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Monterey Aquarium with 2 year old - Please rate my list

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So we're going up from LA for a long weekend to visit in-laws and take my son to the Aquarium. He is a very adventurous eater (loves kimchee, carnitas, salami, anything with deep flavors or spicy kick) and is pretty good in restaurants. We want to have good food but in less formal environments where we can order and eat in under 1 hour (preferably 45 minutes). A louder room would be good as well as he is just starting to find his voice.

We're staying at the Intercontinental which is literally next door to the Aquarium. We have a car and want to do some sightseeing so not opposed to driving to Carmel or Santa Cruz for a good option.

Breakfast
First Awakenings
Big Sur Bakery

Lunch
Henry's BBQ
Campagno's Market
Sam's Chowder House - do they make a warm butter lobster roll?

Dinner - need 2 dinner places
Passionfish
Casanova
Restaurant 1833
Cafe Rustica
Cantinetta Lucca

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  1. I am from Monterey. First Awakenings is good, personally there is a small breakfast place in seaside called the Breakfast club that is to die for! It's in a strip mall and not super fancy, but the food is good! I like Randy's sandwich shop in Monterey (cash only), they get fresh bread from a bakery in Carmel every day, but they close when they run out of bread so there is no set hours. If you are looking for good chowder Vivlos Chowder House on Lighthouse is delicious, get it inanimate a bread bowl and they will toast the top of the bread and put cheese on it! If you like Italian food, Rosine's in Monterey on lighthouse is sooooo good, it's the only restaurant I will eat Lasgna, they also have huge 5 layer cake slices for desert that could feed a family of four!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Marleemarie

      Thanks. I'll add Breakfast Club to our breakfast list. We're up at 6:30 so we have plenty of time to drive there. Don't worry about strip malls, we're coming from LA. I practically live in strip malls.

      Randy's looks great. Any opinion on the sandwiches here vs. Campagno's? I've never been to either but most people seem to think Campagno's is the best sandwich in the area.

      1. re: js76wisco

        I like Randy's better because they have a chicken and bacon sandwich (my fav). Camagnos is okay, its been around forever, which is why so many people probably like it.

        1. re: Marleemarie

          Ok, fair enough. The sandwiches on the Randy's website look great and everybody likes nice freshly baked bread. I can be down with a nice chicken and bacon sandwich.

          1. re: js76wisco

            Marlemarie - Randy's is closed for 2 weeks during the time we are visiting. Do you have any other suggestions in the area for lunch?

    2. I mean "in a" bread bowl sorry, doing this on my phone,
      Stupid autocorrect

      1. We had a nice meal at Cantinetta Luca on Monday but I'm not sure you can eat dinner in under an hour unless you only order one course. Cafe Rustica is fine but not really worth driving all the way to Carmel Valley for dinner if you're staying in Monterey. Mundaka in Carmel is a tapas/small plates restaurant with interesting flavor combinations that your son might like. When busy, the place can be loud.

        5 Replies
        1. re: PattyC

          Thanks for the info. Will add Mundaka to the list. Seems like a good menu and we like tapas. I've had some pretty good tapas recently in Chicago at Jose Garces place. It's the best tapas place I've been to.

          1. re: js76wisco

            Just had a terrific dinner at Mundaka last night and the food came out pretty fast. Our friends thought it was their second favorite meal this week after Aubergine and we have to agree (also dined at La Bicyclette and Cantinetta Luca).

            1. re: PattyC

              sounds great. we have Mundaka scheduled for a dinner.

              did you eat any good lunches in the area that you could recommend?

              1. re: js76wisco

                Are you just looking for a sandwich place or something a little more than that?

                We like Carmel Belle for sandwiches/salads/charcuterie. We didn't have lunch there this time only because I thought the line was too long (I'm impatient and it was Memorial Day weekend). It's an order at the counter type place inside Doud Craft Studios.

                For a place with table service you could try Basil. We had an excellent dinner there on Saturday. Probably our third favorite this trip.

                I also really like the deli food at Stone Creek Kitchen. You can get it to go or they have a few outdoor tables.

                1. re: PattyC

                  This is right up our alley. Both Carmel Belle and Basil both look like places where we can find a good variety of things for my pregnant wife, my 18 month old and my carnivorous self. Thanks again. We need some reasons to go down to Carmel during lunch anyway. There is only so much time we plan on spending inside the aquarium.

        2. I stayed at the Intercontinental between Xmas and New Years. I daresay it's the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at!

          In addition to the suggestions already made, I'd like to throw Hula's on Lighthouse (within walking distance of the Intercontinental) into the mix. They serve Hawaiian fusion at reasonable prices. When I went, they had Happy Hour on Tuesdays with $5 appetizers, which was a great value.

          1 Reply
          1. re: keyroute

            Wow that is good to hear. We got a really good mid week rate for around $200 per night. I'll add that to our list for lunch and early dinner. Interesting menu.

          2. Just got back and we ended up going to
            Passionfish
            Mundaka
            First Awakenings
            Campagno's Market
            Carmel Belle

            The only regret we have is not going to lunch at Carmel Belle every day we were there. The service, selection, quality of ingredients and food was the best on the trip. We highly recommend going there. Had 2 amazing salads. Every component of the salad was outstanding - roasted tomatoes, cheese from San Carlos, arugala, bacon, avocado, etc... The mixed fruit plate had some of the sweetest blueberries, strawberries and plums. It was fresh seasonal ingredients at its best. The other great find on the trip right down the street is the Carmel Bakery. They make their own pretzels and we devoured these like we didn't eat for months.

            Campagno's was a bit oversold in my opinion. It's pretty expensive for what it is. The sandwiches are huge though. I ordered an Italian combo (sausage and meatballs). They put them in the microwave to reheat. Oh well. The guy who runs the place is as nice and friendly of a person as you could ever run across. They were packed with military people and regulars.

            Passionfish was very nice but it was hard to experience because my kid was flipping out. We ate very fast and left quick. We had the shrimp with white beans and the short rib with spaetzle and swiss chard. Both dishes definitely showed refinement. Good presentation. We loved both dishes and would definitely go back here.

            First Awakenings was good for what it is. Large portions of reliable good diner type of breakfast. You get a lot of bang for your buck. The only complaint I have is the amount, or lack thereof, of corned beef in the hash. It was mostly potatoes. But hard to complain when you get 2 lbs of it. The bacon, hash browns and english muffin were great.

            Mundaka was great. I wrote another more lengthy review elsewhere.

            3 Replies
            1. re: js76wisco

              Glad Mundaka and Carmel Belle worked out for you. Thanks for reporting back.

              1. re: PattyC

                Cool!
                Thanks for the list.
                My family will be driving down next week for a wedding. A lot of us are on a really tight budget, so I was wondering if y'all have any family friendly suggestions that aren't
                "fast food"? (under $12/pp inclusive)
                The kids in the group range from 1-13 and we've got some picky eaters in the bunch.
                We'll be looking for a Friday & Saturday breakfast and lunch place and maybe a Friday dinner place. First Awakenings menu looks good, but there are no prices on the website : (
                American, Deli & Chinese are OK, but unfortunately most of the other people in this group don't like spicy food. Also, everyone else except for the 3 in family are Mormon, so no pubs or sports bars please. Is there such a thing as fresh and local on a tight budget?
                If so, please enlighten me. Thanks!

                1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                  Sea Harvest is good for inexpensive fresh seafood.

                  If you are in town during the week, check out the downtown Farmers Market