I've read about bad experiences in Carmel dining, but we just returned from a vacation there and we found some great chow.
First night there we went to Forge in the Forest at 6th and Junipero, Carmel. Cool night so eating in the room with the fireplace roaring was terrific. Others sat outside near other fireplaces. We had buckets of steamers (small clams and mussels), grilled artichoke and shrimp dumplings. All were excellent.
Next night was Anton & Michel, 7th and Mission, Carmel. Kind of hoity-toity, but the large fountain in the courtyard made for great ambiance. Good food but not great food. Great service. Among the items we ordered were ahi tuna (very good), scallops (skimpy), dungeness crab cakes (very skimpy), and sand dabs (a local fish, a local favorite, and prepared very well).
The next night we picked Flaherty's at 6th and Delores, Carmel. Food was good, service was good, seating location lousy. We ordered linguine with mussels, clams and scallops (superb), cioppino (superb) and ahi tuna (superb). Good bread for dipping in cioppino. Fabulous chocolate layered dessert with chantilly cream.
For our final night we went to Fishwife, Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Grove, a block from the ocean at Asilomar Blvd. We always end up at Fishwife as it's our very favorite place in the Monterey area. We always order the same thing: mussels, clam chowder and crab cakes. A woman with a terrific personality greets guests, hugging them all. Service is impeccable; food is always the best. If you like spicy you'll find it here. They love habenaro peppers yet they use them wisely. Desserts ordered were key lime pie (a house specialty), a creamy concoction of key lime filling, whipped cream, sliced strawberries in a candy shell (yummmm!), and creme brulee (the guy who ordered it said it's the best he's ever had). A kind of funky place that most chowhounds would like.
Other places we can recommend are Fifi's Bistro and French pastries on Sunset in Pacific Grove (great pastry), a seafood market in the Crossroads shopping center south of Carmel for their crab claws and huge prawns, and Katy's Place, 6th and Mission, Carmel, for their Dungeness crab/spinach eggs benedict with country potatoes. One of Katy's breakfasts is a must on all our visits to Carmel.