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Recommendations for Monterey Bay/Pacific Grove

Will be there about 4 days in March with my parents for a Jazz Festival...Have not been for years...Last time it seems that we ate at a nice little Bistro in downtown Monterey, can't remember the name, but other than that, the food was not particularly memorable...Any suggestions for nice lunches or dinners (that don't break the bank?) Thanks...

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  1. My wife and I had an outstanding meal at Passionfish in Pacific Grove a couple of days before Christmas. My wife was so enthusiastic about the dipping sauce for the calamari that the server brought us a handwritten list of ingredients. They have an especially good wine list with many hard-to-locate wines at incredibly reasonable prices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BN1

      Third for Passionfish! Cibo is also a great place, near the Marriott in Monterey.

    2. We also had a wonderful meal at passionfish, we really enjoyed the red house cafe and we also had an interesting but strange meal at Max's grill in Pacific Grove.

      Lunch at the monterey bay aquarium's restaurant was a real treat with the best view in monterey. Make sure to book ahead though so you dont have a long wait.

      We had a wonderful dinner at Montrio Bistro on our last visit. I've heard mixed reviews on here, but we loved it.

      1. Passionfish - though not consistently great - is my local favorite.

        For more about Passionfish:



        1. Well, for a nice (but oft crowded) Brunch, I'd go for the Red House in Pacific Grove. Great food, and decent service, considering it's usually packed. If you're looking for a something easy for lunch, Esteban Restaurant recently opened with a good menu, simple class and some great reviews (I've not yet made it in, but am goin' pronto, next week). A nice class, relaxed steakhouse is near the airport: Steakhouse Sixty 8. Reasonable and good food.
          For memorable, I don't think you can beat Roy's @ Spanish Bay. Yes, it's $$, but who can beat the view, the food, and the outdoor lounge..get there for Sunset if you want to be wowed.

          Have a great time!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Karin_v_R

            Thanks for the mention of Esteban and for putting in on the radar. May check it out soon too. They have a decent website:


            but I have to admit, the menu doesn't excite me, though I can't really put my finger on why....it could just be that I've never liked Casa Munras (the hotel where it is located) and that is causing a bias....but I don't know, they talk about using seafood from 'local dayboats where possible' but their fish dishes are baramundi and Irish salmon. Huh?

            Well actually, just re-read the website and the actual statement is:

            "Esteban strives to purchase all our produce from organic farms, local purveyors, and day boat fishermen"...so, not exactly clearly written, but technically I don't think they are claiming to get their fish locally....

            Let us know what you think.

            1. re: susancinsf

              I can see your point, and I liked their site OK - -it looked clean and crisp, but then again, in second sight, maybe I was a little hungry when this first passed my path.. I will definitely let you know the skinny from first hand experience. Hopefully I didn't stick my foot in my mouth too far, and we'll compare later on!


            2. re: Karin_v_R

              KvR, thanks for your posts, and welcome to the CA board. I notice in you profile that you like Stammtisch in Seaside. What do you recommend there? We seem to be constantly on the search for a decent German restaurant, any idea how their dishes might compare to Coq d'Or's in Carmel?

            3. I used to live in Monterey - miss it so much! I highly recommend Rosine's in downtown Monterey - great prices/great food! Loved their salad with homeade croutons, wonderful soups (mushroom!) and cake slices that could feed 4! I used to go there for lunch and after I gave birth to my first born, we headed there right from the hospital! That was all I wanted! Owners are great! It's a local fav. Sarita's Mexican Food in Seaside is good authentic and inexpensive, El Torito's and Marie Callendars both have very good and generous Sunday Brunch Buffets. There's also a cute American diner next to Marie Callendars in the Monterey "Mall". And if you're lucky enough to be in town on a Tuesday (4pm-7pm), the downtown Farmer's markets were wonderful! Lots to see, buy and great food! Have a blast!

              1 Reply
              1. re: newchow

                Neither Marie Callendar's no Elli's American Bistro are there anymore. MC is now PF Chang and Elli's will soon be Williams Sonoma.

              2. You may want to chose places off the beaten path to avoid crowds. With that in mind:

                Sweet Elena's Bakery and Cafe in Sand City makes pastries that are the Real Deal. They are open for lunch and dinner, as well. I have only had their pastries, but they show a dedication to artful food. Has anyone eaten at Sweet Elena's who can comment on their savory offerings?

                Taste is up on Forrest Hill across from Safeway and Trader Joe's in PG. Haven't eaten there in some years, but the food was consistent, well-prepared/presented, good wine list and reasonable. Perhaps someone has more recent info?

                We've had good seafood dinners at the Monterey Fish House on Del Monte just a few blocks north of The Naval Postgraduate School on Del Monte. Can be rather noisy on weekends, and they really pack in the tables. Great grilled artichoke app.

                here's a rec that has gotten some validations: Tico's in Marina. http://www.chowhound.com./topics/313747

                We like the Fishwife just off Del Monte in Seaside for casual eat-in at the deli or dine-in at the adjacent dining room. Subdued, casual atmosphere, moderate pricing, very fresh seafood. OTOH, The Fishwife in Aslilomar has never been as good.

                There are many many good taquerias in the Seaside and Marina areas which are just minutes away from the fairgrounds. Very casual (plastic chairs and tables, no table service) pero, la comida es muy autentico. Cruise Fremont and you'lll see. For quick bites, lmost any Mexican market will have a small deli grill dispensing tortas, burritos and taco. (Others may have specific restaurant names for you.)

                There are many many bakeries and coffee houses in the area for afternoon snacks and pick me ups. This area is a snacker's delight. And Whole Foods has a nice market/bakery/deli for to-go items at the Del Monte Center on Munras off Hiway 1.

                Remember to pack wearble layers in case you might be dining al fresco or picnicing.

                I envy you--Jazz and Monterey eats in one swell foop!

                5 Replies
                1. re: toodie jane

                  I have eaten at Taste several times over the years. Some meals have been truly outstanding.

                  That being said, the place seemed tired last summer. No longer open for lunches, we had to do a dinner. The menu was exactly the same as years before. The wine list was limited and lacked vintage dates. I ended up - on the waiter's recommendation - stuck with a bottle of 2003 Sauv. Blanc which was over the hill. Sanddabs were more about the breading and the sauce than the fish. The meal wasn't terrible, but wasn't especially good either.

                  If I had it to do over again, I would go to Dishes, Stokes, Norma Jean's, Fifi's, or some other place before I would go back. If others have had better luck recently, please let me know.


                    1. re: toodie jane

                      It's in Marina. Reasonably priced, homemade tastes. A Low-key locals spots I wrote it up (under a different handle) back in 2006. My friends still like it:



                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                        Taste is now open for lunch again. I ate there last week and we really enjoyed it. I would avoid Fifi's at all costs. Dishes was ok on my last visit, but I can't really recommend it.

                    2. re: Ed Dibble

                      Thanks for the info on Taste. I'm going to be in Carmel in April and considered Taste or Passionfish for dinner. Has anyone eaten at Village Corner in Carmel? Always wanted to try the breakfast but never made it. Usually end up at Wagon Wheel, love it, or Toastie's.

                    1. Can I ask when and where on the jazz festival?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DebitNM

                        This is not THE Monterey Jazz festival, rather "dixieland" jazz...still fun...just an older crowd...My parents have gone for years....If you like dixieland sound, these are the best musicians/bands....

                      2. Pancakes or Huevos Rancheros from First Awakenings! (Try the Bluegerm or Raisin-Walnut Pancakes). I usually go to the PG one right inside the Tin Cannery and it is an easy walk to the Aquarium from there if you want a break from jazz.

                        1. In addition to Taste and Passion Fish discussed below, I would recommend L'Escargot in Carmel, a small bistro with pretty good food and Alberto's in Pacific Grove, a small Italian place.

                          Also in Carmel Cantinetta Luca is very good for both lunch and dinner, but very noisy. For seafood, I'd recommend The Flying Fish in Carmel Plaza.

                          My current favorite place for lunch is the tiny (2 tables) Chris's Fine Confections for pulled pork sandwiches and good pastry.

                          For view and ambience for lunch The California Market at the Highlands Inn can't be beat. Right now and into March you should be able to sea California Gray Whales swimming by from your table. They provide binoculars.