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Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast in Carmel/Monterey area

Lookins for recs for lunch, dinner and breakfast. Haven't booked a hotel yet, but will be staying in the area on a Weds and Thurs night in March, probably in Monterey. Coming from Toronto and will be spending 4 nights prior in SF.

We will be driving down Hwy 1 to get there and probably take the highway back as we will be headed to SFO. Also looking for somewhere to stop for lunchon way to or close to SFO.

Looking for moderately priced (no more than 25 per entree).

Like all types of food except Indian.

So far others have mentioned:


Cantinetta Luca
Parker Lusseau
Mission Ranch Inn
Passion Fish
Cafe Gibralter
Pasta Moon
Andree's Bouchee Bistro and Wine Bar
Tablecloth restaurant at Monterey Aquarium
Linda's Seabreeze Cafe - Santa Cruz (on drive back to SFO)


First Awakenings

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  1. Casual Lunch:
    Sandbar and Grill (Seafood on the Municipal pier, Monterey)
    Massaro and Santos (Seafood on the Coast Guard pier, Monterey)
    California Market (Continental at the Highlands Inn 4 miles S of Carmel-Great view too)
    Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley following or during wine tasting there)
    Casual Dinner:
    Mission Ranch (Basic American ie prime rib, etc., Carmel. Lively piano bar if that is of interest)
    Rio Grill (Southwest bent, CrossRoads shopping ctr., Carmel)
    Fifi's (French, small, cozy, Pacific Grove)
    Fandango (Continintal, Pacific Grove)
    Napoli (Downtown Carmel...yes, ltalian)
    There are so many. Maybe do a menu check of the places to see what appeals to you. We have been to all these and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them.
    Not being much of a breakfast eater, I'll leave that to others. But, I do know the two on your list are popular.

    1. I would add Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn in Carmel for lunch...stunning view and fab food.
      Big Sur Bakery is another great spot..

      In Carmel, Passionfish for dinner is fantastic and reasonably priced on fish and the half bottle wine list is almost at cost.
      Cantinetta Luna is good for lunch.
      California Market at the Hyatt Carmel HIghland for breakfast or lunch


      1. One of my favorites on the Monterey Peninsula for breakfast & lunch is Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove:


        The only thing I avoid is the buckwheat waffle. . . it just doesn't fit my tastes.

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: Stephanie Wong

          Keep Restaurant 1833 in Monterey. They have delicious food, service and nice ambiance. We have dined there twice now. I would also seriously consider Demetra Cafe on Ocean Ave. for one of your Carmel meals. Le St. Tropez in Carmel is also wonderful for dinner. :)

        2. We recently spent alot of time in Capitola/Santa Cruz. Aquarius at The Dream Inn was surprisingly good for dinner. This past Valentine's Day for dinner we dined at Hoffman's Bistro which was recently featured on Restaurant Impossible. Loved everything about this place, located in downtown Santa Cruz. :)

          1. We will most likely be staying in Monterey. The plan is to make the drive from SF in the morning, and spend the afternoon at the aquarium. Have dinner in Monterey or nearby (would like it to be in Carmel, so that we visit there as well), spend the night, have breakfast the next morning and head to SFO. The places that are on my list now are:

            Cantinetta Luca
            Dametra Cafe

            Breakfast: Katy's looks really good, need somewhere with lots of non-egg choices.

            Parker Lusseau for pastries (maybe get some before we leave for SFO)


            1. Katy's is a great choice for breakfast! We love the Cheese Blitzes there. :)

              1. I'll give a thumbs up to First Awakenings for breakfast. Ate there twice between Xmas and New Years. For me, the telling sign is that the other restaurant in the outlet mall serving breakfast was almost deserted, whereas First Awakenings always had a wait.

                Also want to give a plug to Hula's in Monterey (Hawaiian fusion) if you're interested. It can get busy, but the portions are generous and the prices are very reasonable. They also have Happy Hour on Tuesday (?) with discounted drinks and appetizers.

                Hula's Island Grill
                622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA 93940

                1. I used to live in Pacific Grove - loved that place.

                  Definitely some good recs in this thread. For breakfast I would second Awakenings and add Toasties Cafe.

                  For casual lunch you can't beat Campagno's Deli. The most amazing sandwiches ever and the cheesecake is to die for. It's take-out only but you should have no trouble at all finding a nice place to enjoy your lunch along Ocean View Blvd.

                  I haven't been in years but Max's Grill in Pacific Grove was one of my favorite places in the area - delicious food and good prices.

                  Passion Fish is excellent.

                  Tarpes Roadhouse in New Monterey is excellent if you're looking for something a bit more upscale.

                  Nepenthe in Big Sur is also a very nice place for some upscale dining on thier huge deck.

                  The one place my wife and I still talk about is Campagno's though. If we were to return to the area, I can promise you that our first stop would be to Campagno's to pick up sandwiches and our second would be at Asilimar beach to find a nice rock to sit on and enjoy the afformentioned sandwiches.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: San Antonio Sam

                    Do you remember what you ordered at Campagno's? Eating at the beach sounds nice.

                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                      For sandwiches, they have the standard deli stuff . .ham, turkey, italian combo, etc. I defintely like thier Super Hoagie but I didn't really have a standard sandwich there - they're all good and huge. 1 sandwich should easily feed 2. As you go through the line you will see the desert case - I would definitely get the cheesecake with golden raspberries if they have it. If you go near lunch there will probably be a line out the door but don't worry, it goes fast.

                  2. Should dinner be in Monterey or Carmel - would like somewhere where we can walk around first (somewhere with a nice view/close to the water)?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                      There are no downtown restaurants in Carmel that have ocean views. Pacific Edge at the Highlands Inn has beautiful views located 4 miles S of Carmel. Bring a heavy, full wallet. There are ocean view restaurants in Pebble Beach if that interests you. Most of this has been discussed on your TA post though.

                      1. re: TeacherFoodie

                        Hey TF, the walk along the Monterey Coastal Trail is great and not difficult. You could start at the Aquarium and walk into Pacific Grove admiring the beautiful homes on one side and the water on the other. If you are lucky there may be sea lions or otters lounging or playing nearby.

                        That said, I prefer dinner in Carmel where you could also stroll the village or down to Carmel Beach which I really like. Either way you'll have a wonderful experience.

                        1. re: curiousgeo

                          Lunch (Pacific Grove) - Campagno's, Fifi's or Passionfish
                          Dinner List - 1833, Andree's Bouchee, or Demetra Cafe

                          1. re: TeacherFoodie

                            Erase Passionfish for lunch...dinner only there.

                              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                Just thought of something...Roy's at Spanish Bay (Pebble Beach). Lovely at sunset with cocktails/wine outside around a fire pit with bagpipes and an ocean view. Either stay and dine at Roys or move on to your dining place of choice. There is a $9.50 entrance fee to the 17 mile drive that takes you there but it is refunded with a $25. purchase. Certainly something different!


                      2. Thanks everyone for your advice!

                        We will be having lunch in Pacific Grove.

                        I'm wondering if we should go to Big Sur for dinner - people have commented on how beautiful it is there. I figure the best way to fit it in it for dinner, that way we have a break from driving between lunch and dinner. Not sure we will do the 17 mile drive but considering it.

                        So... dinner in Carmel or Big Sur?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TeacherFoodie

                          I would switch and have dinner in Carmel and lunch in Big Sur. The appeal of Big Sur is the view and of course you can't see anything once it gets dark. Plus that drive is not fun at night and you certainly would have to limit wine/cocktails.

                          Also, the 17 mile drive is well worth doing. The scenery is spectacular and some of the homes are amazing. It's fun to stop and look around Pebble Beach and also a good place to have lunch. The market at Pebble Beach makes great sandwiches and there are plenty of placesoverlooking the ocean throughout 17 mile where you can picnic weather permitting.

                          Also, the suggestion above to have a drink at Spanish Bay at sunset with the bagpiper is spot on. It's beautiful and unlike anything you will find elsewhere.

                        2. I guess we will stick with Pacific Grove for lunch, then the 17 mile drive and likely Carmel for dinner. I don't think we are going to have time for the 17 mile drive and the aquarium. Not sure which one to pick.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: TeacherFoodie

                            Strongly consider Wild Plum Cafe for Breakfast/Lunch in Monterey. I've now had two great meals there (one today in fact) and the food is great. It is all organic and seems more reasonable health/Portion size wise.

                            Also, 1833 is great too, the Pork and lamb entrees I tried were cooked to Perfection and service was stellar!

                            1. re: TeacherFoodie

                              I couldn't imagine going to Carmel and NOT going to the 17 mile drive.
                              It's stunning and you get your $10 voucher validated with $25+ spent at Roy's and what a great way to enjoy the sunset with drinks, app's and a bagpiper playing on the greens.

                              Passion fish for dinner, Sierra Mar for lunch in Big Sur..stop by Big Sur Bakery for goodies, California Market at Hyatt Highlands for breakfast, lunch at Cantinetta Luca and Roy's for dinner and drinks.

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                Unfortunately we are only there for lunch and dinner the first day and breakfast the next, and we have to leave right after breakfast as we have to get to SFO for our flight home.

                                How much time is reasonable for the 17 mile drive?

                                1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                  Re: 17 mile drive. It's been a while since I last did it, but I seem to recall that you should allot an hour at the very least. Probably a bit more if you're doing it on a weekend because of extra traffic.

                                  If it were me, I'd set aside even more time--better part of a morning or afternoon--because you'll probably want to stop at the many pull outs and take pictures & drink in the scenery and views.

                                  1. re: keyroute

                                    If it rains I assume the 17 mile drive wouldn't be worth it?

                                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                      "17" refers to the entire loop around the perimeter of the Del Monte Forest, the actual mileage along the coast from the PG gate to the Carmel gate is @ 6 miles. With no traffic or stops you can make it through in about 20 min. Better to take your time if it's nice, but worth the drive in any weather.

                                      1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                        Unless a storm comes in, any rain will probably be pretty light and 17 mile drive would be worth it. 17 mile drive is amazing and probably offers the best scenery for the shortest drive but there are lots of pretty drives in the area. Highway 1 down to Garrapata State Park is another nice drive - especially if you want to get out and hike a bit. If you are hiking or biking you can get into Pebble for free - there are actually some really cool hiking/biking trails that can be accessed right of Monterey Highway above Pebble Beach . .it's sort of a locals secret but you'll see the big dirt shoulder on the road and probably a few cars parked there. You'll see a trailhead and no sign warning you to keep out.

                                        You really can't go wrong whatever you do.

                                2. re: TeacherFoodie

                                  For lunch or dinner in Pacific Grove you could try Petra, a Jordanian restaurant, with dynamite felafel. They have a trans-Mediterranean menu, so you can get gyros, kebabs and other Levantine fare.

                                    1. re: JohnnyT

                                      I suspect that better middle eastern food exists in Toronto. I would suggest a visit to Passionfish would be more unique to the Monterey area.

                                  1. For 1833 dinner can I wear nice jeans and a nice top or will I stick out wearing jeans? Can my husband wear nice jeans or should he wear dress pants? I wouldn't want to be the only ones in jeans there.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                      No worries, I ate there last Sat with a friend and we were both in nice jeans and blended in well. Heck, even the wait staff wear jeans so no worry. :)

                                    2. Hey Teacher,

                                      I saw your reviews in the SF board and was wondering how your Monterey/Carmel swing went?


                                      1. Hi all,

                                        We ended up eating lunch in Santa Cruz at Kelly's bakery as we got a late start leaving from SF. I had fish tacos and my hubby got the hamburger (both were recommended by the server). My fish tacos were great. The hamburger was okay, apparently it was the bun that made it very good. We got a piece of cheesecake to go, it was really good!

                                        For dinner we ate at 1833 in Monterey. Everything was delicious. We sat in the upstairs room as they had a party downstairs. The chairs were armchairs - very cool. We shared the cheese and bacon biscuits - yum! I would have liked to try their other type of biscuit as well. I had the deep fried hen's egg for a starter. I have not stopped thinking about this app. It was a poached egg wrapped in prociutto and then breaded with panko and deep fried. Definitely in the top 5 of all the things I ate on the trip. My husband had the bone marrow. He enjoyed it. For mains my husband had the lamb and I had the shortrib pasta. We loved it. I wish I would've had room for dessert, but I could not even finish my pasta.

                                        We did not end up trying anything else. I loved this area - so beautiful. I hope to return one day soon!