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A Local's Take on Monterey Dining

A Local's Take on Monterey Dining


The Monterey food scene is sometimes (unfairly ) accused of being dominated by run-of-the-mill tourist traps. Locals know better. From sustainable seafood at Passionfish to the avant-garde decor and roasted truffle chicken at Restaurant 1833, Monterey offers attractive dining options that move beyond clam chowder and fish and chips. Here's our take on the best restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula.


Pavel’s Backerei
219 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
(831) 643-2636

Tucked on a quiet street in Pacific Grove, Pavel’s Backerei is the best bakery on the Monterey Peninsula. With only a few small tables and a line out the door, we recommend getting your pastries to go and enjoying them on the road or at nearby Lover’s Point. The cinnamon rolls and cheese danishes are highly recommended. Cash or local check only.


First Awakenings
125 Ocean View Blvd., Ste 105, Pacific Grove
(831) 372-1125

Located in the American Tin Cannery Outlet Center, First Awakenings is the perfect spot to enjoy breakfast before visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sit outside on the patio and enjoy creations that include the daystarter skillet (homestyle potatoes with an assortment of toppings), buenos dias tortillas (scrambled eggs, mushrooms, onion, and homemade chorizo rolled in a flour tortilla laced with jack and cheddar cheeses), or choose from an assortment of savory crêpes and fruit-topped pancakes.


Old Fisherman’s Grotto
39 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey
(831) 375-4604

Locals have repeatedly voted the clam chowder at Old Fishermans Grotto on Fisherman’s Wharf to be the best the Monterey Peninsula has to offer. Creamy and rich with succulent pieces of clam and bite-sized chunks of potato, it only takes one bite to understand why. Order the clam chowder from the stand outside the restaurant or snag a seat at one of the booths along the window.


The Sea Harvest
598 Foam St., Monterey
(831) 646-0547

An unpretentious little restaurant folded quietly among Cannery Row’s bigger attractions, The Sea Harvest is a great place to enjoy a simple lunch away from the bustle of the aquarium and the shops along Monterey’s waterfront. Pick out the fish you want and watch as they prepare it right in front of you. The BBQ oysters and the steamed lobster are good choices, as is their catch of the day. 


Sardine Factory
701 Wave St., Monterey
(831) 373-3775

An incredible view, a piano bar, and an inviting Happy Hour (5 p.m.-7 p.m. daily), the Sardine Factory is a Cannery Row institution where visitors head to unwind in an elegant atmosphere and sample some of Monterey’s finest cuisine. For starters, order the abalone soup and the Steinbeck (a sampler featuring crab-filled mushroom, lobster ravioli, and diver scallops). The parmesan-crusted calamari, scallop, and prawns served over risotto is also delicious, and you can’t go wrong with any of the desserts.


701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove
(831) 655-3311

Featuring sustainably caught fish (along with hearty meat dishes like beef short ribs and duck confit), Passionfish prides itself on being Monterey’s first “green” restaurant and has a strict policy of sustainable and environmentally friendly purchasing. While the menu changes regularly, the scallop starter and the Alaskan halibut won’t disappoint, and if sole is on the menu, we recommend snapping it up. The open dining room with tables placed close together makes for an ambience that is both pleasant and casual, but it’s not the ideal setting for an intimate meal.


Montrio Bistro
414 Calle Principal, Monterey
(831) 648-8880

“Haute cuisine presented in an historic firehouse setting.” That’s the tagline of this Monterey eatery that features lobster mac’n cheese, truffle tater tots, and a lobster BLT on the menu. The ambience and layout of Montrio Bistro are beautiful and modern, with fun little quirks like butcher paper and crayons on the tables. It can get a little loud during peak serving hours, but the energy of the place is appealing. Whatever you do, don’t leave without ordering the bread pudding with white chocolate sauce and passion fruit ice cream.


Restaurant 1833
500 Hartnell St., Monterey
(831) 643-1833

The incredible drink selection and the bacon cheddar biscuits keep visitors coming back for more at Restaurant 1833. Named after the year construction began, this landmark adobe has a storied past, and walking into it gives one the feeling of having stepped back in time. Multiple dining rooms, a bar modeled after an old apothecary, and an outside patio offer guests a unique dining experience. Try the pan-roasted rock cod or the whole truffle chicken.


—By Nikki Hodgson
Nikki Hodgson is a freelance writer and Bay Area native who resides in Berkeley when she's not bouncing around the globe. You can follow her at nikkitravels.com.


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