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Non-touristy restaurants in Monterey?

Does anyone have a suggestion of a nice, non-touristy restaurant in Monterey? I'll be going this weekend with my husband and his 2 teenagers. We've been all up and down the pier and would like to get off of the tourist track.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Try the Sandbar off the commercial wharf in Monterey. Here is my post and recommendation after a similiar reguest: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33330...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cheesy Oysters

      As a tourist from Los Angeles 15 years ago I asked someone for a non-touristy restaurant where the locals go and they pointed out the Sandbar and I've been going ever since.

    2. Monterey Fish House on Del Monte Ave. It's well-known and popular, but full of locals. Excellent fish and seafood.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Laura2

        I second Monterey Fish House. Small, friendly and very fresh. There's also a very locals friendly South Pacific place a few blocks from the aquarium on that main drag, Lighthouse is it? Close to where Monterey turns into Pacific Grove. Sorry I can't remember the name, but very good seafood and a specialty of sweet potato fries.

        1. re: Laura2

          I went to the Fish House with a few friends tonight and we were very disappointed with the food quality. While the portions were large, the vegetables were soggy and the fish was overcooked. I would recommend PassionFish over this place.

          1. re: Laura2

            Just was here for dinner when I was in town last week, and have been itching to write a review: I loved it. Pleasant, old-school ambience (it's a converted house), friendly waitstaff. It also didn't feel like part of a culinary pilgrimage--although the food was delicious--which I appreciated even more. I hate when restaurants are too precious, or take themselves too seriously.
            My husband and I both had seafood pastas, so I can't speak to the overcooked fish complaint, but everything in our dishes tasted very fresh, and was not overdone. (One of their many specials was a pasta with artichoke hearts, creamy garlic sauce and assorted seafood. Since I'm a sucker for artichokes, I went for it, and boy, was that good. Appreciate a place that can do a flavorful cream sauce that doesn't overwhelm fresh veggies. Husband's crab ravioli were tasty, although the light tomato sauce did mask the crab, a bit, IMO.)

            Also, portions are enormous. Just a heads up.

          2. Monterey has lots of tourist traps in and around the aquarium. Teenagers might appreciate a meal at Bubba Shrimp whatever. I can't recall the name of the place, but I had fish and chips at some place around Cannery Row, and a big fat bloody mary helped quite a bit.

            That said ... . Wild Thyme Deli in Marina (adjacent, more affordable municipality) is a good choice for lunch. It's brought to you by Chef Terry N. Teplitzky. Fresh, tasty, etc. and located at 455 Reservation Road, Marina, CA. I agree about Fish House. I've had some very fresh, lovely food at this restaurant. The service was great. Passionfish is really good too: 701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove (again, not Monterey, but adjacent and worth it).

            1. Stay away from the wharf and Cannery Row. The one restaurant on Cannery Row I would recommend is Blue Moon! They have a great Crab Salad and Mushroom Ravioli.

              One street up from Cannery Row there is a place called Crepes A Go-Go fun for lunch if you are going to the aquarium. Also, on wave is a good mexican restaurant called Jose's

              On Munras there is a great organic cafe called The Wild Plumb Cafe they only are open until 5 or 6!
              on Alvarado go to Lallapalooza they do have a large bar crowd after 10 on weekends though!

              On Lighthouse in Mtry there is a fun restaurant called Hula's! Or if you feel like italian or pizza try Gianni's it is always busy but usually with the locals.

              In Pacific Grove there is Passionfish also great mexican place called Peppers.

              1. We like the Fishwife in Seaside, off Del Monte. Good fresh fish choices, casual yet pleasantly decorated small dining room, or you can eat deli-table style near the take-out counter in the lobby. Great fish po-boys. Look for the Cinzano-type umbrellas on the sidewalk out front. Monterey Bay Chocolate Co is across the corner.

                Next door, on the actual corner, is a taqueria run by the same folks. Typical taqueria choices and very flavorful. Much more of a fast-food aura, but delicious.


                1. For lunch try Wild Plum already mentioned or get a sandwich at Randy's and eat it at the beach or Lake El Estero right nearby.

                  Your best bet to get away from the touristy area is Pacific Grove. Toasties for breakfast or lunch. My two favorite places are Passion Fish and Taste Cafe. For pizza with a slightly different twist Pizza My Way. Italian: Alberto's or Joe Rombi.

                  In Monterey there's Buzzard's BBQ also Papa Chano's or Baldemeros Taco House for Mexican and Old Monterey Cafe for Breakfast or Lunch and Pho King for vietnamese.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: jaweino

                    stay well away from the wharf and cannery row and go to peppers or passionfish or bhan thai (seaside) or the excellent and usually missed by locals and tourists alike Won Ju Korean on lighthouse

                    1. re: jaweino

                      I agree about Pacific Grove. Of course, I love Passionfish. Was disappointed in my last visit to Taste, however. There are several new places on Lighthouse in PG that I haven't had a chance to try yet, but a friend recommneds the Cellar Chop House. I also like Red House and the restaurant at PG's municipal golf course for lunches.

                      I would also add Krua Thai between Munras and Abrego for Thai - and Ambrosia on Abrego for outstanding Indian Food. Amir's Kebab House on Lighthouse in New Monterey is good as well.


                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                        Hi Ed,
                        I just was back at The Red House this month and had some amazing desserts! Usually I need to skip those!! but this last trip I met the pastry lady there and found out she makes them all up from scratch....so decided to try(on) a few of them!!

                        My favorite so far? The coconut cream pie. Spoonfuls of light fluffy, nuttiness!
                        But I still have many more to taste and compare!!

                        I wanted to ask you where the Cellar Chop House is...can't find it online, altho there are several positive references to it on this website. Is this The Chop House which is owned by the same folks as who own Grasings? Many Thanks!!

                        1. re: devodelight

                          Cellar Chop House is gone; in its place is a Thai restaurant (I think). Too bad, I loved the Cellar Chop House the one time I dined there for my birthday.

                          See your posting below for Pacific Thai Cuising.

                          1. re: Stephanie Wong

                            Thanks so much for responding and updating me!

                            We are heading up to SF this weekend, post Turkey Day so I gotta get busy reading up on what all the chowhounds have to say on what's hot up north!
                            Thanks again!

                            1. re: Stephanie Wong

                              Stephanie, where was the CCH? I can't believe in my 40 years of trying to eat Monterey Bay that I missed a place like this.

                              1. re: PolarBear

                                I believe Cellar Chop House was in the same premises as Pacific Thai Cuisine (across the main drag from Red House Cafe).

                                Don't feel too bad b/c it was there an extraordinarily short time -- almost literally here today, gone in a couple months. Really too bad -- nice wines to accompany their meat entrees and a roaring fire in front of the fireplace in the main room for those chilly PG evenings.

                      2. We too wanted to avoid the tourist spots in Monterey, and after reading the suggestions here we went to Passionfish in Pacific Grove, which is just up the road from Monterey, easy to get to by cab. VERY good restaurant, total lack of pretension, locally sourced dishes. not cheap, but good. If Passionfish is booked, there are a number of other good restaurants in Pacific Grove on Lighthouse Ave

                        Passion Fish
                        701 Lighthouse Ave
                        Pacific Grove, CA 93950
                        (831) 655-3311

                        1. If you need a chowder break I highly recommend going to Vivolo's Chowder House, best chowder in Monterey IMO. If you get the bread bowl they will toast the top with garlic butter and cheese and it adds a great kick to the taste. It is pretty much a locals only place too, I have never seen the restaurant full and I've been eating their chowder for a little over 10 years.

                          Vivolo's Chowder House
                          127 Central Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

                          1. Based on the recomendations I've seen here, the Sturdy Wench and I are off to try Passionfish. I'll report back on our experience!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: KenWritez

                              Ok, we're back.

                              Welcome to Monterey, CA, the charming seaside town where the motto is "One-Way Streets Forever!" or, "You Can't Get There From Here."

                              Passionfish offers great food in a casually elegant fine dining atmosphere. The decor is subtle with cream walls and ceiling and a dark brown carpet, banquets and armless padded leather chairs. Be aware the restaurant is quite noisy.

                              The waiter was welcoming and friendly. Our service never felt rushed nor did I feel out of place wearing a polo shirt and jeans. The menu, which apparently changes frequently, offered a creative selection of seven appetitzers, four salads, five seafood and five turf entrees. Several of the salads and seafood entrees were done in a vinaigrette, which became a bit repetitive. The wine list was extensive.

                              The menu offered three Fanny Bay oyster starters, but when I asked for unshucked, raw oysters with a red sauce, the waiter said all the oysters were shucked and no red sauce to be had. Bummer. Raw oysters is one of my favorites.

                              The Study Wench ordered the Asparagus Fries with Sesame Aioli (7)as a starter. This was about ten asparagus stalks, nicely breaded in seasoned crumbs, but untrimmed so only about 2/3 of each spear was edible. The sesame ailoi was rich, creamy, flavorful. Asparagus Fries: B+.

                              The entree was a special: Grilled Striped Bass over nicoise veg topped w/ tomato aioli and wasabi slaw (23). She enjoyed the slaw, fish and veg, altho the aioli was getting a bit heavy since it was serving #2 of it. Striped Bass: B+.

                              I ordered the Dungeness Crab Salad w/ Avocado & Spicy Ginger Vinaigrette (12). It was served as a round on top of creamy green onion rice and wasabi slaw. The salad was moist, creamy, loded with crab. The slaw was delicious with a nice but not overpowering wasabi hit. The vinaigrette was unnecessary as the salad stood well on its own. Crab Salad: B+

                              My entree was the hand-lined Mahi w/ black pepper rum sauce, cucumber salad, green onion rice (23). The rice was creamy, faintly green and wonderful. It has been quickly fried on one side so tht side was had a nicely crispy exterior.

                              The Mahi was grilled and tasted unseasoned or insufficienly seasoned until I let it marinate in the sauce for a minute, then it was delicious. Mahi: A-.

                              The downside was the seating. We sat at one of about six or seven tables, two of which had been pushed together for six people, and the wait staff had failed to allow enough space between our three tables for people to get to or from the banquette. The SW had to squeeze into her seat via an 8" gap (I know, I measured it with my hand) and had to swing her posterior through the face space of our neighbor. Embarassing, at the least.

                              The waiter was friendly but hands-off, spending lots of time talking to other diners, so our service was often delayed. Service: C-.

                              Apart from the service issues, which was waiter-specific, and the noise, we recommend Passionfish.

                              1. re: KenWritez

                                Thanks Ken. I was checking into Monterey restaurants to recommend to a group of people we will be out there with in July. From what you have said about this restaurant that is so highly recommended by all, I think I will just let someone else make the decisions.

                                1. re: KenWritez

                                  Wow what a wonderfully detailed account! Have yet to be at Passionfish, but after reading this I am salivating.....!

                              2. Hi all. I am a newbie here but have lived in the area for some time and love it!

                                Thought I might post that there's a brand new place near Passionfish and across from The Red House (which is a favorite of mine) that opened this year called Pacific Thai Cuisine.

                                We had an excellent dining experience here...The artichoke soup was creamy with the perfect kick, the Asian Wrap spring rolls were beautiful and the sauces flavorful, and the veggie green curry was chock full of vegies and they honored my desire for brown rice!
                                All in all, the presentation, the food, the service and the value for the dollar all made this a memorable experience. A great new addition for PG!

                                Pacific Thai Cuisine
                                663 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: devodelight

                                  Thanks for the heads up, devo, and welcome to the board. Having been used to going to N. Monterey or Seaside for Thai it's interesting that PG is getting some attention. There was a place called Thai Bistro, iirc, on Central Ave near the park, and another, which I seem to have lost my notes on, about a mile west on Lighthouse before you get to Jewell Ave. Any idea how those are weathing the economic storm?

                                  1. re: PolarBear

                                    Indeed, many places have been hit...I know the vegie deli on Central Ave closed earlier this year, but seems to me that Thai Bistro is still there.

                                    When I was driving down Lighthouse in the rain the other night, I saw one of the restaurant owners on a Sat night at 6:30pm looking forlorn outside of his windowsill...with a mostly empty restaurant!! ... It's truly a hard biz!

                                    1. re: PolarBear

                                      The thai place on lighthouse is called Thai Bistro II. I have been there 3 times hoping/waiting for it to get better, but it never seems to come true. I have had the vegetarian red curry, pad thai, and something else. The pad thai was nice and saucy, but that was about it. Their use of vegetables like tomatoes and bell peppers in their curry was off-putting.

                                      I just discovered the existence Pacific Thai Cuisine so I am hoping that it is better.

                                  2. Stokes Restaurant in the one of the oldest adobes in town (and hard to find).

                                    Stokes Restaurant & Bar
                                    500 Hartnell St., Monterey, CA 93940

                                    1. Chef Lee's on Fremont right before you hit the freeway is awesome. The food here is stellar, and relatively inexpensive (about $10 per main course). Their soups are amazing: sizzling rice soup is stellar, as is their wonton soup.

                                      Just about every item on their menu rocks; there are some solid standbys such as happy family (seafood, chicken and beef), or their beef curry. Really, you can't go wrong.

                                      Lee's Garden in Marina is under the same ownership? Their food is equally good, but it's out of the way. Maybe a five minute drive on the freeway, Not too bad now, isn't it?

                                      If I had to recommend one over the other, I'd recommend Chef Lee's. Their decor is spendier and prettier. They have banquet rooms as well, although it sounds like you won't be needing that! Oh, and their lunches are all under $10 during the week. And very tasty.