Best Local White Wine (2022)
Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc
Bernardus Winery, 5 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
(831) 298-8021, bernardus.com
In baseball, they say a tie goes to the runner. In wine tasting, a tie goes to the sipper. Imagine this scenario: You visit the Bernardus tasting room looking for a top-notch white wine. The Sauvignon Blanc is really good, with tropical notes and plenty of refreshing, brisk lime. However, the Chardonnay hits the right palate notes, with ripe fruits with a subtle but sturdy oak undertone. There’s no way to decide between the two, so you take home two bottles instead of one. That makes you, the sipper, also the winner. And you are helping the planet by drinking, because Bernardus practices sustainable agriculture on their estate vineyards. Everyone’s a winner.
Best Local Red Wine (2022)
Hahn Pinot Noir
37700 Foothill Road, Soledad, (831) 678-4555; Carmel Plaza, Ocean and Mission, Carmel (831) 250-7937
That readers select Hahn from a deep pool of great Pinot Noir says something. And Hahn has several Pinots to choose from, headlined by the 90 point Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot. But there’s also the newly released Appellation Series Pinot from Arroyo Seco, and the base version is not the right term, but you get the point. The latter finds a pleasing balance between acidity and tannins. The Santa Lucia Highlands version offers bright cherry and berries with layers of plum and vanilla that linger. Grapes from Arroyo Seco produce an even richer, earthier wine that still delivers delightful fruit. You can find them at the Carmel tasting room or visit the winery’s estate.
Best Local Rosé (2022)
Folktale Sparkling Rosé
Folktale Winery, 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
(831) 293-7500, folktalewinery.com
There’s something so refreshing about sipping a sparkling Rosé, especially when seated at the magical castle-like estate that is Folktale Winery. On a toasty summer day, nothing could be better than feeling these cool, fruity notes flood your palate, leaving behind a yeasty tang that begs for another taste. Did we say summer day? Why limit yourself. Try it anytime. As the beautiful pink bubbles dance in your glass you can pretend to be the royalty that you’ll feel like while drinking it. Cheers!
Best Local Beer/Brewery (2022)
Alvarado Street Brewery
426 Alvarado St., Monterey, (831) 655-2337; Mission and 7th, Carmel, (831) 293-8621; 1315 Dayton St., Salinas. (831) 800-3332
J.C. Hill and his team at Alvarado Street change things up often, so there is always something new to try. And they are not bound by an obsession with IPA—although they brew outstanding IPAs, doubles, triples, hazies and what have you. Their Monterey Beer is a classic lager style from a local 1930s recipe, for example. They prepare sour beers and slushies. Citraveza is a pilsner with West Coast accents. There’s a spontaneously fermented ode to biere de coupage, along with stouts, brown ales, barrel aged beers and more. Both the beer and the ambiance are so well loved that ASB is getting ready to open a new Oldtown Salinas location as this issue goes to print.
Best Cappuccino/Latte (2022)
Captain + Stoker
398 E Franklin St., Monterey, (831) 901-3776; 206 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
Tyler Ellis and Kelsea Richmond’s dream of building a community spot for people to share their love of coffee (and bikes) has come true twice over. Here, equitably-sourced coffee is roasted twice weekly, and can be especially savored in cappuccino and latte forms with dairy, almond, oat or macadamia nut milk. It’s so popular that they expanded, adding a spot in Pacific Grove. And check out the Arts, Entertainment & Nightlife section. Best coffee shop. You know it.
Best Smoothies (2022)
961 W. Alisal St., Salinas, (831) 998-8770; 491 Alvarado St., Monterey,
For those who are obsessed with healthy juices and smoothies, this is the go-to spot for the real deal: no sugar, no artificial ingredients, no crap. Juices here are pressed from local and organic veggies, but wait until you try the smoothies. Each creamy concoction is an indulgence you can feel good about, because they all have such awesome ingredients. Crowd favorites include the Choco-Chaga with dates, bananas, chaga, cacao, hemp and peanut butter, and the Golden Glow with mango, orange, turmeric, almond butter and collagen.
Best Doughnuts (2022)
433 Alvarado St. Monterey, (831) 372-9761; 1646 Fremont Blvd., Seaside,
In the scope of the Weekly’s food coverage, we’ve had a few burger issues and an annual food and wine guide. This may need to be fact-checked, but no other foodstuff and business combo ever got a narrative cover story profile, except for Red’s and their donuts. This beloved local business has kept their deep fryers on since 1950, and no one stays in business that long, and earns the respect, the positive reviews, and goodwill of the community without getting it all right. From the simplicity of their ingredients to the classic recipes they’ve perfected over the decades, Red’s and Monterey County are just meant to be. You just don’t eff with tradition, you cronut.
Best Bagel (2022)
Locations in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Sand City, and Salinas
Despite all the acclaim enjoyed by the Central Coast for its bread-baking mastery, the region largely gets low marks for its bagels. No slighting there—it’s difficult to re-create the magic of the New York City bagel—unless we’re talking about Bagel Bakery, where the bagels would rank well even among the bustling streets of Brooklyn. Large, dense and made fresh daily, the bagels at Bagel Bakery can only be made better by adding some of their hand-blended cream cheese or using them in one of the many sandwiches on the menu, from the classic bacon, egg and cheese to the lunchtime deli options.
Best Omelette (2022)
171 Main St., Salinas, (831) 784-1125; 300 David Ave., Monterey,
First Awakenings claims to have devoted its history to perfecting the art of omelette making. If aphorisms are true, this means they’ve broken a few eggs. With 12 omelette options on the menu, they keep breaking eggs. A lot of them. Each omelette is generously sized and cooked to fluffy perfection. Go simple, with classics like the Sunrise, with spinach, mushroom and Swiss cheese. Or go for a more creative option, like the DC Verde made with carnitas, green chile, avocado…hang on. Now to make an omelette you have to slice a few avocados, too?
Best Huevos Rancheros (2022)
The Grill at Point Pinos
79 Asilomar Ave., Pacific Grove
(831) 375-1313, grillatpointpinos.com
This traditional plate for Mexican farmers to get them through a long day pops up on menus all over the county, no farm necessary. The dish is that good. But The Grill at Point Pinos does it best. The Grill’s avocado and chorizo huevos rancheros come with two fried eggs over black beans and country potatoes, garnished with spicy salsa, queso fresco, sour cream and diced tomatoes. A hearty and flavorful breakfast before a long day on the farm—or more likely a day on the golf course.
Best Biscuits And Gravy (2022)
3626 The Barnyard Building C, Carmel.
As the name suggests, the menu at From Scratch offers an array of breakfast and lunch items that are simple, delicious, and best of all, homemade. The biscuits and gravy are no exception. They can be enjoyed as a light “side” option, or in the form of “The Triple D Sampler Plate,” which includes two eggs any style served atop sausage patties and, of course, biscuits covered in gravy. With a side of your choice plus a cup of housemade brisket, this meal makes for the ultimate comfort food. Hey, go big, go home. Or go to work if you must, but that spoils the cliche.
Best Salads (2022)
1138 S. Main St., Salinas
(831) 422-9600, saladshoppe.com
A good salad has fresh ingredients, texture and just the right amount of dressing to bring all that flavor forward. Salinas’ Salad Shoppe goes one better, and ensures a tasty salad by making the price right with most of their signature salads selling for $8.49 and a build-your-own option starting at $9.95. And their dine-in unlimited deal? $12.99, during a time when the $12 salad startup industry is slowly inching up its prices to meet the demands of inflation. Bless the green goddess dressing for a good deal that doesn’t skimp on quality.
Best Deli Sandwich (2022)
2000 Prescott Ave., Monterey
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Compagno’s Market & Deli serves up some of the freshest deli sandwiches not only in Monterey County but along the entire Central Coast. A tuna salad sandwich on Dutch Crunch bread? What about a Navy Special, with prosciutto, hot coppa, salami and provolone cheese on sourdough? Yeah, try finding that one on board a battleship. Or build your own with a full counter of deli accoutrements and 10 different bread options. Your sandwich is guaranteed fresh—and generous in portion.
Best Burrito (2022)
122 W. Market St., Salinas, (831) 424-9446; 474 Alvarado St., Monterey
What makes El Charrito burritos the most beloved in Monterey County? It starts with the house-made, hand-stretched tortillas, which are fresh and flaky perfection. It’s the multi-generational family behind the business, imparting care. It’s also the price: While the cost of everything seems to be going up everywhere, El Charrito’s prices remain reasonable. And finally, the “burristas” make them just how you want, and keep the line at the Salinas location (often out the door) moving briskly. And as of Sept. 2, an El Charrito outpost has opened in downtown Monterey. El Charrito Express is slinging burritos for breakfast and lunch. A tasty development, indeed.
Best Pickled Food (2022)
Happy Girl Kitchen
173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove
(831) 373-4475, happygirlkitchen.com
We may never know where the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked went. But who needs Peter Piper’s when we have Happy Girl Kitchen’s pickled peppers, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickled bombay beets, pickled salsa—you get the point. No tongue twisters here. Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove has staked its reputation on the freshness of its farm-to-counter menu and its healthy stock of pickled goods, which is an ever-changing list as produce goes in and out of season. The best part is that the folks at Happy Girl Kitchen aren’t proprietary about their pickling expertise—they’ve been known to host pickling classes for the curious and self-sufficient.
Best Food On A Stick (2022)
Monterey County Fair
Every summer at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey
(831) 372-5823, montereycountyfair.com
Could there really be any other answer? For real food-on-a-stick fans, there is more to life than corn dogs and candy apples. Few understand that better than Kelly Violini-Rodoni and her staff at the Monterey County Fair. Each fall, the fair vendors offer just about anything from s’mores to pizza to combinations you would never touch in the real world—conveniently served on a stick. Whether it’s OMG Ice Cream or Ricardo’s Hawaiian kabobs, there is no better place for double fisting than at the fair.
Best Fish & Chips (2022)
London Bridge Pub
256 Figueroa St. #2, Monterey
(831) 372-0581, lbpmonterey.com
There may be several dishes that sum up British food, but none top the list quite in the same way as a good old-fashioned plate of fish and chips. And when it comes to fish and chips, London Bridge doesn’t fall down. (Good one, right?) Cod comes beer battered and deep fried with a side of big, soft chips. Many establishments leave out coleslaw, but London Bridge pub doesn’t make that rookie mistake—one simply craves those cold, refreshing bites between succulent fish and crispy fries.
Best Clam Chowder (2022)
Old Fisherman’s Grotto
39 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey
New England clam chowder, take a back seat. The best clam chowder, according to readers, is served up by Old Fisherman’s Grotto, which is famous for its “Monterey-style” chowder. It’s like the creamy New England-style but improved with the addition of more cream and garlic. How could that not be better? Enveloped in the cream are diced fresh carrots, celery and potatoes. When the fog rolls in and the Peninsula is smothered by a misty, chilly cloud, Old Fisherman Grotto’s chowder will take the chill off and fill you up at the same time.
Best Calamari (2022)
Abalonetti Bar and Grill
57 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey
(831) 373-1851, abalonetti.com
Believe it or not, there’s more to this popular spot than calamari. But dang it, Abalonetti Bar and Grill takes full advantage of Monterey Bay’s squid. Try the classic appetizer of fried Monterey calamari with lemon and tartar sauce. Go bold with the Buffalo fried calamari served with a spicy sauce, or the Baja-style topped with a chipotle sauce and fresh salsa. Calamari also shows up in Abalonetti’s calamari sandwich, fried calamari tacos and in several entrees, including the Marty Special, calamari filets served over fried eggplant with marinara, Parmesan and mozzarella. So maybe no one gets past the calamari.
Best Poke (2022)
Marina Poke House
266 Reservation Road, Marina
(831) 384-7898, marinapokehouse.com
The poke craze has arrived in Monterey County and while other restaurants are elbowing each other for second, Marina Poke House comfortably rides in first. It’s the foundational components that really bring them across the finish line. They use the freshest fish, from their ready-to-marinate scallops and octopus to spicy tuna. Their toppings are plentiful and their sauces numerous. Plus, they even offer dessert like macaron ice cream sandwiches and Spam musubi…that’s dessert, right?
Best Burger (2022)
1350 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside;
151 Kern St., Salinas
(800) 786-1000, in-n-out.com
At almost any time of day, you can spot a line of cars at both of Monterey County’s In-N-Out locations (sometimes there are so many, someone is outside directing traffic). The fast food atmosphere does nothing to deter the masses—in fact, the speed and affordability might be part of the appeal. At the heart of In-N-Out though, what really wins is taste—and it’s hard to beat the recipe that’s made this California chain so successful: a beefy burger, a spongy bun, and a secret sauce that hasn’t changed since 1948. The founders probably could have been spies. Who else could keep a secret that long?
Best Fried Chicken (2022)
The Butter House
1760 Fremont Blvd., Suite B1, Seaside.
(831) 394-2887, thebutterhouse.com
The name tells you part of what you need to know about the ethos at this spot: They don’t hold back on the good stuff. Their fried chicken—served either as a fork-and-knife item as chicken and waffles, or as the center of a hearty lunch sandwich on a brioche—is no different. It’s crispy and browned and generous in portion. And it’s even boneless, meaning that fork-and-knife effort is like a hot knife through butter (see what we did there?). Since opening in 2019, The Butter House has gathered a loyal local following for its Hawaiian and Filipino-inflected menu of mostly classic American comfort food-—like the fried chicken.
Best Chicken Wings (2022)
Peter B’s Brewpub
2 Portola Plaza, Monterey
(831) 649-2699, portolahotel.com
Unlike major wing stops that boast dozens of different sauces, breadings and cooking styles, you’ll only find one listing for chicken wings on the Peter B’s menu: “The Wing Man.” And yes, like any good wing man, they are here for you. These Buffalo favorites arrive with blue cheese or ranch, and you can get them $5 cheaper at one of B’s twice-a-day happy hours. Wash down your chicken with one of the many award-winning craft beers brewed in-house, and you’ve found the perfect combo. Bottoms up!
Best Pizza (2022)
725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Sometimes a good pizza place is just a good pizza place. Gianni’s is the best pizza place. There are always people making their way in and out of this Monterey mainstay. It’s a busy place, but a big place too, and there’s always room for your familia and more. Kids’ birthday parties are standard here, as are family dinners with the “Big Wheel” option—three slices each of cheese, pepperoni, Hawaiian and veggie. And like any excellent pizza, it also must travel well—enjoy it in the restaurant, or literally anywhere in Monterey County.
Best Barbecue (2022)
Salinas City Barbeque
700 W. Market St., Salinas
(831) 758-2227, salinascitybbq.com
Barbecue purists will say that Californians should stick with what they know: the Santa Maria Grill and tri-tip. Salinas City Barbeque—yes, that lone single-family home turned barbecue pit stop on the corner of Market Street—dares to go bolder, bigger and cross-border, learning and then honoring the traditions that make up the pantheon of the classic American barbecue tradition. It means they know how to rest a brisket and get a proper smoke ring. It means they can achieve that satisfying snap on their hot link, but also pull that pork as well as any pitmaster in the Carolinas. And that, despite not staying in their lane, is how they stay the winningest in the hearts and bellies of Weekly readers.
Best Butcher Shop (2022)
1534 Fremont Blvd., Seaside
(831) 656-8810, themeatery.us
If you are a meat eater, we dare you to walk out of The Meatery empty handed. It can’t be done. OK, maybe you order a sandwich and eat it inside. But still, you’re going to be tempted by the case loaded with lomo Iberico or bresaola ready to be sliced thin, whole ducks, USDA prime beef well aged, sweetbreads, Wagyu actually from Japan or the best ground beef you’ve tried. The deli side has brisket that will make a Texan swoon. Everything is sourced from ethical ranches with an eye on sustainability. Chef Todd Fisher and crew will even order game meats for your grill. So no—it’s not possible to leave empty-handed.
Best Cupcake (2022) | Best Cakes (2022)
Layers Sensational Cakes
9 A Soledad Drive, Monterey
(831) 655-1544, layerscake.com
Whether or not you’ve heard of the game show Is it Cake?, just know that Layers could compete. While their baking is based in science, their cakes and cupcakes are so artful they should have their own gallery. Whether creating an elegant wedding cake of towering flowers or a humorous toilet paper roll lookalike (that’s fully edible; but don’t make a mistake when you take it home), the passion of Anthony Nuovo has been clearly passed through his sons, Ty and Buck Nuovo, who head the baking team. Don’t need a cake? The retail location is a worthy stop for coffee and fresh-baked pastries.
Best Cookies (2022)
The Perfect Crumb Bakery
301 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey
Susan Carter started with an E-Z Bake Oven at the age of 5 and hasn’t stopped baking since. After years on the farmers market circuit, she opened The Perfect Crumb Bakery in 2016 and is now Weekly readers’ choice for best cookie. Make that plural. Try classics like chocolate chip or peanut butter, or house specialties like snickerdoodle or ginger molasses and more. There’s no shame in being a cookie monster. In addition to the selections of cookies, The Perfect Crumb also bakes cakes, pies (if there were a pecan pie category…), biscuits and other treats, along with breakfast and lunch creations. Just be sure to get some dessert on your way out.
Best Pie (2022)
465 Olympia Ave., Sand City
(831) 393-2063, sweetelenas.com
Apparently, there are five love languages. But we’re pretty sure readers have discovered a sixth in Sweet Elena’s pies. Embedded in buttery folds of pastry are the ripest seasonal fruits: It could be apple one day, pumpkin the next, or—a local favorite—olallieberry. Depending on pie, the topping differs too, from cute cut-out pastry stars and hearts topped with glistening chunks of sugar, to the textural satisfaction of a buttery crumb topping, and a classic and comforting lattice. It’s the kind of perfection readers wish their grandmas could turn out. Just don’t tell them that.
Best Ice Cream/ Frozen Yogurt (2022)
157 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel,
(831) 574-3228; 1091 S. Main St., Salinas, (831) 759-9769; 840 Broadway Ave., Seaside, (831) 375-3769
It has to take a lot for frozen yogurt, the healthier option of all frozen desserts, to displace creamy, delicious ice cream in this category. Perhaps it’s the abundance of locations of this self-serve fro-yo. Or it could be the rotating availability of flavors depending on the season, like pumpkin for fall or raspberry for summer. Or maybe it’s because the basics—Dutch chocolate, pure tart and white vanilla, with their dairy-free or sugar-free counterparts—make a great foundation for quality toppings like mochi, fresh berries, Capn’ Crunch, and a number of Lyon’s dessert sauces. It’s likely a combination of all that that truly puts this local chain over the top.
Best Milkshake (2022)
Lucy’s on Lighthouse
1120 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove
(831) 920-2006, lucyspg.com
This milkshake brings more than just boys to the yard. (Couldn’t resist). It’s not really a yard. More like a patio, but no matter. Thick and rich milkshakes made with Marianne’s ice cream are worth the calorie splurge. Pick any ice cream flavor on Lucy’s menu board, including Lucy’s signature flavor, Chiquita Rip Curl, made with a banana, peanut butter, fudge swirl and mini peanut butter cup ice cream. Or go caffeine crazy with Lucy’s Mocha Madness Shake that comes with a double shot of espresso, vanilla bean ice cream, Mexican chocolate or mud pie ice cream, fudge and whipped cream. And absorb a little bit of happiness.
Best Desserts (2022)
502 Munras Ave., Monterey
(831) 920-1018, altamonterey.com
This locals’ coffee shop isn’t only the perfect spot to relax with the latest issue of the Monterey County Weekly, sip an exquisite coffee and enjoy the fragrant garden—it’s also home to a beautiful case of freshly made desserts. There are sweet baked pastries, intricate mousses and a house pavlova, which chef/owner Ben Spungin confirms has become a crowd favorite. Keep your eyes peeled, because Spungin “love[s] to keep changing items and flavors.” Alta also makes the desserts for the new restaurant next door, Cella.
Best Cheese Selection (2022)
The Cheese Shop
Carmel Plaza, Ocean and Junipero, Carmel
(831) 625-2272, thecheeseshopinc.com
Like, duh! The Cheese Shop is a must, experience-wise. Not only are you dazzled by the options and the knowledge of curd behind the counter, but there’s also the opportunity to try sample after sample. Never heard of Moosbacher? They’ll give you a taste. Familiar with cow, sheep and goat milk cheeses? They can offer up a slice from water buffalo milk. The Cheese Shop’s options number in the upper hundreds. And yes, they stock the favorites. But one day you might need a few ounces of Cacio Pere or La Jeune Autize to serve your cheese snob friends—or because you just tried a piece at the shop and liked it. There are rounds from around the world, as well as from American craft cheesemakers. So again, no friggin’ duh. They are the best, far and wide.
Best Catering Company (2022)
Woody’s at the Airport
Monterey Regional Airport, 200 Fred Kane Drive, Monterey
The trick with catering is getting the food and the service just right. Any kind of dissonance and the vegetarian at the office function will accidentally eat meat, or the servers will forget which course fires when. Woody’s does it right, and it’s in no small part because Chef Tim Wood is at the restaurant/catering company’s helm…or cockpit, rather? Wood, formerly at Carmel Valley Ranch, has experience that enables him to prioritize maximum flavor, with the simplicity and familiarity of California cuisine. Woody’s thinks of everything, like offering a variety of freshly grilled garden veggies alongside a crudité, or serving marinated ahi tuna on spoons, so attendees can eat and schmooze. This is no fly by night operation…get it?
Best Food Trend Of 2022
Blue Zones Inspired Dishes
Various offices in Monterey County
Healthy eating is gaining popularity everywhere, but here in Monterey County, the most influential force in this positive trend comes from the Blue Zones Project. Now partnering with more than two dozen local restaurants, Blue Zones provides healthy guidelines and creative ideas for restaurant operators, helping them to refine menu options to promote health and wellness without sacrificing flavor. Why is that the best trend? Think about it. No dieting. That’s done for you. So you can love what you eat and live longer. That’s one of Blue Zones’ underlying premises. And it is pure genius.