Thai Bistro II
Thai Bistro II is a small, family run Thai restaurant in an older house on Central Avenue's short restaurant row in Pacific Grove. Entering from the front you turn up a small sidewalk to the white house set back in a rather large lat next to a seldom-open plant nursery. A few tables are in the front lawn, and one romantic little table with a view of the water sits at the top of the steps on the front porch. Enter through the front door and you will notice the crisp white walls with a deep blue accent everywhere form the trim to the seat cushions. The restaurant has three rooms for diners, all with very close-set tables, making private conversation somewhat awkward and limited.
We were seated in the very back corner, but we could still easily sea the bay through the big front window from our seats. They gave us three menus: the huge regular menu with about six pages of food and drink, the one-page pea green vegetarian menu, and the small white menu with the wine list. We immediately ordered two Thai Singha beers ($4 each) and the satay skewers ($5) as an appetizer. For our main dishes we had the Thai fried rice with chicken and the pork and veggie stir fry (each about $9). The satay skewers were mildly tasty and served with sliced cucumbers in a sweet sauce and a flavorful peanut sauce. The two main courses were excellent, but we especially liked the pork stir fry and its thin, wide noodles.
Most dishes on the menu are served with a 1-5 scale of spiciness, so be brave... Thai food is supposed to have a kick!
Thai Bistro II was named Best Thai in Monterey County by the Monterey County Weekly in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Yangtse's Taste of Thai in Salinas stole the honor in 2007.
Mandarin Gourmet ... or not so gourmet?
Honestly one of the worst Chinese meals I've had in a while or maybe ever. Maybe I should have known better than to try Szechuan at a Mandarin place... the Szechuan beef was so overcooked it tasted like beef jerky with hot sauce on top. At least the rice was good. We also had the big house special wonton soup with pork, shrimp, and chicken which was excellent and really made the meal enjoyable for us.
The restaurant is clean but kind of a dump... it reminds me of someone's garage that was fixed up and converted into a restaurant. Exposed beams, threadbare gray carpet, painted over brick walls. The paint is fresh, but the restaurant could really use an overhaul.
Mandarin Gourmet also delivers, and during our meal several calls for delivery were made, so many people obviously enjoy this restaurant and have a higher opinion of the place than I do.
Open 11:00am to 9:30pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Zocalo Mexican Restaurant
We stopped into Zocalo in April 2008 while visiting the annual Good Old Days festival. We had actually first noticed the restaurant during the 2007 Good Old Days, but never got around to trying this casual and popular restaurant near the middle of PG. This restaurant sits right behind the huge Holman Building, so is easy to find.
I had the chipotle chicken tostadas ($12) which was one large crispy tortilla with beans, chicken, and lots of lettuce, with a great smoky chipotle flavor. Laura had the asada enchiladas, which were also good, but I was glad to try their chipotle. Both meals came with beans, rice, and veggies. The refried beans are creamy and tasty and topped with crumbles of cheese. Their meals also include regular Spanish rice and a little pile of lettuce, cucumbers, and radish with a splash of lime. They also have bottles of Tecate beer for about $3 and a selection of other beers and wines.
The staff was great and friendly, the prices pretty good, and the food excellent. I'd give them the nod over Peppers--PG's other Mexican restaurant.
Peppers Mexicali Cafe
Peppers is a relatively popular restaurant located in one of the old buildings on a side street in PG. It opened in 1986 and has been honored numerous times with best of Monterey County awards and has been listed in national publications. Peppers has a relatively standard Mexican menu, but it has numerous nightly specials, many featuring seafood, which makes this spot a locals' favorite.
We swung by one busy Thursday night in April 2008 and were lucky to be immediately seated in a table for two right in front of the plate-glass window on the street. We started with a Tecate beer ($4) and a house margarita ($6), unfortunately the Tecate came in a can rather than the much preferred draft or bottle. We chose to start our meal with the garlic chipotle mushrooms on a tortilla ($7), and were very happy with this unique dish. For our main courses we both chose the long list of specials over the regular menu of Tex-Mex usuals, but it was hard to choose from some very interesting items like the swordfish fajitas. Laura finally decided on the chicken mole enchiladas ($14), and I had the steak taco carbonara special ($15). Both meals were quick and tasty, arriving with rice and beans along with plenty of fresh vegetables. Our final bill was around $50 including four drinks, the appetizer, and two main courses, about par for the Monterey peninsula.
Thaiwaiian is another of the good local restaurants in the Forest Hill Shopping Center near Safeway. The Thai wife and Hawaiian husband who own the restaurant are friendly and often there. The restaurant is tiny and very, very casual, with a friendly atmosphere. It is dimly lit and features a small collection of Thai and Hawaiian art, as well as a TV with Hawaiian music. The restaurant began as a stand at local farmers markets and fairs, and finally established a permanent location here in PG around 2004.
As the name implies, the food is a collection of traditional Thai and Hawaiian dishes, but few meals would be considered a fusion of both cultures. We started with Hawaiian Spam masubi, an interesting little sushi-style roll with Spam instead of fish, wrapped in rice and seaweed (only $2.50 per order). We had Hawaiian Longboard Lager beers with our dinners to drink (about $4 each). My main course was the spicy sweet basil seafood entree and Laura had the sweet barbecued duck. I asked for and received a very, very spicy version of the meal that was excellent and included mussels, salmon, scallops, octopus, and more for $18--the same meal with chicken or beef is only $10. My friend's half duck was also great and cooked just right ($16).
I liked the food at this restaurant much better than Hula's, the other Hawaiian restaurant in town. Of course, Hula's has a much better atmosphere.
Ocean Sushi - PG Location
Ocean Sushi has a nice location in Monterey with a full restaurant, and they have this little hole-in-the-wall in PG. While the PG branch has no sushi bar or tables, it does have a small shop with Japanese snacks and trinkets. They also have some very tasty sushi.
So far I have only been there once, and I had the chirashi bowl. This was a great meal with at least six or eight varieties of fresh and tasty seafood for about $16. Chirashi is one of the most expensive items on the menu...most everything else is under $10. You can call in your order or just show up and wait approximately 15-20 minutes depending on your order. This is a pretty popular little shop.
Though they claim to be open everyday 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., we've stopped in around 6:30 on Sunday nights and the lights were off and the doors locked.
Breaker's Cafe is a good, little, local restaurant that features hearty traditional breakfasts. In this clean cafe you will find locals enjoying hearty breakfast meals such as omelets, pancakes, eggs, bacon, and more.
We stopped in one Friday, and had a nice breakfast with excellent service. I had the ham and cheese omelet with potatoes and biscuits while Laura had one of the breakfast specials with eggs, bacon, and toast. My omelet was excellent, the potatoes tasty but a little undercooked for my taste, and the biscuits were chewy like bagels, probably the worst I've ever had. But since the main course was great and the service flawless, I still give Breaker's 4 of 5 stars...
Dos Amigos - Mexican
Dos Amigos is a little Mexican joint, hidden in the back of a small chopping complex at the top of the hill above Pacific Grove and New Monterey. I didn't even know the place existed until I had been in town 7 months, when I just happened to stumble upon it. This same little shopping complex also has a "Thaiwaiian" bistro, a Mandarin Chinese restaurant, a deli/cafe, a French bistro, and a little Italian cafe. These restaurants offer a great variety of inexpensive meals, all accessible from, but well away from the crowded tourist areas of downtown and Cannery Row.
I stopped in for a late lunch at Dos Amigos. I was the only person in the restaurant, so I grabbed a seat at the small, five-stool bar with the waiter who was just grabbing his lunch. I glanced at the menu then the bartender recommended the chipotle enchiladas. I ordered them with beef, refried beans, and rice, and I enjoyed a smooth Pacifico beer as I enjoyed the view of the parking lot. The meal was quick and tasty, nothing spectacular, but a good hearty meal. My total bill was about $12...not bad for a big lunch in Monterey! And I'll definitely return to Dos Amigos and to try the other restaurants in this little shopping center.
The restaurant is owned and operated by San Pabeo, Qaxaca, Mexico natives Steve and Ericka Corres, along with John Stidham from Pacific Grove.
And they take care of the locals: they proudly give 10 percent off the bill for active duty military members!
Golden House - Monterey's Only Dim Sum!
Though I do not eat much Chinese food when I am home, I have an occasional desire for some good dim sum. After searching and searching I finally discovered two place in the area that have dim sum: the Golden House Chinese Restaurant in PG (dim sum on weekends only) and Tommy's Wok in Carmel (dim sum daily at lunch).
We arrived at the nearly empty Golden House around 1130 on a Saturday, and were seated with a regular menu and a dim sum menu. We didn't even peek at the regular menu as dim sum was on our minds. We looked through the 20 or 30 dim sum choices several times while waiting for the waiter to come back, and after asking a few questions we settled on the bbq pork buns, the pork and leek dumplings, the hun gow (shrimp rolls), and the shaw mai (also with shrimp). The dim sum ranged from $3 to $6 per plate and was all pretty tasty, but the service was a little too slow, especially for dim sum at an almost empty restaurant.
Golden House is tucked into the corner of a small shopping center; just look for the red Chinese lanterns out front. Inside is decorated with a few nice touches like the fish tank, lanterns, and paintings to give a clean, almost sophisticated look. We especially liked the yellow tea sets with the dragon.
While the service was iffy, the food was good, and its the only dim sum around. I'll be back for dim sum and probably to try some of their other dishes. They also offer takeout and delivery.
Passionfish - Lighthouse Ave
Passionfish is one of Pacific Grove's finest restaurants for seafood and wine, and it offers a classy atmosphere and reasonable prices. We arrived with a big group of about 15 for a birthday dinner, and the lone waitress did a fine job of taking care of us, even willing to discuss the wine options and other aspects of the meal. We started with the unique fried olives ($5) and the frita mista (mixed fried veggies including artichoke, muchrooms, and more for around $10). For dinner I had the very good sturgeon special for around $20.
The food was good, the atmosphere somewhat formal yet pleasant, and the prices very good for this type of dining experience in the Monterey area.
Be warned that this can be a very busy restaurant....even with reservations we were forced to wait maybe 20 minutes, and there were perhaps 20 others also waiting for tables.
If Fandango's isn't the finest restaurant in Pacific Grove, I'd be very surprised. I don't normally hunt out the fanciest most expensive places to eat, but this was certainly one of the best places I've found since moving to Monterey. Fandango's is just one block off Lighthouse in Pacific Grove in a large old house. The restaurant opened in 1983 and was purchased by the current owners--the Bain family--in 1986. Fandango's features two main dining rooms plus five private dining rooms with charming fireplaces, murals on the walls, and comfortable stonework.
After paging through the 50-page wine list we selected a local Riesling (for a very inexpensive $18), and we ordered the tasty tapas appetizer ($9 for 5 or 6 small dishes). I moved on to a tasty tomato and onion with bleu cheese salad ($8.50) while Laura enjoyed the tender heart of palms salad ($7.50). For dinner I had the special scallops over pasta ($30) and Laura had the double lamb chops ($25). The scallops were huge and very tasty, and Laura enjoyed the lamb. For desert we each had a cafe latte which came as a shot of espresso with a small pitcher of whipped milk and a tiny cookie ($4 each). Laura and I shared a nice frozen Gran Marnier souffle ($6). The total bill was $120 before tip, but it was a great meal with an excellent waiter taking care of our needs.
Some of their meals are much more expensive, but I'm sure very tasty, such as the 26-ounce porterhouse (around $50) and the cold water lobster tail (around $75).
We had an amazing waiter with a slight French accent, the food was outstanding, and the decor classy yet comfortable. I highly recommend Fandango's to anyone.
Fishwife (Asilomar Beach)
After visiting the original Fishwife in Seaside, I have been anticipating a visit to the bigger and nicer Fishwife location at Asilomar Beach in Pacific Grove. We arrived for lunch at about 1115 and were the only people in the restaurant until about 1145 or 1200. The staff was friendly and quick, but seemed to really want to push us into ordering more food ("How about chowder?"... "How about a salad?" ... "How about some coffee?" "How about desert?" How about if I want something else I'll order it?). This is a nice sit-down restaurant just around the corner from beautiful Asilomar Beach, but does not have a beach view.
Dad and Mom had the fried tilapia sandwiches, and I had the grilled tilapia sandwich with fries. The lunch dishes are very inexpensive such as swordfish for about $12. The bread they use for the sandwiches is awesome, and I really like the pico de gallo.
Other options include salads, huge bowls of Boston clam chowder, shell fish & calamari appetizers, a selection of seafood sandwiches, pastas, and a huge array of seafood dinners. Their non-seafood dishes are very limited such as grilled chicken sandwiches.
Perhaps the most unique feature at this restaurant is "The Fishwife"... their website calls her "legendary lunch hostess Anita Starr." She's so friendly but somewhat senile, waving through the window at us while we ate, then hugging us and patting our bellies as we left.
Fishwife actually has a small chain of four restaurants in the Monterey area: This Fishwife restaurant is at Asilomar State Park on the edge of Pacific Grove (Sunset Drive), the original Fishwife location at Seaside, a restaurant called Turtle Bay Taqueria in Monterey at Tyler Street & Bonifacio, and finally a second Turtle Bay location co-located with the Fishwife in Seaside.
According to the plaques on the wall, Fishwife was named as "Restaurant of the Year" by the State of California Senate and even more impressively it earned "Restaurant of the Year" in Seaside/Sand City.
Vivolo's Chowder House
A nice little seafood restaurant in Pacific Grove... we stopped in one night for dinner after deciding the seafood places along Cannery Row were just too touristy. The small restaurant was relatively busy on a Friday, and we chose a table near the window overlooking the street. For my meal, I enjoyed a unique dish called ciopino, which was a mix of about 5 types of seafood in a tomato broth forming a hearty soup. Laura had the sand dabs (something we have never heard of on the East Coast), which she really liked. We also had a few Anchor Steam drafts.
Toastie's: Danger Will Robinson...danger!!
I hate to be overly negative, especially about a restaurant, but I have to give the warning. I went into Toastie's at 1:30 on a Sunday, because it seemed like not much was open. It was kind of a desperation thing since I was soooo hungry. Food was bad and not even close to being mediocre, and it did not "sit well" with me for several hours. It really set a negative tone for a while since it was so bad.
Also they didn't have soup of the day because it was Sunday. And the decor of the inside of the restaurant was way too dainty for my taste. Not to mention all the odd rabbit and pig trinkets laying around.
Favorite Dish: My what?
Passionfish: Go for the food, stay for the wine list.
Passionfish is centrally loacted in Pacific Grove. Its menu is advertised as Creative America. I had the Rib-Eye with a three pepercorn wine reduction sauce. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. I would also recommend any of the seafood dishes. ( The fish is very fresh.) Prices for entrees range from $16 to $23.
The wine list is just as great as the menu, and resonably priced too. Passionfish doesn't gouge you on wine prices.
I ambience of the restaurant is simple and casual, but with class. The staff was great. Our waiter was helpful, and funny. We had some laughs with him that night.
Favorite Dish: Rib-Eye steak with 3 peppercorn wine reduction sauce, with fried polenta.
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