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

Where to Eat and Drink Near Monterey and Carmel

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

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Whether you live in the dreamy coastal community, a pocket of California shoreline once governed in part by Clint Eastwood, or are embarking on a camping trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Monterey and Carmel area is well worth a deep dive. There are numerous top-tier breweries. The seafood options — sea scallops and black cod and many more fare with fins — are abundant. More and more, it seems the reasons to not visit are just not nearly as numbered as the ever-growing reasons to square the shoulders and travail through all the food and drink there is to offer.

Swimmers and surfers in the waters near Cannery Row may want to keep an eye out for sharks as long as SUVs, but those looking for a flaky croissant and a patio for wine drinking should be fine. This is a culinary destination that is, dare we say, west of Eden. Here are 17 restaurants, cafes, and breweries between Seaside and Carmel-By-The-Sea worth checking out.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Passionfish

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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.

Cafe Guarani

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Liliana Rodas de Araujo grew up making and selling empanadas in Paraguay, and after a long career in the pastry arts, she 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 offering a welcoming atmosphere, serves a wide selection of empanadas including typical versions, like chicken and ham-and-cheese, but also specials, like a recent pulled pork variety. They all come with 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

Noodle Bar

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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 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.

El Cantaro

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El Cantaro defies any resistance customers might have toward the idea of vegan Mexican food by offering fresh, traditional flavors 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.

Coastal Kitchen

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Executive Chef Michael Rotondo is bringing new life to this Cannery Row hotel restaurant. The hotel’s culinary program has been in operation for over a decade, but the team sees the debut of Coastal Kitchen as a major step in incorporating the Monterey Peninsula’s seasonal offerings such as scallops, black cod, and black truffle pasta.

Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Pearl Hour

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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 cocktails like the Pearlescent with mezcal, gin, bergamot liqueur, dry vermouth, and yarrow. During daylight hours, the bar transforms into a Euro-inspired coffeehouse.

Other Brother Beer Co.

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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 manage an 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

Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill

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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 IPAs, kettle sours, and sessionable lagers are served all day with 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour all week long, plus bottles and cans to go. (Alvarado Street also 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.)

Alta Bakery and Cafe

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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 the 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, 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.

Amber Turpin

This tiny 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’s 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 selected the sake list, and offers flights and interesting sake-based cocktails like the Tokyo Smoke (Junmai sake, Japanese Bermutto vermouth, shiso, and mesquite smoke).

Amber Turpin

Stationæry

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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) 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. 

Cultura Comida y Bebida

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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/Facebook

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 before ordering your standard go-tos; otherwise, you might miss the local spot prawns, glazed black cod, and live Monterey abalone sashimi offered alongside a variety of soups, salads, and hot and cold sakes. Hours vary, so check in advance.

Edwin's Kaona Carmel

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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 sell 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 Filipino flavors sprinkled throughout, with an extensive wine list on hand as well.

Aubergine

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In an intimate garden courtyard space within the tiny L’Auberge hotel, award-winning chef Justin Cogley and pastry chef Yulanda Santos serve artful dishes for a whimsical nightly tasting menu focused on seasonal coastal cuisine. Expect eight to 10 courses that range from a single turnip baked in salted dough and served with nori in a hollowed-out ciabatta bun, to Monterey Bay abalone finished with caviar and fine strands of hand-foraged seaweed and potato. 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

Seventh & Dolores

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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 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 the local produce: for example, 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.

Lucia Restaurant & Bar

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As far inland as this list goes, as of February 2022 Bernardus Lodge & Spa plays host to Chilean American chef Christian Ojeda. He’s the new executive chef of Lucia Restaurant & Bar after a stint as head of Auberge Resort Collection’s Calistoga Resort and plenty of other big name placements. Expect French cuisine with a heavy rotation of local ingredients, from both the land and sea.

A picture of meat and cheese on a piece of wood.
A charcuterie board from Lucia Restaurant & Bar.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa

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Passionfish

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.

Cafe Guarani

Amber Turpin

Liliana Rodas de Araujo grew up making and selling empanadas in Paraguay, and after a long career in the pastry arts, she 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 offering a welcoming atmosphere, serves a wide selection of empanadas including typical versions, like chicken and ham-and-cheese, but also specials, like a recent pulled pork variety. They all come with 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

Noodle Bar

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 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.

El Cantaro

El Cantaro defies any resistance customers might have toward the idea of vegan Mexican food by offering fresh, traditional flavors 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.

Coastal Kitchen

Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Executive Chef Michael Rotondo is bringing new life to this Cannery Row hotel restaurant. The hotel’s culinary program has been in operation for over a decade, but the team sees the debut of Coastal Kitchen as a major step in incorporating the Monterey Peninsula’s seasonal offerings such as scallops, black cod, and black truffle pasta.

Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Hand cut pasta at Coastal Kitchen.
Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Pearl Hour

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 cocktails like the Pearlescent with mezcal, gin, bergamot liqueur, dry vermouth, and yarrow. During daylight hours, the bar transforms into a Euro-inspired coffeehouse.

Other Brother Beer Co.

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 manage an 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

Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill

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 IPAs, kettle sours, and sessionable lagers are served all day with 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour all week long, plus bottles and cans to go. (Alvarado Street also 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.)

Alta Bakery and Cafe

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 the 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, 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.

Amber Turpin

Toro

Amber Turpin

This tiny 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’s 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 selected the sake list, and offers flights and interesting sake-based cocktails like the Tokyo Smoke (Junmai sake, Japanese Bermutto vermouth, shiso, and mesquite smoke).

Amber Turpin

Stationæry

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) 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. 

Cultura Comida y Bebida

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/Facebook

Akaoni

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 before ordering your standard go-tos; otherwise, you might miss the local spot prawns, glazed black cod, and live Monterey abalone sashimi offered alongside a variety of soups, salads, and hot and cold sakes. Hours vary, so check in advance.

Edwin's Kaona Carmel

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 sell 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 Filipino flavors sprinkled throughout, with an extensive wine list on hand as well.

Aubergine

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 artful dishes for a whimsical nightly tasting menu focused on seasonal coastal cuisine. Expect eight to 10 courses that range from a single turnip baked in salted dough and served with nori in a hollowed-out ciabatta bun, to Monterey Bay abalone finished with caviar and fine strands of hand-foraged seaweed and potato. 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

Related Maps

Seventh & Dolores

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 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 the local produce: for example, 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.

Lucia Restaurant & Bar

A picture of meat and cheese on a piece of wood.
A charcuterie board from Lucia Restaurant & Bar.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa

As far inland as this list goes, as of February 2022 Bernardus Lodge & Spa plays host to Chilean American chef Christian Ojeda. He’s the new executive chef of Lucia Restaurant & Bar after a stint as head of Auberge Resort Collection’s Calistoga Resort and plenty of other big name placements. Expect French cuisine with a heavy rotation of local ingredients, from both the land and sea.

A picture of meat and cheese on a piece of wood.
A charcuterie board from Lucia Restaurant & Bar.
Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Related Maps