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Three dinners in Carmel/Monterey

We will be in the Carmel area for three nights. We like American/California/Italian cuisine. We like relatively formal, quiet restaurants where we can dine comfortably and enjoy great food, but also be able to enjoy conversation without shouting. Where would you go?

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  1. Definitely do Passionfish in Pacific Grove. I ate there this past Friday and it was as phenomenal as ever. Excellent California-based, seasonal cuisine focused on sustainability. I had the sous-vided halibut and it was super tender while my companion had the albacore tuna that was perfectly seared. I also like Max's on Forest Ave. (French-Cal fusion) and Red House Cafe for unpretentious, yet comforting American food.

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    Passionfish
    701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

    Red House Cafe
    662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

    Max's Grill
    209 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

    6 Replies
    1. re: gmk1322

      Be aware that the back room of Passionfish can get loud. When my brother and I took our octagenarian mother, we went early and asked for the smaller front room and seated her facing away from the rest of the room (and potential background noise). She enjoyed her food and was amazed at how full the restaurant was when we leaving.

      Red House Cafe is usually quieter, but has a very different type of menu and ambiance.

      Both are among my favoriates.

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      Passionfish
      701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

      Red House Cafe
      662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

      1. re: Stephanie Wong

        I definitely agree w/ Stephanie Wong on both accounts. Regarding the menus/type of food; Passionfish is very Cal/Multi-cultural fusion and will try to push the envelope regarding new techniques and style for cooking the food so occasionally there are hits and misses (thankfully every time I've gone its been a hit). Red House is very American-home-style cuisine (pork tenderloin, fish, lamb, steak, roast chicken) which is cooked excellently and very tasty. Plus Red House blows Passionfish out of the water in the desserts department.

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        Passionfish
        701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        Red House Cafe
        662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        1. re: gmk1322

          We had a very nice brunch at Canitinetta Luca in downtown Carmel on Mother's Day, Little Napoli is also very good. I love Red House, but it is very casual and homey. You may want to consider Grasing's Coastal Cuisine, it is elegant and quiet with fantastic food and service. :)

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          Grasing's
          Mission and Sixth, Carmel, CA 93921

          Red House Cafe
          662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

          Little Napoli
          Dolores 7th Ave, Carmel, CA 93923

        2. re: Stephanie Wong

          I love Passionfish, but the noise level does get high. I'm not sure what you mean by "back room" or "front room," but I would recommend that the OP gets a reservation in what I think of as the long room that runs along the southeast side of the restaurant. I find that space much quieter. But a reservation is needed to be sure to secure a space there.

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          Passionfish
          701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

          1. re: Ed Dibble

            There is a "very" back room which looks like it hosts private parties/events since one of these was going on the previous night I dined there. I think when they are referring to the back room it is the long rectangular area to the left of the hostess stand that parallels the Shell Station across the street. The front room I assume is the smaller one to the right that looks out on Lighthouse Ave. and Toasties across the street.

            1. re: gmk1322

              Yes, gmk1322, you are correct in your assumptions.

      2. I don't know Carmel well, but I'm sure that there are several Carmel places that would fit your bill.

        As several folks have said, Passionfish is good, but perhaps too noisy and informal. But it does have a great wine list at retail prices.

        The premier formal restaurant in Monterey is the Sardine Factory. Huge wine list, formal service, nice rooms, good food, high prices. I have not eaten there in years, but it was a wonderful experience years ago.

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        Passionfish
        701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

        Sardine Factory
        701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ed Dibble

          We dined at Sardine Factory for the third time earlier this month in the Conservatory Room, they were offering a 3 course dinner for $19.99 if you get there before 6:30. Abalone bisque is wonderful here, I had a Caesar Salad and the Lobster served over Risotto which was excellent, service was lagging that night but there were several large prom groups when we dined there. :)

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          Sardine Factory
          701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940

          1. re: Ed Dibble

            Sardine Factory has its own parking lot, which is a HUGE advantage on Cannery Row.

            Mom took me there last year -- we ran into bumper to bumper traffic for some Hot Road gathering (ala Hot August Nights in Reno) that was cruising the area. Mom was worried about having to walk very far, but the cruisers were very solicitous of the handicap plaque we displayed and let us turn left into Sardine Factory's on-site lot. There's even a direct entrance to the back of the restaurant from the lot (ring bell per PL attendant & skip all the stairs at the fron entrance). An escort came to lead us to the front (through all the various dining rooms) and Mom got to choose which room she wanted. She picked the front lounge area with the fireplace and we could take advantage of some dinner specials (check Sardine Factory's website:

            http://www.sardinefactory.com/specials/

            Afterwards, Mom commented about how nice it was to see all the old cars and what a good value we got.

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            Sardine Factory
            701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940

          2. We ate at Passionfish before a concert on a Thurs. It was lovely and quiet.

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            Passionfish
            701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950