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Monterey Peninsula, CA

Best Restaurants in MontereyOur favorites include some of this destination's best local restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

The atmosphere is casual at Carmel's From Scratch Restaurant, a popular breakfast and lunch spot offering generous portions of home-style fare. Friendly servers know most of the regulars by name. Order breakfast anytime, accompanied by red potatoes and a crunchy sourdough baguette. Patio seating is available, weather permitting. After dining, stroll through the Barnyard, an area filled with specialty shops and art galleries.

The perfectly named California Market at Pacific's Edge perches on a cliff overlooking the ocean at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. Glass-panel walls and a louvered roof enclose a 1,200-square-foot deck providing spectacular views of the rocky coastline. The menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients. You'll find such seafood options as octopus with baby potatoes and sorrel in black garlic emulsion, as well as a salad featuring local greens, Humboldt Fog cheese, strawberries and shaved vegetables. Sip a cocktail or a flavored coffee while watching the sun set.

Many locals recommend Domenico's on the Wharf, a Monterey landmark where all tables have a view of the harbor. Seafood specialties include wild Alaska red king crab and a bouillabaisse that's brimming with fresh fish, scallops, mussels and clams. The cozy oyster bar is a great place to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail before dinner.

The Fish Hopper , originally a sardine cannery, is on historic Cannery Row within walking distance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium . The restaurant abides by the aquarium's Seafood Watch Program, which ensures that fishing and farming is carried out in an environmentally friendly manner. Playful sea otters bob in the water outside the windows, and you may spot a migrating whale from December through April. The fish and chips feature pieces of freshly battered Pacific cod, and the grilled wild salmon, served with a mushroom risotto, is also tasty. Carnivores can order the bone-in rib-eye or maple soy-marinated skirt steak.

Also within walking distance of the aquarium, and a local fave for breakfast, is First Awakenings. The pancakes come in deliciously offbeat varieties like raspberry coconut granola and wheat germ (with fresh strawberries). The Portofino Pesto omelet—smoked turkey, Monterey jack cheese, pesto, onions, mushrooms and diced tomatoes—is yummy, and the veggie sausage rocks. If you're able to score a patio table on sunny mornings a spray bottle of water is provided to help keep the gulls at bay; apparently birds like the food here as much as humans do.

Family owned and operated, Rosine's often tops local restaurant polls and is one of the area’s best restaurants. Here they dish up plentiful portions of just about every comfort classic imaginable. Breakfast is a particular treat, with such mouthwatering concoctions as the egg puff, enlivened with Ortega chiles and jalapeño peppers; a Mediterranean omelet with Monterey Bay shrimp and cheddar cheese, topped with homemade Hollandaise sauce; and “scramblers,” including one with sliced turkey, pesto and tomatoes. The baked goods are uniformly excellent; share a slice of the six-layer German chocolate cake but only if you must.

Monterey's The Sardine Factory celebrates the history of Cannery Row in the richly appointed Steinbeck Room and the ornate, maritime-inspired décor of the Captain's Room, while the elegant Conservatory features a lush garden setting. Seafood, beef and poultry are complemented by locally grown produce; try Pacific coast sand dabs in a lemon-butter sauce, served with seasonal vegetables, or grilled abalone medallions with oyster mushrooms and asparagus. Abalone bisque, flavored with bacon, chives and Madeira wine, is the house specialty. Accompany your meal with a selection from a wine cellar that boasts more than 1,800 labels and 32,000 bottles.

The mood is friendly and upbeat at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar . A nautical theme prevails at this pub-style Monterey restaurant, which offers a wide assortment of hot appetizers as well as salads, clam chowder and crispy fish and chips. Sit on the heated outdoor terrace and admire the ocean views while sipping a margarita or a glass of wine.

If you're in the mood for a great steak—and have plenty of money to burn—head for the Whaling Station Steakhouse on Cannery Row. Start with a specialty cocktail from the bar, perhaps a Manhattan or pomegranate punch (tequila, fresh pomegranate juice and spiced syrup). The cuts of USDA Prime Midwestern beef, aged for 28 days, are displayed on a silver tray tableside for diners to select their own cooked-to-order steak. The menu also includes rack of lamb and oven-roasted chicken. Entrées are served with garlic mashed potatoes and your choice of vegetable. Sophisticated steakhouse décor and a top-notch wine list further enhance the dining experience.

Fandango has been a Pacific Grove tradition since 1983. In contrast to this beach community's casual California vibe, the comfortable dining rooms in what was once a quaint old home exude the ambience of old Europe. Start with traditional French onion soup or Caesar salad for one, a house specialty. Main dishes include steak frites; osso buco Fandango, braised with veal stock, Madeira wine, tomatoes and mushrooms; and pasta puttanesca. The lemon cheesecake is a delicious dessert.

Stillwater Bar & Grill overlooks a stunning stretch of Pacific coastline and Pebble Beach's 18th green—you just might spot a pro golfer finishing up a round. The menu at this resort-style spot emphasizes sustainable seafood and organic produce. Select Monterey Bay red abalone or a Maine lobster from the live tank. Rock crab-stuffed Petrale sole, accompanied by baby vegetables and a radish salad, is a winning entrée. But be forewarned; this is pricey dining.

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Monterey Peninsula, CA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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Best Western Park Crest Inn

1100 Munras Ave. Monterey, CA 93940

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Hyatt Carmel Highlands

120 Highlands Dr. Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

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Embassy Suites by Hilton Monterey Bay

1441 Canyon Del Rey. Seaside, CA 93955

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Monterey Marriott

350 Calle Principal. Monterey, CA 93940

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