HOME > Chowhound > California >


Great dining in Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove?

We'll be returning to the Carmel area for a long weekend in a few weeks. We've been many times and are always looking for something new and great. In the past we've enjoyed Citronelle (which is now sadly closed), Fresh Cream, Fandango, Christopher's, Sierra Mar among others. Are these places still good? Is there anything new and terrific? We'll have 4 nights and will happily drive a reasonable distance (20 minutes or so) for a great meal...where would you go? Great food, good service and pleasant ambiance are important...cost, less so.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Actually we've been, and although the food is very good, I would not consider eating there great dining. The food is well prepared, but not especially creative...the service is just ok...but what really is lacking is ambiance. It is extremely noisy, and has the decor of a nice coffee shop. We want something more special..."great" is the word I used.

      1. re: josephnl

        1844 is very good. Fifi's is a favorite. Just a cozy bistro. The C is the tastiest food by the aquarium.

        1. re: cwodtke

          It sounds like 1844 is much better than Restaurant 1833! We had dinner at 1833 several months ago and thought that it had slipped tremendously from when it was terrific a few years ago.

          1. re: josephnl

            1833 brought in a new executive chef this month.

            The previous executive chef is now overseeing all of the properties. The group is in expansion mode (e.g., Los Angeles).

          2. re: cwodtke

            We had a good brunch at C last Sunday. I think it's somewhat underrated though perhaps a bit on the pricey side.

            Tusca was another pleasant surprise. We stayed at the Hyatt on a rainy day last month and didn't want to leave the hotel. I had some horrid room service food here back in November so wasn't expecting much but this was nothing like their room service food.

            On the same trip last month, we tried the sunset dinner at the Beach House at Lovers Point. It was fine considering the price but not anywhere I'd take my foodie friends. It's a safe place to take my in laws when they visit next month though.

            Finally, also in February, we tried Treehouse Cafe in Carmel. My husband and I are split on this one. He liked his seafood pasta while I thought my pad thai was overly sweet. What am I doing ordering pad thai in Carmel, right? ;) It felt slightly expensive for what it was.

            Pics of:

            1) Dungeness crab salad at C
            2) Duck breast at Tusca
            3) Salmon at Beach House
            4) Seafood pasta at Treehouse

            1. re: PattyC

              PattyC, are there any restaurants you'd recommend for a weekday breakfast in Carmel?

                1. re: PattyC

                  Thanks so much! Which dishes would you recommend the most?http://www.carmelbelle.com/

                  1. re: prima

                    I usually get the truffled egg toast or mushroom melt. They also have specials like benedict sometimes.

                      1. re: prima

                        Don't know when you're planning to go but I just read that they're closed for renovations until April 14th.

                        1. re: PattyC

                          Thanks for the heads up. Turns out I won't be breakfasting in Carmel as I had initially planned, but I'm hoping to try Carmel Belle on a future visit to Carmel!

      2. Had tapas at lunch at Mundaka, which I believe is new. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to return sometime for dinner. If you haven't been to Cantinetta Luca I recommend it.



        6 Replies
        1. re: RevrendAndy

          We like Cantinetta Luca a lot...usually have lunch there, as well as at Casanova. Still looking for "great" dinner options.

          Cantinetta Luca
          Dolores St Between Ocean and 7th Ave, Carmel, CA 93921

          1. re: josephnl

            I think the problem, Josephnl, is there is no "great" dining in that area. The closest would have been Citronelle and I'm sorry they closed as well...

            901 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              OK...accepting that there may not be anything "great"...then, of what is available, what would you say are the very best places?

              1. re: josephnl

                Many places worthy of the "GREAT". In a place as diverse as the Monterey Bay, I would recommend getting out more often.
                Tarpy's Road House is great eating, from the wonderful Meatloaf to the Ostrich or any of their other menu items, great wine list, desserts... and ambiance is wonderful. Chef uses locally grown veggies, even has their own herb garden on site.
                Always something exciting on the menu

                Tarpy's Roadhouse
                2999 Salinas Hwy, Monterey, CA 93940

          2. re: RevrendAndy

            We were in Carmel for an event and stayed for a few days over this past weekend. Based on recommendations on this site, four of us (2 from Philadelphia, 1 from LA, and 1 from Chico) made reservations at Mundaka --- and walked out before even ordering. The acoustics in the restaurant are beyond terrible. Everyone shouts in the restaurant at their fellow diners because that is the only way to be heard. It is a small restaurant with hard surfaces that bounce sound around making any type of dinner conversation simply impossible. As a result, the overall decibel level was, for all of us, unacceptably uncomfortable enough to simply leave and find a place where we could enjoy our meal and our conversation.

            1. re: pwoldow

              Please, where did you end up & what did you have? Would love to hear (pun intended) about it.

          3. Passionfish is one of the best places to dine in Pacific Grove..great fresh fish, great half bottle wine list for a little over cost, farm to table..super reasonable too.
            Love Passionfish!

            If your headed to Big Sur, we love Sierra Mar for lunch at Post Ranch Inn and Big Sur Bakery..


            1. Marinus at the Bernardus Lodge and Aubergine in L'Auberge Carmel would fit your description. We've always like Cassonova (generally do lunch there) and Grassings.

              415 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel Valley, CA 93924

              1 Reply
              1. re: HoosierFoodie

                Second Marinus at Bernadus Lodge. As much as we enjoy Passionfish, Marinus is on a completely different culinary level in terms of creativity and execution.

              2. My vote would be Aubergine, just a hair over Marinus. We had a meal there last fall that would've comapred favorably to any French restaurant in a large city.

                6 Replies
                1. re: RevrendAndy

                  We love Pacific's Edge @ the Highland's Inn! :)

                  Pacific's Edge Restaurant
                  120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, CA 93923

                  1. re: syrahgirl

                    I think I have my 3 dinners in the area picked out (passionfish, cantinetta luca , and manresa) but since we're staying at Highland Inn...how would Pacific's Edge be for lunch? (if they do lunch)

                    Pacific's Edge Restaurant
                    120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, CA 93923

                    1. re: danna

                      We stayed at Hyatt Highlands and dined at Pacific Edge but only did the drinks and app's..it was great.
                      They don't do lunch.
                      Can't say enough about Passionfish and Cantinetta Luca is wonderful.
                      Next time, we'll go to Marinus and Aubergine.

                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        do you have any specific recs from the Passionfish 1/2 bottle list?

                        anything else to look out for at the hyatt?

                        701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

                        1. re: danna

                          Looking at the wine list, here are the ones in half-bottle form that interest me:

                          Pride Viognier (I adore Rhone whites and they pair so well with fish!)
                          Nigl, Privat, Kremstal '08
                          Loring, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands ’09
                          Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley ’07
                          Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore ‘04

                          Santa Lucia Cafe
                          484 Washington St Ste A, Monterey, CA 93940

                      2. re: danna

                        I don't think they do lunch at Pacific's Edge. They do at the Market restaurant at The Highlands Inn, though. I've stayed there and dined at Pacific's Edge but its been a few years.

                        Pacific's Edge Restaurant
                        120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, CA 93923

                  2. If you are looking for the best dining experience in the Monterey area, I vote for Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel. Best food, best service, best wine service...small intimate dining room...5 course menu or Chef's Tasting menu options.

                      1. Well...we've just returned from our trip to the Carmel/Monterey area and had 4 dinners of vastly varying quality...from outstanding, to downright awful!

                        By far our best dinner was at Restaurant 1833 in the historic Stoke's Adobe House in Monterey. This wonderful old home has been lovingly restored (again for the umpteenth time), and is now a beautifully stylish and very comfortable restaurant. Aside from the great ambiance, 1833 serves wonderfully inventive, interesting and delicious food...not surprising in that the kitchen is run by a Thomas Keller protege from Per Se in New York. Also, the service was, on the night we dined there, as close to perfect as it gets...warm, informed, professional and very attentive without being overbearing. Interestingly, this was not only our best dinner, it was also our least expensive dinner! 1833 provides great value. Additionally the bar is attractive, serves great drinks, and the patio is a beautiful spot for drinks and snacks on a nice evening. 1833 is a winner on all counts!

                        Our second best dinner was at Marinus in the Bernardus Lodge. Marinus continues to serve very fine food and wine in a very nice dining room. It's a bit too formal and pretentious for me, but this is a personal taste, and not everyone will agree. On the other hand, they were very accommodating to one in our party who saw nothing on the menu he liked....and prepared for him, a simple salad, and a filet mignon, which he enjoyed. Some of the portions seem to be just a bit too precious (small). Nevertheless, the food is excellent, and the service is very good. This is an expensive restaurant, but is a good choice for a special occasion.

                        A very distant third would be Andre's Bouchee. The food was good, but not great. Many items were overly salty. A huge problem is the exorbitantly priced wine list, and the extremely pretentious wine service. I asked the sommelier to recommend a few reasonably priced red wines, and he immediately suggested two in the $100 range. When I asked him about one of the lower priced reds on the list ($79, gulp!!) he said it was "not very good". There were very, very few choices (perhaps one or two) in the $60 or below range. Additionally, the wine which we did eventually select (an $89 pinot noir), was served at "room temperature", about 75 degrees and was way too warm for our taste. When I asked to have it chilled, this was not greeted favorably. This would be unacceptable anywhere, but at a restaurant where wine is featured, one would expect wine to be served at the proper temperature. Andre's is definitely not a place I would return to, or recommend.

                        In last place, without question was Grasing's in Carmel. We have been visiting Carmel for many years and can't remember any dining experience as awful as that we encountered at Grasings's this past weekend. Indeed, we had a very nice dinner there a year ago...thus we returned. This past Sunday night the restaurant was very quiet. We were seated in a very nice dining room, but we were alone in this room. We were served our ordered cocktails rather promptly, but then things fell apart. Service was essentially non-exixtent. We had to call over busboys and ask for a server to get anything done. It took two hours before we received any food. Our salads consisted of overdressed greens that were extremely limp and had obviously seen better days. I ordered a bone-in filet mignon "very pink but not bloody". The server recommended "medium". When my steak arrived it was very undercooked...cold in the middle, raw and very bloody. After returning it as not properly cooked, it was returned to me totally brown and dry, substantially beyond well done! Someone else at our table ordered the vegetarian lasagna. It was a soupy bowl of tasteless sauce with some sheets of pasta and artichoke floating within...truly dreadful. "Nuf said" this was an awful experience, not to be repeated by any of us.

                        As an aside, we had one really excellent lunch at La Bicyclette, and another good lunch at Cantinetta Luca. Both are definite recommendations for lunch, as well as Casanova and Le St. Tropez which have always been great in the past.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Good thread. I live in Monterey and have eaten at all of the restaurants discussed. Agree completely with Josephnl's reviews. And, 1833 is yummy. One restaurant that I like a lot is the one at Carmel Valley Ranch (part of the resort) that is consistently good and nicely upscale, but not over the top expensive. It's my go to choice for out of town guests and special occasions. It's closer to Carmel Valley Village than Carmel but not that far a drive. I prefer it to Marinus.