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Monterey Business Trip

I will be attending a conference in Monterey for a week near the end of October. I will be staying at the Marriott in "the heart of historic downtown Monterey." Considering that I'll be alone and without a car, are there any restaurants within walking (or cab?) distance that are recommended. I don't want to go anywhere too fancy alone, but I don't want fast food, either. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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  1. Montrio or Willy's Smokehouse. These are both under the same umbrella ownership. Montrio is upscale bistro style and Willy's is, surprise, BBQ. Check each site for sample menus and exact locations. Montrio is downtown and Willy's is on Cannery Row.

    1. Cibo, which is virtually kitty corner from the Marriott and well within walking distance, has good Italiian and jazz in the evening.

      1. You are centrally located, and can walk to just about anywhere in Monterey though Cannery Row is probably a mile away. Monterey does have more historic buildings than anywhere else in CA. Several houses that date back to the 1830s and 1840s.

        Tuesdays, be sure to go to the Farmer's Mkt. A lot of fun and numerous food stands.

        Montrio is kinda spendy, but close to where you will be. I would definitely recommend Ambrosia Indian.

        You will also be within easy walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf and the Commercial Wharf. FW is pretty touristy, but there are a lot of restaurants (Cafe Fina is my fav there). Sandbar and Grill on Commercial Wharf is pretty good.

        A Cab ride one night to Passionfish (in Pacific Grove) is recommended. Search this board for info about this place.

        1. Here's another one. Hula's Island Grill. I haven't been there, but I have read several good reviews.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Gail

            Hula's is in New Monterey by the Aquarium and Cannery Row. Not especially close to downtown Monterey. The Presidio basically splits Monterey into two parts.

            1. re: Ed Dibble

              <The Presidio basically splits Monterey into two parts.>

              Actually, three parts when you throw in the NPGS.

              1. re: Ed Dibble

                Ed, yes I know where Hula's is. The OP mentioned possibly using a cab.

                1. re: Gail

                  Sorry, my bad. I just hadn't heard anything about Hula's that would make me think of it as a destination restaurant. My memory is that people like the scene, think the food is good, and praise the cocktails.

                  Myself, if I were going to take a cab to eat somewhere in that area, I would choose Amir's Kabob house, or if I was up for some spendy steak or prime rib, The Whaling Station.

            2. Just left Monterey... the Marriott is indeed within easy walking distance of several places as noted.

              We'd lived in Monterey some 20 years ago and thought we'd first try a meal on Fisherman's Wharf to see if the same (!) restos had improved. At Domenico's, there was no improvement, unfortunately. The cedar plank salmon was fresh and well-prepared, but unremarkable given the price. The pasta house special, Pasta Capri, had a weak clam sauce and canned black olives, but the linguini was well-made. All in all, edible food at high prices, which seems to be the norm on FW.

              The Sand Dab, on the commercial wharf (aka Wharf 2), remains a semi-hidden treasure. It's below the wharf, an easy walk from downtown (<10 mins) and is simultaneously funky (there's a bar with locals) and tasty. The atmosphere reminded us of seaside restaurants in Belgium or France -- tidy, clean and casual. It's impressive that the variety of dishes offered each have a unique aspect to them -- no smothering all entrees in the same sauce. Because the place is so small, they can't be paying their chef a fortune, which makes her/him a treasure.

              There are two Japanese restaurants on Alvarado Street. The one //not// run by an "authentic Japanese cook" as noted in the Yellow Pages was better for us (it's called Kawa's, I think -- hole-in-the-wall but jeez, passable rolls and donburi bowls). The other, closer to the Marriott, had a surly hostess, ridiculously dim lighting and was cold as heck (upon entering, we asked them to close the door after noting most of the diners still wearing coats as they huddled over their sushi). The maguro was pasty and distasteful, but the other sushi was decent. The nabeyaki udon had large chunks of chicken, oversized carrots and a weak broth, not to mention doughy noodles (and no egg or tempura). The young wait-staff of two were pleasant and accommodating, however.

              Alvarado has a few coffee shops (Mean Bean has free wi-fi if you're paying through the nose at your hotel), a donut/coffee shop, and a couple of Greek-Med-Lebanese shops. Rosine's is popular for breakfast, but I'm not a fan of the US-style omelette with all the ingredients in an egg wrapper. Still, the food is prompt and piping hot, service is friendly and there's a counter with cakes and pastries for take-away.

              Full Moon is the only Chinese restaurant we saw downtown. It has a low-key, somewhat austere, quiet interior, by no means high-class. The grandmother who served us was a gem, but the food, while piping hot, was typical Main Street USA Chinese fare. Nothing spectacular on that menu. Brown rice is an option for the health-conscious.

              Also on Alvarado is The Bagel Bakery, a local chain since the late '70s. Excellent sandwiches if you want to go eat somewhere by the water.

              We did not get to go to Fresh Cream, also within walking distance of downtown.

              Final impression. Perhaps its the newish Monterey Bay CSU campus, but the crowd downtown seemed younger than we remember -- and the atmosphere was little bit more Santa Cruz-like. The schawarma and take-out places are more numerous than we remembered. So it's fun and you can eat on the cheap if you prefer. Still, they do roll up the sidewalks pretty early in Monterey -- that hasn't changed!

              12 Replies
              1. re: Borderpundit

                Thanks for the report, we'll be making a return visit next Spring and are always on the lookout for new places. One question, I looked up the Sand Dab and didn't find anything. By chance is it the Sandbar Grill, that's the closest I found?

                1. re: curiousgeo

                  Been screwing that up for weeks. Yes, it's the Sand Dab, and sorry for the misinformation.

                  1. re: curiousgeo

                    I believe you are referring to the Sand Bar and Grill on the commercial wharf.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      Thanks for the (second) correction. I'll just go away quietly now, repeating "Sand Bar, Sand Bar, Sand Bar."

                    2. re: curiousgeo

                      If interested, you can read the blog post I did a while back about the Sandbar and Grill. We were there during crab season, so that is much of the focus, but I think it is a good place and one of the few in the area that draws locals as well as visitors.


                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                        Ed, if you had a choice for dinner, which would you prefer foodwise? Cafe Fina or the Sandbar and Grill? Both sound good from your write-up and your pictures make the food look very appealing. Thanks.

                        1. re: Ed Dibble

                          Ed, were we in the right area? Could not park the car!?! Lot small and full. There were a few cops around, but nothing seemed wrong. The parking would have been blocks away...we gave up. Wharf 2 with small lot? It was either a Sat or Sun was that the problem? We were mad and went to M & S.

                          1. re: Gail

                            The huge Fisherman's Wharf lot extends to the commercial wharf. There may be a few parking places on the commercial wharf, but plenty of parking all around. Not sure where you were.

                            As for choosing between Cafe Fina and the Sandbar - I thought the first was a little fancier and I really liked my halibut dish. The Sandbar was more low key, friendlier, and less touristy. Both have nice views (Sandbar's is more unique) at any time except close to sundown, but the Sandbar has more tables with views. If the dabs at the Sandbar were outstanding, I would give them the nod, but the little fillets were just good. I would eat at either place again.

                            How was Massaro & Santos?

                            1. re: Gail

                              Gail, sounds like you were at the Coast Guard pier, which is west of FW, the commercial wharf is the other direction (east) and you can park on it.

                              1. re: PolarBear

                                We were at a pier between the touristy one and the one where Massaro & Santos is. It has been a year since we were at M&S, but will be there Oct.25th again. I'll report back. Sorry to have this thread stray...

                                1. re: Gail

                                  the commercial wharf where Sand Bar is is on the other side of the tourist one from where M and S is....look for the big round building that used to have a Japanese restaurant on the top floor (I think it might have closed) and the old London Bridge pub (which is now something else) below, and Wharf 2 is behind it. Only time I've ever had trouble getting parking is middle of the day on a weekend. No problem ever at night, you were in the wrong place.

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    Thanks, susancinsf. You are right, wrong pier. We'll give it another try in a week.

                      2. There is a very good sushi place called Pink Tuna within 3 blocks of the Marriot. It's expensive, but worth it. Also has smoked trout sushi, which I've never seen at a sushi bar before.

                        1. Stokes Adobe- really good food and you can always sit at the bar to dine alone.