We arrived at SFO in the early afternoon, picked up our rental car and headed for the Monterey coast. All we had that morning was coffee and a muffin at the airport so about 3ish our son pointed to an In n Out off the 101 and asked if we could stop for a bite.
He ordered a double double animal style while I ordered single cheeseburgers for my wife and myself. My wife was aghast when I brought her burger to her saying it would ruin her appetite for dinner. I told her just eat a bit to tide you over until supper. I proceeded to eat mine, looked up a minute later and she had finished her burger and was licking her fingers. She just shrugged and said she didn't want to waste good food, ok.
Dinner that evening was at La Balena in Carmel. The food was fantastic, salads and bone marrow puttanesca to start, the bone marrow was luscious and rich, perfect with the sauce and bread. Dinners were whole branzino, beef cheek pasta with peas, and fresh squid ink spaghetti with pancetta and clams. Everything was delicious, well prepared with the squid ink pasta piping hot and spicy, an excellent meal. Desserts were raspberry panna cotta, light and refreshing. The only issue for us was the outside seating on a chilly evening. Even with the heaters we would have preferred indoor seating if we had known beforehand.
We stopped at Bright Coffee the next morning for expresso which was very tasty, a great start for the day. After walking around Carmel we stopped for lunch at Cafe Beaujolais in the Carmel Plaza. My wife ordered the spinach salad and son and I had their avocado BLTs. The salad was nice and fresh, the BLTs with crispy hot fries were perfect.
Dinner was at the Sandbar and Grill on the wharf. We really enjoyed this place, mostly locals who were friendly and helpful to us first timers here. We sat on the bar and ordered off the bar menu which served slightly smaller dinner offerings at half price with our drinks. We ordered the fried calamari, sand dabs with vegetables and fresh salmon with fries. Well prepared fresh seafood, tasty and reasonably priced. Dessert were cups of clam chowder. A real keeper for us.
Next day we drove down to Big Sur stopping at Deetjen's for breakfast. I had the buttermilk pancakes and was pleased that nothing changed from my last pancake meal here from years ago. I love this place, rustic and funky in a great setting. After hiking McWay Falls, we drove back to Monterey and had hot coffee at Water and Leaves on Fisherman's Wharf, quite a difference from where the Sandbar is located. My son saw Reece Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in the distance filming.
Dinner that evening was at Akaoni in Carmel. Not my favorite place. The Itamae-san was quite solemn and unfriendly, like he was doing us the favor of letting us dine at his establishment, which served medium grade food at best. If we ever dine here again I wouldn't bother sitting at the sushi bar, rather a table and just order the set sushi dinner which looked like the best deal here.
Our last meal was breakfast at First Awakenings after walking the Monterey Coastal Trail on a foggy morning. The corned beef hash and eggs breakfast was one of the best, filling meals in quite a while. The hash was hot and crispy, not salty at all, really well prepared. WIth toast and jelly it was a great way to end our visit before heading up the coast.
Our last stop before San Francisco was in Santa Cruz at Verve Coffee. The house brew was full bodied with no bitterness. We'll definitely make another visit here and buy Italian sandwiches from Zoccoli's next door. Saw the coolest dog outside the store, Surf City USA!