Readers' Poll

restaurants BEST BREAKFAST First Awakenings 300 David Ave., Monterey, (831) 3721125 171 Main St., Salinas, (831) 784-1125, A good breakfast can define how the day goes. Steinbeck illustrates this in his short story “Breakfast,” in which a group of farmworkers share a meal in solidarity. Hungry diners illustrate this by waiting in long weekend lines for these hearty breakfast plates. First Awakenings, a local favorite for years, offers that wholesome start to the day from decadent eggs Benedict to classic biscuits and gravy. With an extensive selection, no matter what you pick you’ll leave First Awakenings feeling prepared to take on the day’s journey. BEST BRUNCH Red House Cafe 662 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 643-1060, There are few meals more comforting than a weekend brunch. A plate of buttermilk pancakes, a few mimosas, and a day ahead without the worries of work. Red House Cafe keeps brunch simple and satisfying with classic breakfast fare like cinnamon brioche French toast and decadent dishes like the crab cake Benedict. From savory to sweet, it’s easy to see why this place remains a favorite of both locals and tourists. Brunch is beloved by all on the weekends. BEST CHEAP EATS Chopstix Locations in Monterey, Seaside, Carmel and Salinas We’re gonna assume that Steinbeck had to reference a dictionary or a thesaurus once in a while, because “cheap” doesn’t quite capture the amazing value behind Chopstix. Having swept this category for years, Chopstix doesn’t skimp on bold Vietnamese flavors, from their comforting bowls of pho to their crunchy and refreshing green papaya salad. What’s really hard to top is that you can get a full, flavorful meal under $15. In this economy? We’ll take it. BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT BEST COMFORT FOOD Rosine's 434 Alvarado St., Monterey (831) 375-1400, Trust us—if you stack up all of Steinbeck’s most beloved novels they still won’t clear the top of one of Rosine’s famous desserts. These towering creations beckon to you from the Alvarado Street window, but diners don’t necessarily eat dessert first. Rosine’s fans equally rave about the lasagna, omelets, and minestrone soup inside this friendly family restaurant. Tuck into comfort food when it’s dreary, or enjoy a sunny street view with the windows thrown open. It’s enough to inspire a stanza or two. BEST RESTAURANT IN A SHOPPING CENTER Rio Grill 101 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel (831) 625-5436, When Mack and the boys turned toward the valley to catch frogs, they would have seen an old barn in the distance. But they also would have crossed a barren patch of land now known as The Crossroads. Situated at the very western-edge of the Carmel Valley, The Crossroads shopping center is one stop for everything from wine and pastries to books, clothing and pet treats. Is it any wonder Rio Grill is celebrating over 30 years of business here? It’s a respite focusing on Californian cuisine with a hint of southwestern flair with a menu that keeps you coming back. The cocktails and the friendly vibe only help make it better. BEST RESTAURANT FOR VEGETARIANS Julia's vegetarian Restaurant 1180 Forest Ave., Suite F, Pacific Grove (831) 656-9533, East of Eden opens with a description of the Salinas Valley, “a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay…On the BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 85