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Jul 21, 2009 11:17 AM

Pacific Grove/Monterey

I generally find this area to be highly-priced with marginal food quality - overall, a poor price/value equation. Any recommendations for a quality dinner out - smaller restaurant, something reflective of the area, quality food, maybe even seafood? Prefer foods not overly sauced or high frills restaurants. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Pacific Grove:
    Red House Cafe, Passonfish, Peppers Mexican
    Massaro and Santos and Sandbar and Grill. Both very good seafood.
    All have sites you can check...

    7 Replies
    1. re: Gail

      Thanks - been to Red House Cafe - charming and nice for brunch but still wasn't overwhelmed. Passionfish seemed overly complicated - mixing french, asian, italian and anything else - not my thing. Reminded me of California Cafe, circa 1992.

      I'll keep looking - just looking for quality real food - less flash, high integrity food and preparation, Anything else - maybe even out in Carmel Valley?

      1. re: poulet_roti

        Don't just brush off the two seafood places I suggested.

        Carmel Valley: Corkscrew Bistro, Wickets, Rustica. All have sites.

        Perhaps I'm unsure re what exactly you are looking for. I'm thinking maybe it doesn't exist. Have you considered a trek further north in The City?

        1. re: Gail

          Thanks Gail, not just brushing off your suggestions - I actually quite appreciative. Just saying I've been and don't necessarily care the places. I'll look into your other suggestions. Regarding a trek further north in The City? Not sure what you mean, I live in San Francisco and down here in Pebble Beach right now.

          1. re: poulet_roti

            Ah, had no idea where you are or where you're from. The dining possibilities in the Pebble area shouldn't be too shabby, though expensive. A local friend enjoys the Italian place at the Inn at Spanish Bay, plus the bagpipers at sunset.

            Hope you have a great time and find what you're looking for dining-wise.

            1. re: Gail

              Okay, sure I'll take some heat for this but needed to report back. First off, thanks for your thoughts and ideas - I am difficult to please and can be moody regarding what I am seeking in a restaurant. Walked all over Carmel by the Sea on Friday evening looking for place to dine - something Luca, Sushi Heaven, Napoli something, Nico, all looked okay, some maybe depressing, and nothing for what I was seeking.

              I guess what I was seeking was a place to have a decent conversation, not bad food, not too loud, and not be harassed by a server or restaurateur who thought their place was out of this world.

              Ultimately stumbled into Fifi in Pacific Grove which had been mentioned to me in the past. Frankly, it filled the spot just perfectly. Food was okay, nothing exceptional but then again I rarely find any food exceptional. Prices were fair, ambiance was fine and was able to have the time I was seeking.

              About the food, had the steak frittes with a peppercorn sauce. Pomme frittes were very good, peppercorn sauce was way overly salted ( and I am a big salter) but that was easily remedied by scraping the sauce off perfectly medium rare cooked skirt steak.

              All in all, great time, cozy environment, food good enough, and didn't feel like I got raped in the wallet.

              Saw Taste across the street and perhaps should try next time in the area. Been to the Italian place at Spanish Bay, and while good, certainly did not merit the prices.

              1. re: poulet_roti

                poulet roti, glad you had an enjoyable evening. The only thing I've heard about Fifi's is that they make beautiful memories with their French onion soup.

                Since you are from The City, have you tried the steak frittes at Le Central?

                1. re: Gail

                  thanks Gail, the evening actually was just what i was seeking - low key, no hustle, food was plenty good enough. frankly, i am tired of worshipping food and chefs. rather, just seeking good food, well-prepared, in a welcoming environment and this hit all those points.

                  As for Le Central, i love the place, and it hits all the criteria that I mentioned above. Last time I went which was few months ago, had the chicken frittes.

                  I am very tempted to try Taste or Fishwife on my next visit to the area, but as a creature of habit, may simply return to Fifi as now know what to expect.

    2. Also Monterey's Fish House , kind of in an industrial area but very popular. My go to recommendation in Carmel (although you didn't ask for the village) is Cantinetta Luca, well prepared food, using fresh ingredients and reasonably priced. They have a wood burning oven where they bake their own breads and also make many of their cured meats in-house.

      1. Taste Cafe might work for you. Certainly reflective of the area. Have you tried Stokes Adobe? It's been a few years for me, but many locals like it.

        1. Been to Fandango (Pacific Grove) for lunch a few times and always enjoyed it.

          1. I had a pretty good cioppino at Café Fina in Monterey a few months ago. I ordered it even thought the menu indicated that it was served over pasta, which is really strange. I just ate around the pasta. My two dinner companions enjoyed their meals too; I can't remember what they were.

            10 Replies
            1. re: souschef

              I have long thought that Cafe Fina is the best on Fisherman's Wharf. The owner has recently purchased Domenico's - which makes me wonder if it will improve.

              1. re: Ed Dibble

                Would either Cafe Fina or the Sandbar be a good alternative to Monterey's Fish House? We are staying near the Aquarium on our next visit and although we will have a car and have no problem driving out, it would also be nice just to walk over for dinner.

                1. re: curiousgeo

                  Sandbar is on the Municipal pier. Massaro and Santos is on the Coast Guard Pier and closer to you. They have very good food, I think. I believe Fina is on the main tourist pier.

                  1. re: Gail

                    Thanks Gail. I just read a review of Massaro and Santos and apparently Massaro is a former owner of Monterey's Fish House and Santos a long time chef at the Whaling Station. Sounds like good food plus a great view can be had there. I'm adding this to my Central Coast restaurant list.

                    1. re: curiousgeo

                      M&S has some of the best views in Mty. Be careful about their specials, however. The server will recite something like a dozen dishes not on the menu. The one thing they all have in common is that they are more expensive than the menu items.

                      The chowder at the restaurant is excellent and I have good memories of the san dabs there as well, though it has been a few years . . .

                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                        I first discovered sand dabs at M&S many years ago, and loved the buttery texture. Sadly they are not available out East.

                        I was told by someone in Carmel that there is a restaurant at or near the Monterey airport that does a good job of sand dabs. I did not try it.

                        On the wharf I found it unusual that there were restaurant staff outside the restaurants, trying to get people to go in.

                        1. re: souschef

                          The golden tee at the Monterey Airport has some of the best traditional Sand Dabs ever. Actually would be my first choice for someone who wanted Sand Dabs (assuming that airport views are OK :) )

                          1. re: MRYfoodie

                            After my initial taste of sand dabs at M&S I was on Coronado Island and happened to walk past one of the fast food places at the pier at the end of Orange Avenue. I normally don't eat at fast food places, but saw sand dabs on the blackboard menu, and thought I would give it a try. Amazingly, it was excellent, served with a mound of garlic mashed potato.

                            BTW Ed-Dibble, thanks for your support on that other thread. I saw it before it got blown away.

                2. re: Ed Dibble

                  Is Domenico's across from Cafe Fina, at the left end of the wharf when you exit Cafe Fina? Or is it the one straddling the end of the wharf?

                  1. re: souschef

                    It's kindof across from Cafe Fina. It's larger and was, for years, the premier restaurant on the wharf. But it was inconsistent and prices were pretty high. The dinnertime views are better on that side of the wharf in the summer because the sun isn't shining in.