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Nov 6, 2005 02:50 PM

Back to Monterey County to Chowdown: What's New? Faves?

  • n

It's been a few months since I checked in about chow news in Monterey County. I had culled a list from many posts back then and am planning on eating more delicious meals at the restaurants you all recommended then: Tarpey's early bird specials, Passionfish for the crabcakes and duck confit, El Miguelino for fish, Pho King, and one new one I discovered in Salinas, Chicken Sctratch Flats. And I understand the people who own Chicken Flats also own Hullabaloo in Salinas.

There are a few places you all recommended then that I still want to try: Garcia Taqueria, La Tortuga (Cuban Sand.), Mom's Home Cooking (soul food?), and the Oriental Cafe'(?) at 1760 Freemont. I also heard that the cocoanut shrimp at the Hula Cafe' (?) on Lighthouse in Monterey near the Longs was really good.

I'd love to hear what your comments are about the above, and your favorite dishes, and has anything great opened up in Monterey County in the last few months? If you have other wonderful Inexpensive/moderate recommendations, I'd really appreciate hearing about them too.

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  1. l
    Lance Monosoff

    Mom's Home Cooking is no more. And no loss at that. You had to wipe the grease off your table before sitting down.

    The Oriental Cafe is both Chinese and Korean. If you like Korean, better is the Orient Express, also in Seaside, or another one on Carmel Avenue, in Marina, left hand side as you are going up Carmel Avenue, on a corner in a very small strip mall.

    Tarpy's only if you want to dine with Republicans who like to be seen. Certainly not for the food.

    Skip El Miguelino and go to Garcia Taqueria. It's hard to find, let me know if you want directions. Idiot as I am, I took French instead of Spanish, so it's a little hard to order, but there's always a friendly Hispanic to help. Staff does not speak English. Their tongue is to die for. As authentic as you can get.

    By far the best new restaurant is La Gioestra. Italian at it's finest. As good as anything I had in Italy. Downhill from the Del Monte Shopping Center at 1244 Munras Avenue (831)647-1133. Across the street from the shopping center and at the next corner. All the appetisers are great. Squid comes with their tenacles. Salads so so, main courses wonderful except the Bolognese pasta. Most expenive thing on the menu is $17 for sea bass cooked with grapes (I know it sounds questionable) that's wonderful. I hosted a goodby party for a treasured client here. At dessert time, the owner suggest his (name escapes me.... the one made with lady fingers at the bottom soaked in rum). I told him I never liked that dessert and he said, "You have not tried my..." It was wonderful.

    His Zabaglione (first time I've had it) was so wonderful I made it for some friends using Marcella Hazan's recipe. It's a little tricky to make. Mine was not has good as his, but it will be better the next time.

    The owner purchased the business from a lack luster pizza joint. But he kept the brick oven. Hint hint. Wines reasonably priced.

    Best restaurants-

    La Geostra - see above

    Passion Fish- Every thing is great except for the beef short ribs. If they are offering pork belly as their special, take it. Oh man. I told the waitress I could not see macaroni and cheese as the side dish. She said, "If you don't like it, I'll get you something else."

    Later, she came by and asked how my meal was. I simply hunched over my plate, protecting it from her grasp.

    Max's Grill- in Pacific Grove (good food in PG?) on Forest, just before Lighthouse Avenue, on right hand side. They are packed for early bird dinner which I have not been to. Had his duck ravioli and was swooning. Known for his citrus sauces.

    Stokes Adobe- Monterey across the street from the Monterey Post Office. Formal, elegent, more expensive $18-24 (birthday, business lunch/dinner), and not a bad thing on the menu.

    Tommy's Wok- Carmel. Just about the only local joint in Carmel. $10.00 per dish, Chinese. He worked in a French restaurant for 10 years so it's really fusion food. Where I take my Chinese clients and my friends. My favorite (and only) place in Carmel.

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you would like more information.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Lance Monosoff

      It sure would be nice to finally have a good Italian restaurant in Monterey: thanks for the tip, I will check it out on my next trip (if I can tear myself away from Passionfish :-))

      Speaking of which, it is funny you mention the pork belly and mac and cheese: the mac and cheese is the usual side dish with the pork belly when it is offered, and is the main reason I've never ordered it. I've been tempted, but with macaroni and cheese it just sounded like too much...but sounds like perhaps I should take the plunge.

      1. re: susancinsf
        Lance Monosoff

        If you don't like the Mac & Cheese, I'll come and get it. It really really is amazing. And I'm sure calorie free.
        And when you add it to the pork belly, wow. I mean WOW!

      2. re: Lance Monosoff

        nice report. lots of solid info here. many thanks.

        1. re: Lance Monosoff

          Nice to see you on the boards, Lance. Great to hear about the Italian place. I agree about Tarpy's. I never have understood the appeal. And of course, I love Garcia's as well - though I do like the seafood enchiladas at El Miguelino.

          I like Pho King better than the Orient Cafe - which in my memory is Chinese/Vietnamese. But I did like the sour shrimp soup at the Orient. (I'm thinking of the place in the University Plaza (?) - the same stripmall as Barn Thai).

          My experience at Max's has been ordinary - not bad, just not special, and I would always opt for Passionfish (about which I too am passionate) for a dinner in PG. Also, what do you think about Taste or the Red House?

          Anyway, good hearing from you!


          1. re: e.d.
            Lance Monosoff

            Ed- I think Taste is very good as well as The Red House. Both would have to be on my top ten list. I should have mentioned those two as well. Drop me a line next time your in town and we will try something new.

            1. re: Lance Monosoff

              Lance, any Japanese restuarant faves? Will be in town on Fri & Sat--will try the taqueria (love lengua)but would like a rec for Sat night, not too pricey. (Tommy's in Carmel sounds good.) I've not been able to find Japanese food to my liking in that area, but I've only been to the touristy places (PG, Carmel Barnyard and Carmel proper). Is there a traditional spot with a comfortable ambiance?

          2. re: Lance Monosoff
            Niki Rothman

            I love your tips! Excellent descriptions, and you've got my price range pegged - Passionfish and Stokes would be the splurge dinners of the trip. I think I'll try all your recs. And do tell where Garcia Taqueria is please.

            1. re: Niki Rothman
              Lance Monosoff

              Garcia Taqueria the best and hardest little place to find. From Monterey heading North on Highway 1 -

              Exit North Fremont (same exit as Hiway 68 East to Salinas or Monterey Airport but that will split off in the right hand lane).

              You will actually be in North Monterey, traveling to the City of Seaside. In 3-4 minutes you will pass a large intersection where a Ralph's Grocery Store is on your right, at Fremont and Canyon Del Rey. Continue straight, still on Fremont but you are now in Seaside- for another 3-4 minutes.

              Look for a Valero Gas station on your right and fill up if you need gas (good prices). One very very short block later, right on Broadway Blvd. There is a Mexican grocery store on the corner. Just after the grocery store and parking lot, pull into the very next driveway.

              You will see another Mexican grocery store in front of you and Domino's Pizza on the left end. Just park. If you look closely, you will see Garcia Taqueria to the right of Domino's. Unfortunely, with the great food you have to listen to a blaring TV but it's worth it. Happy eating!

              1. re: Lance Monosoff

                It is between the Latino Market (tht is the market's name) and Domino's. In fact, it is connected to the market, but has a separate entrance. There is no atmosphere, so I usually get stuff to go and park by the beach and get my meal with a view.

                1. re: e.d.

                  Thanks for the very kind tips and directions. I'll report back after the trip.
                  What are your favorite things at Garcia?

                  1. re: Niki Rothman

                    For most of the meat selections, you can choose to get the meat in tacos, burritos, or tortas. I like the tortas and burritos best. The tacos seem very plain. What is great about Garcia's is the selection of meats - not only standard stuff like excellent al pastor - but also more exotic stuff like cabeza (stewed beef head meat, like beef cheeks) and lengua (tongue). But their chicken is good as well. Lance says that the lengua plate is excellent also. I haven't had it, but if he says it's good, I'm sure it is.


                2. re: Lance Monosoff

                  Thanks so much for the kind tips and detailed directions.
                  What are your favorite things to eat at Garcia?

            2. We recommend Tarpy's in Monterey. They have a huge selection and everything has always been great. They have fun Wednesday wine tastings as well.



              1. Heading to the Monterey Peninsula. Been reading all the posts from the last year or so and was looking for a quick update. Will be there the weekend of the 22nd of July (along with about 100,000 other people).

                Cafe fina
                Fresh Cream
                White House
                Garcia Taqueria
                Max's Grill
                La Giostra

                A simple thumbs up or down would suffice.

                You can see that I'm all over the map. Feel free to suggest any noteworthy newcomers. From funk to fine.

                Thanks so much.

                1 Reply
                1. re: WileysHungryAgain

                  As a former local, I usually stay away from the Wharf - thus I would recommend Monterey Fish House or Massaro & Santos over Abalonetti or Cafe Fina.

                  The same chef who started White House started Fresh Cream years ago. People say it is still good, but if I were going to spend the money, I would go to Carmel for Bouchee instead.

                  Still, that's a good list.


                2. I am a local and have never eaten at Garcias, but will fix that ASAP.

                  Don't leave out Marina. I know, it's not typcially a Mecca of fabulous food, but there are a couple of places worth checking out: one is the English pub on Reindollar. Excellent local beers and MUCH better pub fare than the Mucky Duck. Across the street is a new Thai place called My Thai, which has great Thai.

                  Pho King has pepper shrimp that will make you weep into your Hue.