From stunning views to local gems, this is your ultimate guide to the best restaurants in Monterey.
Most people come to Monterey to visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, go whale watching, or maybe surf–there’s a lot to do in this charming coastal town.
But locals know the best thing about Monterey is its thriving restaurant scene, driven by an abundance of seafood from the bay, fantastic produce from nearby farms, and winemakers that are among the best in the state (don’t tell Napa).
Whether you’re in the mood for high-end dining at an award-winning restaurant with spectacular views, a local gem that may or may not be haunted, or just a coffee and a pastry, I’ve rounded up the best of Monterey’s restaurants.
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Map of Restaurants in Monterey
The Sardine Factory
Best for: Fine dining in the heart of buzzy Cannery Row
Address: 701 Wave St, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 373-3775
Cuisine: Seafood and steak
Don’t miss: Signature abalone bisque
Reserve a table here
Don’t be fooled by the name–The Sardine Factory is high-end dining in the heart of Cannery Row, welcoming presidents and celebrities among its guests.
Seafood is the star of The Sardine Factory’s refined menu, with the ahi tuna salad winning praise from diners.
Or try the “world famous” abalone bisque, which President Reagan requested for one of his inaugural dinners.
Despite the sprinkling of celebrity stardust, the overall experience is not stuffy.
Expect to eat an elegant meal in a cozy dining room, sometimes with live music and always accompanied by an extensive wine list.
The Sardine Factory is one of the best-rated restaurants in Monterey Bay and a solid choice if you’re looking for a romantic restaurant.
Monterey’s Fish House
Best for: A fun night out with friends and outstanding seafood
Address: 2114 Del Monte Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 373-4647
Don’t miss: Homemade linguine
Call for reservations
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience without the fine-dining price tag, head to Monterey’s Fish House.
This place is one of the best restaurants in Monterey Bay for fresh seafood, especially if you’re after a relaxed setting for a meal out with friends.
I recommend reserving a table at this popular restaurant as it can get crowded on weekends.
The oak-fired grill sets this venue apart from other California coast restaurants, with many of the menu items grilled to perfection.
That said, one of their best dishes is the cioppino, a light soup made from seafood and tomatoes.
Best for: Upscale comfort food
Address: 500 Hartnell St, Monterey, CA, 93940
Contact info: (831) 264-8775; [email protected]
Don’t miss: Cocktails around the fire pit
Reserve a table here
No online menu
Stokes Adobe is a local favorite in Monterey’s historic quarter. The menu focuses on local, seasonal ingredients, and draws inspiration from French and Italian cuisines.
The cozy setting and hearty ingredients make for a satisfying meal out with friends or for a romantic dinner date.
Outdoor seating is also available, with chairs arranged around fire pits to ward off the coastal chill.
Rumor has it that this restored 19th-century adobe is haunted, but I cannot confirm the presence of any spirits except for those behind the bar (sorry, I had to).
I can, however, recommend ordering a Hattie’s Old Fashioned, a cocktail named after one of the ghosts who allegedly roams the homestead.
Best for: Vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking for delicious healthy options
Address: 309 Lighthouse Ave. A, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 375-7452
Don’t miss: Vegan baklava and falafel
Expect a warm welcome at this family restaurant, which serves up tasty and affordable Mediterranean cuisine steps from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Paprika Cafe is the perfect spot to eat lunch after a visit to the aquarium. It’s also a great choice for vegans and vegetarians, as there are plenty of plant-based items on the menu.
Try the zesty tabbouleh, the crisp Greek salad, or the crisp falafel for a satisfying-but-light bite to eat.
This restaurant is a casual spot with no reservations, taking walk-ins only. Paprika Cafe only has six tables, so there may be a wait, but it’s worth it.
Old Fisherman’s Grotto
Best for: Great food at the best Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant in Monterey
Address: 39 Fishermans Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 375-4604
Don’t miss: Monterey clam chowder
Reserve a table here
Old Fisherman’s Grotto at Old Fisherman’s Wharf serves up old-school Monterey classics like clam chowder and sand dab, which is a local catch.
The family-run restaurant has been in business since the 1950s, and many of its loyal customers say it’s the best seafood restaurant in Monterey.
The Monterey County Weekly and Monterey Herald seem to agree, as they consistently award “best clam chowder” and “best restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf” to this historic eatery.
Families with young kids, take note: there are no strollers, booster chairs, or children’s menus at this establishment.
Kids are not outright banned at Old Fisherman’s Grotto, but they’ll need impeccable manners to dine here.
After almost fishing the local sardine population into extinction and the subsequent collapse of the fishing industry, sustainable seafood is Monterey’s motto.
Passionfish works closely with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, a program designed to increase awareness of dwindling fish species and encourage sustainable fishing.
As a result, you can feel safe knowing you’re not part of the problem when you enjoy the delicious food at Passionfish.
The menu changes depending on what’s available, but the small plates are always full of fresh flavors.
If it’s in season, don’t miss the Dungeness crab salad. Not a seafood fan? The non-ocean options, like the delectable 12-hour lamb, are great too.
Wild Fish is one of the hottest new Pacific Grove restaurants, offering some of the freshest and best seafood in the Monterey Bay.
Like Passionfish, sustainability is the focus here. Everything on the menu is organic and locally sourced from the sea or nearby farms.
Although the menu changes seasonally, there’s a range of dishes available to eat–from comforting classics like fish and chips to options for more adventurous eaters, like the spicy octopus.
Be warned, however, this Lighthouse Avenue restaurant is a seafood-centric place to eat, so don’t expect many alternatives from the kitchen.
Campagno’s Market and Deli
Best for: Delicious sandwiches for your beach picnic
Address: 2000 Prescott Ave, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 375-5987
Don’t miss: The hot pastrami sandwich
No online menu available
Campagno’s Market and Deli is a great place to go when you’re hungry for a freshly-made sandwich.
It’s popular with locals, especially the military members based in the area, and many sandwich names honor their loyal fans.
This take-out spot is ideal if your day involves kayaking, cycling, hiking, or relaxing on the beach.
Grab some sandwiches and take a quick drive up to Moss Landing, where you can kayak or enjoy a picnic on Moss Landing State Beach.
These sandwiches are enormous, FYI. One is often enough to split, or you can always save half for later.
Fillings can be hot or cold. Try the hot pastrami sandwich for a satisfying lunch.
El Cantaro Vegan Restaurant
Take your vegan friends to this popular spot, which serves up traditional and creative Mexican fare without the meat.
The extensive menu features many dishes you would expect in a Mexican restaurant, including burritos, tacos, mole, and pozole.
The potato tacos and “chickin” taquitos are especially popular menu items.
In a primarily seafood-oriented town, eating at a great vegetarian restaurant is refreshing, and El Cantaro is a hit with locals and tourists alike.
Best for: Fine dining with great views of the Monterey Bay
Address: 444 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 372-3362
Don’t miss: Lobster tail, calamari, and prime rib
Reserve a table here
The fabulous ocean views from the elegant dining room at Chart House make it a local favorite for special occasions that demand prime rib, lobster, and champagne.
Make a reservation here if you’re looking for a traditional, white tablecloth kind of place with killer views.
Save room for the hot chocolate lava cake. It takes 30 minutes to prepare, but it’s decadent enough to distract you from those ocean views while you eat it.
Jeninni Kitchen and Wine Bar
Best for: Groups of friends and family
Address: 542 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, California 93950
Contact info: (831) 920-2662; [email protected]
Don’t miss: Chicken Torchon for two
Reserve a table here
Jeninni Kitchen and Wine Bar serves up small plates of delicious Mediterranean flavors, each paired with a thoughtful wine suggestion.
Bring a group of friends so you can share as many dishes as possible, like the Turkish fried eggplant, shellfish stew, and crispy lamb shanks. All dishes have beautiful presentation as well.
Jeninni is perfect if you’re looking for local restaurants away from the Monterey tourist strip; Jeninni is along Lighthouse Avenue in laid-back Pacific Grove.
Best for: A quick and tasty lunch
Address: 1944 Fremont Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955
Contact info: (831) 392-0210
Don’t miss: Dry noodle bowls
No online menu
Noodle Bar, in nearby Seaside, is a small and casual Vietnamese spot where you can order mouth-watering noodles, flavorful pho, and crispy egg rolls.
Getting a seat can be challenging in the six-table dining area, as this is one of the most popular restaurants in Seaside, but takeout is always an option. There’s no shortage of beautiful places to eat a picnic in Monterey.
Noodle Bar is an affordable restaurant and the perfect place to grab a hot lunch after your morning adventures around town.
It’s also amongst the handful of restaurants in Monterey with a good range of vegetarian options.
Not everything on the menu is healthy–egg rolls, I’m looking at you. However, there are plenty of delicious and nutritious things to eat, too, like the mahi-mahi with rice and vegetables or the tofu stir fry.
Some of Monterey’s more elegant restaurants can be a little intimidating, not to mention expensive.
When you want to eat a home-cooked meal with great service and a welcoming atmosphere at reasonable prices, head to Epsilon.
Eat classics like mousaka, dolmades, fresh Greek salad, and chicken kabob, all made with authentic Greek flavors.
The dining room is small and cozy, so make a reservation if you’re visiting on a weekend night.
Domenico’s on the Wharf
For the best Italian restaurant in Monterey, book a table at Domenico’s on the Wharf, which serves fresh seafood and pasta dishes with great service.
It’s one of the best restaurants on the Monterey Wharf with a high-end menu, but the dining experience is friendly, not formal.
As with most of the best restaurants in Monterey, seafood is the hero here. You can’t go wrong with Alaskan King crab, Oysters Rockefeller, or mussels served in wine and garlic sauce.
If you’re traveling with your dog, here’s another reason to dine at Domenico’s: the restaurant is pet-friendly.
Montrio Bistro is a fine dining experience in a converted firehouse in the heart of downtown Monterey.
The low lighting, white tablecloths, and artwork-lined walls create a great atmosphere in the historic building, making it one of the best restaurants in Monterey for a romantic dinner date.
Classic dishes like grilled steaks and lamb chops are popular menu items, and there’s an extensive wine list to accompany your meal.
Although the food is excellent, you can also drop in for a cocktail at the bar if you’re not in the mood to eat.
Going on a romantic California road trip? Check out our list of other romantic getaways in California.
Some of the best restaurants in Monterey are on buzzy Cannery Row, and Coastal Kitchen is certainly one of them.
With outstanding views of the Monterey Bay and a sophisticated tasting menu, Coastal Kitchen offers a memorable dining experience.
The five-course tasting menu changes seasonally, but expect elegant dishes like black truffle pasta or king salmon.
Huge windows showcase sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, while the understated decor focuses on the beautifully-presented food.
Fandango Restaurant in Pacific Grove serves delicious Spanish-inspired cuisine, including paella, lamb cooked on a wood-fired grill, and tapas.
You’ll also find a great selection of pasta, salad, and fresh fish.
Make sure to save room to eat the Grand Marnier souffle, a favorite among guests. There’s also an extensive wine list and a full bar.
The main dining area can get busy and loud, so it’s better for large groups. If you want a more intimate setting, ask to be seated in one of the smaller rooms instead.
Whaling Station Steakhouse
Whaling Station Steakhouse is one of the best restaurants in Monterey for prime rib.
Laid-back yet sophisticated, this steak restaurant exclusively serves the finest cuts of USDA Prime Beef.
Just off Cannery Row, this is one of the best downtown Monterey restaurants when you’re in the mood to eat an excellent steak.
Aside from the tender cuts of beef, the menu has some tempting seafood options like pancetta-wrapped scallops and butter-roasted lobster tail.
If you’re looking for a lighter bite, stop by the full bar, which serves juicy steak sandwiches and drink specials.
Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar
Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar is as close to the water as possible to make the most of those stunning Monterey views over the ocean.
Naturally, the kitchen draws inspiration from the sea, and the menu has a diverse range of raw and cooked sustainable seafood to choose from.
An open kitchen concept creates a fun, energetic vibe for diners.
On a sunny day, ask for seats on the heated terrace for unobstructed water views as you enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.
The terrace is also an excellent place for a drink if you’re not hungry enough to eat a full meal.
Roy’s at Pebble Beach
While you’re at it, grab a bite to eat at Roy’s at Pebble Beach, an upscale Hawaiian-fusion restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi.
Roy’s is at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, just north of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and enjoys spectacular views over the ocean.
You’ll need to pay a small fee to drive into the gated community, but show your receipt, and they’ll refund it from your bill.
Fresh seafood is central to the menu, like the misoyaki butterfish and “dynamite” crab-crusted scallops, but the land-based options are excellent too.
A Taste of Monterey
A Taste of Monterey is essentially a wine tourist information center for Monterey, but with snacks.
Get all the maps and advice you need about the region’s vineyards, try a glass from the long list, order a few plates to share, and enjoy the beautiful view over Monterey Bay.
This cozy cafe in Pacific Grove, full of colorful art, serves a great selection of empanadas. Choose from traditional versions, like chicken, or ask about one of the specials.
Sandwiches served on homemade brioche are also on the menu, or you can peek inside the pastry case for a sweet treat. Cafe Guarani offers coffee, tea, and yerba mate alongside baked goods.
Alvarado Street Bar and Grill
Best for: Enjoying a beer and a bite in the beer garden
Address: 426 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA 93940
Contact info: (831) 655-2337
Don’t miss: The burgers
Groups of five or more can call for a reservation
Alvarado Street Bar and Grill is a local craft brewery serving classic pub food in downtown Monterey, just off the main drag of W Franklin St.
It’s one of the best restaurants in Monterey for outdoor dining, with a 50-seat beer garden at the back and sidewalk tables in front.
Find a table outdoors and order pizza, a burger, or a spicy Korean fried chicken sandwich for lunch. Vegans have many options too, including a popular burger and refreshing salads.
Turn up between 3 pm and 6 pm for happy hour and try one of the IPAs, kettle sours, or lagers at the full bar.
This lively spot is perfect for relaxing with a beer on a sunny afternoon.
Alta Bakery and Cafe
Located in Old Town Monterey, Alta Bakery and Cafe has a hidden garden courtyard, perfect for sipping a latte and enjoying one of their famous donuts.
Alta Bakery’s culinary director, Ben Spungin, played a big part in revitalizing the historic district, and the cafe is in the almost-200-year-old Cooper-Molera Adobe.
The bakery takes inspiration from its beautiful garden, offering specials like a dandelion latte or blackberry and lavender mimosa.
Alta’s daily donuts change regularly but expect creative twists like lemon verbena or miso glazes.
Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant
Sea Harvest is owned and operated by local Monterey fishermen, so you can be sure you’ll eat the freshest fish available here.
This Monterey restaurant is unusual because it’s a fish market and an eatery. You can eat in or bring home the day’s catch to cook for dinner.
Sea Harvest is an award-winning restaurant; it’s been voted “Best Seafood Market on the Monterey Peninsula” for 20 consecutive years.
Inside the tiny dining area, you’ll find cheerful, nautical-themed decor and brightly colored tablecloths.
Of course, the best way to eat fish and chips is to get takeout and sit on the beach, provided you’re willing to fight off the seagulls.
Bistro Moulin is one of the best restaurants in Monterey for classic French dishes, like steak bordelaise and coq au vin.
The elegant interior is bright but cozy, making it perfect for a long French lunch, preferably accompanied by a glass or two of their fine wines.
The menu is hearty countryside fare, so expect to eat plenty of cream and garlic. But try to spare some room for dessert, which includes decadent, chocolate-coated profiteroles and crème brûlée.
The Fish Hopper
The Fish Hopper is another Cannery Row mainstay known as a go-to place where the locals eat in Monterey.
Ask for a table on the heated patio, and you can eat your meal while overlooking Monterey Bay.
Of course, fresh fish and seafood feature heavily on the menu, but you’ll also find great steak and pasta dishes.
This restaurant is one of those rare places where you don’t need to compromise on the food for an incredible view.
The Fish Hopper is another restaurant that partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium on its sustainable fish program, so everything on the menu is sustainably caught.
Crystal Fish is one of the best restaurants in Monterey for high-quality sushi, serving precisely cut nigiri, sashimi, and rolls.
Order a la carte or roll the dice with a sashimi sampler. Noodles, soups, salads, and hot dishes are also available if you’re not in the mood for raw fish.
Whatever you order to eat, accompany your meal with unfiltered sake or a refreshing pot of hot tea for an authentic Japanese experience.
The C Restaurant and Bar
With floor-to-ceiling windows and a heated patio, The C Restaurant and Bar is one of the best restaurants in Monterey, with a view over Monterey Bay.
The upscale, ocean-view restaurant is part of the Clement Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row, one of the grandest hotels on the strip.
The menu, of course, focuses on seafood and is part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
Popular items on the menu include crispy calamari, zingy ceviche, and Monterey cioppino, the renowned tomato-based fish stew, which originally came from San Francisco.
Old Monterey Cafe
Old Monterey Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Monterey to eat breakfast, and the locals agree; they’ve voted it “Best Breakfast in Monterey” for 10 years in a row.
It’s easy to see why this restaurant is top-rated for its breakfasts when you try their fluffy pancakes or Belgium waffles overflowing with fruit and crispy hash browns.
This local favorite is a walk-in-only type of place, but the friendly staff will get you seated quickly.
This chic spot is an ideal place to eat with friends and larger groups.
Sample the fresh flavors of Spain with plates of pork belly, crispy duck salad, and patatas bravas for the table.
The atmosphere in Esteban Restaurant is warm and welcoming. There’s also ample outdoor seating around fire pits, where on a sunny day, you’ll feel transported to the Mediterranean.
Vegetarians won’t be disappointed, as there’s a diverse range of dishes on the menu–ideal if you want to escape the seafood-centric venues found throughout Monterey (although there are plenty of fish here options too).
What Food is Monterey Famous for?
In one word: seafood.
The rich waters of Monterey Bay inspire Monterey’s food, thanks to an impressive diversity of sea life.
Local species include salmon, rockfish, lingcod, mackerel, surfperch, smelt, halibut, sanddabs, squid, rock crab, clams, and many more.
What goes on menus varies by availability and seasonality, so feel free to ask your server where your fish came from, how fresh it is, and even the name of the fisherman who caught it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers. She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.
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