There’s plenty of food and drink that counts more as a destination than a pitstop along Highway 1. The Carmel and Monterey area is its own west of Eden, a coastal trove of fine dining restaurants, breweries, and taco shops. Given how hard-hit the coast was in early 2023 by ruinous rain and wind, it’s never been a better time to show some love for the region. Here’s a roster of restaurants, cafes, and breweries between Seaside and Carmel-By-The-Sea worth checking out whether for your first visit or your hundredth.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink Around Monterey and Carmel
All the best places to fuel up after the aquarium and before winding your way along 17-Mile Drive
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.
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 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.
The Michelin Guide endorses this fine dining option on Monterey’s touristy main drag. There’s no a la carte menu option, so you’ll have to commit to chef Michael Rotondo’s tasting menu, which spans about a half dozen courses including plates such as Early Girl tomatoes with basil and local abalone; Sonoma duck with morel mushrooms; and braised short rib with cabbage and freekah. Be warned: The restaurant is tucked inside the Monterey Plaza Hotel and down a flight of stairs.
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, thankfully, 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.
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.
Step inside this stylish Michelin Bib Gourmand, with its lofted ceilings and an open kitchen, and you’ll be greeted with friendly casual service and a menu that blends European cuisine with California ingredients. Start with light fare including a buttermilk crudo or a classic Caesar salad made with kale and little gems before moving onto large plates including a strip loin steak or chicken Parmesan. The wine list should have someone for even the most discerning aficionados.
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Alta Bakery and Cafe
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 the yuzu-filled and matcha-crème.
Husband-and-wife co-owners chef Jonny Black and Monique Black bring years of cooking at Michelin-starred destinations to their hotly anticipated debut restaurant. Opening in October 2022, the restaurant showcases Jonny’s cooking chops in dishes that showcase the abundance of local ingredients including uni-topped spaghetti alla chiatarra and an abalone sausage stuffed chicken wing.
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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 duck egg, culatello, roasted asparagus, and parmigiano or a lobster roll on an Ad Astra brioche bun.
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 “Shanghai” lumpia rolls, Balinese chicken, and more Filipino flavors sprinkled throughout, with an extensive wine list, to boot.
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.
La Bicyclette Restaurant
Dining at La Bicyclette is a quintessential Carmel experience, which is why you’ll often find this charming spot choked with out-of-towners. No matter, though, as the restaurant's French and French-adjacent food always makes for a comforting meal. There’s tried-and-true bistro fare including steak au poivre but also fully non-traditional options (for a French restaurant at least) including a whole list of wood-fired pizzas, spaghetti, and, during the restaurant's popular breakfast service, huevos rancheros.
Seventh & Dolores
It’s hard to miss this sleek, modern steakhouse in a city that’s mostly known for its chill, beachy vibes. But if you’re looking for a good excuse to get dressed up and step out on the town, Seventh & Dolores makes a suitable choice. The menu sticks pretty close to classics with starters such as oysters, salad, and tuna tartare followed by a lineup of 21-day wet-aged Niman Ranch steaks. For those avoiding red meat, there’s a slew of vegetable sides and a fish entree to choose from.
Chef Fabian Di Paolo took over as executive chef at this downtown Carmel restaurant after a stint in Miami, and he new chef brings new dinner, breakfast, and happy hour menus with him. A few new dishes include yucca fries served with coconut salsa to start, followed by the hardy bone-in pork Milanese with pecorino-parsley crumbs, and concluded on a sweet note with macerated berries and mascarpone-topped grilled polenta cake.