Foggy Moon 2019 Dining Suggestions from Warren
© Warren Blier, August 2019
A bit of background: In his free time, when not calling dances, forecasting the weather, or engaging in his other pursuits and hobbies, Warren Blier runs two large, longstanding Meetup Groups:
- Monterey Movie Mavens (1,012 members as of this typing)
- Monterey Peninsula Dining Adventurers (645 members)https://www.meetup.com/Dining-Adventurers/
Six Recommended Places within Walking Distances (0.5 mile) of the Dance Hall
- East Village Coffee Lounge, 498 Washington St, Monterey: $ Young, cool, hip and urban (about the only such place left on the Monterey Peninsula). Very good beverages and pastries, reasonable prices. Only rarely open after 6 pm.
- Frutti Del Mar Grill, 431 Tyler St, Monterey: $$ Very good and quite reasonably priced fresh seafood and Italian-American dishes. Used to be the only really good restaurant in the neighboring city of Marina, then they moved to their present location in downtown Monterey (so much for dining in Marina). Only downside is that they can struggle a bit with serving large groups; keep it to tables of 4-5 or less.
- Melville Tavern, 484 Washington St, Monterey: $$ Just down the street from East Village. Very good gastropub fare in a nice space. Good choice for lunch or dinner, though can get a bit noisy in the evenings.
- Paris Bakery Café, 271 Bonifacio Place, Monterey: $-to-$$ One of a plethora of amazing bakeries we have here on the Peninsula. Really good breads and pastries, also a café (lunch), coffee shop and deli.
- Rosine’s Restaurant, 434 Alvarado St, Monterey: $-to-$$ Long-standing, very popular Monterey restaurant with good basic American cuisine and amazing cakes/desserts. If nothing else, walk just inside and check them out at the display case by the cash register (and slices of cakes, pies etc can be purchased directly). Guy Fieri of Food Network fame filmed at Rosine's for his hit show 'Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives' – episode “Stuffed and Twisted” which still airs at times.
- Turn 12 Bar and Grill, 400 Tyler St, Monterey: $$ Very good, reasonably priced California comfort cuisine with abundant auto-racing themed décor. Its name pays homage to the famed Laguna Seca racetrack between Monterey and Salinas, which has 11 turns. Quite a lot of seating in addition to the 50-foot long pewter bar; handles large groups well (assuming sufficient seating space available).
Six Recommended Places within a Short Drive (1-2 miles) of the Dance Hall
- Il Vecchio, 110 Central Ave, Pacific Grove (just across the boundary between Monterey and Pacific Grove, where Lighthouse Ave changes name to Central Ave): $$ Among my favorite places on the Peninsula, though every once in a while they can have an off night. Pretty authentic Roman-style Italian eatery serving housemade pasta and other Italian-themed dishes in a cool environment with rustic-chic décor. Pretty reasonable prices. I think their gnocchi are fantastic and gotta check out their gelato dessert creations. The owner, Carl Alasko (tall and lanky, likely to see him around in the evening), retired from a previous career as a clinical psychologist and for a period of time had a “Dear Abby” sort of advice column in the local paper.
- La Bahia Mexican American Cuisine, 675 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey: $ OK, gotta come clean here. I’m not personally a fan of Mexican food, but did recently go to this place with a group of friends. Smallish interior (~ 5 for max group size), very friendly service, popular with locals, really good food, large-to-huge portions, exceptionally reasonable prices. Arguably the best place for Mexican food in the City of Monterey.
- Lalla Grill, 1400 Del Monte (Shopping) Center, Monterey (enter from Munras Ave, then go all the way in to the far SE corner at the back end): $$ Reasonable prices, wide-ranging menu, open until 11 pm Thurs - Sat (among the latest on the Peninsula). Upscale comfy-casual with a wide-ranging menu. Nice indoor and outdoor seating areas. Among the best places on the Peninsula for being ok with very large groups (but make a reservation). Their strawberry salad with raspberry vinaigrette on fresh-baked flatbread is one of my all-time favorite dishes. Service is friendly but can get a little scattered. Recommend staying with the simpler dishes; not the place for a steak or prime rib dinner. Oh, their complimentary potato chips are fresh-made in-house.
- Old Fisherman’s Grotto, 39 Fishermans Wharf, Monterey: $$$ One of my favorite restaurants on the Peninsula and arguably the best of all the restaurants on Monterey’s Municipal Wharf. Great seafood, beautiful views of the water and harbor and an old world upscale feel and décor. A bit on the pricey side. Very popular with both locals and tourists; will need a reservation for any time in the evening. Chris Shake (rhymes with “bake”), the owner, is usually around during dinner hours and is a warm and welcoming guy (and always immaculately attired in 3-piece pin-striped suit).
- Peter B’s Brewpub, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey: $$ Really good food, especially for a Brewpub, and open til midnight Friday and Saturday. Indoor and outdoor seating (some around glass fire pits). Can be a bit hard to find; recommend simply going into the (vast) lobby of the Portola Plaza Hotel and asking one of the staff to direct you. It’s in the SW corner of Custom House Plaza, only a couple of hundred feet from the Custom House itself – still standing and recognized as the oldest government building in California (it is California State Historic Landmark #1).
- Whole Foods, 800 Del Monte Center, Monterey (enter the shopping center from the uphill of the two entrances off Munras): ?$$? Yah, including the sole Whole Foods in Monterey County on the list because it’s only about a mile from the dance hall and has all the usual grab and go meal possibilities (hot food bar, salad bar, made to order sandwiches + pizzas + burritos etc). Parking lot ingress/egress is exceptionally poorly designed and at more popular times can take a while to work your way out.
Six Personal Favorites in the Monterey Peninsula Area
Already have 2 listed above (Il Vecchio and Old Fisherman’s Grotto); here are some others.
- Beach House Restaurant at Lovers Point, 620 Ocean View Blvd, Pacific Grove. $ (Sunset Specials) to $$-to-$$$ regular dinner menu. Gorgeous dead-on views of Monterey Bay from both the dining room and especially the outdoor dining deck, and quite good food. Their Sunset (dinner) Specials menu, available to anyone every day of the week with the caveat that the order must be placed between 4:00 and 5:30 pm, is among the best dining deal on the Peninsula – can check out the details on their web page. Will almost definitely need a reservation though to get in for that.
- California Market at Pacific’s Edge, 120 Highland Dr at the Hyatt Highlands Inn, Carmel. $$-to-$$$ (Breakfast, Lunch and Weekend Brunch). Dinner there is in a whole different price ballpark ($$$$$) and not recommended. Not a long drive, but the last 1/3 mile is kind of tricky, so familiarize yourself with the route before heading over. Drop Dead Gorgeous Views straight out over the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day especially, best views of any restaurant in the region, and on par with the best of any restaurant in the world. Doesn’t do well with groups larger than 4-5, otherwise food and service are fine and has a very nice upscale/casual feel. Prices for breakfast/lunch/brunch entrees are $5-$8 more than at a comparably good non-view local-area restaurant, which is very reasonable considering the setting you get. Surprisingly unknown even by some long-time locals living on the Peninsula. Make a reservation. Note: just up the street is the famed Tickle Pink Inn.
- Dametra Café, Ocean Ave &, Lincoln St, Carmel-By-The-Sea $$-to-$$$ (note that there are no street numbers in the incorporated city of Carmel-By-The-Sea – and therefore also no U.S. mail delivery but that’s a story for another time). Mediterranean cuisine. In 2014 it ranked #6 in Yelp’s list of Top 100 Places to Eat in the United States. Owned by two really nice, warm and friendly guys, Bashar Sneeh and Faisal Nimri, who almost look like they could be brothers but are actually from different countries and of different ethnicities (Bashar is Jordanian and Faisal Syrian). Both by the way are professional caliber musicians (on the Oud) and if you happen to be there at the right time of the evening, you’ll hear one or both play (usually accompanied by someone on Doumbek and sometimes also the head chef, who’s Mexican, singing in Spanish). Food is quite good and service friendly, but it’s all the rest that makes it special. Will absolutely need reservations to get in for dinner, and they won’t take a group larger than 6 (and even that size might be tough).
- From Scratch Restaurant, 3626 the Barnyard (Shopping Center), Carmel. $$ Breakfast, brunch lunch, open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm. A bit tricky just to get to the Barnyard Shopping Center itself, and even then still not easy to find From Scratch (but there are signboard maps and directories and can always just ask someone). One of my 2 favorite places for brunch on the Peninsula. Popular with locals, very good food and service, large portions, reasonable prices and nice indoor and outdoor dining areas. Their cinnamon French toast is the bomb (just sayin’). Like Rosine’s (above), Guy Fieri of Food Network fame also filmed at From Scratch for 'Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives' – episode “Cross Country Classics” (there’s a link on their website: https://fromscratchrestaurant.com/). Oh, and if you happen to come across Bubbles, tell her Warren says hi J (Bonus addition: Sur Restaurant next door is also very good and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
- Mission Ranch Restaurant, 26270 Dolores Street, Carmel. $$$ Dinner, Sunday brunch and famed piano bar. Classic upscale American cuisine. All of Mission Ranch was saved from teardown and condo development by Clint Eastwood, who purchased it in 1986 and then put enormous $s and effort into having it restored while maintaining the period style and feel. Doesn’t take reservations; only effective way to get in for dinner is to be in the queue outside the restaurant entrance before 4 pm (first dinner seating is at 5 pm). Beautiful outdoor dining deck with views of sheep grazing in the foreground and waves crashing into Pt Lobos in the background. Very good food and service. Clint gave a shout-out to the home crowd at the piano bar during his 2005 Academy Award Best Director acceptance speech (for his film “Million Dollar Baby”).
- Red House Café, 662 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove. $$-to-$$$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. New American/European cuisine. Restored classic old red Victorian house in the heart of Pacific Grove. Cozy, charming and very good food and service. Will only take reservations on for the evening (5 pm on). The other of my 2 favorite places for brunch, and have had many a good dinner there.
© Warren Blier, August 2019