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1st Big Sur Trip: on/off beaten path restaurants

My wife and I are doing our first trip up to Big Sur in 2 weeks for some R&R. I've searched and found a few good recommendations. We're looking for a mix of off the beaten path places to sample casual atmosphere and great food as well as a couple of places to have an exquisite dinner experience. All recommendations are welcome. Thanks

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  1. Be sure to check out the Big Sur Bakery and Spirit Garden gallery....also Nepenthe for the view and the very good and $$$ sandwiches....actually worth it tho.

    Having lived in Big Sur - I'd recommend you see the restuarant at Post Ranch and if you can eat there $$$$$$ and again, worth it.

    Also, a very well kept secret is that you can eat at the Esalen institute if you book 'personal retreat'

    this is about $150 per person but is room and board....the meals there can be epic and then theres the hot springs perched above the ocean....you can also book a massage and maybe they'll let you eat too...give a call....

    But, re-reading your post.... the exquisite dining is IMHO at Post Ranch and Nepenthe makes a great lunch spot...

    Have fun!

    1. I've only been to Big Sur a couple of times, but I think Nepenthe is a great place to go to sit back and relax. The food is pretty decent, but what's special about the restaurant is their great views - they sit on a cliff, and you get expansive views of the ocean as far as the eye can see. You can sit outside on their patio area and relax in the beautiful sunshine and gaze out on the ocean. On some days when the clouds are particularly low, you won't be able to see the ocean, but you'll be able to see a blanket of clouds as far as the eye can see. It's truly a spectacular view.

      1. I concur with the Nepenthe and Big Sur Bakery suggestions. Nepenthe has gorgeous views and good food, and Big Sur Bakery has outstanding food.

        1. If you don't have a place to stay yet, check out this place: www.treebonesresort.com.
          Stay in #13 and buy their BBQ. Brkfst is included in the rate. It's awesome. Don't forget, Cambria, the restaurants there are great. Eat at www.robinsrestaurant.com Sit out on the patio! Also go to the Courtyard deli www.courtyarddeli.com and get ya some sammys. Go down to the shoreline, have a picnic and marvel at the sea otters. Have a great time! :)KQ

          1. what direction are you coming from? The Bay Area or Los Angeles?

            1. I've been that way a few times. Nepenthe is definiteley worth a stop. Had a great breakfast at Deetjen's, and I wished I'd spent more time there. Its a beautiful area. Most important is to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, wherever you end up.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jwbarth

                a second on Deetjen's. doesn't get more authentic or local and food is very good. Not fancy-schmancy.


                1. re: toodie jane

                  I third it. Dinner is good as well all by candle light.

              2. It's been a while but I would second a vote for Nepenthe. Is Ventana still around? It was right there on the Pacific Coast Highway once upon a time. I remember it being fantastic. One of these locations were originally built by Orson Wells for his then sweetheart. (Rita Hayworth? Can't remember) Anyway, views are spectacular and worth the visit.

                1. Nepenthe was the site of the cabin built by Orson Welles and Deetjens is a cozy spot as well.
                  Ventana is still around but IMHO, if you're gonna drop the $$$$ eat at Post Ranch...

                  1. Stopped at the Big Sur Bakery to check it out - it was between meals so we took a look at the bakery case. I got a jelly donut and a ginger scone. Came to $6.50 .... good ingredients but I'm not sure I like their baking style. The jelly donut was very "substantial" - a dense, firm cakey donut with real fruit jelly (points for that). Sugar on the outside of the donut. An honest donut but not my ideal for a jelly donut. The ginger scone was a very dark bake - lots of crystallilzed ginger bits and flavor but baked so long that it was drier than I care for in a scone. Pretty minimal moistness inside - almost like a shortbread on the edges. Tasty with something to drink but not scone - like to me. We ran into someone as we were leaving that really liked their food and said she was lucky to live nearby.

                    1. We are also planning a trip in October, and after doing a lot of research, we booked a room at Deetjen's. We're also going to try and go to the Esalen Institute for a massage - I've heard they are very strict about telling you you can't hang out forever - but you can come for an hour before and stay an hour after to soak in the tubs - or eat lunch if it's convenient after your massage.

                      We are also planning to eat at the Post Ranch Inn, and Nepenthe. It gets mixed reviews, but I am looking forward to checking out the views!

                      A friend highly recommends Treebones, but I was a bit turned off by the fact that there are no facilities in the yurts, and the nearest food other than what they offer is 7 miles away. Might be ok for one night, but we're planning to stay for 3. The same friend also highly highly recommends Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch for a fancy meal.

                      Not to hijack your thread - but we're driving from San Diego and staying in Santa Barbara for a couple of nights, then driving up through SLO. Does anyone have recommendations for a good place to get a Santa Maria style steak dinner on the way up, or for good fine dining in Santa Barbara? I definitely want to check out the new Hungry Cat.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Alice Q

                        we just got back from Esalen - loved the tubs. it's a spectacular setting .... we stayed overnight so there wasn't any rush for us but after an hour or so we were pretty "mellow" .....would be hard to stay in for much longer although there are some cold tubs to alternate with. the meals were good - not highly refined dining but good basic food with an occasional surprise. yes, the multi grain cereals and the living muesli but ribs one night and a yummy apple cake with a great light texture. one of the best ever soft boiled eggs .... sparkling fresh salad bar ...

                        1. re: Alice Q

                          for steaks in the wine country of SB/SLO counties, Hitchin Post in Buellton, Far Western in Guadalupe, and Jocko's in Nipomo are the best.

                          On Saturdays, you can get SM Style BBQ at non-profit stands along Broadway. Sandwiches or the full SMSBBQ treatment (garlic bread & beans, sometimes iceberg salad.) are available. If you like the benas, stop by Von's or Spencers Mkt and buy the dry pinquito beans and seasonings to make at home.

                          1. re: toodie jane

                            This is going to sound nutty, but do any of the afformentioned steak places have fish or veggie options?

                        2. hello, we stayed in Big Sur in Oct. and went to the Big Sur Bakery first for lunch because it was close to our lodging. Everything was excellent--juice, coffee(an organic custom roast), a huge whole-grain fruit pancake, soup, and a pizza that equalled anything we've had in north or south cal (A16, Pizzaiolo,Angeli caffe). So we made dinner reservations and were not disappointed. Very good wine list, excellent fresh produce and ingredients, and equal to much more expensive meals elsewhere on the coast, north or south (about $80 for two which incl. two glasses of wine); it was what one hopes for in "wine country" or hyped cali-cuisine spots,but rarely gets or pays too much for. cheers

                          1. Wow! Thank you so much for all the responses and great info. Nepenthe and Big Sur Bakery are on the list for sure. Others seemed to agree that if given the choice between Cielo (at Ventana) and Post House, go to Post House.

                            We are driving up from LA, taking highway 1 and are staying at Ventana. The reviews seemed to be universally favorable. We are really excited and can't wait.

                            Thanks again!