3 days in Monterey-Carmel area
my wife, 21 year old son and I will be spending 3 days in the Monterey Bay area in early August. We are interested in dining suggestions for lunches and dinners; we enjoy almost any type of cuisine but would prefer to experience any regional specialties that are not necessarily available elsewhere. We plan to bring only casual clothes so nothing too fancy please. Thanks!
We just found a terrific, hole-in-the-wall donut place in Monterey. It's called Red's Donuts, with about 10 stools at the counter. Freshly baked donuts, decent coffee, and wonderful service. They claim it's the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Monterey. Definitely worth a try if you like slightly offbeat places.
We spent the weekend in Pacific Grove recently and had a great dinner at Il Vecchio on Central Ave. in PG. We just stumbled on it on our way to another restaurant. Wonderful pastas, casual lively atmosphere, and very friendly people. Wish we had known about it before!
If you really want to enjoy the best of Monterey cuisine, you should first focus on the seafood. Sand dabs (a small sole), spot prawns, Dungeness crab, squid, sardines, and abalone are distinctive and characteristic seafoods found on the central coast of California – though all may not be available fresh when you are visiting. Many local restaurants, including even the tourist restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf (Domenico's and Café Fina are my favorites there) will feature some entrées using these ingredients – though abalone these days is farmed and very expensive. A crab and seafood stew in a tomato base, called cioppino, is a local specialty. Thick versions of creamy clam chowder are also very common.
In addition, the Monterey Peninsula offers wide range of truly excellent European-style breads – and Monterey is at the southern edge of the San Francisco Bay sourdough bread region. But other robust crusty breads are also outstanding. You will also be in the area for fruit/vegetable/lettuce harvest. Tuesday afternoons feature a huge farmers market on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, but other farmers markets throughout the week are also worth visiting.
As for restaurant recommendations, Sea Harvest features simple and inexpensive preparations of generally local fish in fish markets/restaurants with no atmosphere. Passionfish, a local favorite in Pacific Grove, serves a wider range of seafoods and preparations as well as featuring an extensive wine list (with an emphasis on California wines) with bottles priced at around standard retail. No doubt, other posters will recommend additional good restaurants, but I have tried to focus on places that are distinctively local.
Enjoy your vacation and report back if you can.