Readers' Poll

94 BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 restaurants vor sensation, even for notoriously unexcited eaters like John Steinbeck. They consistently deliver complex and exciting flavors in approachable and affordable ways, from moreish samosas and prawn koliwada to their more elaborate platters of biryani and dum aloo. If the bold flavors aren’t your thing (looking at you, Steinbecks of the world) there are always options like the butter chicken and plain naan— and even those simpler offerings are layered with richness. Best French Chez Noir 5th Avenue between Dolores and San Carlos streets, Carmel If you’re part of the local foodie scene, Chez Noir needs no introduction. In July 2023, less than a year after opening, the chic Carmel restaurant won a coveted Michelin star—becoming the second restaurant in Monterey County to have one. But what makes Chez Noir the best is that it’s a true labor of love for husband-and-wife team Jonny and Monique Black. Every detail of the experience is curated with utmost care by this duo and the rest of their team. You’ll feel almost as though you’ve been invited into their home— which you kind of have; the Blacks live upstairs. Best Chinese Tommy's Wok Mission Street between Ocean and 7th, Carmel (831) 624-8518, In East of Eden, the character Lee, a devoted housekeeper to the Trask family and a secret scholar, has to hide his true love. Luckily times are different today, and we can celebrate an extensive Chinese menu that offers many of the Americanized classics, alongside harder-to-find dishes like walnut prawns and Singapore-style ice noodles. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t have Winter Melon Cup, a pot of melon, chicken, ginger and vegetables described in East of Eden. There’s many other options to enjoy, and everything is made with fresh ingredients and plenty of flavor—all at reasonable price points. Best Restaurant - Big Sur Deetjen's Big Sur Inn 48865 Highway 1, Big Sur (831) 667-2377, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn has been serving food to weary travelers along Highway 1 since 1939—the same year John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath. Today, “breakfast” in Big Sur is synonymous with “Deetjen’s.” And for good reason—there is nowhere better for a cozy, nourishing start to your day. We could go on and on about the eggs Benedict, the breakfast burrito, the stack of buttermilk pancakes the size of a dinner plate…but that’s just breakfast. Why not also cap off your day with a hearty, homestyle dinner by candlelight? There’s nowhere better for that either. Really, all you have to say is Deetjen’s. Best Restaurant - Cannery Row Fish Hopper 700 Cannery Row, Suite K, Monterey (831) 372-8543, Reportedly, one of Steinbeck’s staple dinners was pozole. Not that fancy stuff, either. It was more of a stew cobbled together with mostly canned ingredients. Gross. Steinbeck probably stuck to that concoction because Fish Hopper’s creamy New England clam chowder didn’t exist yet. An institution beloved by tourists and locals alike, Fish Hopper has things on the menu any Cannery Row seafood restaurant serves like crab Louie salad, sesame-crusted ahi and a surf-andturf platter. They just do it far better and with their own twist. A crab cake at Fish Hopper isn’t served on soggy lettuce but with a piquant mango and papaya salsa. Even quintessential Monterey dishes like pan-fried sand dabs are made better with a crunchy panko crust and a nutty brown butter caper sauce. Best Restaurant At A Golf Course | The Grill at Point Pinos