MONGuide

The Best Restaurants & Hotels In Monterey

Our 13 favorite places to eat and stay in Monterey.

The Best Restaurants & Hotels In Monterey guide image

photo credit: Allison Green

A weekend destination for both Bay Area locals and out-of-state visitors, Monterey has a little of everything. There are underwater seascapes and kelp forests if you’re into scuba diving or snorkeling, but you’ll also find a historic wharf, boardwalk, and former canneries that call back to Monterey’s origins as a major player in the fishing industry. Nearby 17-Mile Drive is one of the most scenic drives in California, and it’s also a great jumping-off point for hikes in Point Lobos and Garrapata State Park

Between all your hiking, diving, wandering, and sightseeing, you’ll definitely get hungry. Use this guide to find the best restaurants in Monterey and neighboring Pacific Grove, from vegan spots to seafood standbys. If you’re ready to park your car and stay for the night, we’ve also included our favorite Monterey hotels.

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DATE NIGHT


photo credit: Allison Green

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Passionfish

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$$$$8316553311
Hours:SUN
5PM-9PM

With illuminated fish sculptures and chandeliers that look like streams of bubbles, Passionfish manages to be somewhere that’s both a romantic dinner spot and somewhere that reminds us of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their seafood-forward menu is sustainably sourced and creative, with dishes like scallops with caper-walnut relish and mussels in a bacon-fennel broth. Their wine list is pretty reasonable, with a massive selection of half-bottles starting at $18, including top-tier French wines for under $50.


If loving Mediterranean food is your personality, then you’re going to be very happy at Jeninni. You’ll find choices like Turkish fried eggplant with urfa biber, Greek lamb shank with tzatziki and olive-herb salad, and French cod and shellfish stew with saffron broth. You’ll want to come here with a big group, so you can order a bunch of small plates, split everything, and maybe even add on a bottle of lambrusco or a Sardinian red wine. The large windows and natural light make it a pretty good lunch stop but dinner is even better. The warmly-lit restaurant toes that line between being sort of buzzy but never loud enough where it feels like you were standing next to an amp at a concert. There’s also an outdoor patio, but be sure to bring some layers when the ocean breeze inevitably starts rolling in.


This dinner-only spot makes its own pasta, mozzarella, and gelato, and is one of our top picks for a date night in the area. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to dine indoors or on their heated, pet-friendly patio—the latter is especially ideal if your vision of the perfect date night includes bringing your dog along as a third wheel. Standout dishes include the tre mozzarelle (a mix of fior di latte, burrata, and buffalo) and any of their seasonal stuffed pastas, like their corn and ricotta ravioli and the mushroom agnolotti. If you have access to a kitchen, you can take home your own sauces and pastas—in fact, the best deal in Monterey might just be their family pack, where $40 gets you four servings of campanelle bolognese, focaccia with tapenade, and a pint of chocolate gelato.


Cannery Row can be a mess of tourists, souvenir stalls, and subpar seafood spots, but Bistro Moulin is just one block away to rescue you. Go for a romantic dinner with someone you already like—that way you won't have to worry about breathing on them after you dive into their French onion soup topped with melty gruyère. You can’t go wrong with any entree, like seared duck breast with caramelized peaches, but the best one is the moules frites. It comes with perfectly-cooked mussels and a sauvignon blanc-shallot sauce swimming with herbs that’s exactly what you’ll want to dunk your fries in. If you somehow have any room left, definitely finish your meal with the profiteroles stuffed with ice cream and drizzled in Belgian chocolate.


If you want to go all-out at a steakhouse in Monterey, Whaling Station is your best bet. Their dry-aged steaks are sourced from the best butchers in the country and presented on a platter to choose from before being cooked to order. We generally go for the beef wellington, or the prime rib with crispy-airy Yorkshire pudding made from the pan drippings and a side of horseradish cream that cuts through the richness. The atmosphere is old-school traditional with dim lighting and burgundy tablecloths, versatile enough to work for date night or dinner with the family.


SOMETHING CASUAL


photo credit: Allison Green

Il Vecchio review image

Il Vecchio

$$$$(831) 324-4282
Hours:SUN
8AM-12PM5PM-9PM

It can be hard to find affordable places to dine in Monterey, but at Il Vecchio, you can grab a $4 mimosa or a $5 bellini for the perfect boozy lunch. You should try and sit outside at the trattoria’s painted parklet equipped with its own canopy covering. Skip the sandwiches and entrees and move straight to their pasta selection: the rigatoni with Tuscan-style ragù di carne and the orecchiette with mushroom, sausage, and peas are highlights.


photo credit: Allison Green

First Awakenings review image

First Awakenings

$$$$(831) 372-1125
Hours:SUN
7AM-2PM
Perfect For:BreakfastBrunch

First Awakenings is the perfect spot to grab breakfast before checking out the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium. They make virtually any brunch dish, whether that’s egg prepared in any style—from omelettes and scrambles to skillets and benedicts—or something sweet like blueberry-ricotta pancakes or cinnamon bread french toast. If you arrive past 10am, you’ll likely wait in line with half of Monterey, so try and stop by around 8am.


photo credit: Allison Green

Revival Ice Cream review image

Revival Ice Cream

$$$$(831) 747-2113
Hours:SUN
12PM-9PM

Say you’re craving something sweet after trudging through crowded boardwalks and kid-packed aquarium halls all day. Enter the aptly-named Revival Ice Cream. The ice cream here is made from ethically-sourced dairy and vegan alternatives, and their flavors rotate seasonally using what’s fresh and local. In summer, that means lavender honey and strawberry cheesecake, but they always have the year-round favorite: the Bee’s Knees, which combines local Monterey honey with chunks of sugar-spun honeycomb candy for an added crunch.


Crepes of Brittany is a great place to go for a quick bite, whether you want a fast breakfast or a light lunch if you’ve got a big dinner reservation later. For something sweet, try their Caramelba crepe, filled with a mix of melba sauce (made from a blend of raspberry, lemon, and red currant jelly) and salted caramel. To go savory, the galette bretonne that’s made with an earthy-rich buckwheat crepe and filled with brie and caramelized onions is excellent. There are a few small tables inside and out, but the crepes also transport well if you choose takeout.


Alvarado Street Brewery also has locations in Carmel and Salinas, but their Monterey outpost is the original, pouring a bunch of craft beer that pairs perfectly with a lineup of bar food. Taps rotate frequently, but they specialize in ales and sours, like strawberry-banana sour ale or tropical-flavored hazy IPA. Post up in the cozy beer garden out back and order some quesabirria tacos, poutine, loco moco, or fish and chips.


Monterey is not the most vegan-friendly destination since most restaurants want to make use of all the great local seafood. El Cantaro is an exception. You’ll find plant-based spins on traditional Oaxacan and Pueblan dishes, like tlayudas, mole negro, and chile en nogada. Tacos are also a staple here: choose from nopal, mushroom, crispy potato, or a variety of vegan meats as your filling. This laid-back counter-service restaurant has a few tables inside and outdoors, but the better move is to get takeout and eat on the waterfront two blocks away.


photo credit: Allison Green

Züm Sushi review image

Züm Sushi

$$$$ (831) 372-8700
Hours:SUNClosed

This is the perfect Friday or Saturday night dinner spot if you’re craving sushi, especially since the specialty rolls and maki go beyond the standards. We love the Hawaiian maki with eel, avocado, cucumber, macadamia nut, and unagi sauce, as well as the Seaside roll stuffed with lobster and topped with hamachi, tuna, and salmon. They also have plenty of vegetable-centric rolls made with ingredients like fried yams or pickled radishes if you’re coming with some vegan friends. It works for a low-key date night, but it’s even better with a large group so you can sample as many rolls and nigiri as possible.


photo credit: Allison Green

Paprika Cafe review image

Paprika Cafe

$$$$(831) 375-7452
Hours:SUN
12PM-6PM
Perfect For:Quick EatsLunch

This casual Mediterranean restaurant is perfect for a quick lunch of things like foul moudamas made with garlicky fava beans, kofta kebabs, and their legendary garlic chicken. If you need a break from making decisions after a long day of sightseeing deliberations, we suggest one of their vegetable or meat combo plates. They range from $18-24, and come with your choice of main dish alongside hummus, saffron-tinted rice, spinach salad, and pita. There are only a few tables inside, so you’re better off taking everything to go if it gets full.


HOTELS


If you want to escape the Cannery Row madness, stay at this cozy bed and breakfast styled after an English manor. Even though it’s only a five-minute drive from all the restaurants in downtown Monterey and Pacific Grove, it feels far away from everything. For a romantic getaway, stay in their old carriage house or the garden cottage—both come with a jacuzzi tub that you’ll love soaking in at the end of a long day. If you’re the type to write reviews of the newest mystery novel on Goodreads, consider staying in their converted library guest room with books lining the walls, a stone fireplace, and some plush armchairs worth sinking into. Expect to pay about $400-600 a night, depending on the room.


photo credit: Allison Green

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Spindrift Inn

Spindrift Inn is your best choice in Monterey if you have your heart set on ocean views. Right on Cannery Row, this boutique hotel is perfect for a couples trip as you can watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean right from your room. Plus, it’s an easy walk to all the downtown Monterey restaurants, so you can easily roll yourself back to your room after dinner. Ocean view rooms start around $300 a night midweek and $460 a night over the weekend.


photo credit: Allison Green

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Wave Street Inn

This casual hotel is the perfect choice for a more budget-friendly escape to Monterey—rooms start around $190 a night midweek and go up to around $300 a night over the weekend. It’s located just a short walk to spots in downtown Monterey, the aquarium, and Cannery Row. With large double rooms that sleep four, it’s a great spot for a getaway with friends.


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