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Monterey Bay Eats...HELP! [moved from SF Bay board]

We're going up to the Monterey bay area (near the pier and the aquarium this weekend.

We're looking for the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Who's got the best chowder in the bread bowl?

Thanks for the help!

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    1. It's been a few years and I can't remember the name but there was a great place right at Lover's Point. It was good with a great view. Otherwise take a quick ride to Carmel. A lot there including Eastwood's place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mark930

        The Old Bath House at Lover's point is gone. The other restaurant in that area is lousy.

        If I were in the area just for a weekend, one dinner, at least, would be at Passionfish in Pacific Grove (right next to Monterey).

        If you like prime rib and steak, the Whaling Station is very good, but expensive.

        Not a chowder/bread bowl kinda guy (too starchy), the chowders at Cafe Fina or Massaro & Santos are quite good. While not great, the food at the Sand Bar and Grill (on the commercial wharf) is pretty good and the view is unique.

        The link is for some blog posts about Monterey. Certainly far from complete, but this would give the OP some ideas about a few places.


      2. I'm not sure how much you are looking to spend but here are some ideas; a lot of the places are "local places," I've found since I've gone to Monterey 3-4 times a year for 20 years.

        The best breakfast in that area IMHO would be at First Awakenings, attached to the Tin Cannery Outlet, it's right down the street from the Aquarium. They have killer pancakes and the huevos ranchers aren't too bad either. They also serve typical lunch food, sandwiches & salads, but I've only been there for breakfast.

        For chowder, I was really partial to Vivolo's Chowder House on Central Avenue (right after the Lighthouse Ave Split). I remember going there when it was a little, dark, hole in the wall place with awesome chowder. It's lost some of that feel so I don't go as often but a little over a year ago they still had good chowder. For a little extra they will cover the part of the bread they cut out with garlic butter & cheese then toast it for you. A good alternative if you want a quick lunch away from the Cannery/Wharf.

        For dinner, I like going to Hula's on Lighthouse Ave. It is good solid food, nothing spectacular and there are a bunch of other restaurants on Lighthouse too. Peppers in Pacific Grove is good if you want a full service Mexican option and I really like Michael's Taqueria on David Ave. in Pacific Grove. More of a burrito/taco/enchilada place, I like to get take out and take the short drive down to Ocean View Blvd and watch the ocean while I eat.

        Hula's Island Grill
        622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940

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

        Michael's Grill & Taqueria
        197 Country Club Gate Ctr, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        First Awakenings
        125 Ocean View Blvd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        Peppers Mexicali Cafe
        170 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        3 Replies
        1. re: gmk1322

          Vivolo's Chowder house was quiet good. I like the garlic cheese bread top option. The chowder had (I believe) rosemary in it. The chowder could do without rosemary.

          Hula's Island Grill - This was a 100% winner for the whole family. Camille had the seered scallops and they were great. Her Asapragus was cooked perfectly! My wife's baby back ribs with sweat potato fries were both great! My New York steak and wasabi mashed potatoes were fantastic. Go with the seered mushrooms on top. Thier tropical drinks were great too! My son who only eats about 4 different things loved his burger!

          We'll do this place again when we are in town next time!

          Alot of people on different threads mention FIRST AWAKENINGS. I believe we're going to eat there on the way out of town tomorrow morning. I'll check back in when we get back home.

          1. re: Cali Boy

            Glad to hear that Hula's was a great experience, I just discovered it on my last trip there even though I've been passing it for quite some time. I love the wasabi mashed potatoes and it is nice to get crunchy sweet potato fries instead of mush. If you get this before breakfast tomorrow and are going to FA I can recommend the following pancakes as I've ordered them all at one point: plain Buttermilk (can't beat old fashion), Blueberry and Bluegerm (the germ gives it a nice toasty crunch and the compote is awesome), the Raisin Walnut, and the Cinnamon Apple are great too. It is so difficult to pick something to eat there so I just convince the other person to get what I'm craving and we split.

          2. re: gmk1322

            Just wanted to add some comments to this thread for Vivolo’s Chowder House in Pacific Grove. My mother and I gave it a try on April 15, Tax Day. It’s not at all a dark hole-in-the wall. Decorated with original art on the wall, the interior was light-filled and the paper-topped tables each had a bud vase with fresh flowers as well as crayons for the kids.

            Sand dabs are on the menu as a sandwich or a plate. Usually my mom goes for the ‘dabs anywhere we go, but she wasn’t interested in them this time. We decided to share a bowl of the seafood bisque, $7.95, and one of the lunch specials, crab salad sandwich, $13.95. I also had a pint of Anchor Steam draft, $5.

            It was a very nice touch for the kitchen to split both orders in the kitchen. The rosy-hued seafood bisque is made with a rock fish and shrimp base. Fresh-tasting and thickened with cream, we liked this very much. The crab salad was light on mayo and included avocado, red onions, and cheddar cheese pressed between buttered and griddled slices of bread. Nice crunch and made with fresh crab, but this was mostly fibrous threads so can’t compare to the chunks of crab in the versions at Spudpoint in Bodega Bay or Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero. My mom agreed that Duarte’s was better, but we were still happy with this choice. The thin battered fries were nice and crisp and liberally salted.

            Crab salad sandwich, $13.95 -

            All in all, a satisfying lunch choice and I’d go back to try the clam chowder.

          3. Massaro & Santo: Located on the Coast Guard Pier. Good for lunch/dinner. Nice view and food.
            Sea Harvest: Seafood and chowder, don't know about the bread bowl. Located in Crossroads shopping ctr.
            Katy's: Great for breakfast located in downtown Carmel.
            Aquarium: I haven't been there, but know there is a really nice restaurant there with a great view.
            Schooners: Located in the Monterey Plaza hotel. Good fish and chips and nice deck.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Gail

              Oh, I forgot the Mission Ranch: Clint's place that's good for Sun brunch or dinner. They do not serve lunch. It is located in Carmel. You can check the site for their menu. Weather permiting, Sun brunch on their deck is very pleasant.

              1. re: Gail

                We ended up knocking around in Carmel yesterday morning. You were absolutely correct about Katy's Place. There crepes are something to behold.

                I highly recomend this place.

                A note of warning though...It was Sunday morning, and as we were leaving every top was full, and there must have been 40-50 people waiting in line to get in.

              2. Loved the aquarium restaurant, Passionfish for dinner, red house cafe is awesome!

                1. If you're looking for some pizza that will knock your socks off, try Pizza My Heart at the Del Monte Center.
                  Yes, it's a Central Coast chain. But it's the best pizza I've had on the West Coast, hands down. And did I mention cheap? It's about 2 miles from the Aquarium - you can go by car, or take the bus.

                  Also, the Del Monte Center is having its "Musical Marketplace" this Saturday 1-3pm. $10 gets you food from 5 restaurants (including Pizza My Heart), plus wine, and a concert. And your money goes to charity! We went last weekend; it's a great value.

                  Also also, the West End neighborhood of Sand City is having its annual party on Saturday. Live music, street performers, plus food from local vendors - and about 3 miles from the aquarium.
                  The Ol' Factory Cafe has a great beer selection, great burgers, great onion rings and is reputed to have a very tasty breakfast (they get their coffee from Intelligentsia - but I haven't managed to get there early enough for breakfast yet), and Sweet Elena's, I'm told, has great pastries.

                  We went to Casanova in Carmel-by-the-Sea a couple of weeks ago, and if you have the budget for it and are not a vegetarian, it's spectacular.

                  Hope this helps!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rednikki

                    Darn it, can't edit to put in places. Here I go...

                    Unfortunately, it doesn't like Casanova because nothing in Carmel-by-the Sea has street addresses. It's on Fifth near Mission.

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

                    Pizza My Heart
                    660 Del Monte Ctr, Monterey, CA 93940

                    Ol' Factory Cafe
                    1725 Contra, Costa Sand City, CA

                  2. For breakfast I agree with First Awakenings. Get the pancake (you'll only need one) with the blueberry compote. Little red house is very cute and has a solid breakfast.

                    For lunch I actually like Thaiwaiian Bistro. It's a little random, but the food is great. The Loco Moco and the pumpkin dish are favorites.

                    For dinner Passion Fish is wonderful high end food at reasonable prices, and the seafood is all sustainable. Monterey Fish house is a great local place off the beaten path, and Pacific Point at the Highlands Inn has great high end food, but the deal closer is the chocolate sphere dessert. The view at Pacific Point is spectacular, but make sure you make reservations early enough to have some sunlight.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: seaotter

                      Totally agree about Pacific"s Edge at the Highlands Inn, the food ius quite good as is the wine list but be prepared to spend. The view and ambiance are both beautiful but being there for a sunset is really spectacular.

                      1. re: baseballfan

                        Just spent the weekend at the Carmel Highlands Inn and had a very satisfying dinner at Pacific's Edge. I love this getaway because it is only 2 1/2 hours from our home in Fresno where it was 99 degrees while Carmel hit a balmy 62. The prices at the resort and the restaurant are steep but reflect the entire experience of the stunning views, the otherworldly setting and of course the cuisine. Here is a link to the menu so you know what to expect. This is a place for special occasions. The pace of serving is deliberate, you want to savor the presentations and my humble opinion is they are worth it. My wife and I split the scallops for a first course, then she had the seared prime beef tenderloin, while I indulged in the rack of lamb with a rosemary glaze... special, special, special.


                        1. re: fresnohotspot

                          fresnohotspot, glad you had such a great experience at Pacific's Edge. It sure gets mixed reviews on this site. We have a couple weeks ownership there and have enjoyed PE for special occasions. Mostly, we go to California Market. Nice you posted the menu for all, maybe saved a few coronaries too.

                          1. re: Gail

                            We had a very good meal at the California Market the night after we went to Pacific's Edge. What a pleasant surprise. We were in the mood for something more casual (and less expensive!) and didn't feel like driving so my husband suggested CM. I was skeptical but it turned out to be a terrific meal. I had an outstanding pork chop but what really stands out was the service. They were pretty busy but our waiter was fantastic. We eat out often, both high end and cheap and excellent service always stands out. We had breakfast there on our way out the following day and it was good as well.

                            1. re: baseballfan

                              If you have another opportunity to have breakfast at CM, try their fried egg sand. w/bacon or ham, cheese...a real artery clogger, but so good!

                              1. re: fresnohotspot

                                Wish I could afford to live in the area. We have been going to Carmel forever and I never get tired of the beauty or trying new restaurants. Had to add the latter so we didn't get tossed off.

                      2. It may be off the map from where you are, but The Monterey Fish House gets my vote. Its a small restaurant, but the quality is there.

                        Monterey Fish House
                        2114 Del Monte Ave, Monterey, CA 93940