Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by world-class chefs.
This week, join us in the city of Monterey, California. Famed for its world-class aquarium, an incredible jazz festival, Cannery Row, and Fisherman’s Wharf, there are countless reasons to visit this coastal treasure. Not least among them is the food.
Here to take us on our culinary tour of this city on the bay is Restaurant 1833‘s incoming Executive Chef, Mikey Adams (his menu officially launches this fall). 1833 boasts a venerable history that dates back to — you guessed it — the 1800s; the city’s first bakery and kiln were established here, as was California’s first newspaper. The James Beard-nominated restaurant features seven unique rooms that pay “homage to the eras and characters that shaped [the] house and the role they played in California,” including the Apothecary and Absinthe bars, home to handcrafted, creative libations, ready to round out your meal and compliment your mood.
Speaking of which, who’s in the mood to eat?
Appetite primed? Now let’s check out Chef Adams’ fifteen can’t miss food experiences in Monterey!
I live in Santa Cruz, so my wife Sarah and I always go to Pleasure Pizza — I was born in Santa Cruz and it has lots of sentimental value for me. In the Monterey area, I love Big Sur Bakery. They have an awesome wood fired oven and their egg and bacon pizza is killer.
The majority of my kitchen team is from Salinas and they turned me on to El Jalisciense. They have amazing homemade tortillas, and their weekend birria special is definitely worth the trip.
Akaoni in Carmel is the go to for stellar Japanese food. I have so much respect for Japanese cuisine and, in my opinion, Akaoni has the best in the area. Their homemade tofu is truly awesome and the Omakase is both delicious and affordable.
The El Volcan food truck never disappoints. They have a well-thought-out sandwich selection. They are passionate about cooking, and they’re really clever with their burgers.
Fortunately Parker-Lusseau Pastries & Cafe is across the street from 1833, and they are just what I need when I want something sweet. They do traditional French pastry and they’re excellent at their craft. It’s an old California house and I’m inspired whenever I walk in the door.
Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur is where I go for a fancy meal. They are very connected with the terroir, and I am especially eager to go now that our former Pastry Chef Ben Spungin is heading the pastry department.
Whenever my wife and I take our daughter to the Monterey Aquarium, we always make a point to eat at Cannery Row Brewing Company. They have a huge selection of beer, an awesome straight-forward menu, and their food is solid and delicious. I love their short rib grill cheese sandwich.
El Cantaro in Monterey is superb! They offer vegan Mexican food that is so good that you almost forget that there’s no meat. I also love Dharmas in Capitola. I’ve been going there most of my life and I couldn’t live without their tempeh reuben.
Harbor Cafe in Santa Cruz is the perfect brunch spot. Their mimosas are good and strong and they pair perfectly with their Huevos Rancheros. I always leave feeling fuzzy and full.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
I’d have to say that seafood is the epitome of Monterey cuisine. I’ve eaten seafood all over the world and Monterey squid is my favorite. The Aquarium Seafood Watch has set the standard for sustainability and respect for the ocean’s bounty — I love the Monterey seafood products that I get to eat and cook at 1833.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
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It is beer-thirty here at the Big Sur River Inn, and today our choice is the Grapefruit Sculpin. We've got sunshine, 9 California draught beers, and all the trappings of a leisurely summer afternoon. #DownByTheRiver #LazyThursdays #CaliforniaMicroBrewsWelcome @ballastpointbrewing
The Big Sur River Inn is a super rad restaurant on the Big Sur River. The odd, but really cool experience that you can have there is the option of enjoying your food and drink while lounging on a willow chair in the actual river that runs behind the restaurant.
Sometimes I have just got to get some greasy fish and chips. I learned how to cook in Edinburgh Scotland, and I will never lose that craving for a huge piece of crispy fried fish and thick chips doused in salt and vinegar.
When I’m hungover, I have to have the milanesa torta from La Tortuga in Seaside. It is a huge sandwich piled high with roasted chillis, avocado, spicy sausage and deep fried steak. That sandwich and a cold beer is the perfect hangover cure.
My wife and I have a beautiful two-year-old, so date night is very special for us. We love to go to La Balena Carmel for our special meal. Chef Brad Briskes’ food is truly amazing and their wine selection is really great. It is definitely a place that we go for a special occasion.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
The Kitchen at Discretion Brewery in Capitola is owned and operated by my very close friend Santos Majano. Santos and his wife Laura run the Kitchen and they are so kind and talented. Santos’ food is uncompromisingly seasonal and it is, hands down, the best in Santa Cruz.
Santos hired me when I moved back to California. He opened my eyes to modern California cuisine and I am forever grateful for that.
Thank you, Chef Adams, for taking us on a culinary tour of Monterey!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Vail, Lexington, Bentonville, San Antonio, Warsaw, Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!