The Monterey Peninsula Toy Box

Monterey Peninsula Dining

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"Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart."
-Erma Bombeck

Artichokes Lemons and Oranges

Chicken @ California Market (Highland's Inn)
Open face chicken sandwich @ Rosines
Chicken Parmesean @ Cafe Stravaganza
Pizza @ Nico
Roast Beef Sandwich & French Onion Soup @ Patisserie Boissiere
Chicken in orange sauce @ Le Coq D'Or
Salmon @ Bahama Billy's
Hamburger, spicy fries, onion rings & chocolate shake @ R.G. Burgers

Where's a good place to eat?

A picnic on the beach is Mr. Toy's favorite place. For indoor dining, there are excellent restaurants on nearly every block with sufficient variety to suit anyone's taste and budget. With the exception a few places at the Tourist Attractions, it's hard to find a bad restaurant here. Where there's a high concentration of souvenir shops it is likely there are a few lower quality restaurants in the vicinity. But generally speaking, when you get hungry just look around the immediate neighborhood and see what looks good. You can't go too far wrong.

Having said that, however, there are a few well-established places off of the beaten path, which you may not find on your own:

  • Tarpy's Roadhouse is in an old stone house on the Monterey-Salinas Highway (Hwy. 68) near Canyon Del Rey Boulevard. It's about a mile east of the entrance to the Monterey airport. Lunch and dinner. Fairly expensive, but worth it. (831) 647-1444
  • Mission Ranch, Clint Eastwood's place, has a rustic restaurant, lodgings, and tennis courts. It is located behind the Carmel Mission at the south end of Dolores Street. The main buildings were once part of a hundred year old dairy farm. Clint saved it from developers who wanted to tear it all down and build condos. Hooray Clint! The restaurant has a lively piano bar, outdoor seating, and overlooks a sheep pasture. The Carmel River lagoon and Point Lobos complete the backdrop, at least until dusk. Even if you're not hungry, go look the place over, its very pretty. They serve dinner 7 days a week and on Sunday they have a brunch buffet with live jazz. Fireplaces make the place cozy at night. Prices are a on the expensive side. Quality is exceptional. (831) 625-9040
  • Rocky Point Restaurant, located 12 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, has spectacular coastal views. March 2013 brought a change of ownership, a much-needed remodeling, and a fresh new menu. But the scenery and relaxed atmosphere are the main attractions. At night the rocky shore is bathed in light so you can still enjoy the surf action.(831) 624-2933.
  • California Market. This is one of two restaurants at the Highlands Inn located above Highway 1 in the Carmel Highlands. It offers top of the line cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Outdoor seating is available. The views aren't quite as panoramic as at their main restaurant upstairs, but it is much easier on your bank account. They serve breakfast and lunch only. (831) 620-1234

California Market, Highlands Inn

  • Baja Cantina can be found on Carmel Valley Road a few miles east of Highway 1. The food is Mexican, the decor is automotive. Old gas pumps are outside the doors, while the interior is decorated with posters, photos, and old gas station signs. The seating includes a large outdoor deck where you can enjoy your meal in the sun while gazing at the surrounding hills. You'll find the Baja Cantina next to the entrance to Quail Lodge. As you near the restaurant, coming around the bend, you can see the peak of the roof proudly displaying an old Mobil flying horse sign. (It's the same one which hung for decades on the building at the end of the Municipal Wharf in Monterey). (831) 625-2252.

Favorites of the Toys and their friends:

Mr. & Mrs. Toy and their friends have a few places they like to go with some regularity. But be advised, their tastes may be different from yours, so there's no guarantee you'll like these places as well as they do. Moreover, restaurants around here tend to change owners and names with some frequency, so there's no guarantee they'll still be in business when you get here. You'll be relieved to know that most of these favorite hangouts are modestly priced.


Monterey:
  • Turtle Bay has two locations, one in downtown Monterey on Tyler Street (behind the Golden State Theatre) and another in Seaside on Fremont and Trinity. These are taquerias specializing in seafood. For just a few dollars you can get a filling meal to go or just eat it there. Their bowls work well on picnics. Order ahead and it'll be ready when you arrive. (831) 333-1500 (Monterey) or (831) 899-1010 (Seaside).
  • R.G. Burgers is downtown at 570 Munras Avenue by Trader Joe's. Best burgers in town. For a detailed description see the listing for their original shop under Carmel below. (831) 372-4930.
  • Rosines is on Alvarado Street and Bonifacio in downtown Monterey. Serving Monterey Peninsula townsfolk for decades, this family owned family style restaurant with a wide variety of menu options at reasonable prices. Rosines is open from breakfast through dinner. For dessert they offer several varieties of chocolate cake, the best available on The Peninsula. (831) 375-1400
  • Schooners is in the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row. Their "Coastal Kitchen" has panoramic windows perched right over the bay waters, while the adjacent bar has both indoor and outdoor seating. The menu is a little on the trendy side, but they also have some old standards like burgers or fish & chips. The views are terrific.(831) 646-1706

Pacific Grove:
  • Peppers, is a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, one of our best, in fact. You'll find it on Forest Avenue a half block north (downhill) from Lighthouse Avenue. (831) 373-6892
  • Red House Cafe is a cute little red house on a downtown streetcorner just to the right of the post office. A favorite of the townsfolk, it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (831) 643-1060

Le Coq D'Or

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Carmel and vicinity:
  • Nico is on San Carlos near the southwest corner of Ocean Avenue. just a few steps outside the Doud Arcade. Mediterranean is the style. Nico is a great place to go before a concert at Sunset Center, which is just down the street. The entrees are excellent, as are their more budget-minded pizzas and sandwiches. Service is excellent while the atmosphere is calm. They have a cozy indoor fireplace, and a handful of outdoor tables. (831) 624-6545
  • Patisserie Boissiere is a cozy little French restaurant in Carmel. Specifically, it's on the east side of Mission Street between Ocean and 7th by the Carmel Plaza. You'll find it costs much less than the fancy famous French place across the street. The lunch prices are even more affordable. They'll even pack a picnic for you. One warning: you have to walk past a display of delightful French pastries and other tempting desserts to get to the dining room. (831) 624-5008
  • The Forge in the Forest, on the southwest corner of Junipero & 5th, was once a blacksmith shop in the olden days. The menu features a little something for everyone including sandwiches, meat, seafood, pasta, tacos and pizza. The food quality leans more towards good eatin' than fine dining. Desserts are fabulous. Their main attractions are the fun, relaxed atmosphere, good service, indoor fireplace, and beautiful garden patio. The restaurant has been employee-owned since 2001, which is cool because everyone has more of a stake in the operation than a mere paycheck. (831) 624-2233
  • Le Coq D'Or is an intimate little place offering French, German and local cuisine. It is located on Mission Street just North of 5th in an inconspicuous little building. Except for a small sign hanging on the wall, you could easily pass it and not know it is there. Its more expensive than most of the places the Toys normally go, but it's a great place for a cozy romantic rendezvous. (831) 626-9319
  • Cafe Stravaganza is an informal Italian/Mediterranean place in the Crossroads Shopping Center at Highway 1 and Rio Road. Mr. Toy says their pizza is among the best around, while Mrs. Toy loves their pasta. You'll find it at the far end of the Crossroads Boulevard. (831) 625-3733
  • R.G. Burgers is in Carmel in the Crossroads Shopping Center on Highway 1 and Rio Road. They make Real Good ("R.G.") hamburgers in many different styles, plus old fashioned milkshakes in more flavors than we can count. Be sure to get a basket of their fabulous onion rings! Enjoy, then eat low fat food the rest of the day. (831) 626-8054. They have a second location in downtown Monterey on Munras Avenue. (831) 372-4930.
The suggestions above are just a tiny sample of more than three hundred fine restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula. Don't limit yourself to this list or any other.

A word about fish. Whether you are dining on the Monterey Peninsula or at home on the range, please be aware that some of the fish you eat is becoming depleted from overfishing. To help you make wise choices, please check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide. They have a wallet sized card you can download for easy reference when reading menus or browsing at the fish market.


WARNING TO PARENTS:
There are no fast food chains in Carmel.

They're about as welcome as ants at a picnic. Local politics stuff, don't get involved. There is some fairly fast food, however, mostly in the form of delis. Many restaurants also offer take-out, so you can do that picnic thing. Just be sure to clean up afterwards.

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