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Dinner options for Monterey - Help w/ itinerary and questions about Passionfish?

I'll be in Monterey in a few weeks with my family—they'll be visting from the East Coast (Western MA and Portland ME). I'm hoping to figure out our best plan for meals during their visit. Here's what I'm thinking so far:

Friday midday - Family arrives at SFO. On the way down south, we'll stop for a late lunch at Cooking Papa in Foster City, then continue onward to Monterey. We're staying in Pacific Grove.

Friday night - Casual dinner somewhere in Monterey, Pacific Grove or Carmel. Looking for something not fancy, not too expensive, but good food. Open to various cuisines and places, but hopefully it could be something that is different from what's available on the east coast.

Saturday breakfast - Cook at home

Saturday lunch - Maybe takeout sandwiches if there's a great place to do this from....so, any delis or takeout places that are must-stops in Monterey?

Saturday dinner - Currently have a reservation at Passionfish, which looks like a good choice for a nicer dinner. I like the menu, which seems to feature local fish and produce, and the vibe sounds about right for us. Still casual, but nice. But let me know if you think we should head elsewhere instead....any place that is around that price range (or less) and that features local foods and encourages sharing. And if you do recommend Passionfish, any specific things we should be sure to order?

Sunday breakfast/brunch - Looking to stop somewhere interesting on the way home, ideally for some Mexican food if we haven't eaten any already. I've posted into this discussion about breakfast options in Salinas, since I like the idea of stopping there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546946

Any help would be appreciated!! And I will definitely be reporting back

Thanks!
Dave MP

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  1. Just a couple of suggestions to get you started. Breakfast at either First Awakenings in PG or Katy's in Carmel, love both places. Sandwiches at Compagno's Deli in PG. Mi Tierra, a taqueria in Seaside. The only place in Salinas I know about is Sang's Cafe near the Steinbeck Museum (never been myself), but heard that the chicken fried rib steak breakfast is good. I'm sure you will get more ideas too.

    1. The thing to order at Passionfish is WINE. Prices are close to basic retail with little mark up and the list has the best of local wines and from around the world. Otherwise, I don't feel it's the destination that others find it.

      Here's my old post on the ribeye chicken fried steak at Sang's Cafe in Salinas,
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/636572

      And more info on the Salinas location of First Awakenings, also in Oldtown,
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/88001

      4 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Yeah, the wine menu looks great!

        Melanie (or others), are there other places in Monterey you'd recommend instead?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          So you're the poster who mentioned Sang's. I knew I remembered it from somewhere on Chowhound!

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I am more fond of the food at Passionfish than Melanie, and can't think of too many other Monterey places that better fit your description of what you are looking for. I agree that sand dabs are good at Massaro and Santos, when they have them, but the rest of the menu hasn't impressed when I've been. If you do go to Passionfish try the brussel sprouts salad, mussels, bread pudding, sturgeon (I was there New Year's eve and several in my party had an excellent version), calamari. I am not a fan of their crab cakes. Also, if they describe a dish as spicy, you can generally believe them.

            If you don't go through Salinas on your way home for breakfast/brunch consider Tico's in Marina. Here is my report on my first visit to Tico's (with a few notes on Passionfish):

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/428551

            It is a slightly longer route to go through Salinas, although the Steinbeck Museum is definitely worth a stop, or an afternoon.

            Compagno's is in Monterey, not Pacific Grove, but yes, worthwhile for sandwiches, although I find the service a bit chaotic and it tends to try my patience...definitely take out.

            For your casual dinner, two possibilities I haven't tried but would love reports on :-) are Won Ju, Korean: friends swear by it, and these are friends who eat at the Korean places on Telegraph often (Sura in particular). However, the place I am most curious about, and want to try soon, is Amir's Kabob House. Monterey, on Lighthouse. No website that I can find. Place looks appealing and is often crowded when I've drive by.

            Have fun!

            1. re: susancinsf

              Thanks for the recs. This appears to be the website for Amir's, which is now called Amir's Grill and Bar: http://www.amirskabobhouse.com/

          2. If you are looking for local fare, I would suggest tasting the calamari and/or the sand dabs. My favorite places are not at all fancy, but local with fine ocean views.

            www.sandbarandgrillmonterey.com
            Bring lots of quarters for the meters on the municipal pier.

            www.massaroandsantos.com
            Coast guard pier, Monterey.

            1. Hey Dave,

              Life long Monterey visitor here with his 2 cents. For your casual dinner on Friday night might I suggest Hula's on Lighthouse. It is easy to miss since it kind of blends in as you drive by but is really popular with locals. It is kind of a fusion of fresh seafood, caribbean, and asian; I can almost promise you there are not too many places on the EC like this.

              As far as passionfish, I'm in the Melanie boat here; it is good, not amazing as in my opinion the menu never really changes; it is the wine that is amazing! I am a big fan however of 1833 in the old Stokes Adobe. I've eaten there twice and have had both excellent service and food on both occasions. You could do one of the large dishes for splitting amongst the group (Michael Bauer of SF Chronicle fame absolutely LOVES their whole roasted chicken with truffle butter). Also, the maple, bacon biscuits are very nom.

              Breakfast wise, it's probably not what you're looking for as they have very few Mexican options, but First Awakenings will always have my heart. If you want a more local vibe and since you are staying in pg, also consider Holly's on Lighthouse.

              Safe and enjoyable travels!

              2 Replies
              1. re: gmk1322

                We had a very good experience at 1833 just before Christmas, although some friends have said that we lucked out. More casual in ambiance than I expected and the historic adobe was beautifully decorated for the holidays. I know that Dave is fond of extending his evenings by making a second stop for dessert. He might think about ditching the seniors and dropping by 1833 for a nightcap and dessert in the bar or outside by the fire pits.

                 
                 
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  "I know that Dave is fond of extending his evenings by making a second stop for dessert."

                  Haha. You know me too well. Good suggestion!!!

              2. I've only been once to Passionfish but what we had was delicious...great half bottle wine list..almost at cost.

                If you head further down to Big Sur, I would go to Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn for lunch.
                Cantinetta Luca in Carmel for lunch was great.
                I like having drinks before sunset at the lobby lounge for the bagpipe man strolling Pebble.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Beach Chick

                  Just pickin' nits, but Pebble's at the other end of 17 Mile Dr.

                2. It's hard to make suggestions since you're coming from San Francisco where the standards are higher. More ideas:

                  Point Pinos Grill in Pacific Grove
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/889375

                  Mundaka in Carmel
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/855971

                  Esteban in Monterey
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777570

                  1. We discovered Happy Girl Kitchen in PG last time we were there (though they've been there a while). Blue Bottle coffee and good light cafe fare (salads, sandwiches, pastries).

                    And you might see if the menu at Lokal suits you for dinner. I haven't had dinner there, but brunch was nice. It's a pretty spot, in Carmel Valley village.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: davina

                      How nice to see your name pop up on these boards again, davina!

                      Here's a link to a couple more reports on Lokal,
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849240

                      I've heard from some friends that it's best to make a res for dinner to force the kitchen to plan ahead and not run out of food.

                    2. Oh, and another recent discovery: Persian Grill, on Lighthouse in New Monterey. Not a cuisine I expected to see there, but the food was delicious.

                      1. Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions. More detailed reports to come soon, but here's where we ate:

                        Friday lunch at Cooking Papa - Very good. Will post about this on the SF board.

                        Friday dinner at Amir's Kabob House - Some dishes were great, others were only OK. Sort of a neighborhoody vibe, and I probably wouldn't go out of my way to eat here...but it was perfect for us for a casual dinner, and the kebabs in particular were very good. Thanks susancinsf for the suggestion! More details soon.

                        Saturday breakfast - Cooked at home

                        Saturday lunch - We bought sandwiches at Compagno's, which we brought down to Big Sur. Half-sandwiches here are HUGE so we definitely over-ordered, but this place hit the spot. Thanks curiousgeo for the rec.

                        Saturday dinner - Passionfish - As was predicted, the wine menu was great, service was nice, food varied from very good to rather mediocre...I would give some dishes an A, and others only a C+. More on this soon. But I'm glad we checked it out.

                        Sunday breakfast - La Casa del Sazon in Salinas. Definitely worth it....tried both red and green chilaquiles, huevos con chorizo, and the molcajete. Maybe the best meal of the weekend.

                        I'll post links to my more full reports once they're up!
                        Thanks again everyone!
                        Dave MP