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Jan 21, 2009 07:48 PM

Heading to Monterey/Carmel from SF on Rt 1

My mother and I are heading down the coast to Monterey/Carmel (staying in Monterey) from SF in late Feb and are looking for really good places to eat. We are from NYC, and are self proclaimed foodies. We really don't want Italian (but Mediterranean is fine) or Chinese but would love to get some great Californian, Mexican, New American recommendations...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. We love PassionFish in Pacific Grove/Carmel and Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur..

    5 Replies
    1. re: Beach Chick

      I second Passionfish, I just had an excellent meal there this past weekend.

      For breakfast/brunch, my favorite places would be First Awakenings in the Cannery and Holly's Cafe in downtown Pacific Grove. FA serves traditional breakfast items with some creative dishes too; the pancakes (bluegerm, oatmeal-apple, and raisin walnut are my favorites), huevos rancheros (CA take, not authentic) and Joaquin Yahoo (vegetable fritatta) are great. Holly's is a little hole in the wall local place in downtown PG that serves a great American breakfast at reasonable prices. I had the waffle which was light and airy and my friend had the linguica and eggs off of the specials board (great value, 2 huge pieces of linguica, eggs, toast, and hash browns for 8 and change).

      1. re: gmk1322

        I think that Passionfish will definitely be on our list, and It doesn't seem far at all from Monterey. Is there any really good Mexican in the area?

        1. re: gremlin608

          Passionfish is a great choice - unique and generally good.

          Monterey is largely a tourist destination, and there is not a large local Mexican population, so much Mexican in the area is touristy or gringofied. Peppers, mentioned in another comment, is to my mind more like a Mexican oriented place than a real Mexican restaurant - though that's not necessarily bad. For real Mexican tacos, either Garcia's Taqueria (behind the Latino Mkt) and the taqueria in the back of Mi Tierra Mkt offer the real thing - both are on Broadway in Seaside just north of Fremont.

          One unique feature about Monterey are the old buildings - probably more structures dating from the 1830's and 40's than in NY or many other places. With that in mind, a meal at Stokes Adobe might be a good choice as it combines a very old location and some well prepared food. I have heard that there is a new chef, but I have not heard any negatives.

          If you end up at Fisherman's Wharf, Cafe Fina is probably the best choice among the eateries there.

          Enjoy your visit. If you like scenic beauty, a visit to Point Lobos, about 3 miles south of Carmel off Hwy 1, is highly recommended.


          1. re: Ed Dibble

            So where is Seaside and Fremont? In relation to Monterey?

            1. re: gremlin608

              not far. Check google maps, it is your friend.

    2. In the town of El Granada next door to Half Moon Bay is Cafe Gibraltar. They have an amazing variety of Mediterranean dishes, we love the shrimp bisque and croquettes for starters, and just about any of the entrees.

      4 Replies
      1. re: PattyOh

        Is Cafe Gibraltar anywhere near Monterey or Carmel? I don't think we want to go more than 1/2 hr for dinner at night and we are staying in Monterey...Anything in those areas that you would recommend?

        1. re: gremlin608

          Cafe Gilbraltar is on the route from SF to Monterey, but a LOT closer to SF. Yes, well over a half hour from Monterey. (Closer to one and a half or two hours). I think the poster was responding your title, which implies you were looking for something on the way, on Route one.

          Passionfish is closer to Monterey than is the Rio Grill in Carmel (though both are within 15 to 20 minutes of anywhere in Monterey; Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel all border each other) but much better and more interesting, both in food and service, in my opinion. But then again, I haven't been back to Rio Grill since the time we were running late due to very stormy weather and a power outage causing traffic backups (because all the traffic lights were out), and, even though we called and alerted the restaurant and were assured that they understood and would hold our table, when we arrived 11 minutes late the hostess sniffed, looked at her watch, and said, 'you are very lucky I didn't give your table away since you were more than 10 minutes late for your reservation' in a very haughty voice. I've never forgiven them for that.....but bottom line, there isn't much to forgive for: the food is only ok, again IMO.

          I haven't made it there yet, but a mediterenean/tapas place that looks interesting, right in downtown Monterey, is Esteban. If you try it, report back! Ambrosia is also very good if you are interested in Indian food in an upscale atmosphere.

          701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

          Ambrosia India Bistro
          565 Abrego St, Monterey, CA 93940

          Rio Grill
          101 The, Crossroads Carmel, CA

          Esteban Restaurant
          700 Munras Avenue, Monterey, CA 93940

          1. re: susancinsf

            Regarding Rio Grill: Isn't it amazing out an incident like yours can even make the food "only OK". If the owners only knew...

            1. re: Gail

              well, it is what has kept me from going back when others suggested it. However, I always thought the food was only ok, even though I'd eat there, as I say, usually at someone else's encouragement.

      2. Mexican: Peppers, Pacific Grove (very casual)
        Seafood: Sandbar and Grill, Monterey (very casual)
        Continental: Tarpy's Grill, by Monterey airport (casual)
        Chinese: Tommy's Wok, Carmel (very casual)
        Eclectic with a Mex bent: Rio Grill, Carmel Crossroads shopping ctr (casual)

        All these have sites so you can check out the menus and get a feel for the places..

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gail

          Gail thank you so much! We will check out the sites today.

        2. It's been a while, but last I was there "The Whole Enchilada" in Moss Landing was pretty good. It's right on Highway 1.

          1 Reply
          1. re: porkchop

            Thank you for the suggestion...Looks like a fun place, not sure how authentic (with all of the menu items with artichokes) but fun regardless. NY doesn't have that great Mexican, there are some places because of an recent influx of Mexican immigrants but whenever we head to CA we always marvel at how much better the Mexican food is. We will definitely put this on our list

          2. The best small Mexican restaurants are in cafes in Watsonville and Castroville about 1/2 hour or so north before you get to the Monterey Penninsula. Also in the Seaside area just a few minutes from downtown Monterey. They are verrry informal but the food is what would come out of an abuela's kitchen. search the California board for "Mexican Watsonville' (or Castroville)

            For breakfast, I'm going to mention the Wagon Wheel in Carmel Valley, about 3 to 4 minutes up Carmel Valley Rd from Highway 1. Good local eating place, ranch-y decor and no pretention. Pancakes and eggs. Pecan Pancakes. Good homey lunch items too. Beans are great.

            Polar Bear rates a breakfast'lunch place in Marina very highly. Well-trained chef opened his own place, Tico's

            here's a thread that will give you some nice places to eat:


            5 Replies
            1. re: toodie jane

              I love Tico's as well. Here is my original post:


              But there have been a couple of other discussions of it recently as well.

              In my mind, the best breakfasts I've ever had in the area.

              1. re: toodie jane

                Hey TJ, what places do you like in Castroville?

                Here's the 4k-1-1 on Tico's

                Tico’s Breakfast & Lunch - Special breakkfasts weekends only, e.g. crab cakes hollandaise
                330 Reservation road
                Marina CA
                6:30 AM to 3 PM. Closed Mondays

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Gosh, PB, it's been 10 years, but there was a small mom & pop grocery with a delimex on the south (oceanside) of the main street in a single story building about 1 block south before you approach the old two story buildings in the center of town. Sorry, no name. Lengua and carnitas were superb. rich meats and very fresh condiments. There are likely even more such spots nowdays. I've found tiny places like these in Watsonville too.

                  Of course, there the Giant Artichoke stand at the intersection of highway 156 and Merrill St. Also Pezzini Farms artichoke stand a bit farther south towards Monterey on 1, less crassly tourist-oriented than the Giant Choke.

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Yeah, probably need to do a crawl around the town. Only place we've been was La Scuola and that's been so long, not even sure they're still around.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      La Scuola has a "for lease" sign on it last week.