Published by Best of Monterey Bay® Eat+Drink 2024-2025 | FREE cover_E+D_24.indd 1 4/19/24 11:49 AM

Executive Chef Michael Rotondo artistically expresses the rhythm of the coast with the only Chef’s tasting menu in Monterey at Coastal Kitchen. Each plate is exquisitely paired with curated wines by Sommelier Conrad Reddick. Renewed with ever-changing local ingredients and fresh ingenuity, this unforgettable epicurean journey is a one-of-a-kind Monterey experience. (831) 645-4064 RESERVATIONS 400 Cannery Row Monterey, CA MtyPlaza_fp_ED23_gk.indd 1 4/18/24 4:19 PM

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booze, brunch, & birdies 79 Asilomar Blvd., Pacific Grove, CA at the Pacific Grove Golf Links 831.375.1300 GRILLATPOINTPINOS.COM @grillatpointpinos #downwithgpp have you tried the grill at point pinos? VERVE COFFEE ROASTERS ESPRESSO BAR BREAKFAST, BRUCH, & LUNCH BAKED GOODS BAR & LOUNGE OCEAN VIEW & COURSE VIEW PATIO DINING REMODELED DINING ROOM Grill-PP_fp_ED23_dg.indd 1 4/18/24 4:29 PM

th ar o th plat may 31–june 8, 2024 Discover the Art of the Plate at participating restaurantsin Carmel-by-the-Sea with immersive food experiences, curated menus, special offers, and culinary events! culinary week kick-off party Carmel Plaza, Mission & Ocean Ave Friday, May | : – : pm | $ per person Enjoy amazing food, regional wines and awesome live music in this beautiful outdoor setting! “the freshman” movie at outdoor forest theater Mountain View Ave & Santa Rita St | Saturday, June “kitchen brigade” movie at sunset center San Carlos & €th Ave | Wednesday, June | Free, Reservation Required culinary showdown at carmel farmer’s market Devendorf Park, Junipero & Ocean Ave | Thursday, June 6 | : am-‹: pm | Complimentary Entrance Vote for the tastiest farm-to-table bites prepared by Carmel chefs, sip on fresh mocktails, and enjoy live music next to the Farmer’s Market. pub crawl-by-the-sea Friday, May –Saturday, June Ž | $€€ per person Take a delicious journey to four charming pubs and restaurants in downtown Carmel, each serving up a signature drink and snack. Participating locations: Barmel, Flaherty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, Links Club & Vesuvio. Presented by Local Sponsors Lead Sponsor Media Sponsors For exclusive access, event calendar, and to purchase tickets, visit or scan for more details! CCW_2024_MC Weekly_Eat & Drink_Full Pg_Final.indd 1 4/18/24 4:17 PM carmel-culinary_FP_ED24_ec.indd 1 4/19/24 10:29 AM

Dining on the edge of forever California casual and refined elegance merge seamlessly at an unforgettable perch above the Big Sur coast. Pacific’s Edge earns its long-held reputation as the most romantic destination restaurant in Monterey County. Transforming ingredients inspired by the local bounty from land and sea, a stellar culinary team creates seasonal food that only enhances the sensory delights of the panoramic splendor. Exemplary food. Skilled hospitality. Storied wine cellar. World-renowned location. Reserve your view of it all today. For more information go to or call(831) 622-5445. 120 HIGHLANDS DR CARMEL, CA 93923 Dining on the edge of forever 120 HIGHLANDS DR CARMEL, CA 93923 Hyatt_FP_ED24_GK.indd 1 4/19/24 2:57 PM

What does anyone really mean when they use the phrase “dining scene”? We might as well ask why chicken became the go-to point of comparison for all unfamiliar foods. And yet, Monterey County is home to a rich and varied dining scene—one that is evolving and improving. What’s new? As the first of the 2023 wines are released, expectations for quality are high. New-ish is the interest in craft lager beers by local brewmasters. The style has been around for centuries. Yet small-batch breweries had been more interested in IPAs, sours and other styles until recently. What’s trendy? Almond croissants, for one. Just about every bakery offers them and they generally sell out. Mocktails are a recent phenomenon, as well, with many bartenders granting them the care of a mixologist. What hasn’t changed is our craving for fish tacos. And with so much fresh seafood available, it’s no wonder they remain a staple—whether fried, grilled or blackened. There are many dining experiences to be had in Monterey County. Did you realize, for example, that in an area spotted Duck hooked on Tacos 10 | Pastry Goes nuts 16 | nothing To see here 20 Making The scene 26 | Vintage year 32 | Cellar Dwellars 38 Don’t Mock It 42 | signature Dishes 46 | signature Drinks 58 Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve Publisher Erik Cushman Editor Sara Rubin Project Editor Dave Faries Art Director/Production Manager Karen Loutzenheiser Contributing Writers and Copy Editors Erik Chalhoub, Celia Jiménez, Pam Marino, Agata Pope˛da, David Schmalz Photographer Daniel Dreifuss Graphic Designers Alexis Estrada, Lani Headley, Kevin Jewell Advertising Keith Bruecker, Diane Glim, George Kassal Business Development Director Keely Richter Cover Photo by Daniel Dreifuss The table is set at Nicolás Cocina de Herencia in Carmel. The Best of Monterey Bay® is published by Milestone Communications, Inc., a California corporation. The entire contents are copyright 2024. No portion may be reproduced. 831-394-5656. INSIDE known for its vistas, some of the best outdoor dining places offer nothing in the way of a view? With this guide we celebrate just a sliver of the dining scene. But we hope that in these pages you find some inspiration. -Dave Faries 8 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 SIGN UP TODAY: FRESH, LOCAL NEWS SERVED DAILY Arts Culture Food News and More DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX DAILY MCNOW_1-3v_ED24_kpr.indd 1 4/18/24 12:15 PM 8.indd 1 4/19/24 1:17 PM

JACKS MONTEREY California Coastal Cuisine Locally sourced ingredients paired with award-winning wine and cocktails Breakfast: 6:30am to 10:30am Dinner: 4pm to 10pm PETER B’S BREWPUB Monterey’s Original Craft Brewery Serving award-winning craft beer with a pub style menu and sports on 18 HDTV’s Wednesday - Sunday: 4pm to 10pm Monday & Tuesday: Closed Two Portola Plaza | Monterey, CA 93940 Complimentary Parking (831) 649-4511 JACKS MONTEREY & PETER B’S BREWPUB DOWNTOWN DINING IN THE HEART OF MONTEREY PortolaHotel-2_VG23_gk.indd 1 4/18/24 4:22 PM

10 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Get Hooked Fish tacos are jumping in popularity on local menus—here’s where to catch a few good ones. By Pam Marino Few argue the origins of the fish taco. That claim firmly belongs to the coastal towns of Baja California—historians say Ensenada, specifically—where fishermen likely for centuries cooked the day’s catch over a fire and wrapped it in handmade corn tortillas for a satisfying supper. One story goes that the crispy, fried version, known as the Baja fish taco, was born after traders from Asia taught residents of the Baja Woodward Marine Market Wedo’s fish-tacos.indd 1 4/16/24 4:22 PM

Sample over 70 certified extra virgin olive oils and Balsamics right in the heart of Cannery Row. 751 CANNERY ROW • MONTEREY • 831-242-8900 Ultra Premium (UP) Certified FUSED OLIVE OILS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OILS SPECIALTY OILS BALSAMIC VINEGAR Tasty-Olive_FP_VG23_gk.indd 1 4/18/24 4:21 PM

Peninsula how to deep fry foods. However they were created, fish tacos thankfully migrated north in the 1970s with surfers returning to California after chasing waves south of the border, and 50 years later they are a staple on many Monterey County restaurant menus, especially along the coast. They make the perfect lunch, appetizer or even main dish at dinner. A good traditional fish taco requires a few key ingredients: a corn tortilla; grilled or battered fried fish, preferably fresh and locally caught; shredded cabbage; a sauce with crema or sour cream as its base; and a salsa. Every fish taco should come with slices of lime for a last-minute burst of freshness. Ripe avocado is always a welcome addition. The variations for fish tacos multiply from there—some people prefer flour tortillas, some might like crema with a kick or a salsa using tropical fruits. A good example of this street taco is found at Wedo’s Tacos, the taco truck parked on the back patio of Dust Bowl Brewing Co. near both Fisherman’s Wharf and Wharf #2 in Monterey. They’re the perfect accompaniment to one of Dust Bowl’s craft beers. A beer batter envelopes locally caught rock cod and is deep fried, then topped with a cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and an avocado crema. Buy just one as a snack or three or more for a meal, since they’re priced individually. For an upscale version of what started as humble street food, Alejandro’s restaurant in downtown Monterey serves up some of the best fish tacos in the region that—like the tacos themselves—are so simple and yet at the same time complex. “The secret is to make it with love,” Chef Jorge Leyva says coyly. Another reason they’re so good is because they’re made with all fresh ingredients and housemade components, from the blue corn tortillas to the chipotle adobo mayonnaise aioli. 12 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Alejandro’s fish-tacos.indd 2 4/16/24 4:22 PM

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Leyva uses fresh halibut and fresh corn masa for the batter. The cabbage that accompanies the taco is lightly dressed and seasoned to make a perfect slaw. Two Polynesian-style restaurants in Monterey include the tacos on their menus. Kona Steak and Seafood in the Del Monte Shopping Center offers tempura sea bass tacos, lightly dipped in batter and fried, topped with cabbage, caper sauce and pico de gallo. Hula’s South Seas fish tacos are a grilled version. The Monterey restaurant uses barramundi, also known as Asian sea bass, and partners them with a slaw and sundried tomato pesto aioli. Rocky’s Cafe in Seaside, a family-owned and operated breakfast and lunch spot named for a spunky Jack Russell terrier they once owned, serves up spicy Baja-style fish tacos made with fresh red snapper. “Everything is fresh and made from scratch,” says Chef-Owner Juan Contreras. The spice comes from Contreras’ own flavorful aioli made with a morita chili pepper, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, avocado cilantro and jalapeño. (Ask for a taste if you’re sensitive about spice—it borders on medium spicy.) The three tacos are topped with freshly sliced cabbage and housemade pico de gallo. Seared fish tacos are popular at Woodward Marine Market, perched on the harbor in Moss Landing, says Chef Nichole Robbins, although she serves up Baja-style fried tacos too for crunch fans. For the seared tacos, Robbins uses whatever locally caught fish are available, “typically rockfish, halibut, sea bass, albacore if that’s running,” she says. She trims from whole fish and uses a house rub on the fish before searing. Three tacos come on small, street-style corn tortillas, along with red and green cabbage, a roasted serrano chile crema, red onions and a slice of lime. The Baja version uses smaller pieces from the Alaska line-caught cod she cuts for the restaurant’s popular fish and chips. To the south in Big Sur, Fernwood Tavern sears or fries rockfish for its offering of three tacos, then tops them with pickled onions, cabbage, cilantro and chipotle-lime crema. They’re served with salsa verde and roja. For a higher-end lunch option, The Sur House offers its take with cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, avocado crema and pickled onions on a corn tortilla. In Salinas, Villa Azteca handmakes blue corn tortillas and fills them with beer-battered fresh cod. They’re topped with a creamy chipotle-lime sauce, sliced avocado and a roasted tomatillo salsa. Wherever fish tacos originated, we’re fortunate they’ve made a home in Monterey County where they’re easy to enjoy at a variety of local restaurants. rocky’s Cafe 14 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 43 Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey 831-288-6218 HOMEMADE ICE CREAM, SHAKES & SUNDAES MTYBayCreamery_1-3v_VG23_gk.indd 1 6/14/23 4:27 PM 14.indd 1 4/19/24 12:22 PM

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The croissant alone represents an idyll of the pastry counters. It is at once flaky and doughy, airy and buttery. The magic of baking transforms the simple concoction of fat sealed in a block of dough into something much more. But as decadent as the plain croissant is—it is basically a way of baking butter—the almond croissant takes the concept a step further. It starts with a regular, plain croissant, then embellishes it by slicing it, filling it with almond paste or cream, then topping it with some variation of almond paste or cream, powdered sugar and slivered almonds. What this combination produces is something distinctly nutty and sweet (but often not too sweet)—and something that can be a whole breakfast, an indulgent snack or a treat to be sliced up and shared among 10 friends for a bite of heaven each. It’s no wonder that local bakery after local bakery claim almond croissants are the most popular seller. Paris Bakery in Monterey reports this is the only pastry they bake all day every day, because demand continues unabated. Try finding almond croissants at Alta Bakery in Monterey—good luck. (They recommend trying your luck on 16 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Sweet Treat Almond croissants are universally popular at local bakeries, thanks to their status as the perfect pastry. By Sara Rubin Café Carmel Sweet Elena’s Bakery Emma’s Bakery almond-croissants.indd 1 4/16/24 4:41 PM

WWW.MONTEREYCOUNTYWEEKLY.COM 17 662 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove 831-643-1060 Red House Cafe Weekend Brunch Fri, Sat & Sun 8am-2:30pm Breakfast Tues - Thurs 8am-11am Lunch Tues - Thurs 11:30am - 2:30pm Dinner Tues - Sat 5pm - 9pm (Closed Sunday nights & Monday all day.) Voted Best Brunch ’15 ’14 ’16 ’17 ’18 ’19 ’21 ’22 ’23 Fresh Contemporary American Fare with European Flair RedHouse_1-3s_ED24_DG.indd 1 4/3/24 3:35 PM 1992– 2023 VOTED BEST Comfort Food Family Restaurant Desserts 434 Alvarado St., Monterey 831-375-1400 | Everyone Loves Butter! Lemon Curd & Blueberry Pancakes Carne Asada Fried Rice Bacon Breakfast Burrito 831-394-2887 Everyone Loves Butter! Open Everyday 6am-2:30pm It’s time Seaside is no longer the evil step sister of Monterey but the Cinderella - Benny & Susan Lemon Curd & Blueberry Pancakes 1760 Fremont Blvd. B-1 Seaside EbQ Pork Belly Adobe Fried Rice 1760 Fremont Blvd. B-1 Seaside Open Everyday 6 am-2 pm View Menu Join Waitlist 17.indd 1 4/18/24 4:30 PM

Tuesdays, but even then you’ve got to come early.) At Sweet Elena’s Bakery in Sand City, where there are glorious berry pies to compete with, these are the most popular item, selling upwards of 1,000 per week. Owner Katy Matias credits her predecessor, Elena Salsedo Steele, with perfecting the recipe and setting a standard that has made almond croissants a mainstay in bakeries all over the region these days. “The way Elena balanced it made it very light and fluffy. It’s not overpowering, it’s not too sweet, and it doesn’t sit heavy in your stomach,” Matias says. Because the ingredients are simple, it’s mostly about technique—working fast to keep the almond cream cool, before it gets too runny, for instance. Sweet Elena’s does a twice-baked process, which means roughly 48 hours to make a batch of almond croissants. The first step is to make the dough and bake it partway. Then comes the almond filling and brushing some on top, before a second bake. And Sweet Elena’s uses almond cream rather than almond paste, an unusual choice that leads to the relative lightness Matias describes. It also leads to a relatively delicate dessert. Customers have requested the almond croissants via mail, but Matias says they simply won’t hold up, and she refuses to ship a product that would arrive as a disappointment. At Emma’s Bakery and 31st Grill in Salinas, owner Eddie Estrada similarly emphasizes technique and ingredients as the keys to successful almond croissants. “There’s nothing we put in that is out of this world,” he says. “It’s butter, flour, salt, sugar and milk—it’s basic. But it’s quality ingredients.” Perhaps needless to say, butter is among the most important to any bakery, and not just for croissants. “We go through so much butter, it’s unbelievable how much butter we use,” Estrada says. “It’s just butter, butter, butter.” Emma’s follows a similar 48-hour, twice-baked process, and the almond croissants here are also the bestseller by far. Almond croissants have become ubiquitous for a lot of reasons, including that they can be a lot of things to a lot of people, depending on your appetite or the time of day. They are portable and hearty desserts (or meals) that fit in a tiny to-go bag. Yes, almond croissants might be best enjoyed warm, with a fork, at a table in a cafe with a cup of coffee. But there’s no reason to feel bad about grabbing one and eating it on-the-go in the car, or even the next day. You can eat an almond croissant at all times—as breakfast, a midmorning snack, a dessert, or an afternoon pickme-up. And customers order them all day long at Café Carmel. Almond croissants rival chocolate croissants as the most popular item at Café Carmel, but owner Sarah Cook notes they have an added element of protein (thanks to the nuts) that can make you feel a little less guilty about calling one breakfast. “Almond is not granola or anything like that, but it’s got that breakfast-y aspect to it,” Cook says. “It’s sweet, but it’s not so sweet. They are very popular, and they are pretty substantial as well. They are kind of a whole meal in a croissant. I don’t think you’d be hungry afterward.” And if you are still hungry, try something a little lighter—maybe a plain butter croissant. 18 THE BEST OF MONTEREY BAY ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Layers Sensation Cakes 9 Soledad Dr. Monterey 655 1544 ’23 Thank you for voting us BEST CAKES! Layers_1-6v_ED24_GK.indd 1 4/19/24 12:30 PM in a taste of Carmel’s charm at our quaint wine tasting room nestled in the heart of Carmel by-the-Sea, where elegance meets comfort, and embark on a journey through award winning wines. | 831-622-9704 Indulge Whether you’re on a weekend getaway or planning a special group event, our intimate venue offers the perfect ambiance to savor the flavors of Monterey County wines. Join us for a memorable experience and the unmistakable allure of Carmel by-the-Sea. DeTierra_1-6v_ED24_dg.indd 1 4/19/24 10:11 AM 18.indd 1 4/19/24 1:06 PM 19 Esteban_1-2h_ED24_gk.indd 1 3/22/24 3:03 PM AWARD-WINNING SEAFOOD at Asilomar BESt SEAFOOD 12 years Open daily 11:30am-9pm for lunch and dinner Full Bar and Happy Hour Menu Mon–Thurs 4–5:30pm 1996 1/2 Sunset Avenue, Pacific Grove • 831-375-7107 • Fishwife_1-2h_ED24_DG.indd 1 4/18/24 5:10 PM 19.indd 1 4/19/24 2:26 PM

There is something uniquely satisfying about dining outdoors, especially on a warm, sunny day. And while diners often gravitate toward patios with sweeping views—for good reason—there are plenty of delightful outdoor dining options with not much of a view at all, except of the food, the people and perhaps some lovely architecture. With that in mind, here are five great spots in Monterey County to dine outside without an ocean vista or 20 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Outside In Some places to eat and drink outside in Monterey County don’t have epic views. That’s not a bad thing. By David Schmalz Café Guaraní Alta Bakery and Cafe outdoors.indd 1 4/16/24 4:44 PM


scenic hills. Each has their own unique character, and the food and drink options at all of them more than make up for the absence of a view. Alta Bakery and Cafe 502 Munras Ave., Monterey 920-1018, If you walk by Alta Bakery on any given morning, you’ll likely see a line stretching out the door filled with eager patrons looking for a delicious pastry and coffee. Or perhaps it’s an avocado toast, and later in the day, a pizza or salad and a beer. But for the uninitiated just walking by, they might not know that Alta has a sprawling outdoor area in the enclosed grounds of the restored Cooper Molera Adobe, which dates back to 1827. The patio offers tables in the shade or sun (if it’s out), and whether alone or with others, there’s no better experience in the county to get a taste of what Monterey was like in the 19th century, when it was both the Spanish, or Mexican capital of Alta California, and briefly, the state capital of California as it was brought into the American fold. The food and beverage options are can’tmiss—everything is excellent. Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro Mission Street and 7th Avenue (Carmel Plaza), Carmel 293-8621, Alvarado Street Brewery has exploded in popularity in the past decade, winning numerous awards at the annual American Beer Festival and expanding the reach of its flagship brewery and restaurant in Monterey to three other locations in Monterey County. Its outpost in Carmel is perhaps the most interesting, because it’s nestled inside Carmel Plaza and has a large outdoor dining area on the plaza’s ground level. And it’s not just that the bistro bustles—that’s not unique among Alvarado Street Brewery’s locations—but is because there are also scores of people milling about the plaza patronizing other businesses. It’s a place to watch people dressed casually in designer clothes enjoying the day. It’s a fun vibe, a place to see and/ or be seen. And of course, the beers are as good as it gets—and the dishes are compelling, as well. If you’re going to have a sun’s-out drink and meal in Carmel while also enjoying the fresh air and secondhand conversation, this is the place to do it. Plus, it won’t break the bank. Café Guaraní 111 Central Ave., Pacific Grove 747-1551, The “secret garden” in the back of Café Guaraní is an underappreciated gem just a stone’s throw from busy Central Avenue in Pacific Grove and just a couple of blocks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Encompassed by potted plants, the garden patio basks in the afternoon sun, but umbrellas provide shade for the sun-shy. And for those who really want to kick back, there’s even a hammock. The cafe serves Paraguayan cuisine, and aside from the superb coffee beverages, this is a place to try some authentic empanadas, yucca fries and yerba maté teas. It’s a peaceful, relaxing escape from the bustle of Cannery Row and Monterey’s Lighthouse 22 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Estéban outdoors.indd 2 4/16/24 4:44 PM

Best Restaurant In Monterey County Best Restaurant For a Special Occasion Bernadus_fp_ED24_kb.indd 1 4/18/24 4:36 PM

Avenue, a hidden pocket of miniparadise. ESTÉBAN 700 Munras Ave, Monterey 375-0176, Tucked on the lot of the Casa Munras Hotel & Spa is a spacious, enclosed patio with two levels, a plenitude of plant life and array of tables both big and small that serve as the outdoor dining area for Estéban, a high-end Spanish restaurant where saffron is king. It’s a lovely place for tapas—or a full meal—and the sangria is the best in the area code. Low-volume music fills the airwaves, providing a lively, festive vibe without forcing one to raise their voice to be heard. There’s also a stage for live music. It’s a great place for couples and large groups alike, and for those who love Spanish food and a glass of great wine—in a setting that resembles an Old World patio—Estéban can’t be beat. SALT WOOD KITCHEN AND OYSTERETTE 3295 Dunes Drive, Marina 883-5535, saltwoodkitchenandoysterette. com Salt Wood has by far the loveliest interior of any restaurant in Marina— and that might also be true for the county at large. What gets less attention is its outdoor dining area, which sits among sand dunes just a few hundred feet from the sea. You can’t really see the ocean from the dining area— unless you’re standing up—but you can feel it. Which only makes it a better place to enjoy bounty from the sea, like oysters, or any number of other 24 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Voted Best Indian Restaurant by the Weekly readers 16 times! DOWNTOWN MONTEREY 565 Abrego Street (831) 641-0610 Lunch Buffet 11:30am-2:45pm, Dinner 4-9pm LOS GATOS 133 N. Santa Cruz Ave.(408) 827-4339 Lunch 11:30am-2:45pm, Dinner 4pm SCOTTS VALLEY 6006 La Madrona Drive #D (831) 713 -5594 Lunch 11:45am-2:45pm, Dinner 4:30pm APTOS 207 Sea Ridge Road (831) 685-0610 Lunch 11:30am-2:45pm, Dinner 4:30pm ’08-’23 NOTHING LESS THAN OUR BEST Ambrosia_1-3s_ED24_gk.indd 1 4/22/24 10:26 AM Priceless Ocean Views coastal cuisine: Diverse menu featuring the finest local and international flavors. special events & Private Dining: Live music, themed events, or reserve our intimate space for a private gathering. Email or call (831)264-6317 We await the pleasure of serving you! 1 McCLURE WAY, SEASIDE • 831-899-5954 • Bayonet_1-3s_ED24_KB.indd 1 4/11/24 12:16 PM 24.indd 1 4/22/24 10:44 AM

delicacies from the surf. The fare from the turf is equally superb, and the dogfriendly patio is an idyllic spot to enjoy a brunch or sunset dinner. The setting is matched by the taste and quality of the ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. It’s another unique gem. SWEET ELENA’S BAKERY AND CAFÉ 465 Olympic Ave., Sand City 393-2063, Sweet Elena’s founder Elena Salsedo Steele may have retired in 2022, but it’s still a bakery par excellence, and among other things, features what many consider the county’s best almond croissants. The reason the quality hasn’t fallen off is Salsedo Steele recruited a protegé, Katy Matias, and taught her everything she knows. And while it might not say much to be the best restaurant in tiny Sand City—it’s the only restaurant in Sand City that is not a chain franchise—Sweet Elena’s would shine no matter where it’s located. Its outdoor patio is different. The vibe is Sand City’s industrial area, with the blank back wall of Home Depot looming. But it faces south and is splashed with sun for hours every day (again, when it’s not shrouded). One can sense the ocean just to west of the Highway 1 din, but Olympic Avenue is a side street with virtually no traffic, apart from what is headed toward the bakery. It’s a place that deserves even more love than it gets, but for the locals who are regulars, they probably like it just fine as is. WWW.MONTEREYCOUNTYWEEKLY.COM 25 620 OCEAN VIEW BLVD. PACIFIC GROVE 831-375-2345 • BEACHHOUSEPG.COM DINNER FROM 4PM DAILY CASUAL CALIFORNIA DINING OVERLOOKING LOVERS POINT BEACH Experience one of the Monterey Peninsula’s most enchanting dining destinations. ’14 Voted Monterey County’s Best New Restaurant BEACH HOUSE RESTAURANT + BAR @ LOVERS POINT ★ BeachHouse_1-3s_ED24_GK.indd 1 4/17/24 3:45 PM Fisherman’s WharF’s neWest restaurant Serving Fresh Seafood, Pasta, Steaks, Sandwiches and Cocktails with Great Views of Monterey Bay Open Daily at 11:30am At the end of Fisherman’s Wharf #1 • 831.324.4375 f P 25.indd 1 4/18/24 4:38 PM

“Dining scene” is a handy phrase. It is tossed around casually by those promoting local tourism, by restaurateurs, food writers and people in routine conversation about the pluses and minuses of a city. Replace “dining” with “food,” “restaurant” or “nightlife” and it means the same thing. But what does it mean, exactly? “I don’t even know,” says Anna Marie Bayonito, chef at Sticks in Pebble Beach. The veteran chef is onto something. Dining scene is also a nebulous expression, one that references avoid. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, for instance, draws a blank. Seek more online and you’ll be able to sketch together a vague definition—the perceived quality of the dining experience, perhaps. For the most part, the phrase comes with attachments that are hardly clarifying, such as “vibrant dining scene,” “trendy dining scene” or “Old World dining scene.” Yet somehow this manages to convey a message. The phrase creates a context that allows us to fill in the details, whatever we might consider those to be. “You can feel it,” Bayonito explains. “It’s the way they are doing things, the vibe of the location.” She’s right. And that’s why the remark is so elusive. There are many layers to a dining scene, and any of those may be considered as a draw by one group or a reason to stay away by another. Staking a place out as “trendy” will attract hipsters but put off old misers. Still, the phrase begs for some form of annotation. In her role as marketing and branding director with Carmel restaurants Pangaea Grill and Sur, Ashley Wolff is well placed to understand the phrase and its nuances. She describes a dining scene as something closer to a mixed-use development, with scenes within the scene. “A new wave [of restaurateurs] comes in and creates sleek dining experiences,” Wolff says. These occupy trendy or upscale spaces, but they are only part of the whole. “You also have the nostalgic places.” So new concepts like Spotted Duck in Pacific Grove need venerable restaurants like Cannery Row’s The Whaling Station and Sardine Factory nearby. Or as Wolff puts it, “What does Alfredo’s bring [to the scene]?” The dark, day-drinking haven unchanged—apart from swabbing the soot-stained walls from indoor smoking days—for 60-plus years is a Monterey favorite. Alfredo’s Cantina, in this scenario, exists as a reminder, a font of familiarity, a place one can count on. 26 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Scene It A common expression is often used to define dining in a location, but does it really mean anything? By Dave Faries Spotted Duck scene.indd 1 4/16/24 5:39 PM

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In other words, a dining scene requires variety—not just in types of cuisine offered, but also in appeal. Jim Culcasi, owner of Rosine’s on Monterey’s Alvarado Street, recalls visiting friends in Los Angeles with his wife. They went for dinner at a hotspot called Sugar Shack. A year later, the couple were again in L.A. and Culcasi recalled the restaurant fondly. “They said, ‘That’s gone,’” he points out. “The trendy ones, they are really hot and then they’re gone.” Restaurant owners acknowledge, however, that longstanding venues must keep up with trends, at least to some extent. Culcasi revised the menu at Rosine’s in 2023 and is always interested in new flavors. “As a chef, it’s a place”—be that a downtown, a city or a region—“to get a good meal in a good environment,” says Jerry Regester of Spotted Duck, acknowledging that see-and-be-seen is often misconstrued as a dining scene. “Do I want to be trendy? No.” Old Fisherman’s Grotto on Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf also brings current interests to its menu. Chef Juan Ponce emphasizes technique—ethereal seared scallops that melt on the palate into the subtle, bittersweet heat of a sundried tomato chile sauce—but also sourcing local, sustainable and organic ingredients as much as possible. As a result, the restaurant flooded by tourists has a very strong local base. “We have generations of families that come,” observes owner Chris Shake. “We’re providing an experience that brings people back.” Yet it is crucial for a dining scene to have a fresh layer. Culcasi notes that when Rosine’s opened in the 1980s, downtown Monterey had fallen out of favor. The city was working to restore Alvarado Street and it needed something to draw people back. “Once we were established, other restaurants started popping up all around us,” Culcasi says. “The more restaurants, the better.” Bayonito believes a food scene is in somewhat constant evolution. Tastes change over time, people learn to Old Fisherman’s Grotto 28 THE BEST OF MONTEREY BAY ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 A CANNERY ROW TRADITION PIZZA SEAFOOD PASTA 660 Cannery Row 2nd Level of Steinbeck Plaza on Cannery Row 831-648-8500 FREE Clam Chowder Present this COUPON and receive ONE CUP of our Award-Winning Clam Chowder with the purchase of an entree. Limit two per table. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Code: CRVG Trip Advisor Lunch & Dinner Daily Expires 4/30/25 louie_1-3v_ED24_gk.indd 1 4/9/24 4:34 PM 28.indd 1 4/18/24 4:40 PM

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appreciate new ingredients or global flavors. Sushi bars were rare before the 1990s. Now they are a requirement. “You want established restaurants, but also new—not being trendy just to be trendy,” Bayonito says. The overarching question is, “How do you capture people who are interested in food?” Wolff is currently consulting with a new Korean concept, JeJu Kitchen in Carmel. She is hoping to slot into another layer—unique to the immediate area, nice but also casual. “The dining experience is still very much growing here,” Wolff observes. Carmel had become staid, with a wealth of traditional, Old World menus opposite neighborhood favorites. But she points out that a few chefs doing something different can reignite a dining scene. Wolff is referring to several restaurants. But the most prominent of these are Foray, where Chef Michael Chang and his team are local and seasonal to the point of foraging, along with Jonny and Monique Black’s Chez Noir, which earned a reputation for culinary heights—as well as a Michelin star—in its first year. They were followed by Nicolás Cocina de Herencia, a Carmel offshoot of the brilliant Salinas venue Villa Azteca. “I don’t think anyone realized how stagnant it was,” Wolff explains. “They brought some va-va-voom that was needed.” Culcasi agrees that trendy kitchens stir excitement, while existing ones provide a foundation. “New restaurants open and our regulars will try them,” he points out. “But they always come back.” At its core, Regester believes that a dining scene needs kitchens with menus that are achievable and approachable, with dishes that are well executed. As for the rest of it, restaurant professionals may not have settled on a firm definition of “dining scene.” The meaning remains a bit open-ended. Their understanding of the expression, however, is more nuanced than those who use it so casually. To those in the service industry, “trendy dining scene” is more a word of warning. For a scene to be sustainable, Shake says, “you have choices.” Nicolás Cocina de Herencia 30 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 scene.indd 3 4/16/24 5:39 PM

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As winemakers crushed the last of the 2023 grape harvest in Monterey County, praise for the vintage had already sent expectations into a wild ferment. “It’s the vintage of my career,” says Steve Peck, vice president of winemaking for J.Lohr, citing red grapes showing rich pigmentation and whites normally destined for the brand’s inexpensive labels now matching the quality of their higher-end line. 32 THE BEST OF MONTEREY BAY ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 A YEAR TO REMEMBER The first bottles of Monterey County’s 2023 wines confirm anticipation of a spectacular vintage. By Dave Faries Odonata Wines wines.indd 1 4/18/24 3:30 PM

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Peck has been tending vineyards in Monterey County for three decades, so he has experience to draw on. But even the younger winemakers noticed a difference. Russell Joyce, who planted a vineyard for what would become his award-winning Joyce label in 1986, found no reference point. “I haven’t been alive long enough to see a vintage this good,” he says. That was in November. The first bottles of this extraordinarily promising vintage began to reach tasting rooms in March of 2024. Even with the first release—whites and rosés for the most part, also one Gamay Noir came available—anticipation was high. As Jeff Pisoni of Pisoni Family Vineyards noted in a letter, the cooler season in the winery’s microclimates benefits grapes noted for vivid acidity. The 2023 Lucy Gamay Noir from Pisoni bursts on the palate with tart cranberry and currant that follow brisk aromas of wild berries and red cherry. While the fruits run rampant, the Gamay Noir begins to reveal more character. Notions of green buds on the verge of blooming and an elusive grounded sensation round out the bouquet. On the palate, hints of peppery earth help define the chirping fruits while a stoney minerality provides foundation. “Lucy Gamay Noir is particularly vibrant and higher in acid this year,” Pisoni noted. Morgan winery’s initial release included five 2023 wines—an Albariño, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Rosé prepared from Grenache. The fifth wine released from the vintage is a dry Riesling from Morgan’s reliable Double L Vineyard. Harvested when sugar levels were low and left to reside in neutral oak for five months, it became a deceptive beauty. On the nose it tempts with impressions of ripe, glistening pear and fresh peach, with just a hint of lemon. But it has a sharp wit on the palate—brisk lemon, the lean pang of zest and just a whisper of minerality. With a clean and very dry finish, it’s a wine that wants a plate of seafood alongside. At the end of harvest and since, Monterey County winemakers have been celebrating the 2023 vintage. But they weren’t always so appreciative. The 2023 winegrape growing season was frustrating. With heavy winter rains and a generally cool summer, some vines were subject to mildew. Denis Hoey at Odonata fought a losing battle to mildew in one plot and consigned his Viognier to sparkling wine. Rustique’s vineyards were swarmed by yellowjackets, forcing Chad Silacci to toss 20 percent of his fruit. Because of moderate weather, grapes ripened slowly, pushing the start of harvest back several weeks. “In September we were all kicking rocks,” Hoey says. And then suddenly temperatures climbed and grapes responded, causing a manic harvest in which many growers scrambled to bring in almost their entire crop in a two-week span. Some picked Pinot Noir—usually an early-ripening grape—at the same time as the notorious laggard, Cabernet Sauvignon. “It was a challenging year—most challenging on the farming side,” Silacci observes. “I just wanted the grapes to come off the vineyard.” Conditions allowed for a longer hang time on the vines, so grapes mature more slowly and develop greater character. There were no untimely heat spikes or rains to cause sudden ripening turns. So harvest became a 34 THE BEST OF MONTEREY BAY ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 Morgan wines.indd 2 4/18/24 3:31 PM

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waiting game. “Acidity wasn’t changing, sugars weren’t changing, but the quality was,” Silacci notes. Even the juice Hoey culled from his “mildew haven” vineyard for sparkling Viognier stands out. “It’s tasting really good,” he says. “I’m really excited about it.” Given the often narrow bands of microclimate that lace the county, the effects of terroir can be surprising. Typical Sauvignon Blanc shows bracing fruits, often described in terms of gooseberry, grapefruit or tropical fruits. Hoey’s 2023 Sauvignon Blanc from his Cote du Denis label, however, presents itself as more contemplative. It’s an orchard on the nose, laden and ready for harvest. Instead of sweltering summer days, it speaks to the heavier afternoons of fall, with sensations of mulled apple, cut grass and rocky soil. A sip brings rich fruits— cured apple and peach, along with whole melons and a tingle of spice. Yet there is a sharp acidic bite on the edge that lingers on the palate, brightening the next sip. Despite the extended growing season and late harvest, in retrospect the growing season in Monterey County was free of drama. “No fires, no rain too early, no cold days, no frost,” observes J.Lohr’s Peck. In addition to high quality, many vineyards reported yield levels at or above normal season—welcome results after a drought-stricken year. The 2022 harvest was valued at $174 million, a drop of 20 percent from the previous year. And recent harvests have been a bit of a roller coaster for growers. Owner Bill Parsons of Parsonage Winery in Carmel Valley, for instance, lost almost all of his fruit to the parched summer of 2022. Smoke taint had damaged his crop in 2020. Parsonage had a good year in 2019. Parsons says the 2023 vintage is even better. And the first releases are confirming that confidence. The 2023 Lucy Pico Blanco—largely Pinot Gris, but with a buffer of Pinot Blanc—is a beautiful expression of cool climate varietals. The wine offers an aromatic greeting of ripe, uncut peaches and flowering orange groves, with hints of fresh pear and lemon zest. Those same fruits drape the palate, languid and relaxed. Their reverie is alerted by a sensation of apple, but they fall back, tugged by a mellow nuttiness and more grounded impression of crushed stone. It’s an intricate wine. An unusual release is the 2023 Maker White Blend. Maker is a company that collaborates with small wineries, shipping six-packs of singleserving cans—yes, canned convenience is becoming more popular. For this particular blend, they enlisted winemaker Miguel Lepe of Lepe Cellars. The blend is 46-36 percent Albariño and Verdelho, with Grenache Blanc accounting for the rest. Poured into a traditional wine glass, aromas of nectarine and honeydew spill from the rim, with a drifting floral scent and a waft of sea breeze. A plush mouthfeel keeps the fruit at bay until mid-palate, when the wine becomes brisk—ginger-spice pineapple vying with lemon zest. But it remains easygoing, with a toasty undercurrent. One of the earliest 2023 rosés on the market is Lucy’s Rosé of Pinot Noir. The bouquet promises a casual, almost aloof wine as it keeps impressions of strawberry and orange zest at a distance. When sipped, however, it unveils a cheerful and friendly character. The palate revels in fresh orange and juicy summer watermelon, sparked by a dash of salinity. So after a 2023 that called for patience from those tending vineyards, the first releases show that winemakers—and the many who enjoy wine— will find rewards from the vintage. “Maybe there is a god and maybe he likes me,” Parsons says with a laugh. “This is our comeback year.” 36 THE BEST OF MONTEREY BAY ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 SAN SABA VINEYARD 4 Decades of Great Wines 2021 Wrath Pinot Noir San Saba Vineyard BEST OF CLASS S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition 2021 Wrath Fermata Chardonnay DOUBLE GOLD S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition 831-678-2212 Wrath_1-3v_ED24_DG.indd 1 4/18/24 11:04 AM 36.indd 1 4/18/24 11:05 AM

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A disconnect existed between craft brewers and the beer drinking market. Small-batch producers have been enamored with sours, barley wines, ambers, porters and more—particularly India Pale Ales, which they hop up to double and triple the resinous bite. Yet when someone reaches for a beer, odds are overwhelming that they will end up with a lager in hand. “Ales were always able to offer richer styles—English styles, Belgian styles,” explains Jeffrey Vitalich, brewmaster for Hidden Hills Brewing & Blending in Carmel. Ales and other styles allowed for more creativity. They adapted well to spices, fruits, strains of yeast or varieties of hops. “If you put fruit in an ale, no one bats an eye,” Vitalich adds. “Put fruit in a lager and people would think your brewery was weird.” Lager also suffered an image problem, at least among worldly aficionados. American mass market labels such as Budweiser, Coors and even the more hipster-friendly Pabst Blue Ribbon are of the lager ilk. No serious craft brewer wanted their beers associated with the favored style of the large brands. There’s also another issue. For a brewpub getting started and trying to make a name in the growing craft beer market, time is money. An ale can be on tap in as little as 10 days. But the more demanding lager requires about six weeks to ferment and mature. “I could have turned around four ales in that time,” explains Natalie Mika of Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey’s Portola Hotel. So while lager overtook ale as the most popular beer more than 100 years ago, until recently it was a craft brew afterthought. That, however, is changing— which makes Mika excited. “I love pilsner, personally,” she says. “I’m super glad they’re becoming more popular.” According to the yeast supplier and laboratory BSI, sales of craft light lagers rose 2 percent each year from 2020 to 2022. Meanwhile IPA sales were flat. Many of Monterey County’s brewpubs now make it a point to fea38 The Best of Monterey Bay ® EAT + DRINK 2024-2025 The Light Stuff Craft brewers were slow to embrace lagers, but now they are becoming passionate about the style. By Dave Faries Other Brother Beer Co. lagers.indd 1 4/19/24 10:04 AM