10 Best Restaurants in Monterey

Stretching from Salinas to Big Sur, the Monterey Peninsula is one of the best seafood destinations south of San Francisco. But it’s not just seafood eateries here. You’ll find wineries, Spanish and Asian cuisine, steakhouses, and more.

You can sleep in comfort in one of our carefully curated vacation rentals in Santa Cruz County, take the family to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, enjoy panoramic ocean views, and explore iconic sights like Pebble Beach before you work up an appetite and tackle this list of dining restaurants!

1. Passionfish

Photo Credit: Zohar Hirshfeld
  • Price Point: $$-$$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Rainbow Trout and Scallops in tomato-truffle butter.
  • Address: 701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA
  • Website: passionfish.net

Californians care about where they get their fish. Overwhelmingly, environmental impact is important to diners, and choosing to eat at a restaurant that emphasizes sustainability is a no-brainer. This brings us to Passionfish. Small, sleek, and inviting, this is where you can celebrate food from the sea with an outstanding wine list you can’t find anywhere else. At Passionfish, there are no pretentious frills. Great for a romantic evening or a group date.

2. The Sardine Factory

Photo Credit: Greg Sparling
  • Price Point: $$
  • Favorite Menu Item: World Famous Abalone Bisque
  • Address: 701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA
  • Website: sardinefactory.com

The Sardine Factory is a must-stop for anyone in the Cannery district for a culinary experience like no other.

Serving for over 50 years, Sardine Factory is an institution that has repeatedly been hailed as the best restaurant in Monterey, with a menu that celebrates not only freshly caught Monterey seafood but also choice meats. Enjoy a 40-day aged Prime Rib or Surf and Turf with Maine Lobster Tail.

The wine list and cocktail menus are guaranteed to tempt you into a second (or third) glass. The ambiance doesn’t fall short, either. The opulent Victorian-styled dining room would be up to Gatsby’s standard, and the typically “reservation only” Atrium is even prettier.

3. Old Fishermen’s Grotto

Photo Credit: foodstck
  • Price Point: $$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Bread Bowl Clam Chowder
  • Address: 39 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, CA
  • Website: oldfishermansgrotto.com

Any trip to Monterey will eventually lead you to the historic wharf. The salty sea air, the barks of sea lions, and huge bread bowls full of steaming chowder. Old Fisherman’s Grotto is a staple pier-side seafood restaurant providing delicious meals with an unbeatable view. Although it may be in the tourist district, don’t pass up the chance to eat here for lunch or sunset as you watch the local sea lions and cast off into seafood comfort food at its finest.

4. Hula’s Island Grill

Photo Credit: GLIDER LLC
  • Price Point: $
  • Favorite Menu Item: Ahi Tuna Sandwich
  • Address: 622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, CA
  • Website: hulastiki.com

Escape to the island life and enjoy Hawaiian cuisine and tiki cocktails here at Hula’s Island Grill, one of Monterey’s most popular and acclaimed restaurants. Fish tacos, ahi tuna, and perfect Mai Tais! Put on your best Hawaiian shirt and say aloha to a meal infused with tropical paradise.

The food here is excellent, but the trendy decor and atmosphere will really make you feel like you are sitting at a beachside tiki hut somewhere in the Polynesian Islands.

5. Rosine’s Restaurant

Photo Credit: Ari N
  • Price Point: $
  • Favorite Menu Item: Guacamole Bacon Burger
  • Address: 434 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA
  • Website: rosinesmonterey.com

Breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, this is the place to come for that classic American breakfast complete with a pile of house-made country fries. For dinner, a heaping bowl of Alfredo or Lasagna, and do your best to save room for their award-winning desserts.

There is a reason why Rosine’s was featured on Diners-Drive-ins and Dives. Locally owned for three generations, there is really nowhere else like Rosine’s in town. You can expect to immediately feel at home here among plates of comfort food done right.

6. Osteria Al Mare

Photo Credit: Evnex
  • Price Point: $$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Fettucini Al Pescatore
  • Address: 32 Cannery Row STE G, Monterey, CA
  • Website: osteriaalmare.com

You’ve noticed a common theme by now, and that theme continues with Osteria Al Mare, at the edge of the bay near San Carlos Beach, Chef and owner Maurizio Cutrignelli emphasizes classic Italian recipes using the freshest local ingredients and a whole lot of seafood. Take in the views and watch the sea lions as you enjoy a bowl of pasta perfection.

It’s hard to find a place casual enough and yet romantic enough for those special date nights. Osteria Al Mare, where the land meets the sea, is that dinner destination. Here, you can have your cake and eat it too, with a welcoming atmosphere and white tablecloth ambiance in true Italian style, without the stuffiness of fine dining.

7. Bistro Moulin

Photo Credit: bonchan
  • Price Point: $$-$$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: French Onion Soup
  • Address: 867 Wave St, Monterey, CA
  • Website: bistromoulin.com

Along the Cannery Row lies the unassuming Bistro Moulin. With Mediterranean influences, this European-style restaurant allows its French cuisine and extensive wine list to shine here. Moulin is the perfect date night, where you can enjoy hearty French classics in an intimate setting.

8. Ambrosia India Bistro

Photo Credit: Sahil Rattanaphas
  • Price Point: $$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Thali
  • Address: 565 Abrego St, Monterey, CA
  • Website: ambrosiaib.com

For those looking for more vegetarian or vegan options, Ambrosia, a local Indian chain, should not be overlooked. The intoxicating aroma of spices and ghee fills the air, and a wide variety of curries and exotic dishes will satisfy every craving. A warm and inviting atmosphere inside a beautifully decorated space with a lush, heated patio for a more private dining experience. The lunch buffet here is a local secret where you can order all you can eat for a budget-friendly price.

9. Maligne

Photo Credit: Jacek Chabraszewski
  • Price Point: $$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Halibut
  • Address: 600 Broadway Ave, Seaside, CA 93955
  • Website: restaurantmaligne.com

Just outside of Monterey in Sand City is a seafood-inspired fine dining experience of a lifetime. Maligne, which derives from the French word for “clever,” and Chef Georis provides a playful spin on contemporary European and American classic-inspired dishes. If there is one dining experience to have in Seaside, it is here.

The chef boasts two different Michilin-recognized establishments on not one but two continents. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an open kitchen? The decor here is minimal and contemporary because when the food is this good, you just don’t need to fuss with an over-the-top design.

10. Montrio

Photo Credit: Brittney Blackmon (BodaciousBB)
  • Price Point: $$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Olo Ranch Braised Beef Short Rib and Miso Glazed Pork Belly
  • Address: 414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA
  • Website: montrio.com

Self-proclaimed as the “greenest” fine dining in town. This restaurant is known for its environmentally conscious menu and seasonal small plates. Expect European/American organic cuisine served inside a chic historic fire-house, but super high-end. Perfect for date night.

Worthwhile Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea

While Carmel-by-the-Sea is technically its own destination, it’s within a 15-minute drive of downtown Monterey, and visitors often combine a visit to the two seaside towns. These restaurants are easy to add to your Monterey foodie list.

Baja Cantina

Photo Credit: Guajillo studio
  • Price Point: $
  • Favorite Menu Item: Chile Relleno
  • Address: 7166 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
  • Website: carmelcantina.com

There’s a hidden gem in Carmel, and it’s the Mexican food. A local favorite and one of the best-kept secrets of this stretch of California coast, Baja Cantina is a quirky joint that’s hard to miss when you drive by. Old gas pumps, oil signs, and vintage racing memorabilia surround your perfect happy hour destination where you can get the best margaritas and Mexican food in town.

With a massive patio, it’s great for groups and the whole family. Live music performances and an outdoor fireplace mean Baja Cantina is always a good time!


Photo Credit: NPDstock
  • Price Point: $$$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Tasting Menu, Wagyu A5 Upgrade
  • Address: 7th avenue Monte Verde St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
  • Website: auberginecarmel.com

No stop into Carmel-by-the-sea is complete without indulging your culinary adventurous side. In a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience, chef Justin Cogley at award-winning Aubergine skillfully assembles elevated fine dining using only regional ingredients. Once the first plate drops in front of you, the Michelin star needs no explanation.

The eight-course Tasting Menu changes every day and is an of-the-moment cultivation of seasonality and creativity. New American, French, and Japanese influences show up throughout the meal, taking your tastebuds on a world tour. The atmosphere outside on the patio is that of a French chateau. Cozy, inviting, and intimate. Aubergine sheds pretension and brings an inviting air to embark you on the dining experience.

La Bicyclette

Photo Credit: Michel Cellier
  • Price Point: $$
  • Favorite Menu Item: Parisian Gnocchi
  • Address: Dolores St &, 7th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
  • Website: labicycletterestaurant.com

Transport yourself to a small European village set one hundred years in the past. The perfect cafe to relax for a well-rounded lunch or dinner experience. The smell of wood fire pizzas wafting in the air will draw you in and make you want to order the entire menu. Be sure to check out the lush patio garden and outdoor seating if it’s an especially beautiful day.

Sleep In Santa Cruz County to Eat in Monterey!

Our lovely vacation rentals tucked into the scenic alcoves of Santa Cruz are the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend of exploring all that Monterey County has to offer. The area is a gold mine of fresh local fare and a destination known for its natural landscapes and oceanfront attractions.