Thank you to Visit Carmel for sponsoring this post.
With a majestic coastline, storybook European cottages, world-class art and music, and a general air of tranquility, there are so many excellent reasons to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea (especially at this time of year, which locals refer to as the secret season). One especially excellent reason to make a trip is the culinary scene. There are no chain restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea—instead, a bevy of independent establishments offer local, regional, and international cuisine with ingredients sourced locally from the bountiful Monterey Bay and Salinas Valley. Whether casual or formal, contemporary or deeply traditional, Carmel-by-the-Sea is sure to have what you are looking for. Here is a sampling of what awaits you.
Subtly tucked in a quiet courtyard, Stationæry is a favorite among locals and a happy discovery for visitors. Its hip interiors are brightly washed in white and natural tones. The food is equally photogenic, often served with a topping of petals, yet the crowd there is far more concerned with savoring their food and conversation than with taking pictures. We loved everything we tried, including the Rose Latte, the Club J (an amped up take on Mexican hot chocolate), the Asparagus Benedict, and the Potato Pancake with Snake River Trout. The seasonal and locally-sourced menu is constantly on the move, however, so you may have to wait until spring for our dishes to come back around. Stationæry is open for breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, and for dinner Thursday-Saturday. Crucially, they accept reservations.
A local icon, Katy’s Place has been lovingly serving the Carmel-by-the-Sea community hearty American fare for almost 40 years. Boisterous groupings of families and friends, lace curtains, and waiters asking after diners’ mothers make you feel immediately at home. The breakfast menu, served from open to close, is the largest on the West Coast, and eggs Benedict are the definite specialty, with about twenty variations to choose from (we opted for the decadent Miss Audrey’s Lobster Benedict). Make sure to bring cash and to ask for a seat on the chalet’s heated terrace, if weather permits.
Led by the same team as L’Auberge Carmel and Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest, expectations are high and more than met at classic Italian restaurant Cantinetta Luca. The culinary team includes specialists in pasta, bread, pastry, sauce, and so forth, and it shows. Bubbly crust on wood-fired Napolitano-style pizzas perfectly balances crunch and chew. Fresh pasta (made with Italian flour) shines in Baked Rotolini with no-nut pesto and bechamel. The Salume Board is a showstopper, and a must for meat-eaters, featuring house-made white ‘nduja, genovese, sorpressata, bresaola, and more. Ask your server to help you select pairings from their extensive list of local and Italian wines.
A Carmel-by-the-Sea classic, Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine is an easy choice for lunch or dinner. Stop by on a sunny day for a relaxed lunch of salads and sandwiches on the dog-friendly patio, or return in the evening for elegant dishes such as heirloom tomatoes with balsamic pearls served on white tablecloths. Locally sourced ingredients are combined in unexpected ways to delicious effect: a favorite dish of ours married seared diver scallops with spinach ravioli, wild mushrooms, Marsala cream sauce, and baby bok choy.
Founded by Elaine and Pierre Boissiere, a couple from Orleans, France, in 1960, Patisserie Boissiere serves well-loved classics such as french onion soup (with or without sherry) and salmon en papillote in a graceful space that evokes the French countryside. Convincing painting reproductions and a tiled fireplace grace the butter-yellow dining room where guests enjoy their meals in cane-back chairs. Coffee and tea are served in the Boissieres’ original monogrammed pewterware. You can enjoy pastries, made on-site daily, during seated service, or you can purchase them to-go from the pastry counter.
Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni serves moderately priced Italian and Mediterranean plates in an inviting, European atmosphere. Guests can dine on the dog-friendly patio or inside, surrounded by candlelit murals of the Mediterranean. Hospitality is warm and attentive, with feel-good details such as complimentary dessert wine. Order the tiramisu with house-made whipped mascarpone.
Finally, other favorites from past Carmel-by-the-Sea travels include Oaxacan fare at Cultura comida y bebida and fish and chips at Brophy’s Tavern. To read more about what to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, visit this post.