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Carmel, Pacific Grove, and/or Monterey


marie-louise
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We're thinking of heading down the coast the week after President's Day-haven't picked out a place to stay yet-and am wondering if there are any great restaurants in any of these towns? I haven't stayed in Carmel in about 25 years, I usually just pass through, OD on cute in about an hour, and keep on driving...

PS Recommendations on things to do / places to stay also accepted.

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Carmel, at least, is so heavily touristed that pretty much everything is expensive, crap, or both. I do have a couple of suggestions:

1. Find a deli, buy some bread, meat, and an avocado. Then go to The Cheese Shop in Carmel (in the shopping center at the top of the downtown) and ask them what's good. That cheese shop absolutely rules. Then drive south a bit to Point Lobos and go for a hike. Any trail will do. Even when it's freezing outside, eating this in the car is one of my favorite Carmel meals.

2. For a charming French restaurant experience, try Chez Felix in Carmel. Madame is in front, Monsieur in the kitchen, and it's like you have your very own grandmere for the evening. Resolutely traditional simple fare, with occasional local fish specials that are actually special. Very reasonably priced, to boot. Can fill up, so call ahead.

I don't have much input on the truly "fine" dining, sorry.

Walt

Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA
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From our last visit, my wife and I concluded that Stokes Adobe and Passionfish were the two best dining experiences from our 5-day road trip up north.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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For food: Tarpy's Roadhouse in Monterey: foodie friends (including my friend, Joe Ortiz, who is one of the owners of the legendary Gayle's Bakery in Capitola) love it.

I can't find a link to it, but in the very lovely hamlet of Pacific Grove, there is a good place called "Peppers Mexicali Café." Mexican, loosely, with Caribbean influences. Well-priced, great chow and good wine/beer offerings in a pleasant, warm atmosphere. Exxxxxxcellent salsa.

I can't find a link except to Frommers.

In Monterey, do visit "A Taste of Monterey" on Fisherman's Row, about two blocks up from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (if you haven't been, it is one of the best ways to spend a day...promise).

The tasting room, with a more-than-180-degrees view, overlooks the Monterey Bay. To your left, you can see seals basking near the aquarium, and kayakers braving the Pacific Ocean. ToM offers wine tastings from Monterey Vineyards...last time I was there, it was $6 for six tastes, and you can choose all white, all red, or a 3/3 combo. Other options are available, but I don't see them online. It's a very pleasant place to visit.

All we ever do in Carmel is hit the galleries and leave, then drive out Carmel Valley Road, usually to visit the nurseries. (I find the town oppressively Kinkadian and snooty, and prefer the country lanes, myself.) If I were going, I'd stay and eat at Bernardus. I was going to suggest going to a nursery that has been featured in Sunset and visited by Martha Stewart, growing thousands of roses, but have just learned from another nursery that she is no longer open to the public, but is selling all her flowers to Bernadus. So that is one more reason to go to Bernadus.

I went to their website and found it lacking in description about the food. The menu changes daily, and I know it to be of the highest caliber...but I telephoned them to suggest that they just take menu samplings and post them online, since we eat with our eyes before we visit, and we're looking for the flavor that way.) Friends who have dined at Bernadus (at Marinus, which serves dinner, as opposed to Wickets, which is breakfast and lunch) have raved, in worshipful tones, about its quality.

Hope that helps! Enjoy your weekend.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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I've eaten several times at a small informal cafe with very good authentic pasta and seafood dishes. Last time was a few years ago:

Caffe Napoli Ocean Ave, Carmel 625-4033

A nice place to get drinks is at Clint Eastwood's, Hogs Breath Inn (on San Carlos between 5th and 6th). I've never eaten there. Nice cozy bar to hang out in and/or nice outdoor space for drinking with lots of individual fireplaces.

Make sure you visit Pt. Lobos State Park ~5 miles south of downtown Carmel off of Hwy 1. Spectacular ocean views with rocky cliffs, twisted cypresses and lots of fauna. Very likely to see sea lions and otters. Nice places to picnic if warm enough. Can drive to lookout points or take short hikes on well groomed trails (sneakers fine).

Edited to add that the Carmel Mission is incredibly beautiful if you've never visited it.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I can't find a link to it, but in the very lovely hamlet of Pacific Grove, there is a good place called "Peppers Mexicali Café." Mexican, loosely, with Caribbean influences. Well-priced, great chow and good wine/beer offerings in a pleasant, warm atmosphere. Exxxxxxcellent salsa.

This place is good, but there's a better Mexican place in PG, IMHO -- Zocalo.

For breakfast, First Awakenings can't be beat. It's right on the Monterey/PG border in, unfortunately, the outlet mall. Don't let that dissuade you, though. They make a killer breakfast and have outdoor seating.

amanda

Googlista

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Had a great Spanish meal in Pacific Grove but it was a million years ago. I think the place was called Fandango but who knows if it's still even there. Stay away from the tourist traps in Monterey along Cannery Row but you should be able to find some nice places in Carmel, Pacific Grove, etc. If you're willing to make the drive to Big Sur, you should be able to have a nice meal at the Ventana Inn and/or the Post Ranch Inn.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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North of Monterey, stop at Elkhorn Slough. You can walk or take the boat in. The guy who runs the boat just opened a B&B in Moss Landing. I think that woudl be a great base for kayaking and walking, but not if you want the town experience. In Moss Landing, there is a place for great cioppino - is it Phil's? - not sure, but it has been discussed here before. I also like the Whole Enchilada.

I also find Carmel a bit too touristed, have not found great food there. I wonder why? If Napa and Sonoma can do it, why not Carmel.

In Monterey, if you've never been, the aquarium is a must, and I second the Point Lobos recommendation

The Elkhorn Slough boat ride is here

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You must go to the Inn at Spanish Bay, at sunset. They have a bagpiper strolling the cliffs, and serve drinks around fire pits. It will send shivers up and down your spine.

I second the recco for the aquarium. It is a very interesting way to spend a few hours.

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Thanks for all the great ideas!

The boat ride sounds fun-I saw the word "safari" in the title and just assumed it was some sort of schlocky theme park-glad you pointed it out to me. I have been to the aquarium, but not since it first opened; there are more exhibits now and I want to go again. Tana, a drink or two on Cannery Row sounds nice. Perhaps staying in Pacific Grove or Monterey is a better idea. Has anyone stayed at Mission Ranch-that looks nice as well? I am trying to visit all the California Missions before they fall down from neglect due to lack of funds, so will stop in at Carmel's as well.

I've stayed at the Post Ranch Inn, during their "mid-winter, mid-week bargain special," which they are having again. It is a beautiful spot, but I think this time we want to be somewhere where's there's more to do (and a little cheaper wouldn't be bad either!)

As for the food, wow, lots of great choices! The photography on the Passionfish website makes that a must try. I like to stop in at that cheese store at the top of Ocean Ave whenever I get in the area, just for nostalgia reasons. I first went there as a 15-year old and was just amazed at the selection.

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Marie-Louise, Pacific Grove is just a beautiful little place. I'd stay there, if you want to avoid the stiffness of Carmel.

It has some beautiful B&Bs, and most have spectacular ocean views.

Gosby House Inn

Green Gables Inn

Martine Inn (Ouch. Painful website for such a nice place.)

Centrella Inn

I really like Pacific Grove. It's a beautiful little hamlet, very walkable, very scenic, and very unhurried. It's like time travel.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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Fresh Cream in Monterey is divine!!

I love the views and the food is superb!!

here is more information and maps:

http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-1240...ream_monterey-i

Fresh Cream's website

Just returned last weekend from this area, and after reading the website for Fresh Cream, am booking the next Delta nonstop from Atlanta to San Jose!!

Thanks for this Tana!!! My God, does it get any better? The sun setting on Monterey Bay and that food and wine: orgasmic!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Marie-Louise, Pacific Grove is just a beautiful little place. I'd stay there, if you want to avoid the stiffness of Carmel.

It has some beautiful B&Bs, and most have spectacular ocean views.

Gosby House Inn

Green Gables Inn

Martine Inn (Ouch. Painful website for such a nice place.)

Centrella Inn

I really like Pacific Grove. It's a beautiful little hamlet, very walkable, very scenic, and very unhurried. It's like time travel.

We've booked a nice room at the Martine Inn it-thanks for the tip! (The others looked nice, too-it was hard to pick.) There are a lot of good deals at all the hotels this time of year.

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I look forward to your report. I should tell those people I'll design them a prettier website. "Will work for cushy lodgings!"

Any website created by The Web Geisha, Tanabutler, would, with an economy of words, yet with the clear and perceptive insights she possesses, make a place sound like paradise on earth!

Can't wait to hear about your trip and your lodgings!!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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