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A Foodie Road Trip to Big Sur from Monterey

Where to pull over for the best eats on the way to the big beautiful coast.

  • Rustic entry steps and door to Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, image
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    The locale is half the charm of Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. The other half is the hearty fare served at breakfast and dinner.
  • Shawarma pork buns at Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar, Pacific Grove, image
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    The pork buns at Pacific Grove's Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar come with a twist—roasty shawarma flavoring.
  • View looking south along Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, image
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    The 320-foot concrete arch of Bixby Creek Bridge was the longest in the world when it was built in 1932.
  • Roast beef sandwich on a bagel at Big Sur Roadhouse, image
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    Big Sur Roadhouse makes its own bagels for its roast beef sandwich with horseradish cream cheese.
  • Plate of grilled octopus at La Balena in Carmel, image
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    Patrons of La Balena in Carmel love the grilled octopus with white bean purée, chicory, chili oil, and lemon.
  • Draft beer in a can-shaped glass at Alvarado Street Brewery in Monterey, image
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    In Monterey, Alvarado Street Brewery's lineup includes the citraveza, a refreshing lager loaded with the tropical aromas of citra hops.
  • Library-like entry room at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, image
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    Anyone for a game of Clue? The early 19th-century adobe home of Monterey's Restaurant 1833 brims with historic character.
  • Coffee and doughnut on outdoor table at Big Sur Bakery, image
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    Big Sur Bakery can get serious with gourmet pizzas and entrees, or it can be playful, as with this so-called cop doughtnut.

It’s tough to compete with the majestic coastline that wends its way from Monterey, Calif., to Big Sur. But if you know where to look, you’ll find eateries all along the way with food and settings that fit right in with the stunning surroundings. Area code is 831.

Housed in a former movie theater, Alvarado Street Brewery trades Milk Duds for full-flavored beers such as the toasty Monterey Common, which pairs well with the harissa-marinated beef kebab and the disarmingly tasty kale salad. 426 Alvarado St., Monterey, 655-2337,

Dressed in stylish period decor and dramatically lit by candlelight, the Spanish-era adobe home of Restaurant 1833 casts a spell. The arrival of celebrated chef Jason Franey from Seattle’s renowned Canlis ups the game for the already adept kitchen. 500 Hartnell St., Monterey, 643-1833,

These bold Mediterranean takes on familiar menu items somehow yield unusually soulful, wine-friendly dishes at Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar. The Brussels sprouts come spiked with chorizo and pickled raisins, lamb and feta fuel the burger, and shawarma spices infuse the pork buns. 542 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 920-2662,

The meltingly tender octopus is reason enough to fall for the sunny Tuscan cuisine at La Balena, but don’t pass on the bruschetta topped with a cloud of Burrata or the game-changing coupling of chicken liver pâté and Gorgonzola cheese. Junipero Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Carmel, 250-6295,

House-made ingredients raise the bar on the new menu at sleek Big Sur Roadhouse. A roast beef sandwich comes on a wholesome, fresh-baked bagel served alongside sweet homemade pickles and light-as-air potato chips. 47080 Hwy. 1, Big Sur, 667-2370,

At Big Sur Bakery, lines form early for hearty baked goods and an encyclopedic tea selection best enjoyed in the sun-drenched garden overlooking the Santa Lucia Mountains. 47540 Hwy. 1, Big Sur, 667-0520,

Wisps of chimney smoke mingle with the morning mist at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn where an impossibly cozy, wood-planked restaurant charms guests with crackling fireplaces and fluffy blueberry pancakes. 48865 Hwy. 1, Big Sur, 667-2378,

Photography by Garrick Ramirez; Patrick Tregenza (Restaurant 1833)


This article was first published in February 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.