After many weekend visits to the Monterey area over the last couple years, when it comes to food the only problem I run into is having too many spots to enjoy in a short time. Trying to fit in our favorites and still try some new places seems impossible, but somehow we keep expanding the list.
Whether it’s farm to fork, tasty Mexican, or delicious Italian, you can fill just about any craving without traveling far, and you’ll often end up with a view. Since it is too hard to list my favorites in any particular order take a look at my favorite spots in the different cities around the bay.
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For both breakfast and lunch this place is the perfect diner. It sits right on the pier at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, which is perfect since you can wander it while you wait. The wait is well worth it though. Whether you are trying to enjoy their giant pancakes (make sure you share) or their melt in your mouth tuna melt for lunch they will not disappoint.
The kitchy diner feeling just adds to the fun. If you do want to make it for breakfast just make sure to head out a little early since there will be a wait and if you sit down after 11am you’ll only get lunch.
If you like pubs with good food look no further. This spot feels like you’ve walked onto an old British pirate ship, but in a way that is still homey. Their fish and chips were delicious and exactly what I was looking for at the end of our road trip. Centrally located only a couple blocks from the Aquarium. Stick around and enjoy a beer before exploring more of downtown.
Gianni’s is one of those perfect hole in the wall American Italian spots. With the checkered table cloths, tiny thick glasses for your wine and a very casual welcoming vibe. That is even before you get to their food. The pizza is perfect New York Style slices and we are still upset we didn’t see the garlic bread when we ordered. The perfect spot for a laid-back dinner right in downtown.
The perfect place to end an afternoon or start you evening. This spot is tucked in the back of what looks like a bad shopping mall just off Cannery Row. Don’t worry the second you walk in you’ll see the 180-degree view of the bay. Pass on the tasting bar and grab a seat at one of the windows. You can either enjoy an appetizer before making it to your next spot, or you can indulge here and make a meal out of them. Their baked brie was amazing and I know I will be ordering it again. Besides the food enjoy some of the local wines of Monterey. My favorite wineries are Hahn and District 7.
Carmel By The Sea
While wandering Carmel we didn’t want to splurge on a meal, but still wanted to enjoy it. We happily stumbled upon Carmel Belle, which turned out to be exactly what we were craving. Prepared with all local ingredients you’ll find delicious salads and sandwiches, plus fresh juice combinations. Their chicken and brie sandwich was pretty much perfect on a sunny afternoon.
I have to admit I wasn’t sure about this spot when some co-workers suggested it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The quirky building is fun to explore and the Southwestern flavors blended with Monterey favorites were a hit. The margarita was perfect after the long drive down and the quesadilla with artichoke and shrimp was a perfect combination.
It is hard to even start with Fandango. We found it from a waiter at home’s recommendation and it has been our go to spot ever since. It is perfect for a romantic dinner for two, or a fun group outing. It is tucked into an old house with each room being a little different. It is fine dining, but with a quirky feel to it. You can walk away without spending too much, or like we often do splurge by ordering a little of everything. I’ve been working my way through their pasta dishes, I think I like the salmon fettuccini with a pink sauce. Other than those the salads, entrees, and desserts are all amazing. I highly recommend ordering the chocolate mousse.
A great hole in the wall, family friendly Mexican food spot. Their enchiladas and fajitas are particularly pleasing. My boyfriend insists we stop by just about everytime we visit the area. Their tacos are a bit different with big flaky deep-fried flour tortillas that are definitely gratifying.
If you are craving a tasty brunch in the area this is it. Their crab cake eggs benedict is one of my favorite benedicts I’ve come across. It also is inside of a cute old house with a relaxing environment if you’re planning on spending a day exploring the region.
The Hard Part Now Is Choosing Where to Go
If I could only send you two places it would have to be Fandangos for dinner and LouLou’s Griddle for breakfast or lunch. Both are my can’t miss spots in the region, but it is a tough decision.
Spend the weekend indulging in delicious food, and you can make up the calories by exploring everything else the region has to offer. Are there any spots that you love and I haven’t had a chance to visit yet? Let me know.
For more information about Monterey & Carmel check out these great books on Amazon including Day Hikes On the California Central Coast, Fodor’s Northern California, Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips, and Lonely Planet Coastal California.