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Mar 21, 2009 11:52 AM

LA to Big Sur Road Trip - What Not to Miss on the Coast, and Where to Eat in Big Sur?

We're driving up to Big Sur from LA in a couple weeks to spend a few nights at Ventana celebrating our anniversary and I have two questions for my fellow CHs:

1. Where should we stop for eats on the way up and down the coast? I'd love to hear people's favorite local spots in SB, SLO, or elsewhere along the coast!

2. For our anniversary celebration proper, we have a reservation at Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn. We want to have one other good dinner while we're up there and I'm coming up a little short. It's a Monday night so Big Sur Bakery is closed (but we have a brunch reservation there on Sunday!). Cielo at Ventana is closed for renovations. We don't want to go to Nepenthe for dinner, although we probably will go there for lunch one day for the incredible view. What I'm reading about Deetjen's isn't really inspiring to me. Should we drive up to Carmel for our second dinner, and if so, where do you recommend? Or other ideas?

In both cases, our priority is to eat the best food available - fancy ambience is not important.


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  1. I would make my choice from the Carmel restaurant- Anton & Michel or Passionfish in Pacific Grove.

    1. I'd recommend Citronelle in Carmel Valley

      1. Jocko's Steakhouse in Nipomo (between Santa Maria & Pismo Beach) for great Santa Maria style BBQ.
        BBQ pit doesn't open until 4pm, but they're open for breakfast and lunch. My favorite (after 4pm) the large steak sandwich-1 lb. ribeye steak.

        You might want to call for reservations if you're going for dinner (805) 929-3565

        Jocko's Steak House
        Old Hwy 101, Nipomo, CA 93444

        1. Aching, as you may know, the drive from Big Sur/Carmel is about 1 hour. It is so beautiful, it would be a shame to drive it at night. Also, if dinner in Carmel includes cocktails and/or wine, the drive back might be iffy as it is very curvey.

          A thought, though I know it means some revisting of places, might be cocktails and apps at Post Ranch while it is still light for the view, followed by your entree at Ventana's Bistro and a dessert at Nepenthe. They have a lovely cheese plate that would be nice with a port and a seat by their roaring fireplace. All three places are close, therefore limited driving involved.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gail

            Agree, you don't want to be driving #1 in the dark under any circumstances.
            Bad enough during daylight you're driving 15mph and the driver can't be watching the scenery sober or not.
            Might only be 50 miles to Carmel, but will probably take you 2 hours in one direction.

          2. I've covered that route on a bicycle three times and can tell you one place NOT to eat, unless things have changed completely in the last few years: the cafe at the motel in Santa Lucia. You might be tempted, because the location -- not the restaurant -- is inspiring, but the food is lousy and expensive. (And whatever you do, don't stay at the motel, which is also lousy and expensive.)

            If you get as far as Carmel Valley, I highly recommend the Covey at Quail Lodge. I like it because the food is excellent and because someone picked up my tab there about ten years ago! No, it wasn't a beautiful, wealthy woman bribing me to explain reduced instruction set computing to her but a Silicon Valley board of directors dining nearby who took pity on what they described as a forlorn look on my face (which I now always assume when I eat alone in a nice restaurant ;-).

            I've been to Passionfish only once and thought the food was fine but not outstanding. However, I'd yield to anyone who has gone more recently than a couple of years ago.

            Covey Restaurant at Quail Lodge
            8205 Valley Greens Dr, Carmel, CA 93923