A Day on Monterey Bay: Where to Eat and Drink

By Deborah Luhrman | July 22, 2015
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Pacific Grove coastline Photo: Bill Kuffrey

The Monterey Bay area is jam packed with year-round organic farms and seasonal farm-to-table eating experiences. While most visitors come for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium or the stunning seascapes of Big Sur just to the south, our favorite places offer an authentic taste of the region. In spring, be sure to look for locally grown artichokes and strawberries, in summer juicy red raspberries, in fall apples and wine grapes, and in winter Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Edible Feast has teamed up with Expedia to offer a West Coast food and drink tour with stops in Seattle, Portland, Marin & Wine Country, San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Reno Tahoe. Here are a few of Edible Monterey Bay's must-visit spots if you have a day to spend.

Tour Monterey Bay in photos.

companion bakeshop
Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Start your day at Companion Bakeshop (2341 Mission St.) in Santa Cruz, where Highway 1 enters town from the north. Be sure to try the house made sourdough toast—walnut raisin is our favorite and some of their breads are baked with locally-grown wheat. We also love the fruit tartlets and seasonal scones, but there is quiche and a daily frittata for bigger appetites. 

Head uphill to the redwood-studded campus of UC Santa Cruz for a stroll around the Alan Chadwick Garden (1156 High St.). Founded in 1967 by an Englishman using French methods, the garden is considered the birthplace of California’s organic movement and looks like our idea of Eden—with dozens of fruit-laden trees, flowering vines and every kind of edible plant.

verve coffee santa cruz
Verve Coffee on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.

Verve Coffee Before making the drive around the bay, fuel up at Verve Coffee (1540 Pacific Ave.) in downtown Santa Cruz. Verve is a local roaster that is making a name for itself nationally by using very carefully sourced and nuanced fair-trade beans. They also carry irresistible pastries from the Michelin-starred Manresa Restaurant’s bakery.

pezzini farm artichokes
Artichokes boxed up for sale at the Pezzini farmstand.

Castroville Head south on Highway 1 around the bay and keep a look out for the freeway overpass decorated with artichokes and strawberries—a tribute to local ag. Just past Castroville, exit on Nashua Rd. for a quick stop at Pezzini Farms (460 Nashua Rd.) 30 miles south of Santa Cruz. There you can step out into the artichoke fields and see how the giant thistles grow. Stock up on fresh artichokes or artichoke adorned gifts, but don’t leave without sampling the local specialty, batter-fried artichoke hearts.

taste of monterey restaurant
View of the Monterey Bay from A Taste of Monterey restaurant.

Cannery Row Continue south and take exit 402B onto Del Monte Ave. Head straight for Monterey’s historic Cannery Row—once a strip of sardine canneries immortalized by John Steinbeck. We like to rise above the throngs of tourists by heading upstairs to A Taste of Monterey (700 Cannery Row) where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Monterey Bay. The locavore menu features vegetable-centric soups, salads, and appetizer plates to share. We always order one of their flatbread pizzas and pair it with a glass of wine—there are 90 different varieties to choose from, all from Monterey County wineries.

To work off lunch, ramble along the rocky coastline towards Pacific Grove, keeping an eye out for adorable sea otters. Or rent a bicycle or kayak; you can pedal out to the crashing surf at Asilomar State Beach or paddle around the quiet coves closer to Cannery Row.

earthbound farm herb garden
The herb garden at Earthbound Farms.

Carmel Valley Next travel south again on Highway 1 about 5 miles, turning left onto Carmel Valley Rd. Tucked away from the glitz and glam of the Monterey Peninsula, picturesque Carmel Valley retains a rural feel and is usually sunny, even when the coast is fog bound. Carmel Valley Village boasts more than a dozen wine tasting rooms.

Just 3.6 miles along Carmel Valley Rd. stop in at the Earthbound Farm Stand (7250 Carmel Valley Rd). This is near the spot where the organic produce giant started out with a small raspberry farm 30 years ago. There is a berry patch to visit, an herb garden to explore, and a farm stand/café where you can buy gourmet souvenirs or grab an organic bite to eat at the picnic tables outside.

la balena carmel
House made spread of pasta and charcuterie at La Balena in Carmel.

Carmel As the day winds down, drive back to catch the sunset at Carmel Beach and head for dinner at La Balena (Junipero St.) in Carmel. Chef Brad Briske is the real deal, sourcing all his ingredients at local organic farms and farmers’ markets. His Monterey Bay/Tuscan cuisine is inspired. Don’t miss the house-made salumi, braises and meaty pasta sauces. If you can’t score a reservation at the popular spot, try their spin-off Il Grillo (Mission St & 4th Ave) just around the corner with the same outstanding food in a more casual setting for walk-ins only.

restaurant 1833 in old monterey
The outdoor firepits at Restaurant 1833 in Old Monterey.

Old Monterey For a nightcap, the bar scene at Restaurant 1833 (500 Hartnell St.) in Old Monterey can’t be beat. Choose a quiet seat around one of the outdoor firepits or head inside to the white onyx bar where house music pumps through the 19th C adobe. Cocktails are creatively updated classics, we’re especially fond of the margarita-like Aranda’s Cut—made with tequila, serrano and Anaheim chiles, lime, turbinado, cucumber and smoked sea salt….local, of course.

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