is both delicate and delicious. Exceptional offerings — made from local and imported seafood — easily make up for the minimal service. Definitely ask about specials first before ordering your standard go-tos; otherwise, you might miss the local spot prawns, glazed black cod, and live Monterey abalone sashimi that are offered alongside a variety of soups, salads, and hot and cold sakes. Hours vary, so check in advance.

18. Edwin's Kaona Carmel

Copy Link
Corner of 6th Avenue &, San Carlos St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
(831) 250-7744
Visit Website

Edwin’s takes the place of Affina, a longtime Mediterranean restaurant from chef Dexter Salazar. During the pandemic, Salazar was on the brink of retirement, with plans to see the restaurant, when his brothers and nephew stepped in. Now they’ve reopened as Edwin’s, a tribute to the family’s Filipino roots, and Salazar’s father, Edwin. Expect excellent Shanghai lumpia, Balinese chicken, and more Filiipino flavors sprinkled throughout, with an extensive wine list on hand as well.

19. Aubergine

Copy Link
Monte Verde St.
Carmel, CA 93921
(831) 624-8578
Visit Website

In an intimate garden courtyard space within the tiny L’Auberge hotel, award-winning chef Justin Cogley and pastry chef Yulanda Santos serve innovative and artful dishes for a whimsical nightly tasting menu ($205) focused on seasonal coastal cuisine. Expect eight to ten courses that range from a single turnip baked in salted dough and served with nori in a hollowed-out ciabatta bun, to a Monterey Bay abalone finished with caviar and fine strands of hand-foraged seaweed and potato — all served outdoors. Wine pairings will complement your Michelin-starred meal (and more than double the price of your ticket if you opt for the “Reserve Tasting”). Reservations required.

Amanda Friedman

20. Seventh & Dolores

Copy Link
7th Avenue &, Dolores St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
(831) 293-7600
Visit Website

The Folktale Group, Gregory Ahn’s mini empire of a dozen wine labels, has broadened its scope to include some high-quality restaurants as well. In 2017, Seventh & Dolores opened in a former 1970s-era bank in Carmel, and it’s still the place to be for living large. The lavish steakhouse menu offers all the sauces and sides you would expect with your 32-day dry-aged Kansas City steak, with a seasonal focus to highlight the local produce: Think roasted acorn squash with hazelnut pistou or Brussels sprouts with pumpkin romesco and seed brittle. Up the street is Rise + Roam, another Folktale spot that specializes in naturally-fermented sourdough, tempting baked goods, and Roman-style pizza by the yard.

Loading comments...

1. Passionfish

701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Slices of seared fish over a green puree in a bowl Michelle Magdalena

A pioneer in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and Restaurant Partner program, family-owned Passionfish has served sustainable seafood for nearly two decades. The seasonal menu offers small plates and entrees that are balanced, thoughtful, and fresh. Dishes such as smoked trout ceviche and Dungeness crab salad are offered alongside a considerable 400-item list of local and imported wines offered at close to retail prices.

701 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

2. Poppy Hall

589 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Poppy Hall serves a menu of classic comfort food at lunch and brunch only. Lunch brings dishes like the Hippy Hand Grenade, a half avocado with a veggie-packed salad topped with sprouts and carrot ginger dressing. Dine in the bright, cozy dining room or grab a seat on the outdoor sidewalk patio with twinkly lights and room to relax.

589 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

3. Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar

542 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
A.K.Carroll

A gem of Pacific Grove, Jennini is an unassuming wine bar situated on Lighthouse Avenue. The menu is best described as Coastal Mediterranean, with dishes influenced by the flavors of Greece, Southern Spain, the Middle East, and North Africa. Crispy lamb shank is served with chickpeas, harissa, poached radish, brown butter, and herbs. The wine list, curated by seasoned somm Thamin Saleh, offers abundant options by the glass or bottle.

542 Lighthouse Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

4. Cafe Guarani

111 Central Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Amber Turpin

Liliana Rodas de Araujo grew up making and selling empanadas in Paraguay, and after a long career in the pastry arts, she has opened Cafe Guaraní during her retirement, hoping to introduce the Monterey Peninsula to traditional Paraguayan foods. This cute cafe, full of cheerful folk art and a welcoming atmosphere, serves a wide selection of empanadas. There are typical versions, like chicken and ham-and-cheese, but also specials, like a recent pulled pork variety. They all come with the magnificent house chimichurri sauce, which alone is worth the trip. Sandwiches are served on homemade brioche along with mandioca fries, and the pastry case is full of fancy-looking cakes, guava-filled croissants, and dulce de leche alfajores. Everything tastes great with any of the yerba mate drinks.

111 Central Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

5. Noodle Bar

1944 Fremont Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955

With all of the buzzy new food businesses opening up shop in Seaside recently, it would be remiss to not mention some of the diverse spots that have been serving locals this whole time. One such restaurant is Noodle Bar, an aptly named skinny hall with sparse seating (pre-COVID) and affordable Vietnamese-leaning takeout: flavorful pho, as well as soupless rice vermicelli bowls topped with cilantro, mint, house dressing, and chopped peanuts. Vegetarians have a full menu page of options to choose from.

1944 Fremont Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955

6. El Cantaro

791 Foam St, Monterey, CA 93940

El Cantaro defies any resistance customers might have toward the idea of vegan Mexican food by offering fresh, traditional flavors that nobody can deny. And it happens to be non-GMO, mostly organic and completely devoid of animal products. The menu is astoundingly large, broken into appetizers, soups, salads, traditional plates, combination plates, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and tostadas. Those looking to try something new might opt for the kipes (fried bulgur and potato croquettes) or the empanaditas made with red beet flour. There are also traditional dishes like mole, pozole, and enmoladas, all made with Chickin’ instead of chicken. If you still can’t decide, just ask the cashier: She won’t miss a beat in telling you to order the crispy potato tacos.

791 Foam St
Monterey, CA 93940

7. Pearl Hour

214 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940

Aside from a handful of dive bars, hotel bars, and Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants, the cocktail scene in Monterey isn’t necessarily buzz-worthy. But now there is Pearl Hour, an eye-catching turquoise storefront on Lighthouse Avenue, aptly named by proprietress Katie Blandin (of Good Food Award-winning Golden Bear Bitters) after Steinbeck’s poignant quote: “It is the hour of pearl — the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself...” Here, Blandin mixes inventive concoctions like the “Pearlescent” with mezcal, gin, bergamot liqueur, dry vermouth, and yarrow. During daylight hours, the bar transforms into a Euro-inspired coffeehouse.

214 Lighthouse Ave
Monterey, CA 93940

8. Other Brother Beer Co.

877 Broadway Ave, Seaside, CA 93955
Amber Turpin

The often ignored strip-mall town of Seaside, in North Monterey County, is having a food and drink revival, and Other Brother Beer Co. is one of the main attractions. This breezy craft beer spot, founded by two brothers who helm a California olive oil company with the same name, offers a diverse variety of fresh brews (not just IPAs) for local pickup and delivery. They also just unveiled a new outdoor parklet called “Heermann’s Landing” — the perfect spot to enjoy the remarkable onsite baked goods of chef Ron Mendoza’s Ad Astra Bread Co.

877 Broadway Ave
Seaside, CA 93955

9. Las Cazuelas Taqueria

880 Broadway Ave, Seaside, CA 93955

This is the newly opened sister location to the original Las Cazuelas in Marina, which has many fans. It serves a vast menu of solid, generous, fresh taqueria food with a spiffed-up ambiance. The variety of wet burritos, tacos (including hard-shell and soft), and tender sopes make it easy to frequent this place, especially during this time when takeout reigns supreme. A nice breakfast menu and freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice are a bonus. Other Brother Beer Co., located directly across the street, offers a great solution to post-beer dinner dilemmas.

880 Broadway Ave
Seaside, CA 93955

10. The Meatery

1534 Fremont Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955
Amber Turpin

First and foremost, the Meatery is a butcher shop. Chef-owner Kevin Hincks opened the shop in 2019, bringing a strict whole-animal, small-batch, sustainable philosophy to an unassuming Seaside strip mall. But the Meatery is also an excellent place to get sandwiches like the customer favorite bahn mi or Italian po’boy. Weekly specials include pulled pork on Thursdays and smoked brisket on Saturdays. Quintessential deli case items, like mac salad and a bacon-loaded potato salad, are at the ready, along with fermented hot sauce by the bottle.

1534 Fremont Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955

11. Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill

426 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA 93940

This local craft brewery and restaurant has pivoted well to accommodate its legions of fans with even more outdoor sidewalk seating to supplement its original 50-seat beer garden out back. The menu offers varied but straightforward options of the pizza, burger, and big salad variety, with a few twists like a spicy Korean fried chicken sandwich and a bacon Loco Moco. Fan favorite IPA’s, kettle sours, and sessionable lagers are served all day with 3 to 6 pm happy hour all week long, plus bottles and cans to go. (Alvarado Street also recently took over its own Carmel Plaza spinoff, the former Yeast of Eden, where it now serves a smaller, seasonal California-leaning menu, plus a handful of the sought-after Yeast of Eden mixed fermentation brews.)

426 Alvarado St
Monterey, CA 93940

12. Alta Bakery and Cafe

502 Munras Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
Amber Turpin

The Old Town District of Monterey is chock-full of history and lore, and one of the richest places to absorb some of it is in the newly rehabilitated Cooper-Molera Adobe and the surrounding grounds. The project to revitalize this property was no small feat, and one of the principal players was Ben Spungin, formerly of Post Ranch Inn and now culinary director of Alta Bakery & Cafe, which is housed in this historic corner on Munras Avenue. The tucked away garden courtyard is a lovely spot to sip a pine and huckleberry latte or rosemary vanilla mimosa, while nibbling on one of Alta’s daily doughnuts like lemon verbena or miso glazed. Try the anchovy and manchego tartine or delicata squash and burrata pizza later in the day.

502 Munras Ave
Monterey, CA 93940

13. Toro

Dolores 5 SE of 5th, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
Amber Turpin

This tiny new sushi spot in Carmel took its chances by opening during a pandemic. Luckily, Toro’s ethos of only serving extremely fresh fish and simple, high-caliber ingredients has ensured return customers. It is a traditional menu, with a few appetizers, salads, and simple rolls. Nigiri is the star, and the omakase is a great way to try 16 pieces of the chef’s choice. The sommelier has curated the sake list, offers flights and interesting sake-based cocktails like the Tokyo Smoke (Junmai sake, Japanese Bermutto vermouth, shiso, and mesquite smoke).

Dolores 5 SE of 5th
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

14. Stationæry

San Carlos Street, 3 NE of 6th Avenue, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Stumbling upon Stationaery, hidden within the quaint San Carlos Square, is like discovering a secret note written just for you. Except it is no secret, as everyone now knows about the delicious food to be found here. The tiny 34-seat space has outdoor seating too, which helps accommodate the long wait for the popular brunch featuring items like the potato pancake with salmon, miso, creme fraiche, and soft boiled egg (get decadent and add caviar for $12) or a lobster roll on an Ad Astra brioche bun. Dinner includes some of the same delicious brunch items, with the addition of comforting things like spaghetti Amatriciana and butterscotch budino. Online ordering and takeout are available for those who don’t feel like waiting. 

San Carlos Street, 3 NE of 6th Avenue, San Carlos St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

15. Cultura Comida y Bebida

Carmel, CA 93923
Cultura/Facebook

In a city sated with French and Italian eating options, Cultura is a breath of fresh, worm-salted air. Founded by Sarah Kabat-Marcy and John Cox (of Sierra Mar/Post Ranch), the Oaxacan-inspired restaurant offers a seasonal menu of fresh, artistic dishes that range from street tacos to mole to a great huevos rancheros at brunch. The full bar features a hand-picked library of mezcals, many of which are sourced directly from small producers in Oaxaca, along with traditional chapulines (grasshoppers), local orange slices, and sal de gusano (worm salt). Don’t miss the toasted peanuts with garlic and chile arbol while sipping an excellent cocktail. Cultura’s sister taco joint, Cult Taco in downtown Monterey, is also worth a visit.

Related Maps

16. La Balena

Junipero Btw 5th & 6th, Carmel, CA 93921
A.K.Carroll

Don’t be fooled by the inconspicuous location and worn-in appearance of this family-run Italian restaurant. The minimal decor and straightforward use of simple, fresh ingredients are intentional, and resemble the classic osterias of chef Emanuele Bartolini’s hometown of Florence. Menu highlights include tender grilled octopus, crispy fried chicken, hand-made gnocchi, and compulsively eatable chili-infused fried cauliflower. The extensive wine list features small producers and highlights female winemakers, as well as organic and biodynamic wineries. The bubbling fountain and soft twinkle lights set a romantic Old World mood on the front and back patios, which is suitable for their outdoor-only dining and takeout service.

Junipero Btw 5th & 6th
Carmel, CA 93921

17. Akaoni

Mission & 6th Ave, Carmel, CA 93921

A local favorite for industry folk and avid eaters alike, this little no-frills spot serves artful sushi that is both delicate and delicious. Exceptional offerings — made from local and imported seafood — easily make up for the minimal service. Definitely ask about specials first before ordering your standard go-tos; otherwise, you might miss the local spot prawns, glazed black cod, and live Monterey abalone sashimi that are offered alongside a variety of soups, salads, and hot and cold sakes. Hours vary, so check in advance.

Mission & 6th Ave
Carmel, CA 93921

18. Edwin's Kaona Carmel

Corner of 6th Avenue &, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Edwin’s takes the place of Affina, a longtime Mediterranean restaurant from chef Dexter Salazar. During the pandemic, Salazar was on the brink of retirement, with plans to see the restaurant, when his brothers and nephew stepped in. Now they’ve reopened as Edwin’s, a tribute to the family’s Filipino roots, and Salazar’s father, Edwin. Expect excellent Shanghai lumpia, Balinese chicken, and more Filiipino flavors sprinkled throughout, with an extensive wine list on hand as well.

Corner of 6th Avenue &, San Carlos St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

19. Aubergine

Monte Verde St., Carmel, CA 93921
Amanda Friedman

In an intimate garden courtyard space within the tiny L’Auberge hotel, award-winning chef Justin Cogley and pastry chef Yulanda Santos serve innovative and artful dishes for a whimsical nightly tasting menu ($205) focused on seasonal coastal cuisine. Expect eight to ten courses that range from a single turnip baked in salted dough and served with nori in a hollowed-out ciabatta bun, to a Monterey Bay abalone finished with caviar and fine strands of hand-foraged seaweed and potato — all served outdoors. Wine pairings will complement your Michelin-starred meal (and more than double the price of your ticket if you opt for the “Reserve Tasting”). Reservations required.

Monte Verde St.
Carmel, CA 93921

20. Seventh & Dolores

7th Avenue &, Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

The Folktale Group, Gregory Ahn’s mini empire of a dozen wine labels, has broadened its scope to include some high-quality restaurants as well. In 2017, Seventh & Dolores opened in a former 1970s-era bank in Carmel, and it’s still the place to be for living large. The lavish steakhouse menu offers all the sauces and sides you would expect with your 32-day dry-aged Kansas City steak, with a seasonal focus to highlight the local produce: Think roasted acorn squash with hazelnut pistou or Brussels sprouts with pumpkin romesco and seed brittle. Up the street is Rise + Roam, another Folktale spot that specializes in naturally-fermented sourdough, tempting baked goods, and Roman-style pizza by the yard.

7th Avenue &, Dolores St
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Related Maps