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Good eats in Carmel/Monterey?

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dixieday Mar 1, 2002 12:36 PM

Going down to the Carmel/Monterey area for the weekend in a couple weeks--I haven't been there before, so I'd love some advice for good restaurants down there so we can avoid the obvious tourist traps. thanks!

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  1. m
    Melanie Wong RE: dixieday Mar 1, 2002 01:19 PM

    You might want to post instead on the California board where the locals are more likely to see your request. Also, there are a bunch of recommendations on that board to get you started.

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      Jim H. RE: dixieday Mar 1, 2002 01:56 PM

      We were planning a Monterey trip soon, and want to try Passionfish in Pacific Grove...supposed to be excellent. They have a web page...www.passionfish.com, I think.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Jim H.
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        mcchowhound RE: Jim H. Mar 1, 2002 09:19 PM

        Two weeks ago we went to Passionfish, based on a long, detailed review on the chowhound board. (You can find it by using the search engine.)

        We were a bit disappointed by what it looked like from the street - a boxy, unattractive Denny's-like building in a world of lovely Victorians. The good news is: the hounds were right. It was wonderful!

        The inside - though not spectacular - is soothing and romantic. We were there on Saturday night of a holiday weekend, and the place was packed. But because the tables are fairly well spread out and the staff are very generous in giving tables that could seat four to parties of two, it didn't feel crowded or loud at all once we sat down.

        The food was great, but the real star was the wine list. There were a number of good, interesting wines for less than $20. The service was also professional but warm.

        Don't miss this one.

        1. re: mcchowhound
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          Jim H. RE: mcchowhound Mar 1, 2002 09:41 PM

          Sounds like a winner!!!

          1. re: mcchowhound
            d
            Deanna RE: mcchowhound Mar 2, 2002 03:32 AM

            That's funny you mention the Denny's like building. It used to be a Sambo's about twenty years ago if anyone remembers that chain. It has been so many restaurants after that and all have been cursed it seems. Sounds like it finally has blossomed into something wonderful.

          2. re: Jim H.
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            em RE: Jim H. Mar 2, 2002 12:34 AM

            My fiance and I ate at Passionfish when we got engaged last summer, and it was wonderful. They have one of the best wine lists, California heavy, which they sell at retail price. Apparently, the proprietor's daughter is studying wine making in New Zealand, and they have really good relationships with many of the local vinters. I can only imagine that the list will continue to improve! We had a bottle of wine that had been difficult to find (but highly recommended)... they had it, and had actually hosted the winery's opening party.

            We had a very good meal, and are looking forward to an opportunity to return.

            Enjoy!

          3. d
            Deanna RE: dixieday Mar 1, 2002 04:15 PM

            Hi Dixieday,

            I was born and raised in Carmel/Pacific Grove. I know many people visit that area for golf and dining but in my opionion there really aren't any restaurants that blow me away like so many do in San Francisco. That said there are good restaurants though. In general, the best are the pasta/seafood/California cuisine places.

            My favorite place in Carmel is Mondo's (Italian) and I think they have a website www.mondos.com. The place is oozing in Carmel charm and run by a really nice family. We have had many family celebrations there and it's always my first pick when I go home. My favorite entree is La Mafiosa (pasta with awesome tenter squid, shrimp, and scallops). I never get an appetizer or salad here because the desserts are heavenly. Be sure to get the ice cream sundae. I don't think that's the name of it but it's basically a round vanilla ice cream sandwhich with meringue then topped with hot fudge. This actually isn't usually my kind of dessert but I'm drooling right now thinking of it... it's that good. You MUST have reservations for this place, it is very small. Oh and the prices are great $9-15 large entrees.

            The most romantic and very expensive in Carmel is Casanova's. The restaurant is broken up into these little rooms and court yards. I ate there so many years ago maybe someone else can comment on the food.
            They have a website too now: www.casanovarestaurant.com.

            In Pacific Grove next to the Asilomar, The Fish Wife is a local favorite. Very nice fish and pasta entrees. My favorites are the calamari steak sandwhich and the grilled talapia with cashew sauce. yummy....

            For lunch (I heard breakfast is good too but never tried it) The Red House in Pacific Grove is great. It's a tiny little Victorian and there is always a line. Their sandwhiches are heavenly, especially the warm tomato mozzarella and mushroom goat cheese. It is in downtown Pacific Grove next to the Post Office.

            About a block away in downtown Pacific Grove is a Japanese place called Takara. Very nice and I think they are open for dinner only and have about 6 tables total.

            I know there is a lot of talk about bagels on this site. I have NEVER had a better bagel than from the Bagel Bakery. They have done really well over the last 15 years and have many locations throughout Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove. These are the real deal too, big, dense, chewy, boiled not steamed. It's the perfect place for breakfast before going out and about all day.

            The Mediterranean market is a gourmet deli right on Ocean street in Carmel. Wonderful sandwhiches and antipasta. My mom introduced Doris Day to Havarti cheese here which still makes me laugh. This is the perfect place to get sandwhiches, other yummies, wine and walk down to the beach for a pic nic. This place is always crowded but the line moves quickly. Rosemary chicken breast is my favorite here.

            Regular breakfast place: From Scratch in the Carmel Barnyard- love their french bread french toast!

            Finally (for now) Fifi's Cafe in Pacific Grove is nice. It's a french bakery that has attached dining. I absolutely love their French onion soup and the owner Michelle is very nice. Their floating island dessert is really good too.

            Places to avoid:

            --Fandango's in Pacific Grove is not good at all despite the nice sounding menu and look of the place.

            --Tinnery- MAJOR tourist trap across from Lover's point in Pacific Grove.

            --Fisherman's warf. All of it is pretty bad

            --Cannery Row- I personally think there isn't much reason to dine in that area. Once exception is the Whaling Station which does have wonderful seafood and steaks but it's very over priced IMO.

            Friar Tucks- A breakfast place in Carmel. HORRID

            well I hope that helps a bit. Go ahead and email me if you have questions about a specific place. I haven't lived there in almost 10 years but still go back about every two months.

            Deanna

            1. m
              MizChalmers RE: dixieday Mar 1, 2002 06:50 PM

              Just got back from spending the President's Day weekend there. We had two spectacular meals. Lunch at the Trailside Cafe:

              http://www.trailsidecafe.com/

              .where the Linguini Primavera knocked my socks off, and dinner at Fresh Cream:

              http://www.freshcream.com/

              .where my husband had the best rack-of-lamb he's had in some time, and we shared a very delicious Tarte Tatin.

              Enjoy!

              1. w
                Wendy-san RE: dixieday Mar 2, 2002 12:42 AM

                I've had lunch and dinner at Grasings ("coastal cuisine") at Sixth and Mission in Carmel Village and both were quite good. It has a nice atmosphere and good wine list. Foodie Narsai David is a co-owner.

                Link: http://www.grasings.com/

                1. j
                  jaweino RE: dixieday Mar 2, 2002 07:08 PM

                  I live about half the time in Carmel, and half in San Francisco, and have a lot of places to recommend.

                  Carmel:

                  Da Giovanni - Mediteranian Greek/Italian
                  Robert's Bistro- French (Robert Kincaide was the founder of Fresh Cream)
                  Casanova- Italian
                  Flying Fish Grill- seafood Ken Fukimoto has started several excellent restaurants in the area each one is different and the cuisine is always good and creative. The last time I ate there Babara Streisand was at the next table.

                  Lincoln Court- California excellent, about 1.5 years old

                  Pacific Grove:

                  Alberto's Italian Alberto was maitre d' at the lodge at pebble Beach before he left to start this very modest, but very good place that caters only to locals

                  Taste Cafe- very popular with locals. California cuisine. Has just doubled in size.

                  Passion Fish, and Chantilly - I haven't gotten around to trying these places yet but I've been hearing very good reports.

                  Monterey :

                  Epsilon- Greek food. Very good.

                  Papa Chano's the best burritos going

                  Montrio- very good, creative California cuisine. When they opened a few years ago Esquire Magazine named them the best new restaurant in the USA

                  Breakfast:

                  Monerey: Old monterey Cafe, The Breakfast Club

                  Pacific Grove: The Little Red House, Toasties

                  Carmel: The Marketplace at the Highlands Inn you can't beat the view

                  1. j
                    Jonathan King RE: dixieday Mar 4, 2002 11:47 AM

                    Passionfish in PG is pretty wonderful, though not everything on the menu makes sense. We had two consecutive dinners there last weekend (something we *never* do!), and enjoyed our mains and most of our starters enormously, but were put off by some of the ill-conceived salad combinations. Local fish is a specialty: I had a grilled escolar with an aromatic topping of lemongrass and other Asian ingredients that was about as good as fish gets. My daughter had the honey-glazed duck confit with potato gratin both nights, which was also very good. And the wine list is both intelligently composed and very reasonably priced, with tons of appealing and intriguing choices in the under-$30 range.

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