Readers' Poll

108 BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 specialty foods them as you please from a selection of cheeses, spreads and other accoutrements. Just know that there is likely to be a wait. But also know that good things indeed come to those who wait…and who tick the boxes just right. Best Burrito El Charrito 122 W. Market St., Salinas, (831) 4249446 483 Calle Principal, Monterey, (831) 8845143 Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the novel Tortilla Flat was John Steinbeck’s first commercial success. As it happens, tortillas—homemade, hand-stretched, melt-in-your-mouth buttery—are the foundation of El Charrito’s commercial success. This beloved establishment (also voted the Best Taqueria) wraps whatever you desire—the tender chili verde is a favorite, but customization is built into the fast-casual concept—but it’s the wrap itself that makes these burritos unparalleled, and a repeat winner in this category. If you’re lucky, the original Salinas store might even have a bag of tortillas available for sale, but they go fast. They’re just that good. Best Pickled Food Happy Girl Kitchen 173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 373-4475, Todd and Jordan Champagne’s passion for delivering locally grown, organic food to the people of Monterey County has made Happy Girl Kitchen a beloved Pacific Grove institution—one that has extended its reach through a recipe book (It Starts with Fruit), in-person workshops to empower home fermenters and canners, and an online shop for quick gifts. Yet in addition to their enviable selection of preserved jams, marmalades, tomatoes and shrubs on offer, arguably the main attraction continues to be their smorgasbord of pickled goods—peppers, carrots, cauliflower, beets, zucchini and, of course, cucumbers. This is one Best Of category that Happy Girl has truly made its own. Best Food On A Stick Monterey County Fair Monterey County Fair and Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey (831) 372-5863, For George and Lennie, portable foods were essential. However, doughnut burgers or deep-fried Oreos were probably not readily available. Too bad. Walking tacos or cheesecake on a stick makes Labor Day weekend special. But our money is on the good old-fashioned corn dog. What could be more quintessentially fair food than a quality hot dog mounted on a stick and dipped in cornbread batter then fried to a golden brown delicious crisp? Best Fish & Chips London Bridge Pub 256 Figueroa St., Monterey (831) 372-0581, When in Rome, the saying goes, do as the Romans do. It’s good advice—and extends easily elsewhere on the globe including, say, to a British pub near the wharf in Monterey: When in London (Bridge Pub), do as the Londoners would do and order fish and chips. The Icelandic cod is deep fried in beer batter, served with Tartar sauce and, of course, the chips (that’s fries to all you Americans). Yes, there are other pub classics on the menu, but none this iconic. Best Clam Chowder Old Fisherman's Grotto 39 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey (831) 375-4604, oldfishermansgrotto. com The original Monterey-style clam chowder is the star of the show at this local institution. Distinguished from New England-style by the addition of extra cream and added garlic, it is as decadent as chowder gets. This belly-warming dish is as much a staple of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience as whale watching and souvenir shopping. A paper cup sample gives you a sense of how hearty this chowder is with potatoes, carrots and celery. But to get the full (and filling) experience, try it in a big bread bowl. Best Milkshake | The Fountain Court Cafe (at CHOMP)