I just visited there and we had dinner at the Village Fish house in Carmel Valley Village. I heard afterward that the original is in Monterey, on Del Monte and might even be a little better. It wasn't exactly cheap but it was tasty and the little place was nice and homey. They had good seafood, a decent steak and a good wine selection.
Good cheap eats:
LouLous (on wharf #2)
First Awakenings (Tin Cannery)
Tillie Gorts (Pacific Grove)
Breakfast Club (Seaside)
Turtle Bay Taqueria (on Tyler one street below Alvarado)
Wild Plum Cafe (on Munras near Alvarado, two thumbs up)
Pelican Tavern (tin Cannery)
Crepe's A Go Go (Wave st. one street above Cannery Row)
Red House Cafe (Pacific Grove)
Elli's American Diner (Del Monte Mall)
Rio Grill (Carmel)
Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley)
Fifi's Cafe (Pacific Grove)
(most of the above are also open for dinner)
Blue Moon (Cannery Row)
Peppers mexican cuisine (Pacific Grove)
Gianni's Pizza (Lighthouse Mtry, another two thumbs up)
I know it's a lot but these are my best picks for dining on a budget. If you are going to splurge go to Passionfish in Pacific Grove. They are very reasonably priced for cuisine and wine! Let me know if you would like any more detail on any of theses suggestions!
I agree with several of your recommendations,and others I haven't tried, so nice to have the list overall, but one that sticks out in a negative way for me is the Rio Grill: granted, I haven't been in years, but I don't think I would call it cheap. Here is the menu from their website: entrees appear to start at about $18 (well $17.95 actually,) and run up to $32...
Still can't call that the cheap category. But mostly, I don't think it is worth it; I've had some pretty mediocre meals there; though granted I stopped going for dinner years ago because Passionfish is soooo much better and more reasonably priced (most expensive main are scallops at $24; several mains under $20, and great prices on the wine list).
Another cheaper lunch option with a harbor view would be the London Bridge Pub at Wharf Two for fish and chips, or a bowl of chowder.
I guess everyone has their own opinion of cheap eats. I do think Passionfish is far superior as well. When I go to Rio Grill for lunch I get the Fire Roasted Artichoke and a salad and have never been disappointed. Everyone has good/bad experiences at every restaurant. I doubt lalalax will visit every restaurant on the list. Hopefully she will look up the ones that most fit her taste buds and price range.
Have searched the boards, but haven't seen any posts for this restaurant yet: Cabo Hermoso on Fremont on the Monterey/Seaside border. Mr. #2 and I stopped there for a quick snack last night before driving back up to the SF Bay Area, and got two orders of pupusas and one order of beef empanadas. We had to wait a bit for the order (note to self: call ahead next time), but it was entirely worth it as the turnovers and pupusas both were hot (too hot to eat, even) and fresh off the grill. The turnovers were crunchy and not a bit greasy. The pupusas were about eight inches in diameter and thick. The bean and cheese filling was mildly seasoned, but the addition of the tomato sauce and spicy coleslaw added depth of flavor. Next time I might be tempted to add a shake of hot sauce too, but I'm a fire eater at heart.
The prices were cheap to reasonable - the pupusas were $2 or $2.50 apiece, depending on the filling. I ordered two, but one would be sufficient for most appetites as a snack or pre-plato appetizer. The platos, which we did not order, ranged from $10-$15. Drinks seemed kinda pricey (but maybe I'm out of touch here) with canned softdrinks such as Coke and 7-up at $1.50 and imported Salvadorian softdrinks higher - $2.50 or so.
They have table service, but we ordered at the counter for to go food. The person working the counter (owner, perhaps?) was a genuinely friendly guy, helpful to Mr. #2 who is not familiar with Salvadorian food and eager to please. He did warn us that our order would take some time to come up as there was a large order in front of us.
The decor is, ahem, bare bones but fine for a casual place.
Mr. #2 and I plan on returning this weekend when we go back to Monterey again and will probably try one of the platos and maybe ordering some of the pupusas to heat up later at home.
re: Miss Misha
Some friends and I stopped in at Cabo Hermoso on the way down to Big Sur this past weekend after reading this post. The pupusas were very tasty... I agree that alone they may not be that interesting; however, the tomatoe sauce and spicy coleslaw really put it over the top (I recommend the bean and cheese, the pork pupusas were OK, but a little on the bland side). However, the El Salvadorian tamales were some of the best tamales that I've ever had. They came wrapped in bannana leaves and were light and fluffy, not the greasy, heavy things you find at most places. Absolutely delicious! The decor and atmosphere is decidedly casual and the owner's mom is the main chef in the back. This is genuine home-style cooking and a rare find in my opinion for the Northern CA area. The best part is that its super cheap! Order a pupusa and a couple tamales and you'll have a filling (and surprisingly light) meal for under $10.