Readers' Poll

restaurants rant would surely have served as his inspiration—for just about everything. East of Eden would have been set in a restaurant a block over (Villa Azteca being Eden). Tortilla Flat would have been an adventure with hand-made blue corn masa. Imagine Mack and the Boys saving up to take Doc out to dinner. Or the Joad family traversing the country just for a taste of Alvarez’s shrimp in chipotle and peach marmalade, with Tom’s stirring “Never mind the Dust Bowl, a burrito bowl is where it’s at.” For fans, there’s another Steinbeck-worthy bit of inspiration coming in the form of a sequel—the Alvarez family plans to open a sister restaurant, Nicolás Cocina de Herencia, in Carmel in fall 2023. BEST MEDITERRANEAN Dametra Corner of Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Street, Carmel (831) 622-7766, Dametra Cafe, with its extensive menu of flavors from all sides of the Mediterranean, has been rightly popular since it first opened in 2008. Since then, founders Bashar Sneeh and Faisel Nimri have opened fast-casual “Dametra Fresh” locations in two shopping centers, The Dunes in Marina and Monterey’s Del Monte Shopping Center. Now, a falafel wrap or a gyro salad (served with lots of tzatziki and a piece of flaky spanakopita, perhaps) is never too far away in Monterey County. Yalla! BEST KOREAN Pangaea Grill Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Dolores, Carmel (831) 624-2569, Carmel’s Pangaea Grill takes the trendy and tantalizing idea of fusion and puts it right up front. Named for the supercontinent that once encompassed all of the landmasses of Earth, this Ocean Avenue favorite encompasses nearly all menu item options, from chicken parm to kimchi fried rice to a seriously stocked bar. But it is the restaurant’s East-meets-West menu, filled with Korean favorites from kalbi to sauteed japchae, that readers love best. BEST JAPANESE/SUSHI Crystal Fish 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey (831) 649-3474, They jury’s out on whether or not Ed Ricketts would have been mortified about Crystal Fish’s brand of pickled, fishy goodness. Oh, well! More for everyone else who walks through the hustle and bustle of this New Monterey restaurant and lays eyes on the iconic blackboard specials. Crystal Fish can excite first-timers and humble traditionalists with the sheer variety on the menu. Customers can whet their appetites with delectable appetizers like kama (grilled fish collar) and the “Japanese KFC,” also known as karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, before getting into the real good stuff with fun rolls like the Fire Cracker (shrimp tempura and spicy tuna) or more traditional offerings like the sets of nigiri or chirashi. BEST ITALIAN Il vecchio 110 Central Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 324-4282, At Il Vecchio, the only way to make great Italian food is to use the old way of the Old World. Think of ragu simmering for hours on the back burner as an attentive cook constantly stirs. No microwave. You can’t rush perfection. And you can’t go wrong with classic dishes like gnocchi paired with a velvety pesto or eggplant parmigiana that could come straight from grandma’s kitchen. It’s unfortunate that Steinbeck didn’t experience meals like this during his visit to Palermo. There, he mostly ate from a can while Germans were firing at him and those around him. Luckily for Weekly readers, Il Vecchio does a lot better than that on ambiance. BEST INDIAN Ambrosia India Bistro 565 Abrego St., Monterey (831) 641-0610 751 Cannery Row #121, Monterey (831) 324-4853, Ambrosia’s offerings are a sensory feast—a sight for sore eyes, an aromatic delight for the nose, and a fla92 BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 The Whaling Station Steakhouse proudly features The World’s Best USDA PRIME Steaks Aged to OUR Specifications, Prepared to YOURS Plus an Award Winning Wine List, Hand-Crafted Cocktails, Monterey’s Favorite Bar Menu, Happy Hour Daily 4:30-6:30pm and a private Banquet room with seating up to 50. Thank You Monterey County Weekly Readers For Voting Us BEST STEAKHOUSE 27 Times! & BEST MARTInI Three years in a row! ’23 We have a STEAK and MARTInI in your future OPEn 7 DAYS A WEEK 4:30pm for Dinner 763 Wave Street, Monterey, (831) 373-3778 (Just Above Steinbeck’s Cannery Row)