Thanks to all of you who gave me recommendations for the Monterey area. I tried a few, and found a great new one to tell you about.
Tarpy's Roadhouse (Route 68 near Monterey airport):
Tarpy's is a moderate priced traditional style American restaurant. It has a large courtyard with tables and the main dining room is softly lit with a high whitewashed exposed beam ceiling. Service - excellent. Dinners run around $20. The attraction for me was the early-bird special, which is $9.95, and on the night we went it was sirloin steak. The meat was very flavorful - smoky flavor from the wood fueled grill, cooked perfectly and about 1 1/2" thick - not a huge portion, but quite adequate.
El Miguelino (Seaside - Broadway near Fremont):
This is a real find but you have to be careful about what you order here to get the most out of the experience. What we have here is a great Salvadoreno fish house with blind spots. I think I must have ordered the worst thing on the menu. I had looked around on the other tables and saw HUGE lovely looking fried shrimp, fish soup, camarones kind of ranchero looking - all looked great. They also offer whole fried fish I ordered the crab and shrimp quesedilla. SCARY! The "shrimp" were 1/4" (sea monkeys?), crab was miniscule and undetectable flavor-wise. I also had fried platanos which were rich and earthy. I'm going back next trip for those big fried shrimp.
Pho King (Seaside on Fremont):
Great Pho. Very tasty refreshing shrimp salad fragrant with fresh mint. Shrimp/pork crepe - very disappointing. Not a crepe but a thin,dry, overcooked, rubberized omelet containing the same steamed shrimp that appeared in the salad, bean sprouts and almost no pork. I actually sent it back. Something that depresses me to have to do.
I'll go back for the pho. The broth, once I added soy sauce, was fine. And I'm going to try their BBQ and dry noodle bowls.
Red House (Pacific Grove): Beet salad layered with goat cheese was wonderful after I asked for extra goat cheese. They did say "layered" and not "barely sprinkled" which is what they give you. The olive tapenade that comes with the bread is divine. The crab cakes sucked. I heard the woman sitting next to me saying the blue cheese souffle was the best souffle she had ever had, so maybe I'll go back and try that. For those of you that like wine, I don't, I noticed the chef came back and was playing a little game with the party at the next table. He brought them several tastes of different kinds of wine and had them guess what they were drinking. Nice for them. Red House is a much nicer place to sit and relax than Passionfish which is directly across the street. (I'll try them next time - maybe their crabcakes don't suck.)
Asilomar (Pacific Grove): I'll put in a plug for their dinners. $15 is a real bargain - soup to nuts. They're serving organic produce now too.
AND INTRODUCING FOR YOUR DINING PLEASURE:
The Chicken Scratch Cafe to the right of the Steinbeck Center in Oldtown Salinas.
This place is great for lunch! It's casual but warm, lots of terrace seating, prices are cheep, cheep, cheep! For $9.95 you get 1/2 rotisseri bird - perfect: tender, not dry, crispy skin. And 2 sides. I had Chicken Scratch hash - crispy, savory red potatoes, with chicken, onions, bell peppers - yummy. Also the best cole slaw I've ever had. I think sour cream may have been involved. You also get a choice of sauce for the chicken - not that it needs it. I had citrus vinagrette which was fine but just gilding the lily. Lemonade was the perfect accompanyment for me. I enjoyed seeing the GIANT cakes in the bakery case although I was too full. This place just opened and is going to put poor Sang's (empty next door) out of business.
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