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Forks and Candle by James B Toy. Click to enlarge or purchase.

EATING OUT

Finding a good restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula is not as complicated as you may have been led to believe.

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

Where's a good place to eat?

A picnic on the beach is Mr. Toy's favorite place. For indoor dining, excellent offerings can be found 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.

Of course, there will be times when it is perfectly appropriate to reserve a table in advance. It's always a good idea to plan ahead for that special anniversary or birthday dinner. And when some of the biggest events come to the Peninsula having a dinner reservation can help you avoid long waiting times. But try to avoid using the internet to pick out where you'll eat every meal weeks ahead of your arrival. We have somewhere near 300 wonderful restaurants on the Peninsula, and barely a handful get any attention on the internet. Planning your meals too far ahead prevents you from making spontaneous discoveries.

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

  • Sandbar & Grill
    This place is actually quite close to the beaten path, being located mere steps from the Fisherman's Wharf parking lot. But because it's located on the less-flashy Municipal Wharf visitors tend to be drawn away from it by the tourist traps on the more famous pier. But if you like great seafood, steaks, or pasta the Sandbar shouldn't be overlooked. Located just over the side of Wharf 2 (as it is also known) the seating area is almost at dock level on the inner edge of the harbor. Watch the boats come and go from the panoramic windows and you may also spot an otter or seal swimming by. This place has been here for eons and was featured in the first movie Clint Eastwood directed, 1971's Play Misty For Me. Lunch and dinner are served here.
  • Tarpy's Roadhouse
    Tarpy's 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. It was named for an unfortunate fellow from Watsonville who "accidentally" (?) shot his neighbor's wife in a property dispute. Poor Matt Tarpy was lynched on a nearby field by an angry mob. But that was 19th Century wild west news. Today his name brings you a hearty variety of meals ranging from burgers to fancy seafood. They serve lunch and dinner.
  • Mission Ranch
    This is Clint Eastwood's place. It has a rustic restaurant serving hearty food, plus lodgings and tennis courts. It is located behind the Carmel Mission at the south end of Dolores Street. The main buildings were originally part of a 19th Century dairy ranch. In 1986 Clint saved it from developers who wanted to tear it all down and build condos. Hooray Clint! The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, a lively piano bar, 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 Sundays they have a brunch buffet with live jazz. Fireplaces make the place cozy at night. The only drawback is that they don't take reservations.
  • Rocky Point Restaurant
    Located about 11 miles south of Carmel down Highway 1, Rocky Point has spectacular coastal views for lunch and dinner.  The menu has sandwiches, steak, chicken, and fish. 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.
  • Baja Cantina
    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 on Carmel Valley Road about 3.5 miles from Highway 1. It's 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). Baja Cantina is pure fun for lunch or dinner.
  • r.g. Burgers
    OK, r.g. (real good) Burgers is very much on the beaten path, so you might have found it without our help, but we had to include it here because they make the absolute best hamburgers on the Peninsula. They put In-N-Out to shame. r.g. Burgers come in many different styles and you can get old fashioned milkshakes in more flavors than we can count. And be sure to get a basket of their fabulous onion rings! Enjoy, then eat low fat food the rest of the day. There are two r.g. locations. The original is just outside Carmel in the Crossroads Shopping Center on Rio Road just off Highway 1. Their second place is in downtown Monterey in the Trader Joe's shopping center.

OK, you're saying, that's all well and good. But right now you may be relaxing in your hotel room and just want to know what restaurants are close by. For that we will refer you to the pros who have set up a searchable database of local restarants. You can search by category, town, or keyword. While they don't list every restaurant on the Peninsula, there are still plenty to choose from.

A Strawapplenana Show by James B Toy. Click to enlarge or purchase.

"A Strawapplenana Show"

Hang some fresh fruit in your kitchen or dining room to show you have good taste. This image from Mr. Toy's Photography Gallery and Picture Shop can also be printed on a variety of home decor and gift items. Get something nice for yourself knowing that your purchase will help support this website.