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Mar 14, 2007 08:08 PM

Big Sur/Gorda eats

Hi folks,

Sebby & I will be staying at Treebones Fri & Sat this week and are looking for suggestions for good eats not too far away.

We will probably have one dinner at Treebones, and lunch at Nepenthe either on the way down or the way home to SF.

Most of the places I've read about in a search of CH are pretty far north of Treebones (which is just north of Gorda), and/or expensive (we'll be hiking & birdwatching, and not really seeking high-end dining).

Any recs?


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  1. I don't believe there will be anything in "Gorda" (more of a place of business than a community--gift shop, gas station, cafe). It was shuttered at dinnertime when we drove by in early December. Nearest south would be Ragged Point, not chowish. North I'd try Deejten's, nothing fancy but well crafted. Treebones is isolated which is what makes being there so special. Maybe take your own food for a picnic dinner and venture out for food at B'fast or lunch?

    2 Replies
    1. re: toodie jane

      TJ, it's been quite a few years, but there was a chef at Pfeiffer St. Park in Big Sur (did a great trout almondine) that moved on, at that time we were told he had relocated to a little place in Lucia, a little north of Limekiln SP. I wonder if that place still exists?

    2. I think Big Sur Bakery is supposed to be pretty good. We are going up this fall and planning on staying at Deetjen's - and will probably eat there. We're also thinking of doing a splurge at Sierra Mar. You might want to do a search for Big Sur and you'll turn up other recommendations. Might also look into a massage at Esalen if you want to spend the $$ - you can eat there if it fits into the schedule.

      1. A friend and I stayed at Treebones for two nights in October. We ate there our first night. It's quite expensive for what you get, but it's good food. I ordered the salmon and received a generously large piece of fish. I just wish they gave you larger portions of the side items. My friend ordered the steak and was disappointed with the three small slices he was served. He felt completely ripped-off. So from my experience, I would recommend the salmon or maybe one of the less expensive chicken dishes. We did enjoy the waffles for breakfast, but it would get old having them more than two days in a row.

        Gorda is the only other place to eat nearby. We ate at the Gorda restaurant the second night. DON'T GO THERE. It's extremely overpriced and the food is just run-of-the-mill. The staff wasn't very professional. A better idea is to just buy some groceries at the Gorda market and have a "picnic" back at your yurt. I wish we had done that.

        We also tried Big Sur Bakery, Nepenthe, and Deetjen's on that trip. They are all worth a try. I just don't think the doughnut at Big Sur Bakery is worth $3.50.

        1. Thanks all for the advice! Has anyone tried the Big Sur River Inn in Lucia (which, PolarBear, does appear to still exist)?

          Our current thinking is to have lunch @ Big Sur Bakery on the way down tomorrow, dinner @ Treebones. Saturday, maybe risk breakfast at the place in Gorda (how bad could it be for b'fast?), dinner @ Big Sur River Inn, Sunday breakfast @ Treebones, late lunch @ Nepenthe.

          Although I eat out in SF pretty often, prices for the places in Big Sur are a little shocking - the same or more than what I pay here, but I guess when you have a captive audience....


          5 Replies
          1. re: adampaul

            Nepenthe does indeed have the best view of any restaurant in the state - if not the country - but the food is just ho-hum. A little too "bachelor pad experimental" sometimes ... Deetjen's, just a mile or two down the highway, has amazing food - breakfast and dinner only if I remember correctly - which is, as you noted, a bit more expensive (it does cost a lot to bring the food in, remember, and there's no way to sell the overage). Their dinners, while not cheap, are spectacular, and while the food and service level are high end, it's anything but stuffy - you'd be just as welcome in jeans & a t-shirt, wearing muddy boots and just back from a hike; they have a great wine selection, but nobody bats an eye if you just want a bottle of the local beer. I recommend it very very highly.

            1. re: adampaul

              adampaul, what did you end up doing?

              1. re: Matt of Aptos

                Sorry, just catching up now. Like Jens, we ate poorly overall in Big Sur.

                On our way in we tried to eat at the Big Sur Bakery, which wasn't serving and suggested we try Ventana, which also turned out not to be serving. For lack of other options, we lunched at Nepenthe. It was the expected tourist ripoff, a forgettable but not terrible $15 burger w/average fries, served in a basket. We might have been more charmed if it had been sunny out, but it was mostly overcast, and the hostess had a strange hostile attitude for no apparent reason.

                Our first night we had dinner at Treebones and I too had the salmon, while Sarah had a pork chop. Both were of the "feed the troops lots of food" variety, although we did really enjoy our stay and the DIY waffles in the morning.

                Breakfast at the Whale Watch Cafe in Gorda was barely passable. The place had a weird vibe to it, which wasn't helped when a woman came in to buy a beer for her husband "to get him in a good mood before we go out on the boat" (this being at 8am, mind you). Very cutesy decor. $3 for horrible coffee and $12'ish for greasy eggs and potatoes.

                Dinner at the Lucia Lodge was one of the worst we've had in memory, despite the nice views (well, probably because of them!). Sarah's fettucine alfredo was bizarrely devoid of flavor, swimming in a tepid pool of goo. I've had frozen diet-food versions of alfredo that were better than this! My beef hash w/potatoes and cabbage (it was St. Patrick's Day) was a huge portion, and extremely fatty. The vegetables were all cooked to death, but at least the hash was flavorful. Our app of coconut shrimp was carboninzed and bitter. Total was $65 before tip, with only 1 glass of wine.

                Things improved on Sunday when we finally made it to the Big Sur Bakery on our way home - this place is great, and singlehandedly redeemed the Big Sur dining scene :) We had a fantastic breakfast pizza with, I think, bacon, eggs and chives on it, easily a meal for two, and also a delicious burger, the same $15 as Nepenthe's, but world's better.

                Next time we'll either stay in Big Sur proper where there seem to be some good options (for horrific prices), or just pack our own, as Matt suggested.

                Despite the food we had a great trip, but the staggering food prices and low quality did detract from our enjoyment. Not just restaurants - a box of crackers and a bottle of Coke at the Ragged Point Inn set us back nearly $8! It's telling that a more recent trip to Mendocino felt comparatively affordable and we ate well.

                1. re: adampaul

                  Thanks for the report - sounds like we'll definitely have to pack some snacks! :-)

                  1. re: adampaul

                    I can't reiterate enough that the only place to get a really good sit-down dinner in the area is Deetjen's. It is so far and above every place that adampaul tried (and was disappointed by) that I'm amazed it's not the only real recommendation (besides the usually quite good bakery) mentioned here.

              2. I've just returned from a couple of days in Big Sur and I used this thread to help me plan my trip and dining experiences.

                Here are some of our thoughts from our travels:

                Treebones was a lovely, warm and comfortable place to stay. However, the food left a lot to be desired. Our dinners were nicely presented, but the salmon that I ordered tasted as thought it had been through a few cycles of freezing and defrosting. My husband had some sort of beef that was served cold. He wasn't crazy about it.

                We also ate at the Lucia Lodge, which was mediocre. I had a tuna sandwich that I enjoyed, but the fries tasted as through they had been frozen. The view from the restaurant was lovely, and the prices seemed to reflect the view rather than the food, which is fair.

                We had lunch at the grill at the Fernwood resort...I'm blanking on the name. Something like Redwood Grill. The fries were fantastic-- my husband had a burger and I had a Boca burger-- nothing too exciting and we left happy.

                Overall, we didn't eat well in Big Sur, but we had a great stay and enjoyed the stunning views.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jens

                  Sorry if I had influenced you to have that salmon. MIne seemed really fresh and I enjoyed it. I like Treebones but would wait several years before going back. It seems like a "work in progress" to me.