“I can’t believe we live here.” If you know my husband, you know he says this all the time. First when we lived in San Diego, and now that we live in Monterey, and he is completely right. I can’t believe we live here!! Monterey is truly like no where else in the world. It is traditional, but not ancient; it is small, but not boring; it has some of the biggest events in the world, but still a quiet and peaceful place; and it has some of the most amazing views of the coastline in the country.
Back to our favorites in Monterey.. I think the easiest way is going to be to break everything down by “area.” We have Pacific Grove (the peninsula where we live and kind of the small, sleepy town) Monterey (old and new aka “downtown” and “Cannery Row" and where you go if you want to go out-out), Carmel (where I work and where everything is timeless, charming, and expensive), and Carmel Valley (where you go if you want WINE)
Best of PACIFIC GROVE:
Crema: Brunch - Ugh this place is our weakness. Especially when hungover, the bacon cheddar biscuits and gravy is honestly all I crave.. Their bottomless guava mimosas don’t hurt either! Best brunch we’ve found in the area award.
Red House Cafe: Lunch - This is the sweetest little 1800’s red house (get it) turned into a cafe! The have breakfast, lunch, and dinner but their lunch is by far our favorite. Best fresh soup/salad/sandwich combo there ever was.
Fish Wife: Lunch/Dinner - Definitely more of a local dive spot with amazing seafood dishes and fun cocktails! This is the closest restaurant to our house so we actually get take out way too often to admit.. :)
The Bench: ANYTHING - This is a must do as well. The Bench is on the 18th hole of Pebble Beach…. so yeah. Amazing views, great drinks, and best flatbread in the area! There is an outdoor patio with fire pits you can hang around or dine inside with windows all around. You have to go through the toll booth to get into the 17 mile drive, but they will take $10 off your bill at the restaurant if you let them know. 100% our favorite place to take guests.
The Inn at Spanish Bay: Sunset + Drinks - Okay hands down, if you are in the area, you HAVE to come here and grab a drink. They are known for their fire pits overlooking the ocean and Spanish Bay golf course. It is right next to Roy’s (and everyone just calls it the Roy’s fire pits). They have a bagpipe player every sunset.. it’s definitely an amazing experience!
Poppy Hall: Dinner - Poppy Hall is the new kid on the block and just opened a few weeks ago but is already the talk of the town! Everything they serve is caught local that day, so their menu is always changing! Cool quaint place to stop in for a cocktail at the bar also!
Passion Fish: Dinner - Probably the most ‘high end’ place close to us in Pacific Grove. They are known for their… seafood! This place is always packed, no matter what night of the week.
Best of MONTEREY:
Alvarado Street Brewery: Lunch/Dinner + Drinks - Realllly cool vibe! They brew their own beers and the owner is from San Diego!! This place is honestly the only place with hipster SoCal vibes we could find.. they do not disappoint!
Paluca Trattoria: Coffee + Small Bites - This was the Big Little Lies coffee shop in the first season! It’s on the fisherman’s wharf which is a fun vibe to see! Their coffee isn’t my favorite, but they actually have AMAZING shrimp bruschetta.
LALLA Grill: Dinner + Drinks - This place looked like a tourist trap to be honest, but it pleasantly surprised us. Really good food, drinks, and all for a reasonable price. My favorite is the one on Cannery Row because they are the only location that serves lobster nachos. Sold.
Best of CARMEL:
Going to preface this with you probably can’t go wrong eating at ANY restaurant in Carmel…. This is the holy land for high-end art, amazing wine, and very fine dining.
Mission Ranch: Seriously everything - but especially Sunday brunch, and happy hour + appetizers. This place is a dream. Sheep frolicking in a pasture on the coastline next to Pebble Beach with amazing sunsets…. like what… This cute little stone cottage oasis is owned by Clint Eastwood and they almost always have a live piano player in the evenings. Obsessed.
Katy’s Place: Brunch - We went here the first time I had ever been in Carmel, with Ryan’s family in 2012-13 (?) and I still remember their pancakes and waffles. YUM.
La Bicyclette: Brunch - This place is the actual cutest little french restaurant specializing in brunch and wood-fired pizzas! Their hours are kinda weird so make sure you check if they are open.
Flahertys: Dinner - Ryan and I both agree this is our #1 restaurant in the area. A little dive seafood place with a family recipe of cioppino and lobster ravioli. Enough said.
Cultura: Dinner - We went here just last week after I walked by it on one of my daily lunch-break walks and it was soooo good! The best authentic Mexican restaurant we’ve found (with some flare of course). And they had the best guac + house margarita I’ve had in a while.
Vesuvio: Dinner + Drinks - the best cocktails and rooftop bar in Carmel! If you’re looking for a bougie happy hour, this is your place. We have only been there for drinks, but have been dying to go back for dinner!
Best of CARMEL VALLEY:
Cowgirl Winery: Wine - Some cool country vibes goin’ on here. The best part… dog friendly and they have Chickens running around everywhere!
Folktale Winery: Wine + Food - Probably our favorite winery to go to! This castle-like place always have local performers doing acoustic performances and it makes my heart happy. Their cheese tray is also next level..
Georis Winery: Wine - Cute little getup with good wine and cheese! Mainly outdoors so its good to go on a beautiful day and they have fun table games to play.
WHAT TO DO:
Monterey is small, but there is SO much to do around the area. Here are a few ideas:
Monterey Bay Aquarium & Cannery Row - I’m not a big zoo/aquarium person, but this place is seriously amazing. It is crazy to see all the science behind creating these homes for all the sea creatures. One of the best aquariums in the world!
Explore Carmel and walk along Carmel beach - Honestly the beach is amazing, but some of my favorite views are some of the houses in the area! Sooo much charm and character. The cute Christmas and coffee shops everywhere are like nothing else.
Watch the sunset at the Inn at Spanish Bay - This is where the bag piper plays and it is so serene to listen over the beautiful coast.
Run/Walk along Asilomar Beach Trails - Asilomar State Beach is the best beach (we may be biased because this is our neighborhood beach where we take our dog nearly everyday) hehe but honestly it is. The trails from Lover’s Point to Asilomar are perfect for a long walk, run, or drive to take it all in.
Hike Garland Ranch - I ask Ryan to go on this hike every week and I can’t believe we haven’t gone yet!!! All our friends rave about this trail. It’s in Carmel Valley so you go on the hike, then go wine tasting after! And the best part, everything is dog friendly!!
Drive along HWY 1 through Big Sur to Bixby Creek Bridge - This is the Big Little Lies and it is really spectacular to see! Also the views along the drive to Big Sur… unbeatable.
Walk along Fisherman’s Wharf - You can walk the wharf and get FULL on samples of every restaurant giving out samples of their clam chowder. Watch and listen to the seals that are everywhere. The best chocolate candy shop is also on the wharf and I get a little somethin’ somethin’ every time ;)
If you live in Monterey, and are able to get out and explore a little, there are so many places close by! Living here for just the past 8 months, I’d say we have covered a lot of ground.. We have been to Napa, Yosemite, Mammoth, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, the Delta, and San Francisco multiple times. Everything is about a 2-4 hr drive, so really not bad at all. We still have so many plans to keep on exploring until our time is up!
I hope this helped anyone visiting the area or looking for new things to do / places to try :)
There is no place like Monterey ♡
Until next time, xx