Restaurants

Monterey's dining scene is surprisingly sophisticated, including numerous Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants with great wine lists. You'll find both big-name cult wines and a focus on the local wines of the region.

Please note that owners, chefs, menu items, prices and other details can often change, and we recommend that you call ahead before you go.

For restaurants worldwide that hold Wine Spectator awards for their wine lists, see our Restaurant Search database.

AUBERGINE
L'Auberge Carmel, Monte Verde Street and 7th Avenue, Carmel
Telephone (831) 624-8578
Website www.auberginecarmel.com
Open Dinner, daily
Cost Prix-fixe menus $110-$145
Corkage $55
Credit cards All major

With just 12 tables, tended by a small but skilled staff, and a kitchen that intricately crafts each plate, a meal at Aubergine is a bit like dining at a chef's house. Chef Justin Cogley offers a four- or five-course prix-fixe menu of his artful, delicately flavored cuisine. Poached Dungeness crab is infused with a strawberry vinaigrette, while succulent sablefish comes with an oyster emulsion. There are more than 500 selections on the wine list, which favors Burgundy and California. Prices are expensive, from Copaín Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Tous Ensemble 2011 ($28 a glass) to Domaine Leroy Pommard Les Vignots 1990 ($1,050).

THE BENCH
The Lodge at Pebble Beach, 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach
Telephone (800) 654-9300
Website www.pebblebeach.com/dining
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $17-$29
Corkage $35
Credit cards All major
Best of Award of Excellence

There's a lot to like about Pebble Beach's newest restaurant. The main dining room has great energy, with a handsome white marble-topped bar, a wood-burning oven and a wall of wines, while the sunroom recalls a tranquil back porch. Fire pits grace the patio, which has a view of the ocean and Pebble Beach Golf Links' 18th hole. The menu focuses on full flavors without going too far. Try the decadent duck fat potatoes with truffle salt, or the pork chop grilled with a hint of juniper. About 1,000 bottles populate the wine list, which has wide offerings from California and France. Though prices are generally high, with gems such as Screaming Eagle 2002 ($4,500), values can be found, including Domaine Berthet-Bondet Chardonnay Côtes du Jura 2009 ($40).

BIG SUR BAKERY & RESTAURANT
47540 Highway 1, Big Sur
Telephone (831) 667-0520
Website www.bigsurbakery.com
Open Breakfast and lunch, daily; dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Cost Entrées $11-$30
Corkage $20
Credit cards All major

While exploring the Big Sur coast, this is the place for lunch or a laid-back dinner. It's perched behind a redwood gasoline shack, where a sign reads: "Next gas 40 miles." The bakery may seem an eccentric roadhouse, but the food is serious. Lunch offerings include first-rate salads, and sandwiches on house-baked bread. At dinner, salmon, skirt steak and pizzas come off a wood-fired grill. The eclectic 100-selection wine list ranges from J. & H. Selbach Riesling QbA Mosel Incline 2010 ($36) to Spottswoode Cabernet Napa Valley 1993 ($230), but the markup is steep.

CINDY'S WATERFRONT
Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey
Telephone (831) 648-4870
Website www.montereybayaquarium.org/visit/dining
Open Lunch, daily
Cost Entrées $12-$26
Corkage Not permitted
Credit cards All major

Chef Cindy Pawlcyn made her name with upscale comfort food at Mustards Grill in Napa Valley, and she brings a similar attitude to this casual café inside Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's only open for lunch—and, yes, you must pay aquarium admission to get there—but the dining room is right on the bay. The menu focuses on local seafood in items such as the West Coast shrimp and crab roll and "True Cod" soft tacos, but offers burgers and sandwiches as well, and every dish is done with panache. Seventeen wines are on the list, all available by the glass or bottle. Prices are modest, with Chalone Pinot Noir Monterey County 2011 at $25 and Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier California 2011 for $27.

LOKAL
13762 Center St., Carmel Valley
Telephone (831) 659-5886
Website www.lokalcarmel.com
Open Breakfast and lunch, Wednesday to Sunday; dinner, Thursday to Saturday
Cost Entrées $12-$24
Corkage $20
Credit cards All major

Lokal is ideal for lunch or a casual dinner while wine touring in Carmel Valley. As the name suggests, this funky bistro with a salvaged redwood bar is a hangout for area residents, but Lokal also represents chef-owner Brendan Jones' love for local ingredients. The small-plate menu is refreshingly eclectic: A delicious Barcelona-style sardine bocadillo comes with mojito aioli, while the wagyu New York steak is garnished with horseradish yogurt and wild oyster mushrooms. The wine list is tiny, only 20 bottlings, all from area producers. Most sell for $70 or less.

MARINUS
Bernardus Lodge, 415 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
Telephone (831) 658-3595
Website www.bernarduslodge.com/marinus-restaurant.aspx
Open Dinner, Wednesday to Sunday
Cost Entrées $32-$52
Corkage $40
Credit cards All major
Grand Award

Chef Cal Stamenov is maintaining a steady hand in the Marinus kitchen as Bernardus Lodge takes on new ownership. Dining at the restaurant remains a seamless experience. The dining room's chapel-like pitched ceiling and large limestone fireplace contribute to its effortless elegance. Stamenov's stylish cuisine blends classic French technique with California's seasonal produce. A colorful beet salad is paired with radicchio and pistachios, while tender slices of Sonoma duck are accented with cassis jus and a confetti of shredded Brussels sprouts. California, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne dominate the 1,500-bottle wine list, which features many vertical collections, including Grace Family Cabernet and Château Latour. Pricing is moderate, ranging from values such as Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2012 ($60) to classics like Château Cheval-Blanc 1990 ($2,750).

RESTAURANT 1833
500 Hartnell St., Monterey
Telephone (831) 643-1833
Website www.restaurant1833.com
Open Dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $23-$46
Corkage $20
Credit cards All major

One of the newest restaurants in Monterey, Restaurant 1833 is located in one of the area's oldest buildings. The name comes from the year the original adobe home was built, and the interior exudes cozy, "historic chic" charm. Several dining areas, each with its own vibe, mix modern furnishings with antiques. At the bar, you'll find signature cocktails and a list of more than a dozen absinthes to choose from, but executive chef Levi Mezick's creations are the real draw. Inventive takes on American comfort food include bacon-cheddar biscuits with maple-­chile butter, deviled eggs with lemon and horseradish, and a frisée salad accented with crispy pork. There are several pizzas and pasta dishes, while other entrées include Monterey Bay salmon served with lemon-basmati rice, bone-in rib-eye steak for two, and a succulent truffle roasted chicken. The extensive wine list has something for everyone, including dozens of by-the-glass choices. Among bottles are Bernardus Pinot Noir Monterey 2011 ($56) and Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour 1958 ($1,500).

ROY'S PEBBLE BEACH
The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach
Telephone (831) 647-7423
Website www.pebblebeach.com/dining/the-inn-at-spanish-bay/roys-at-pebble-beach
Open Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $19-$78
Corkage $35
Credit cards All major
Best of Award of Excellence

This popular Pebble Beach destination takes its lead from Hawaiian-fusion chef Roy Yamaguchi. If you've eaten at one of Yamaguchi's restaurants, you won't be surprised, but you won't go away disappointed, either. The menu features trademark dishes such as blackened ahi, Szechuan pork ribs and a delicate yet intensely flavored misoyaki butterfish. The fish used for sushi hails from local waters. The dining room's atmosphere is relaxed yet festive, with a curved bar and views of the bay. The wine list has serious intentions, with 1,000 different bottlings from California and Europe. Pricing is moderate, ranging from Melville Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills 2009 ($54) to Château Haut-Brion 2005 ($2,750).

SIERRA MAR
Post Ranch Inn, 47900 Highway 1, Big Sur
Telephone (831) 667-2800
Website www.postranchinn.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Prix-fixe menus $120-$160
Corkage $35
Credit cards All major
Grand Award

Perched on a cliff 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Sierra Mar could get by on its magnificent view alone, but everything about the restaurant achieves similar heights. About a 45-minute drive south of Carmel on the remote Big Sur coast, Sierra Mar is on the grounds of Post Ranch Inn. Chef John Cox offers a four- or nine-course prix-fixe menu with a pace that's precise but not hurried. The kitchen blends creativity with the simplicity of great ingredients. Grilled squab is served with shiitake mushrooms and other Asian twists, and a venison dish comes with a delicate blackberry sauce and crispy kale. Wine director Dominique DaCruz has two lists: a two-page selection of 120 wines offered with the menu, and a book of some 2,900 bottles available on request. It's an impressive selection, and although pricing is expensive, the list is well-stocked with Burgundies as well as California Cabernets and Pinot Noirs. Splurges include Emmanuel Rouget Echézeaux 1993 ($1,200) and Peter Michael Les Pavots Estate 2009 ($375).

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