Readers' Poll

editors' picks BEST FRIED CHICKEN THAT MOST OF US WILL NEVER GET TO TRY Club at Pasadera 100 Pasadera Drive, Monterey (831) 647-2400, Great fried chicken is readily available. Just drop in on The Butter House in Seaside. But let’s talk forbidden fruit— or more accurately, forbidden chicken. Chef Colin Moody does not prepare church basement-style chicken, and yet his bird owes much to classic Southern fare. But here’s the departure: Moody’s chicken wings. They are presented as traditional fried chicken, with a crackling crust and juicy white meat. There is, however, no sauce—the batter is seasoned in such a way that heat, smoke, pepper and dusky spice spill out over your palate. Of course, you have to be a member or invited guest of the Club at Pasadera to sample the chef’s fare. Luckily, there are less exclusive options. BEST PLACE NOT TO ORDER A BURGER TO GO Bear + Flag Roadside 7152 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel (831) 293-8608 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 1021 Highway 68, Salinas Burger joints dotted the way along Route 66 to California. Steinbeck described them in The Grapes of Wrath—places with names like Al & Suzy’s, Carl’s Lunch and Will’s Eats, where guys like Al toiled over the griddle, slapping down hissing onion burgers. Steinbeck must have appreciated burgers, because in Cannery Row, he mentions that Doc was always slow getting from point A to B because he’d stop for a burger. All well and good, if you choose to dine tableside. But at Bear + Flag, the burgers are rich and juicy. And we mean drip-onto-yourclothes-and-seat juicy, should you try to eat one in the car. Chef Todd Fisher’s blend of aged beef is semi-officially 70-30 meat to good stuff ratio. In reality, the scale tips more toward 60-40. And that means flavor—husky, smoky, opulent flavor. And a mess. So just order and sit inside, or at one of the picnic tables. It will save on the cleaning bill. BEST BIG ENERGY IN A SMALL SPACE Compact Disco 420 Tyler St., Monterey Forget a sleepy downtown that shuts down mostly before 10pm. Compact Disco, which opened in July 2023, gives people a place to shake it until 2am on weekends. Dress nice—there is a dress code, albeit an ambiguous one—and wear shoes you can dance in. Prepare to sweat, as this is a compact space, as the name suggests, so it’s cozy. There is a luxurious (if small) bar area from where you can post up and listen to house music by a rotation of outstanding DJs any night. This is the venue that downtown Monterey needed, and DJ Kenny Summit has delivered. BEST PLACE TO GET HIGH— FIGURATIVELY; NONE OF OUR BUSINESS IF YOU TAKE IT LITERALLY Pinnacles National Park Highway 146, 14 miles east of Soledad (831) 389-4486, Ancient volcanic and tectonic activity is responsible for the madcap peaks and caves at Pinnacles National Park. That same geologic activity made—for contemporary humans—some unimaginably beautiful ways to get high up and look down. Steinbeck almost certainly never hiked through the area, or his subject matter would have been different. Take the High Peaks trail to climb the namesake monolithic spires reaching skyward. Summit Chalone Peak to get even higher and to look down on these high peaks and a sweeping view of the Salinas Valley all the way to the sea. At the summit, you won’t be the highest of them all, though—that title is still held by the soaring California condors who call Pinnacles home. BEST PLACE TO SEE AMERICA’S NATIONAL SYMBOL IN FLIGHT Salinas River, South County, County Line to San Lucas Maybe you’ve never seen a bald eagle, and maybe you think you need to go elsewhere to spot one. Nope. Deep in South County, near where Steinbeck’s East of Eden was partially set, is a bald eagle hotspot, thanks to nonprofit Ventana Wildlife Society’s efforts. Starting in 1986, the organization set out to restore the iconic bird’s population. Their efforts (and the work of many others) paid off. Bald eagles— which became an endangered species in 1967 due to habitat loss and DDT poisoning—were delisted in 2007, and are now thriving. “These birds are really adaptable and resilient,” says Kelly Sorenson, executive director of VWS. That’s something to celebrate, as they are indicators of a healthy ecosystem and are a majestic sight to see in the wild. 122 BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 LIFE IS BETTER WHEN IT’S SWEET! THANK YOU f voting us Best C kie and Best Cupcake ’23 206 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel 831-601-4818 • OPEN 10AM-5PM TUES-SAT BEST PARK Thank you to Point Lobos staff, docent volunteers and PLF supporters for your dedication to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Honored to be voted by readers as Best Park 7 years in a row! Photo by Chuck Bancroft ’23