A locals guide on where to eat and drink in Monterey , Big Sur & Carmel California

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Where to eat and Drink in Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur

I often offer suggestions to my photography clients while they are here visiting either for family sessions, elopements or engagement shoots. I wanted to make those suggestions available to anyone on my site! Being a self proclaimed foodie who loves good food but hates up tight atmospheres this list will not include black tie locations although there is plenty of them in Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur and Pebble Beach. (L'Auberge in Carmel was recently given one Michelin star and is phenomenal without kids ) For those families visiting I have two kids and spend a majority of my time at the beach or river here, I’ll include my favorite fast places!

I always recommend seeing Big Sur and taking a drive on the one, I personally feel 17 mile drive is not a must see, It looks very similar to the Monterey and Pacific Grove coast line. It has a famous “lone cypress” but you can go to the Point Lobos cypress grove and see more spectacular views and cypress trees.

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  1. Napenthe : Authentic Big Sur, no french influences here. The Ambrosia burger is my favorite after a long day of hiking or shooting. The views, fire pits, raw wood and lack of cell reception make the atmosphere hard to beat. They do not take reservations and the weekends during the summer have been slammed. Come during a week day and have a nice Cab on the back patio. I bring my kids here all the time.

  2. Deetjens: My uncle used to smoke cigars with old man Deetjen. Raw cabins, funky decorations, and constant fires on a cold day. A river and beautiful redwoods surround this small gem, their stuffed french toast is legendary.

  3. River Inn : The best place to stop and stick your toes in the water. Have a mojito and sit in one of their chairs in the river and watch kids float down the river in inner tubes. Kid friendly depending on river levels (bring their bathing suit).

  4. Ventana & Post ranch: beautiful and great food if your looking for formal dining. Ventana has a decent bar menu and great burger. not kid friendly. Ventana has really fun glamp sites in the redwoods that I love.

  5. Tree Bones: I stayed here for my birthday this year and had so much fun! Make a reservation for the 13 course prefixed sushi dinner you wont regret it. We stayed in Yurt 16 and you could hear the highway during the day but was completely silent at night. As always in Big Sur bring warm clothes as hot days are few and far between.


  1. The Cheese Shop : Do yourself a favor get a baguette, wine, and cheese and have a picnic at Carmel beach at sunset. This is my daughters favorite lunch spot and she loves their Brie!

  2. Bi Right market : Friday is their calamari special, its amazing. Eat across the street at the Monterey beach where they filmed ‘Pretty Little Lies’.

  3. The Fish House on Del Monte: always a line so make a reservation. Fresh fish cooked well. Not the most kid friendly for small ones. My 7 year old loves their clam chowder.

  4. Montrio Bistro : My husband and I love the bar menu. You can order anything from the regular menu sitting at the cute little bar tables. The crab cakes, bacon wrapped shrimp, peach Mojito, local Alvarado street beer, and calamari are amazing.

  5. Dametras Carmel: This place is so fun, they bring out one of their cute older chef ‘s who sing in Greek. The food is flavorful and fresh, I bring friends from NY here !

  6. Alvarado street brewery & Yeast of Eden: My husband would be upset if these weren’t included. I am not a fan of any of their food but both places have amazing local beer!! Yeast of eden for Saison’s and sours and Alvarado for IPA’S. They are right next to the cheese shop so pick up some beer, grab some cheese and head to the beach down the street! Both kid friendly!

  7. Cultura - Great outside seating, I love their queso, margaritas and steak salad.

  8. Akioni: The best sushi around for an authentic fresh experience. The service leaves something to be desired but the quality is so great I keep coming back.

  9. Vesuvio roof top - Fun atmosphere on the roof of the main Vesuvio restaurant, food and drinks are decent but the atmosphere is fun especially for small bites.


When most people visit us they don’t think of wine tasting especially not with kids. Although Napa’s wine tends to be better we have great kid friendly wine tasting options!

  1. Folktale : I don’t love their wine but their small bites, outdoor area and kid friendly activities make it a family favorite.

  2. The Wine House: They have beer too!

  3. Cowgirl winery : Fun atmosphere, chickens roam around the property very kid friendly and pizza from Cork Screw can be delivered to your Bocce ball court.

  4. Baja Cantina - Fun family friendly Mexican food, the TJ taxi is our family favorite.

  5. ROUX: nice outdoor seating very close to Cowgirl winery and the Corkscrew cafe which I also like. At Roux I prefer to lunch over dinner and their fried oreo’s are pretty amazing. The corkscrew cafe has great food but their service is slow! Don’t go if your in a rush.


  1. The bench: outdoor seating with fire pits, decent pizza and a bag piper at sunset.


  1. The red house cafe: a staple with my family for breakfast or lunch. Try their artichoke grilled cheese and any of their soups.

  2. Peppers: I love their steak tacos and artichoke enchilada, not a fan of any of their chicken dishes. Make reservations on weekends.


  1. Captain and stoker : The best chai around, great avocado toast, friendly and fast service

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