Food & Wine

Where Top Chefs Eat and Drink in the Monterey Peninsula

By Carolyn Jung

The delicious avocado dish from Aubergine, the restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel.

Tear yourself away from world-class links and heart-stopping, crashing waves — if you can— to explore the Monterey Peninsula’s food and drink scene. If you’re in the mood for a tranquil getaway, or just want to get out of town for a bit, discover the must-stop places of top chefs and sommeliers.

Peter Armellino

Executive chef of the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse, Saratoga; and Pasta Armellino, Saratoga

La Balena, Carmel: “This is simple, rustic Italian food. They do an arborio-rice-crusted fried chicken that is great. Last time, I had a lasagna that was to die for. Owners Anna and Emanuele Bartolini are phenomenal hosts. The food is fantastic, but the best thing about the place is them.”

Holly’s Lighthouse Café, Pacific Grove: “They do quite a few variations on eggs Benedict. I always go for one of them, depending upon whatever diet I am on at the time. Breakfast is just phenomenal here.”

Rajat Parr

Sommelier and winemaker-partner of Evening Land Vineyards in Oregon, Sandhi Wines in California, and Domaine de la Cote in California

The Cheese Shop, Carmel: “This place is cheese heaven, with cheeses from all over Europe, plus a great wine selection. Grab some cheese and head to the beach for a little picnic.”

Cultura, Carmel: “I love mezcal and this place has a massive list, all from Oaxaca. Sarah Kabat-Marcy, managing partner and beverage director, is like a mezcal sommelier. Just ask her and she’ll set you right. Enjoy the delicious tacos or chilaquiles, too.

Daniel Holzman

Chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop, New York; and the forthcoming Danny Boy’s Famous Original Pizzeria, Los Angeles

Crema, Pacific Grove: “This is the place for crazy delicious baked goods the size of your head, plus Verve coffee. It’s in an adorable Victorian house, too.”

Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette, Sanctuary Beach Resort, Marina: “This place has great cocktails and delicious food.The wood-fired whole roasted fish is amazing.”

Janina O’Leary

Executive pastry chef for the Bacchus Management Group restaurants, including Spruce, San Francisco; The Village Pub, Woodside; Selby’s, Redwood City; and Mayfield Bakery & Café, Palo Alto

Revival Ice Cream, Monterey: “My go-to is the mint-eucalyptus-chocolate-chip ice cream. They use the finest ingredients and methods, which you can taste in every lick.”

Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel: “Last year, my team and I had dinner here. Wow! I can still remember how the artichoke tart with white anchovy and honeycomb tasted. Also, the uni, which was served with sweet soy sauce atop a crisp potato.”

Lindsey Young

Sommelier and beverage director at Gozu, San Francisco

Pèppoli, The Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach: “This authentic Tuscan restaurant has a great wine list. The octopus is a stand-out starter. You can’t go wrong with the homemade pasta dishes. The filet-mignon-stuffed lasagna is divine.”

Stillwater Bar & Grill, The Lodge at Pebble Beach: “It’s so relaxed, with outdoor seating that overlooks the golf course. If you have a quick minute to have a glass of bubbles and a few oysters, it’s so fantastic.”

Paul Corsentino

Executive chef, Salt Wood Kitchenand Oysterette, Marina

Other Brother Beer Co. and Ad Astra Bread Co., Seaside: “For craft beers, this is the place. I like the AWOL IPA that’s very refreshing. Inside the brewery, there’s Ad Astra bakery, which has good flat-breads. I always buy a loaf of olive bread to take home, too.”

Akaoni, Carmel: “This hole-in-the-wall sushi place imports a lot of its fish from Japan. There are always specialties to try. You have to make a reservation or you’ll be waiting in line. And you have to call; they don’t do anything online. It’s worth it, though.”

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