Readers' Poll

restaurants Pessac-Leognan are particularly riveting. It’s so extensive that there’s a 1919 Chateau Margaux in the cellar, as well as a 1935 Simi Zinfandel, a California wine Steinbeck may have sampled—no wrath here. Cellar Master Stephen Caldwell has to keep on top of some 2,000 labels and 23,000 bottles. He does it so well that he was recognized by the Michelin Guide as the state’s top sommelier. And it’s not just the wine cellar that stands out. When Sardine Factory opened in 1968, Cannery Row was a stink, a nostalgia. But with Bert Cutino and Ted Balestreri at the helm, the award-winning Sardine Factory turned the area into a poem, a dream. BEST RESTAURANT - NORTH COUNTY Phil's Fish Market & Eatery 10700 Merritt St., Castroville (831) 633-2152, In “Johnny Bear,” Steinbeck takes readers to the marshlands in the northern end of the Salinas Valley. Certainly, Fat Carl would’ve found the cioppino at Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery to be a marked improvement from his beloved Buffalo Bar. For decades an institution in Moss Landing, Phil’s is now settled in at a new location in Castroville, and continues to set the standard for seafood locally. Housed in an iconic building in the center of town, Phil’s offers myriad shellfish appetizers and entrees coupled with an array of sandwiches, pastas, soups and salads. The cioppino is already legendary, but the artichoke menu—elevating another iconic local food—is making a serious push. BEST RESTAURANT - PACIFIC GROVE BEST RESTAURANT - MONTEREY COUNTY Passionfish 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 655-3311, We have a theory that Disney may have borrowed from a little-known John Steinbeck short story that was originally published in French for the newspaper Le Figaro in 1954, called “The Amiable Fleas,” for the 2007 animated film Ratatouille. In Disney’s version it’s a rat named Remy who pursues his dream of being a great chef by moving to Paris and guiding the boy Linguini to cook Remy’s recipes. In Steinbeck’s story, a chef in Paris, Mr. Amité, earns a Michelin star and aspires to earn another with the help of his cat, Apollo. Apollo serves as official taste tester, nodding his approval or disapproval for an anxious Mr. Amité. We doubt that Passionfish owners Ted and Cindy Walter rely on four-legged friends for recipe advice, but it’s clear they’ve cracked the code for success among Weekly readers. Year after year, readers vote for the restaurant as both best in P.G. and the entire county, and for good reasons. The sustainably caught seafood is expertly prepared, the wine list is extensive. Not into seafood? Passionfish serves up gourmet dishes like duck confit, “spoonable” 12-hour lamb or vegetarian creations. If you go, make sure to order Nancy’s buttermilk biscuits. Apollo would be nodding vigorously in approval. BEST RESTAURANT - PEBBLE BEACH Stillwater Bar & Grill 1700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach (800) 877-0597, dining Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, would applaud Stillwater’s commitment to serving sustainable seafood. The rest of us can bask in the finesse the kitchen brings to the plate. And not just for locally sourced abalone with wild mushrooms and an unagi sauce or the braised lamb shank. They can take simple fare like corn and crab chowder served with cornbread and make it into something memorable—quite a feat when the kitchen is competing with views of Stillwater Cove and the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. A great place for brunch, too. 98 BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 10 Delfino Place | Carmel Valley 659.4444 | Thank you so much! Pet Friendly Patio Lunch 11AM–2:30PM FRI-SUN Dinner from 5PM Closed Mondays ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’09 , ’10, ’11 ’06, ’09 , ’10, ’11 ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’19, ’20, ’21, ’22 ’23 Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley