Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.
Put on a sweater, grab a kite, and get ready to return to Monterey, the coastal northern California town known for fine dining, quality wines, Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, and souvenirs featuring otters. Our guide for this trip is Chef David Baron — the current Executive chef at Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette. In the past, the chef has worked at now shuttered two-star Michelin restaurant Aqua in San Francisco, as well as two-star Michelin restaurant La Bouitte in Saint Martin de Belleville, France; two-star Michelin restaurant Coi; and Atelier Crenn, where he helped the restaurant earn its second Michelin star.
In short, he’s a Michelin star machine.
Having grown up in San Francisco in a multi-cultural family, Baron developed an appreciation for local resources. This was further developed by his work in numerous prestigious kitchens. Currently, he emphasizes the connection between food and nature by foraging and working with fresh seafood. Just look at these luscious oysters:
But Chef Baron’s dishes aren’t the only gorgeous, delectable plates in the region. Today he’s going to introduce us to a ton of options for amazing food in the Monterey Bay area. And, if you find it tempting and have never been there, consider taking a trip. Monterey makes for a great food vacation.
You definitely know by walking in that this place turns out pie. Once you order at the counter and they bring the pizza to your table on one of those platform trays, it makes the experience feel a little old school… in a good way. They have several topping options, and salads and pasta options are really good also. Included with awesome pizza is a full bar and you can create your own sundae at the counter, which offers way more than ice cream.
Great family restaurant because it has everything you want out of pizza place.
This taco stand gives the real meaning to “super mercado.” They have everything you want! It’s located in the back of a small Mexican market, and the selections don’t play. You can get all sorts of tacos, al pastor, adobado, carnitas, all sorts of seafoods, carne asada, buche, chicharones, etc… you get the point. The salsas are super fresh with quality you can taste. You can add on grilled scallion and jalapenos and caramelized onions, and the condiment bar is abundant.
They also sell all their product fresh, so you can take them home and make them yourself.
Vietnamese style food. The Combo Pho is pure fire and comes with shrimp, chicken, fish ball, beef tendon, and all the fixings. The stir fry noodles are also super good. I like the shrimp and crispy pork the most. The red rice with grilled pork chop is another one of my favorites. Everything comes in very generous portions. I usually over order and then take some Bahn Mi to go. They also have around 40 beers on the beverage list.
Probably the best Asian restaurant flavor-wise on the Monterey Peninsula.
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I know it says farmers market but there aren’t many farmers here. It’s more of a weekly street festival of live music, crafts, beer and food. It’s 3 1/2 city blocks of fun. They have a baked potato station, a naan guy that always has a line, a rotisserie chicken stand where the fat drips on the potatoes, and quite a variety of sweet stands. I recommend the candy apple stand, baklava stand, and they have a homemade bread stand that makes the best focaccia pizzas in Monterey.
This place is what all ice cream parlors should strive to be! This isn’t your basic sprinkles and pre-bottled sundae syrup. The chef comes up with some interesting ideas. I think they make most of their toppings in house, and they take the flavors of nature and turn them into delicious ice cream. The Bees Knees has crystallized honey candy pieces, honey comb ice cream with a burnt honey custard, it’s to die for. My favorite is the mint eucalyptus. They have a 4-course ice cream tasting menu which has been on my to do list for a while now.
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That kitchen team puts out some high-quality plates of food. They take a very California approach to food with a sort of Asian twist. They’re very technical in nature, but let the ingredients speak for themselves. They offer a tasting menu which changes with the season. They feature a bunch of local seaweeds and the Monterey Bay Red Abalone on their menu. The desserts are good also.
This is the hardest category for me to pick because there are so many good restaurants in our area. But English Ales knocks it out of the park. They focus their energy on the beer which is made on site. If you are unsure of what beer to choose, you can get the flight. You can also join the mug club where you can get mug to hang on the wall, as well as a 2 oz. extra pour with every beer. They have all your pub favorites, from patty melts, bangers and mash, fish n’ chips, and the light lunch (1/2 sandwich/salad). It’s simply no fuss. Drink a beer, eat some food and play some darts. They have very generous portions and a parking lot.
I found out about this place a few Halloweens ago. In the kids trick or treat bag, there was a free kids breakfast voucher. Since then, it has become one of our favorite brunch places. They have all your breakfast favorites — omelets, crab cake benedicts, chicken and waffles, and grilled pork chops. The service is swift as they turn tables pretty quick. They have a bar you can eat and drink at also. They also have a parking lot so makes it easy to roll in with all the kids.
Iconic Food of the City
This place is full of Monterey history. It used to be a doctor’s office called Stokes Adobe and has several ghost stories attached to the property. They cook very local and seasonal foods. You can find the Monterey Bay King Salmon, squid, and sardines on the menu from time to time. The cocktails are super well balanced and they have an awesome wine list.
Odd Culinary Experience
This is a great little under the radar Japanese spot. As soon as you walk in it feels like you’re in an authentic restaurant in Akihabara or Ginza.
Oh man this place is super good. They have all different burgers and toppings like truffle Swiss with caramelized mushrooms. Be careful, the rosemary fries are highly addictive. But the vegetarian burger is the best thing ever. It’s like a burrito in a bun. It comes with a black bean patty guacamole, sliced raw jalapenos, red onion, on a brioche bun. I also like to add it inside a single patty cheeseburger, it makes the super double burger. I get it with a chocolate milk shake.
The hangover cure is the Filipino breakfast. It comes with tocino, longaniza, spam, with three eggs over fried garlic rice. The staff is super welcoming and it gives you a hometown feel. They have a huge parking lot so that is not a problem. They open at 7am – 4pm so whether you want it early or a little later you’re all good.
This place is a straight winner. They have meat and seafood options. But where they really shine is in the vegetarian option category. The Mattar Paneer is pure deliciousness, it is homemade cottage cheese with gravy and peas. The Dum Aloo is potatoes stuffed with dried fruit and mint cooked in some curry type sauce. The Veggie Vindaloo is a great balance of spice and tang. They have these vegetables and cheese dumplings covered in a sauce that is surreal. Almost everything there is unbelievably good. Almost makes me think I can be a vegetarian!
Thank you, David Baron, 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 San Antonio, Louisville, Nashville, Raleigh, San Diego, Cambridge, Hoboken, Hollywood, Return to Miami, Return to Las Vegas, Manhattan, Oakland, Paris, Portland, Tampa, Durham, Toronto, Baltimore, Monterey, 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!