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Your Favorite Inexpensive Restaurants in Monterey County, Please.

Well., seeing as nobody seems to have I.D.'d anything hot new and wonderful in the Monterey area, please do humor me and tell me your old favorites in the inexpensive and moderate categories. We are bored, bored, bored. All suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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  1. Niki, I'm heading down the coast next spring for a weekend visit and would love to hear about your favorite places in this category. It's been a while since my wife and I have been to the Monterey area so any current information would be appreciated. Thanks.

    8 Replies
    1. re: curiousgeo

      Hi curiousgeo,

      I LOVE MONTEREY! It's like a second home. We have been married 25 years as of August and for all that time about 4 times a year we do a long weekend at Asilomar - which IS where you should stay and the only reason why it is fair to tell you about here is the food - which is great - free huge breakfast with just about anything you could ask for - enough food for all day - go ahead and take a couple of yogurts and fruit for snacks later too. They serve 3 meals in the historic Julia Morgan designed dining hall, plus fabu buffets on major holidays. they are making efforts to have local and organic food as much as possible. The quality is very good, not great - but I would happily eat all my meals there. If you want ALL the info. on Asilomar email me - the address is on my "my chow" page.

      OK - my fave restaurants.

      But - you never said if you were driving from Norcal or Socal...if you are coming from the north and you get hungry about 45 minutes or so north of Monterey stop at Phil's in Moss Landing for fish/chowder.

      OK - on the Monterey penninsula proper:

      Ocean Sushi - the one on the west side NOT the one downtown. But it's take out only. The one in downtown Monterey is sit down and has a hot menu too. But they made me wait the one time i went for maybe an hour for a small sushi order and it was really hot there. The other one which is the take-out near the Ocean is great. Just take the food elsewhere - like for a picnic or to your room. They DO have a great bargain on miso/veg. soup for like a dollar to go with the just fine and bargain priced sushi. Recently they started serving salmon - personal long time request.

      Rosine's - downtown Monterey - Alvarado St.. One of those sort of places that has everything on the menu from Thanksgiving dinner to prime rib to club sandwiches & chef's salads to huge desserts. lots of locals eat there. Breakfast all day but sort of feels like an informal dinner house. Emphasis on good quality and huge portions. I have to laud Rosine's staff - they are just so darn professional. I usually order take out, and if you know me, you know just how insanely picky I am about all the variables on my plate. So, I'm standing there at the cashier and she's making changes to about a hundred things on my order and they NEVER make a mistake. And they are so nice when they know you are going to be eating in a hotel room adding in everything you might possibly need. Just such nice people.

      Passionfish - on the main drag of Pacific Grove on a corner of Lighthouse across from the post office sort of. Moderate prices. Love the duck confit. My best choice for fish. Good politics about fish. Beloved by gourmets.

      Red House - across from Passionfish on Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. Same high quality. Same little higher than most of my recs. prices. Loved the goat cheese/beet salad but requested more cheese. Very high quality. Cosy.

      La Giostra - Wonderful Italian. Brick oven (yes, they have delicate great pizza). Yummy fresh pasta. Authentic. Graceful. I had a meal there which blew my mind. Everything done perfectly - fresh pappardelli, delicate but assertive gorgonzolla sauce, pancetta, fresh peas, fresh basil - so lovely.
      Across from the entrance to the giant Del monte shopping center where Macy's is - between Carmel and Pac. Grove - there's a carousel horse outside. Delicious. Real live Italian staff.

      El Miguelino - Seaside off Fremont st. Cheap prices. El Salvadoren fish house with PUPUSAS (love those pupusas). Also standard Mexican fare. Very low prices.

      Candy factory (a real little factory - not a restaurant) - Seaside on Fremont on the west side. I don't know the name but fun free tour by harmless nutty owner and $2 blooper bags to eat late at night in your hotel. They use Guittard chocolate to make all their stuff - so the quality is there.

      Pho King - Seaside on the west side of Fremont. Just fine Vietnamese food. BBQ shrimp bun - bun is dry noodles with other stuff - very like pho but without the soup. I don't particularly like the shaved pork in the pho so I get them to put the soup on the BBQ shrimp bun. Also a full average sort of Mandain/Cantonese Chinese menu. Very low prices.

      Meditterranean Deli - on Lighthouse in Monterey (near Fish. Wharf) - has about 3 tables. Greek salad, just fine spanakopita (I loved their spanakopita SO much I finally learned to make it myself - after breaking myself of the habit of coming home with about ten pounds of it for the freezer!), avgolemono soup, dolma. Good for take out. Low prices.

      Sea Harvest - near Fisherman's Wharf & the Tinnery outlet mall in Monterey. It's a fish market that has tables, clean/nice atmosphere. For $15 you get a nice very fresh fish meal - grilled or broiled - you choose. Good chowder.

      Britannia Pub - I don't drink but maybe you do. But this place is also a restaurant. Has the olde English atmosphere in spades. But in a good way. Locals are in there. They have big comfy booths. You can get corned beef, shepherd's pie, roast beef plates (fried squid - rings and tentacles!) - that sort of thing. It's dark and cool on a hot afternoon. Right next to the landmark Osio cinema in downtown Monterey on Alvarado.

      That should hold you.
      Enjoy!

      1. re: niki rothman

        Thanks Niki, what a great list! I've never heard of most of these places, only Rosine's sounds familiar and of course Passionfish. I appreciate you describing what's served at each restaurant as well, that is very helpful.

        1. re: curiousgeo

          er...watch out for me. I just did a quick edit. esp. the La Giostra entry.

        2. re: niki rothman

          Have to edit myself on the list I made - turns out the place for spanakopita and felafal I called the Mediterranean Deli is actually the INTERNATIONAL deli - on Lighthouse in Monterey near the Long's drugstore. It's still tops with me. The spanakopitas are to die for. I could eat about six of the large ones at a sitting (she admitted kind of embarrassed).

          1. re: niki rothman

            Hi Niki!
            We are regulars at the International Deli...what I love about this place is that for a regularily priced meal you get a full plate (just like I was used to growing up in Minnesota!)
            The fish is always super fresh and grilled beautifully, presented with rice, steamed vegies or whatever you wish....salad, soup, they have it all and its presented in a really down home, comforting style.

            This girl has to admit I have never tried their spanakopita...so
            clearly, I will have to return there soooooooooon!!

            Also on the cheap eats in Monterey list I would list Fifi in Pacific Grove. They are offering a new mid week special for early dinners....$16.95 and again its a full plate of excellent really wonderful food.
            Last week, we were celebrating our anniversary, so we brought our own bottle and for a $25 meal price it included a FREE corkage and 2 side dishes as well!

            We love Fifi's so much. Even their desserts don't dissappoint!

            -----
            Fifi's Bistro Cafe
            1188 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

            International Market & Deli
            580 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940

          2. re: niki rothman

            The Sturdy Wench and I just returned from Crown & Anchor, the new name for the aforementioned Britannia Pub.

            The ambiance was very "pubby" with loads of English tchtochkes on the wall, low ceiling, black-pinted exposed beams, dark plaid carpet, big booths, a short flight of stairs down into the restaurant, etc.

            Service was adequate, our waiter was a friendly young man, but his serving suffered from lack of any kind of advanced training (see below). He was quick to refill our glasses when he saw them empty, however, and quickly brought anything we asked for.

            (Sorry, I didn't take any notes so this is all from memory. Prices are approximate.)

            The Sturdy Wench ordered the fried calamari ($9) and the Mary's Chicken Breast with ham, avocado, cheese and sauce (18). The calamari was hot and good, crispy, but I think it came out of a bag, can't be sure, tho. She said the chicken tasted like traditional California "Malibu chicken" and she quite enjoyed it. Not too heavy, good flavor, satisfying. I tried a bite and I agree, it was also cooked perfectly. Calaamari: B. Mary's Chicken: A-.

            I ordered two of the Blue Point oyster plates ($9 for 6) as appetizer because BPs are my favorite oyster. These were thin, tasteless and gritty, except for a few at the end that tasted like shoe bottom. They didn't taste bad in the sense of being spoiled. Instead of tasting like the sea, they tasted like tap water. I had eaten little all day so I was very hungry, thus I ate them anyway, treating them as cocktail sauce conveyors.
            Oysters: F.

            For dinner I ordered the water-recommended meatloaf with brown gravy and veg: Caulilower, broccoli, green beans--all straight out of a Sysco bag (14). The veg had been steamed but almost unseasoned, so I asked the waiter for some melted butter. He brought me four pats of foil-wrapped Darigold butter he'd soaked in hot water for a minute to melt them. Thus unwrapping the pats meant butter all over my fingers and drippy butter wrappers on the table. A for effort but F for execution.

            The Crown and Anchor seems a great place to go for beer and bar food. As long as you don't expect more than what you'd get out of a Costco freezer, you'll do fine. It's noisy but not objectionably so. The bill for two entrees, three appetizers, two sodas was $56.

            1. re: KenWritez

              I recently had lunch at Crown and Anchor. Service was excellent, particularly given that they were slammed and we were a big group (ten or so); beer was very good, food was eh. I miss the London Bridge Pub; does anyone know if the new place there has opened?

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/483688

            2. re: niki rothman

              I've had the same experience with the Ocean Sushi in downtown Monterey. Made me wait an exorbitantly long time for sushi takeout, even though no one else was there. The branch in PG is more like it.

          3. Niki,

            Not a restaurant, but Campagno's Hilltop Market (aka Buster's, at the top of Prescott near Jesse) has a fantastic deli. Around 1972, my dad declared ex cathedra that Buster made the best sandwich ever built. Buster died years ago, but his son still runs the place, and they still do a booming business in huge, reasonably priced sandwiches. Several visits over the last ten years indicate that dad wasn't far from wrong. Be prepared for difficult parking and long lines of uniformed folks stationed at the Presidio.

            Closer to the tourist Mecca that Monterey has become these days, Sea Harvest (598 Foam Street) has a fish counter and also serves seafood dinners. Preparation is simple (you want that fried or broiled?), but the seafood is very fresh (last time I was there, the Monterey Bay spot prawns were still twitching).

            Of course, there are plenty of places that are further up the scale, but these are my two favorite inexpensive spots.

            Enjoy your stay,

            Alan

            1. Fishwife seafood restaurant/deli in Seaside. Great seafood poorboys and cooked fish. Nice small dining room with simple well-prepared local fish. Good service from veteran servers. Across the street from the Monterey Candy Factory.

              Old Monterey Cafe--downtown on Alvarado St. Hearty breakfasts--have not had lunch here. Locals' place.

              Sweet Elena's Bakery--exquisite Euro-style pastires. Heaven!!!! Hard to get to on a one -way street but SO worth it. (Down by Home Depot)

              Wagon Wheel in Valley Pines center in Carmel Valley. Homey, with decor harkening to the rural ranch life of the old Carmel Valley. Great pecan pancakes/egg breakfasts. Good traditional favorites on the lunch menu as well.

              Mom & I used to get a baked potato to go from Wendy's and top it off with the marinated mushrooms and roasted garlic from Fisherman's Wrf. ooo-boy!

              -----
              Old Monterey Cafe
              489 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA 93940

              Sweet Elena's Bakery & Cafe
              465 Olympia Ave, Seaside, CA 93955

              Fishwife
              789 Trinity Ave, Seaside, CA 93955

              Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop
              7156 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel, CA 93923

              1. Won Ju!!! Great Korean on Lighthouse Ave!!!

                Also, Bhan Thai in the University Plaza in Seaside.

                Peppers in Pacific Grove, CA...

                Yumm

                4 Replies
                1. re: jbyoga

                  Would love to hear your favorites at the Korean place you mentioned, Won Ju.
                  Thanks!

                  1. re: niki rothman

                    Won Ju is basically a one woman operation. She tries to re-create the cuisine of her home village (won ju) in the mountains.

                    All entrees come with a grayish potato pancake, and usually the ban chan includes homemade whole leaf kim chee and almost hard black beans (the beans and pancake are her home region's specialties).

                    No tabletop barbecuing there. I am fond of the mixed seafood stirfry and the chap jae - the latter is one of the nicely priced lunch specials.

                    ed

                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                      Thanks, Ed. What is chap jae? What is ban chan? What would you advise us to order for a first meal there?

                      1. re: niki rothman

                        chap jae (is spelled various ways) is a stirfry using the clear yam noodles and vegetables. I like the version at Won Ju as it is vegetarian. Ban chan is the name for the small plate side dishes that every Korean restaurant (at least authentic Korean restaurant) serves with meals. It always includes kimchi, but beyond that each restaurant varies the dishes depending on what's available, etc.

                        Most people are introduced to Korean food by ordering some of the barbecued meat selections. It has been a few years since I have tried her bulgogi (barbecued beef), but that and galbi (barbecued short ribs) are very popular in many Korean restaurants. These also tend to be dishes that appeal to Americans, while some other Korean food can seem strange or too spicy for beginners.

                        What when I lived in town, I tried almost everything on her menu and generally enjoyed the experience. Hope you do too.

                        ed

                2. Randy's has great sandwiches at reasonable prices. It's mostly takeout. They do have one table inside and a few picnic tables outside across the street, but it's very close to the picnic area at El Estero Park. With the weather we've been having, that's a good place for lunch.

                  RickyAnn's (formerly Pa's) on Carmel Rancho across from the post office has good Chicago hotdog's and Italian Beef as well as a varietyof other lunch items.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jaweino

                    I'm going to disagree on the Randy's recommendation. We go there sometimes because I work nearby at the Navy School and it's on our lunch-walk route, but It's no great shakes--in fact, a couple of times I've been disappointed in the sandwich and thought, I'm not going THERE again.

                    A much tastier fresh sandwich for picnicking would be the Nob Hill supermarket's deli, on Lighthouse Avenue and David in Monterey. Or Goodies in Pacific Grove, but they're pricier.