I stopped licking the stream of butter dripping down my elbow and replied, “What kind of crack is that?” – Erma Bombeck, At Wit’s End
Having visited Carmel for a number of years, we have eaten at a great many different restaurants. As I mentioned earlier (click here), Carmel has a plethora of great places to eat and some that (after some unfortunate experiences) have been removed from our list. The places that I list here have proven to be a good bet year after year.
These restaurants are listed in no particular order except to start with Katy’s Place since my mom said to start your day with a good breakfast. As always, I have received no form of compensation to include any of these restaurants on the list.
- Katy’s Place. Katy’s Place is a charming breakfast and lunch spot with a very friendly ambiance – it could be anywhere in Europe. They don’t take reservations and the lines outside the door can be long at popular times. Katy’s is known for their Eggs Benedict (20 varieties) which are incredible. Their omelets (15 varieties), pancakes, waffles and other egg dishes are all equally good – we typically order sides of their exceptional crispy bacon. And to top it off, they also make a good cup of coffee. Katy’s Place is the perfect place to eat breakfast in Carmel. Note: they only take cash and the portions are huge (consider sharing).
Mission Street between 5th and 6th,
Cantinetta Luca. Cantinetta Luca has been one of our favorite dinner locations for many years. This Italian restaurant features an open kitchen with a wood-fired oven and a glassed-in case that shows off their outstanding housemade salumi. To read more click here.
Dolores Street between Ocean and 7th
Lucia. We have dined at Lucia for three or four years now. Until the entire Bernardus Lodge went through a major renovation in 2015, the restaurant was known as Marinus at Bernardus Lodge. Lucia is a bit smaller and more intimate (than Marinus) with an elegantly comfortable setting. Glass walls open up to the fresh air and give the ambiance of dining outside. To read more click here.
415 West Carmel Valley Road
Casanova. Over the last quarter of a century, Casanova has carved out a niche as a fine Italian-Mediterranean restaurant. It is located in a quaint old house with lots of small rooms, a courtyard, outside patio seating, and a huge wine list. The lamb chops are unusually good as well as the cannoli which is filled with braised short rib. One of our favorite dishes is light, airy spinach gnocchi in a bubbling Parmesan béchamel sauce.
5th between Mission and San Carlos
Grasings Coastal Cuisine. Although we have dined at Grasings for dinner on many occasions, for the last few years we have stopped in for lunch after watching all of the amazing cars drive into town upon completing the Pebble Beach Tour D’Elegence. The dining room is cozy with one wing connecting to their outdoor patio; the wine list is huge (5 pages of nothing but California Pinots and 7 pages for California Cabs, for example); the service is attentive without being intrusive; and the food is top notch. Some of our favorite lunch items include a delicious “Four-Onion Tart,” and “Crispy Goat Cheese” with oven dried tomatoes.
6th St & Mission
L’escargot. We stumbled into this bistro and fell in love with the food. It’s a small unpretentious restaurant with two modestly decorated rooms (that’s a good thing). The menu is serious French country fare and all dishes that I have tasted are memorable and nicely presented. The service is unhurried and very cohesive. Every meal that we have had there has been great. Their specialty is, obviously, escargot. It is prepared 3 ways and does not disappoint. Rack of lamb, Cassoulet De Toulouse, and Sand Dabs are also standouts.
Mission near 4th Street
Tarpy’s Roadhouse. Tarpy’s is the only restaurant that I am including that is in Monterey near the airport and on the highway to Laguna Seca race track. It has a really nice setting, with multiple seating areas inside and out. We had a large dinner on the outdoor patio a few years back in July and it turned out to be perfect. All foods that I have tried have been excellent in presentation, quality, temperature, and taste. The menu may be more comfort food than fine dining choices but it works. The wait staff is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. I have enjoyed their “Maple Brined Pork Chop,” “Smoked Baby Back Ribs,” and a classic meatloaf. They were all good.
2999 Monterey Salinas Hwy, Monterey, CA
Rio Grill. Karel and I first ate here back in the early 80’s. It was built, under the guidance of Cindy Pawlcyn as a coastal counterpart to Mustard’s Grill in Yountville and the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. In fact, the smoked chicken with artichokes and potatoes that are still on the menu was one of the original recipes. The wait staff are cheerful and charming. The food, art, and décor all have a nice Southwestern influence. Their fire-roasted artichoke, crab cakes, and juicy, smoked ribs are all outstanding.
Corner of Highway 1 and Rio Road