The 2008 Golden Pine Cone awards

The 2008 Golden Pine Cones

READERS OF this newspaper are an educated, sophisticated lot, and that's why we thought it would be an especially good idea to poll them about local restaurants, wines, shops, service providers and recreational opportunities. For locals, the results offer the chance to try some new things that may have been overlooked, while, for visitors, they are an insiders' guide to the best in all 140 categories. We are especially proud that most winners are locally owned and operated businesses and facilities. Whether you live in Carmel or are visiting from Katmandu, and are staying for a lifetime or just a weekend, we encourage you to use these results to enhance your enjoyment of one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Best Neighborhood Market

Bruno’s Market & Delicatessen — Junipero and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3821 -

Whether you’re looking for a tasty deli sandwich made to order, a reasonably priced bottle of wine, a beautiful bouquet of irises, an emergency supply of Band-Aids or the basics to prepare a gourmet dinner at home, Bruno’s Market always has what you need. Add to that tri-tip, chicken, ribs and sausage barbecued over oak wood daily, and a plethora of other items that make this market No. 1 in the neighborhood. Owner Fermin specializes in giving locals what they need, while also supplying tourists with their on-the-road basics.

Also recommended: Nielsen Bros., Carmel-by-the-Sea; Grove Market, Pacific Grove.

Best Supermarket

Safeway — The Crossroads Shopping Village, Rio Road and Highway 1, Carmel - open 24 hours daily - (831) 624-7626 -

Following its lavish remodel and expansion, Safeway at the Crossroads became the go-to place for gourmet goods as well as the basics. The store transformed from a crowded, outdated supermarket to a well organized, roomy establishment, complete with olive bar, huge wine selection, fresh bakery, salad bar, well stocked deli and beautiful produce aisles, among other assets. It
even includes a full-scale Starbucks.

Also recommnded: Nob Hill, Pacific Grove.

Best Organic Produce
Best Fruits and Vegetables

Whole Foods Market — 800 Del Monte Center, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 333-1600 -

The market that has brought organic fruits and vegetables to the masses in an upscale, contemporary setting — and with knowledgeable, friendly staff and loads of samples to taste — is the place to find whatever pesticide-free, chemical-free fruits and veggies you seek. The parking lot may be a nightmare, and the prices may be a tad high, but devotees swear by Whole Food’s extensive offerings of artfully displayed organic and conventional produce from near and far.

Also recommended: Weekly Farmers' Markets in Monterey, Pacific Grove and at The Barnyard Shopping Village.

Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads, Carmel - (831) 626-3626; 598 Foam Street, Monterey - (831) 646-0547 - hours vary by location but are generally 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.

Its simple but tasty restaurant and shelves of condiments nicely complement Sea Harvest’s well stocked fish counter, where patrons can get close enough to see how shiny and luminous the sushi-grade ahi tuna really is. Of all foods, seafood is the most difficult to purchase and definitely has to be fresh from the water, and owner David Deyerly ensures that Sea Harvest brings in the best. Always ask what’s freshest, and what will be coming in next.

Best Wine Store/Section

Nielsen Bros. Market — Northeast corner of San Carlos and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily - (831) 624-6441 -

This charming corner market has long had a corner on the wine market in Carmel. The family owned and operated store’s cellar houses a collection of 10,000 bottles from around the world, ranging from affordable Southern Hemisphere offerings, to hard-to-find bottles with triple-digit prices. Owners Merv and Nancie Sutton and the store’s staff will happily offer advice about which wine to pour with what foods, the best gift bottles or the ideal wine in your price range.

Best Butcher

Grove Market — 242 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 375-9581.

A varied display of fresh meats behind glass greets shoppers as they walk through the front door of Grove Market, and many people barely make it over the threshold before pausing to ponder what to take home for dinner. The best methods for preparing and cooking your bone-in rib eye or lamb chops are available for the asking, as Grove Market owner Charlie Higuera employs people who are happy to help and know what they’re talking about. Marinated meats and pre-made skewers are also available. And don’t forget the market’s other specialty foods, selection of wines and fresh produce.

Best Bakery

Patisserie Bechler — 1225 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Tues. to Sat., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m. to noon - (831) 375-0846 -

When wedding guests hear the bride and groom have ordered their celebratory cake from Patisserie Bechler, they make a point of sticking around for the cutting. The quality and creativity found in their stellar cakes shine in everything owner and master pastry chef Gérard Bechler and his staff make and sell, from tarts and quiches, to croissants and eclairs. The bakery also includes a small restaurant open for lunch, with salads, soups, crepes and other tasty items on the menu.

Best Catering Company

A Moveable Feast — P.O. Box 902, Carmel Valley - (831) 659-5100 -

“Maverick” might be a word bandied about with abandon these days, but chef/owner Michael Jones fits it. Classically trained in the United States and abroad, the talented and creative Jones delights guests fortunate enough to attend events served by his catering business, launched in 1976. A Moveable Feast reflects his philosophy of bringing “New World freshness and innovation to the Old World techniques and tradition of service,” using locally grown organic ingredients from small farms, fresh meats and fish caught in Monterey Bay. Whenever you see Jones, with his trademark sandy shoulder-length hair and chef’s coat, you know the food will be good. Strike that. You know it will be unforgettable.

Best Kitchen Shop

Sur La Table — Carmel Plaza, lower level, Ocean Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6433 -

When Sur La Table opened in Carmel Plaza a short while ago, Peninsula residents who love to cook rejoiced. This well stocked store, which has its roots in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and now boasts 71 locations nationwide, carries everything a home cook could want, from full lines of Le Creuset cookware and Riedel stemware, to irresistible kitchen gadgets and a nice collection of sauces, oils, vinegars and other interesting condiments and spices from around the world. The friendly and knowledgeable employees top off the list of reasons Sur La Table is a local favorite.

Best Monterey County Chardonnay

Talbott Vineyards — 53 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 659-3500 -

Robb Talbott — whose mother launched the Robert Talbott clothing company sewing silk neckties in her Carmel Valley home in 1950 — began making wine a quarter-century ago, and his Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay has a reputation reaching far beyond the county line. Produced using the best possible fruit from Talbott’s highly regarded Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, this Chardonnay perfectly balances rich butterscotch and caramel tones with bright acidity captured in notes of stone fruit and melon. Find the current vintage, and many other fabulous Talbott Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, in stores and restaurants, as well as in the tasting room and online.

Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Morgan — 204 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel - 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 626-3700 -

Another longtime presence on the local wine scene, winemaker Dan Morgan Lee has consistently wowed wine-lovers and pleased palates with his Pinot Noir. Lee and his wife, Donna, launched Morgan in 1982 and bought the Double L Vineyard in 1996, planting it all in organically grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In addition to producing Pinot from its own Double L, Morgan offers vintages using fruit from the highly regarded Rosella’s and Garys’ vineyards, and the Tondre Grapefield. And now, in addition to restaurants and markets, Morgan fans can taste its wines in the Crossroads Shopping Village.

Best Monterey County Merlot

Georis Winery — 4 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 659-1050 -

To put it simply, no one in Monterey County makes Merlot like Georis makes Merlot, and the winery’s estate bottling of the varietal is always sought after for its robust fruit and the complexity that comes from French influences and 18 months in Bordeaux chateau barrels. Walter Georis — whose first Peninsula contribution was the beloved Casanova restaurant in Carmel — offers his family’s wines for tasting in a lovely room and garden in the Village, just behind Talbott’s tasting room.

Favorite Monterey County Wine

Bernardus — 5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 659-1900 -

Producing wine deep in Carmel Valley, Bernardus has laid a strong claim to quality. From its bright, well rounded and surprisingly affordable Sauvignon Blanc, to its top-level Marinus Bordeaux blend that aims to best the best in France, Bernardus consistently captivates connoisseurs with wines from its own Marinus and Ingrid’s vineyards, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from other highly regarded operations in the county. Find it in restaurants, at markets and in the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village.

Best Family Restaurant

Em Le’s Old Carmel Restaurant — Dolores and Fifth at Pantiles Court, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (breakfast and lunch), dinner from 4 p.m. daily - (831) 625-6780 -

Em Le’s is where the locals go — and visitors, too. This small, homey restaurant with corner fireplace has been here since time began (1955), when soda fountains were a must and table service quick and friendly. You can see the chef and cooks working diligently through the kitchen window. Fresh food is cooked to perfection: Salmon is succulent, lamb shanks tender and delicious, and vegetables cooked al dente, retaining their appetizing colors. Also famous for extraordinary French toast. Watch the passing throng from front windows. The owners are James and Mena Hogan. Prices are very reasonable and early dinners from 4 to 6 p.m. even more so.

Best French Restaurant

Fifi’s Bistro Café — 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sun.; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mon. to Sat.; 5 to 9 p.m. Sun. to Thurs. and until 9:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 372-5325 -

Fifi’s Bistro Café is heralded for the authenticity of its French specialties and other dishes. The café is decorated with framed French posters, white tablecloths and hanging bistro lights over each table. The atmosphere is refined, yet casual, and the French music is welcome. Sunday brunch might well be blue crab cakes on a bed of mixed greens with mango vinaigrette. Bloody Marys and mimosas help celebrate the weekend. Lunch could be a baby spinach salad with crispy duck and honey-ginger vinaigrette, while dinner offers pistachio-crusted Australian rack of lamb with balsamic reduction. Moderate prices.

Best Chinese Restaurant
Best Takeout

Tommy’s Wok — Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh - Tues. to Sun., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. - (831) 624-8518 -

Tucked inside Redwood Court, Tommy’s Wok features Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin cuisine — and everything on the menu is homemade. Chef Tommy Mao and his sisters, Van and Joanne, have had two other successful restaurants in Sausalito and Oakhurst. And if you don’t feel like dining in, the takeout is the best.

Best Indian Restaurant

Ambrosia India Bistro — 565 Abrego St., Monterey - Champagne lunch buffet 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sat. & Sun; lunch buffet 11:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. Mon. - Fri.; and dinner nightly 5 to 10 p.m. Happy hour daily 5 to 6:30 p.m. - (831) 641-0610 -

Chef/owner Bhupender Singh believes in creating for his patrons memorable, flavorful meals that speak of India in their preparation, aromas and presentation. Two tandoori ovens produce all types of naan, and bone-in marinated chicken skewered and roasted. Tandoori mixed grill includes chicken, minced lamb and prawn, all marinated and spiced with care. Vegetarian delicacies and appetizers and soups and salads, rice, chicken, lamb and seafood entrées are all tempting and affordable. Lunch and dine indoors or in the lovely garden setting.

Best Italian Restaurant

Cantinetta Luca — Dolores between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Lunch daily noon to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sun. - Thurs. and until 10 Fri. and Sat. - (831) 625-6500 -

Chic, modern and filled with appetizing aromas of Mediterranean cuisine, Cantinetta Luca boasts an open kitchen, barrel vaulted ceiling and a casual, informal atmosphere. Here patrons can enjoy authentic Italian pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven, Italian antipasti of varied house made salumi, and only handmade pastas are served. Owners David and Kathleen Fink and their chefs take advantage of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The very best prosciutto from Italy — San Daniele — is only one of the appetizers offered. Braised Colorado lamb shank and steaks are on the entrée list. Try the grilled Alaskan halibut with a side of Bloomsdale spinach.

Best Sushi

Sushi Heaven — Dolores between Seventh and Eighth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. - (831) 625-2067.

Decor of this small, intimate restaurant is Japanese provincial, a perfect setting for the delectable food served here. The bar offers 150 varieties of fresh sushi and rolls prepared by sushi masters before your eyes. Owner Soon Huh’s menu offers all the most popular Japanese dishes, including tempura, sashimi, bento boxes, exquisite soups, salads, entrées, desserts and much more. Service here is friendly, but nonintrusive. A dog-friendly patio at the back can be viewed through a picture window. Sushi Heaven has a loyal following of locals and repeat business of visitors who discover it and come back, time after time.

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

Da Giovanni Ristorante Mediterraneo — Lincoln between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Open nightly for dinner only from 5 p.m. - (831) 626-5800 -

Italian cuisine and all things Mediterranean are prepared with skill and artistry in this second-floor restaurant accessible by steps or elevator. A flowered terrace with sun umbrellas and heat lamps is dog friendly, and the interior pleasant and attractive. The proprietor, Firok Shield, is a restaurateur whose attention to detail is legend. He himself blends and roasts herbs and spices used in many of the dishes served here and has trained his experienced staff well. Minced filet mignon is used in cannelloni and ravioli, the meat on lamb shanks literally falls off the bone, and the sea bass is second to none.

Best Mexican Restaurant

Peppers MexiCali Cafe — 170 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove - Mon., Weds. and Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Fri and Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. No lunch on Sun., but dinner 4 to 9:30 p.m. - (831) 373-6892 -

As a testament to its delicious food and to its popularity among locals, Peppers MexiCali Cafe is almost always packed at lunch and dinner time. The Southwestern decor serves as a backdrop for Latin American cuisine with emphasis on fresh seafood. For starters, try the grilled prawns with fresh lime and cilantro dressing. Entrées include tacos, enchiladas, chile rellanos, tostadas, burritos (try the Mission District burrito platter), and tamales when available. Fish and meat entrées include Mahi Mahi Veracruz with tomato, green chiles, capers and lime juice, and carne asada (marinated and grilled New York steak).

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Petra — 477 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 649-2530.

Greece isn’t exactly in the Middle East, but many Greek dishes are closely related to the cuisine of their neighbors to the East. Favorites at Petra are hummus, falafel, souvlaki and kebabs. The perfect place to eat dinner after watching Mama Mia!

Best Thai Restaurant

Thai Bistro II — 159 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m daily - (831) 372-8700.

Housed in a charming, whitewashed building that used to be a home, and with a staff that always makes you feel welcome, Thai Bistro II offers authentic dishes with some California updating. The lettuce wraps, curries and Pad Thai are all favorites.

Best Restaurant for Seafood
Best Wine List

Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Dinner nightly from 5 p.m. - (831) 655-3311 -

Owner Ted Walter is an inspired chef whose focus is on seafood sustainability, organic produce and original cuisine. This multi-award winning restaurant offers unique appetizers, such as asparagus fries, unusual salads including baked gorgonzola on curried greens served with chutney and candied pecans. Walter’s main thrust is, of course, fresh seafood. Try his Gulf of Maine scallops with tomato-truffle butter and a thyme risotto custard. His ever-changing menu also features prime steak, slow-cooked roast pork, lamb shanks and braised short ribs, as well as vegetarian dishes.

Best Restaurant for Steak

Sardine Factory — 701 Wave St., Monterey - Sun., 5 to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 5 to 11 p.m., Mon. to Thurs., 5 to 10:30 p.m. - (831) 373-3775 -

When it opened in October 1968, the sardines had long since disappeared from Monterey Bay, and Cannery Row was nearly abandoned. The Sardine Factory faced long odds for success. “We had no money, we built on the wrong side of the tracks and we were under financed,” co-owner Ted Balestreri recalled. “It was an ugly building, stairs had to be climbed and there was no marketing program or theme.” But 40 years later, the Sardine Factory has an international reputation and a long list of celebrity clientele. And, while locals love it for its intimate front-of-the-house lounge, extensive menu and vast wine list, Pine Cone readers singled out The Sardine Factory for its outstanding steaks. “We buy prime beef from the Corn Belt and we age the steaks ourselves, which gives them greater tenderness,” co-owner and chef Bert Cutino said. “They’re always outstanding.”

Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Tillie Gort’s Cafe — 111 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 373-0335 -

Established in 1969, this restaurant with a friendly coffee shop atmosphere features vegetarian, vegan and organic foods. But carnivores are welcome, too, and many items on the menu cater to the beef, turkey, chicken and bacon eaters among us. There are always two vegetarian soups daily. Favorites among locals are the tofu scramble for breakfast, grilled polenta, mixed vegetables and tofu with curry sauce, and the Mexican fiesta salad. It you’re looking for flavorful vegetarian patties, Tillie Gort’s has two. An all-time favorite with everyone is the soothing and flavorful hot carob drink. The owners are Carmen and Henry Nazar.

Best Appetizers

Estéban — 700 Munras Ave., Monterey - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 375-0176 -

As soon as it opened last year, Estéban became a local favorite for its warm atmosphere and unique cuisine. It features mouthwatering small plates, such as sautéed mushrooms with chili flakes, Marcona almonds with sea salt, and Spanish potato salad, as well as larger offerings, such as Dungeness crab cakes and wonderful basil-infused lamb chops. A great wine list, too. Go for the appetizers, and stay for the dinners.

Best BBQ

Willy’s Smokehouse — 95 Prescott Ave., Monterey - 11:30 a.m. to closing daily - (831) 372-8880 -

Another one of Tony Tollner’s winning restaurant concepts, Willy’s Smokehouse delivers fabulous slow-smoked ribs, pulled pork and brisket, not to mention steak, salmon and pot roast. The Cannery Row location makes it perfect for lunch or dinner while visiting that historic part of Monterey.

Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - open 7 a.m. daily for breakfast and lunch until 2 p.m. - (831) 624-0199 -

Katy’s boasts the largest breakfast menu on the West Coast. There are 16 varities of three-egg Eggs Benedict on the menu, as well as eight waffle plates, including the signature Belgian waffles. Owners Randall Bernett and Gytha B. Georgsdottir-McFarland also offer blintzes with fresh berries, Swedish pancakes, corned beef brisket hash and Miss Audrey’s biscuits and gravy, just to name a few. Patrons may eat indoors at tables or at the bar in front of the kitchen where a friendly chat with chef is in order. Or — and this is a big favorite with locals — eat on the deck at the front of the restaurant under a giant redwood tree. Lunch includes seven burgers, 11 sandwiches and eight salads.

Best Coffee

Carmel Valley Roasting Co. — Ocean between Lincoln and Monte Verde, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily - (831) 626-2913 -

There is an abundance of coffeehouses on the Monterey Peninsula, so for Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. to win out over all the others, you know they must have terrific coffee. Established in 1994, CVCRC roasts and serves 100 percent certified organic arabica gourmet coffee, with its signature blend being Organic Carmel Foglifter. There are three other locations: Carmel Valley and two in Carmel. The Carmel-by-the-Sea coffeehouse is small and charming and has comfy chairs and tables on two levels.

Best Desserts

Parker-Lusseau Pastries — 731 Munras Ave., Monterey - Wed. to Sat., 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 643-0300 -

Thanks to owners Anne Parker Johnson and Yann Lusseau, the specialties of this outstanding bakery are too numerous to list. But Pine Cone readers obviously know their triple chocolate cakes, fruit tarts and petit fours. And the terrine cake is absolutely divine!

Best Coffeehouse

Peet’s Coffee & Tea — 560 Munras Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Thurs., 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun., 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 641-9029 -

Cheers were heard throughout the land when Peets opened next door to Trader Joe’s in downtown Monterey this spring. Since it was founded by Alfred Peet, who opened the first store in Berkeley in 1966, Peet’s has been known for its top-quality beans, which are hand-roasted in small batches. And, as is obvious from the votes cast by our readers, the Monterey location is also a great hangout!

Best Happy Hour

Il Fornaio — Ocean Avenue & Monte Verde Street, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Fri., 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 622-5100 -

Want to hang out with the movers and shakers in Carmel over a glass of champagne or a martini? Then head for Happy Hour at the expansive, welcoming bar at Il Fornaio. The restaurant is part of an upscale California chain, but local management keeps a hometown feel. Being located in the Pine Inn certainly helps! Of course, Il Fornaio also includes a bakery and restaurant, featuring the cuisine and wines of Italy. Menus include a selection of antipasti, soups, salads, wood-fired pizza, housemade pastas, grilled and rotisserie-roasted meats and a wide variety of desserts.

Best Ice Cream

Cold Stone Creamery — 1470 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Sun. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 649-1346 -

Since the new movie theaters opened in 2004, the far end of Del Monte Center has experienced an amazing renaissance, and the cinemas aren’t the only reason. After watching the latest Oscar contender by Clint Eastwood, you can stop by Cold Stone Creamery for one of the most decadent desserts imaginable. If you haven’t been there, imagine your favorite ice creams hand softened and mixed on a cold stone with all manner of candies, nuts, fruits and chocolates — your choice. And they also serve smoothies, cakes and shakes. This national chain has more than 1,400 locations.

Best Pizza

Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria — 3770 The Barnyard, Carmel -

Since it opened in 1988, Allegro has been known for its unique pizza creations and relaxed atmosphere. Its owners say they wanted to create a “soulful pizzeria like the kind that exists in every Italian neighborhood ... no big deal, just great food, friends and wine.” And, according to Pine Cone readers, they succeeded in a big way!

Best Fast Food

R.G. Burgers — 201 The Crossroads, Carmel, and 570 Munras Ave., Monterey (next door to Trader Joe’s) - (831) 626-8054 -

R.G. stands for Real Good ... as in the best burgers in the Monterey Peninsula! Hand-formed and char-grilled, the burgers even come with béarnaise or secret house sauce, mushrooms and a dollop of guacamole. Vegetarians will like the falafel, soups and salads. And the milkshakes are made with four scoops of ice cream. Here at The Pine Cone, we’re so glad our readers didn’t pick McDonalds or Taco Bell!

Best Buffet

Stillwater Bar & Grill — The Lodge at Pebble Beach - Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner - (831) 625-8524 -

When you walk inside the Stillwater Grill, the first thing you notice is the amazing view across the 18th Green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links to Stillwater Cove, Carmel Bay and even Point Lobos. Then you’ll notice the sleek, modern interior and abundant seafood bar. And, if you’re there for Sunday brunch, the expansive buffet — which on special occasions stretches through several rooms — will take your breath away!

Best New Restaurant

Volcano Grill — 27 E. Carmel Valley Road - Open at 4:30 p.m. daily - (831) 659-1280 -

After selling Bahama Billy’s, Billy Quon turned his attention to his home neighborhood of Carmel Valley. Since it opened earlier this year, the Volcano Grill has become a favorite for people who would like a bit of Hawaii in their evening. Mai Tais are a specialty, as are Asian Nachos, filet mignon skewers and the massive Herbie’s Kahuna Platter.

Best Outdoor Dining

Forge in the Forest — Fifth and Junipero, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Open daily from 11:30 a.m. - (831) 624-2233 -

With its historic setting (yes, it was a working forge in Carmel’s early days ... quite a bit of the town’s old ironwork was fabricated here) and cozy outdoor patio, The Forge in the Forest is a favored place for lunch, dinner and cocktails. The cuisine at this employee-owned restaurant is American (ribs, burgers, pizza, tacos and pasta) and the wine list is all Californian.

Best Place to Take Clients

Fresh Cream — 100C Heritage Harbor, Monterey - open at 5:30 p.m. daily - (831) 375-9798 -

If you’re dining with someone you really want to impress, or you’re planning a really elaborate rehearsal dinner, Pine Cone readers say, “Take your guests to Fresh Cream” — and for good reason. The cuisine is elegant, the view of the Monterey Harbor is breathtaking, and the service is impeccable. The partners in this longtime Monterey favorite are Steven Chesney and Gregory Lizza.

Most Romantic Restaurant
Best Restaurant in Carmel
Favorite Restaurant in the Monterey Peninsula

Casanova — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos - 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 625-0501 -

With so many accolades from Pine Cone readers, Casanova must really be someplace special ... and it is! Founded in 1977 by the Georis family, Casanova has combined old-world elegance and hospitality with culinary innovation and has remained a Carmel favorite for its entire existence. The menu changes daily, but memorable dishes include lamb brochettes, linguini with seafood, and fresh mussels with shallots. Longtime chef Didier Dutretre has departed to open his own restaurant in Monterey (Bistro Moulin), but the quality, freshness and romance at Casanova have not changed.

(The following restaurants received votes as Favorite Restaurant in the Monterey Peninsula: Akaoni - Ambrosia - Anton & Michael — Baja Cantina - Big Sur Bakery - Bistro Moulin - Bouchee - Breakfast Club - Bubba Gumps - Bubbly Fish — Café Rustica - Cantinetta Lucca - Casanova - Chez Christine's - Christophers - Citronelle - Corkscrew — Da Giovanni - Deetjens - Duck Club — Em Le's — Fandango - Fifi's Bistro - First Awakenings - Fishwife - Flying Fish - Fresh Cream - From Scratch — Golden Tee - Grasings - Grill at Ryan Ranch — Hana Gasa — Il Fornaio — Jeffreys - Joe Rombis — L'Auberge - La Bicyclette - Le Coq D'Or - L'Escargot - Little Swiss Café - Lugano — Marinus - Max's Grill - Melange - Mission Ranch — Noodle Bar — Passionfish - Peppers - Peppoli's - Piatti — Red House - Rio Grill - Robata - Roy's — Sierra Mar - Stillwater Grill - Stoke's Adobe — Taste Bistro - Thai Bistro II - Thai Village - The Covey - Tutto Mondo — Vito's - Volcano Grill — Wicketts)

Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Nepenthe — 48510 Highway 1, Big Sur - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 667-2345 -

Big Sur may be a sparsely settled place, but with all those tourists driving up and down the coast highway, there are bound to be some excellent places to eat. Noteworthy examples include Deetjen’s, the River Inn, Cielo at Ventana (temporarily closed due to a fire) and Sierra Mar at Post Ranch. The most historic, and most popular (among Pine Cone readers) is Nepenthe, founded by Lolly and Bill Fassett, whose descendants have maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. The tradition of family hospitality is a hallmark of the business.

Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley

Café Rustica — 10 Delfino Place, Carmel Valley - Tues. to Sun., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. - (831) 659-4444 -

A favorite with locals, Cafe Rustica offers enormous salads full of fresh, local produce, mouth-watering pastas and a menu that melds the best of California and Mediterranean cuisines. But it’s the thin-crust, wood oven-fired pizzas that make owner Julien Belliard’s restaurant one of the busiest in the valley.

Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s — The Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach - (831) 647-7500 -

Before “fusion” was a household word in the culinary world, chef Roy Yamaguchi began combining European techniques with bright and exciting Asian and Pacific Rim foods and flavors. He opened his first restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii, two decades ago and now has more than 37 locations all over the world, including Japan and Guam. At Spanish Bay, the venue offers sweeping bay views and elegantly presented cuisine in a bright and lively setting.

Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Fandango — 223 17th Street, Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. - (831) 372-3456 -

Charming European hospitality and delicious food are the trademarks of this Pacific Grove institution, which was converted from a lovely old house into an equally lovely restaurant in 1983. Fandango features two main dining rooms and five private rooms ranging in size to perfectly accommodate any gathering. For a special treat, order the paella or the famous rack of lamb, but everything on the menu is worthy of attention. Wine Spectator also bestowed its Award of Excellence upon the restaurant.

Best Restaurant in Monterey

Montrio — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey - Sun. to Thurs., 5 to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 5 to 11 p.m. - (831) 648-8880 -

Take the influences of the best European and American cuisine, add a delightfully updated, historical Monterey firehouse; combine the two with great service, and you have Esquire’s “Restaurant of the Year” for 1995 (and Pine Cone readers’ favorite in Monterey for 2008). The magazine cited Montrio's dedication to fresh ingredients, its use of color, and its insistence that dining should be casual and fun as reasons for the honor. Featuring innovative dishes such as Dungeness crab cakes with spicy remoulade, oven-roasted portabella mushroom with ragout of vegetables and the taste-tempting hazelnut mint vacherin, this bistro with big-city ambience has become one of Monterey's favorite restaurant for all occasions.

Best Restaurant in Sand City

Ol’ Factory — 1725 Contra Costa Street, Sand City - 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 394-7336 -

It’s an art gallery. It’s a meeting place. It’s a coffee shop. It’s a place to get a glass of wine or hear music, or get a darn fine meal practically any time of day. Owner Morgan Christopher made a major contribution to Sand City’s hipness when he opened his cafe — full of green technology, sustainable and organic ingredients, and artisinal products — and overseen by talented and creative chef Kevin Fisher.

Best Restaurant in Seaside

Fishwife — 789 Trinity Avenue, Seaside - open daily for lunch and dinner - (831) 375-7107 -

A longtime favorite among locals, the Fishwife Restaurant can always be counted on for fabulous seafood with flare. Featuring California cuisine with Caribbean accents, the reasonably priced menu offers a wide range of seasonal local catches, including Monterey Bay’s signature sand dabs, salmon and other fruit of the sea, prepared in myriad ways. The restaurant’s great Sea Garden Salads, for instance, are topped with freshly cooked tilapia, calamari, sole or prawns hot from the kitchen for a mere $11 to $13 for dinner.

Best Restaurant Service

Anton & Michel — Court of the Fountains, Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily -

The food is great, the setting is wonderful, and this is the place where Rupert Murdoch took Nicole Kidman to dinner during a big News Corp. shindig in 2006. Pine Cone readers could have honored Anton & Michel in any number of categories, but they chose Best Service ... could it be because of the many table-side preparations which are the restaurant’s specialties?


Best Local Artist

Bill Bates

What other Monterey Peninsula artist can say his or her work is on display at a United States Post Office? Whether he’s playfully poking fun at Carmel’s tourists or offering a scathing commentary on national politics, Bill is a gifted cartoonist with a devoted local following. With just a pen and paper, he does an extraordinary job of capturing the essence of Carmel. A regular contributor to The Carmel Pine Cone since 1972, Bill is currently resting at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, where he is recovering from a serious illness. Here’s hoping he’s back in The Pine Cone soon.

Best Photo Gallery

Weston Gallery — North side of Sixth Avenue between Dolores and Lincoln, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-4453 -

It comes as no surprise the best local photo gallery bears the Weston name. A world leader in vintage and contemporary fine art photography, the gallery is home to the work of many of the world’s finest image makers, including family patriarch Edward Weston and his talented sons, Cole and Brett.

Best Sculpture Gallery

Steven Whyte — Su Vecino Court, on Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 620-1917 -

Whyte is best known locally as the “Sculptor in the Park” at the annual Carmel Art Festival. At the event each year, he creates a larger-than-life-sized statue of a noted figure in American history at Devendorf Park while an audience looks on. “Visitors see firsthand the work that goes into the art, and hopefully they leave inspired and educated, and they have a greater appreciation for the pieces they see in the other Carmel galleries,” Whyte said.

Best Art Gallery

Carmel Art Association — West side of Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-6176.

The oldest gallery in one of America’s great art towns, the Carmel Art Association was founded in 1927. Featuring an impressive roster of more than 120 mostly local artists, the art association displays a wide variety of styles and media, and changes its exhibits monthly. Led by director Susan Klusmire, the gallery is the second oldest nonprofit arts cooperative in the United States.

Best Concert Venue

Sunset Center — San Carlos between Eighth and Ninth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 620-2048 -

For more than 75 years Sunset Center — in its various incarnations — has been at the heart of Carmel’s thriving performing arts scene. An extensive renovation in 2002 transformed the the center into a world-class facility. In January, new executive director Peter Lesnik took over the leadership of center, and he recently unveiled an ambitious 2008-2009 schedule. The center is also home to the Carmel Bach Festival, the Monterey Symphony, Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Carmel Music Society.

Best Place to Dance

Cibo Ristorante Italiano — 301 Alvarado Street, Monterey - (831) 649-8151 -

Located in the heart of downtown Monterey, Cibo’s offers the liveliest dance floor on the Monterey Peninsula, featuring a dynamic mix of live jazz, R&B, soul, funk, reggae and latino music. For the late-night crowd, they’re open until 1 a.m. Thursdays and to 1:30 a.m. weekends. Owned by Mario Catalano, Cibo’s also presents an extensive menu of new and old world cuisine, with a special emphasis on Italian favorites and local seafood.

Best Comedy Club

Doc Rickett’s Lab — 180 E. Franklin, Monterey - (831) 649-4241.

Okay, so what if Doc Rickett’s doesn’t offer comedy anymore? Our readers have long memories! And if you’re looking for a great night out, look no further than Doc Rickett’s Lab. Named after the colorful marine biologist who was John Steinbeck’s friend, Doc’s offers plenty of live music, DJ mixes and dancing.

Best Place to Listen to Music

Monterey Live — 414 Alvarado, Monterey - (831) 373-LIVE -

Music always sounds better live, and there’s no place on the Monterey Peninsula that offers a larger and more diverse calendar of live music than Monterey Live. Owned by Gary Smith and Susan Miller, the intimate, 100-seat venue offers a generous mix of musical acts from every imaginable genre, from rock, jazz and r&b to county, folk and reggae. It also has a stage for theater, dance, comedy and spoken word performers

Best Place to Take Visitors

Monterey Bay Aquarium — 886 Cannery Row, Monterey - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 648-4800 -

The depths of Monterey Bay offer a treasure trove of natural wonders, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers visitors a dazzling display of what lies beneath the local waves. Featuring more than 200 galleries and exhibits, the aquarium showcases an amazing diversity of our underwater flora and fauna, including sea otters, a vast kelp forest and even a giant octopus.

Best Beach
Best Place to Watch the Sunset
Best Place to Walk Your Dog

Carmel Beach — Foot of Ocean Avenue and West Side of Scenic Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea -

Carmel Beach has everything you’d want from a beach. Its fine white sand is the envy of beachgoers all over the world. Located just down the hill from downtown, it features less fog and wind than most nearby beaches. Finally, it offers locals and visitors a generous postcard-perfect slice of California coastline that stretches from Carmel Point to the tantalizing greens of the famous Pebble Beach golf links. All that, dogs are allowed off-leash, and the parking is free! Indeed, for many local dogs — as well as their owners — a walk along carmel Beach is the social event of the week.

Best Hiking Trail

Sobranes Trail — East side of Highway 1, about 6 miles south of Carmel.

The Sobranes “trail” is actually two trails that meet to form a strenuous 6-mile loop. Just north of the Sobranes Point, one trails leads east along Sobranes Creek, while another veers steeply up a treeless ridge. The first trail quickly encounters a dense grove of redwoods, while the second trail ascends toward the sky before eventually descending into the wooded canyon. If you’re looking for a moderate hike, take the fork up the canyon and turn around when it gets too steep. If you’re interested in a good workout, it doesn’t matter which path you take — either way, gravity will get the best of you.

Monterey Peninsula’s Favorite Park

Point Lobos — West side of Highway 1, about 3 miles south of Carmel Valley Road.

Called the “greatest meeting of land and sea in the world” by artist Francis McComas (a quote somehow erroneously attributed to many others), Point Lobos reportedly was the setting that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” It was established as a state reserve in 1933 and has since become a magnet for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Noted for its dramatic, rocky coastline and its dense groves of Monterey pines and Monterey cypress, the reserve features miles of walking paths that lead to stunning vistas, secluded picnic spots and sandy beaches. Adjacent to the reserve is one of the world’s steepest submarine canyons, making it a popular destination for divers. A museum at the reserve pays tribute to its fascinating legacy as a whaling center.

Best Private Golf Course

Cypress Point — 3150 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach.

With its spectacular setting and exclusive membership, Cypress Point is one of the most famous and, needless to say, one of the greatest golf courses in the world. Designed by Alister MacKenzie, Cypress Point opened in 1928. Offering stunning ocean vistas, golfers must cross over the ocean on three occasions, and the ocean comes into play on four other holes. Start saving your money for a membership ... or start making friends with somebody who already has one!

Best Public Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Links — 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - hours vary by season - (831) 622-8723 -

Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique challenge of Pebble Beach Golf Links has thrilled golfers and spectators alike. The famed course has been the site of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the 1972, ‘82, ‘92, 2000 and (soon to be) 2010 U.S. Open Championships. Pebble Beach Golf Links was ranked the No. 1 Public Course in America by Golf Digest in 2007. Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the course hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliffside fairways and sloping greens. It is a delightful challenge for all players. Pebble Beach Golf Links also includes chipping and putting greens and the Peter Hay par-three golf course and practice range.

Best Fitness/Health Center

Carmel Valley Athletic Club — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. and Sun., 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 624-2737 -

Carmel Valley Athletic Club, formerly called Carmel Valley Racquet & Health Club, has all the services expected from a state-of-the-art tennis and fitness club at the private, sunny Carmel Valley location. The CVAC offers all-new cardio strength equipment, new spin bikes, aqua fitness, personal training, body sculpting, pilates and more. The CVAC also has a tennis club that offers clinics and private lessons. The club also offers basketball, a lap swimming pool and bocce ball, and it has a wellness center and Gill’s Grill, which is open for breakfast and lunch. Just do it!

Best Dog-Friendly Hotel
Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Cypress Inn — Lincoln Street and Seventh Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-3871 -

Located in the heart of Carmel-by-the Sea, just blocks from the village’s famous beach, shops, galleries and restaurants, the Cypress Inn offers every comfort including recently remodeled rooms and the personal service of a thoughtful staff. Dogs and cats are welcome to stay at the Cypress Inn with their owners, and can often be seen partaking of happy hour ... or just parading through the lobby in a kind of canine meet-and-greet. The Cypress Inn has 44 rooms on two floors, a large vaulted ceiling living room lobby, and beautifully landscaped courtyard both with fireplaces. Terry’s Lounge is a great setting for a continental breakfast, afternoon tea, and appetizers and drinks each evening.

Best Hotel
Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion

Bernardus Lodge and Marinus restaurant — 415 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 658-3400 -

Nestled among the oaks and vineyards of scenic Carmel Valley, Bernardus Lodge offers the luxury of a resort with epicurean flair. The resort, owned by Ben Pon and managed by Mike Oprish, has 57 sumptuous guest rooms located in nine single- and two-story adobe buildings along a terraced hillside, a luxurious spa, ballroom and function space, swimming pool, two tennis courts, a croquet lawn and vineyard. Its flagship restaurant, Marinus, is known for its elegant setting, innovative cuisine and outstanding wines. And you can even book a table in the kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. Bernardus also offers a more casual restaurant, Wickets.

Best Inn/B&B
Best Brunch
Best Piano Bar

Mission Ranch — 26270 Dolores St., Carmel - (831) 624-6436 -

Historic Mission Ranch, owned by former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood, is one of the most spectacular spots on the Monterey Peninsula. Offering unique rooms, a historic 1850s farmhouse, complimentary continental breakfast and use of the tennis courts, Mission Ranch includes several different types of rooms with names such as the Farmhouse Room, the Hay Loft and Meadow View Room. The exquisite views are unrivaled: meadows stretch to the south, joining the wetlands and Carmel River Beach. Point Lobos can be seen in the distance across Carmel Bay. The Ranch consisted originally of 160 acres and was owned by Juan Romero, a Native American who is believed to have lived in the village next to the Carmel Mission. Needless to say, the Mission Ranch restaurant has outstanding casual cuisine, a welcoming fireplace and a great patio for happy hour drinks. And in the piano bar, jazz is the preferred genre (for obvious reasons).


Best Florist

Swenson & Silacci Flowers — 432 Alvarado St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sat., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 216-4068 -

Widely regarded as the best florist in Monterey County, Swenson & Silacci, a Salinas landmark since 1945, has earned many awards and accolades including National Retail Florist of the Year in 2004 by the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association. Swenson & Silacci, which delivers throughout the Monterey Peninsula, offers 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

Best Furniture Store

Mum’s Place — 246 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sun. noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-6250 -

After 20 years in downtown Pacific Grove, Mum’s Place, owned by Mugo and Talin Tersakyan, continues to offer a large collection of fine furnishings and accessories, including sofas and loveseats, chairs and recliners, dining room and bedroom sets, and home office furnishings. Customers can choose from 5,000 fabrics and quality furnishings at the best value, and even let Mum’s interior designers guide them through the exciting possibilities among an array of classic, traditional and contemporary furniture.

Best Golf Shop

The Golf Mart — 2040 Fremont Blvd., Seaside - Mon. - Fri., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 583-1000 -

Opened in 1999, The Golf Mart has approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space dedicated to golf clubs, golf clothing and other golf equipment essential for avid Peninsula golfers. The Golf Mart carries all the best brands, including Callaway, Titleist, Ping, Top Flite, Mizuno, Adidas, Wilson, MacGregor, Odyssey and Taylor Made. The Golf Mart’s Seaside golf shop is managed by Scott Seadler.

Best Hardware Store
Best Housewares Store

Brinton’s Remarkable Home and Garden Store — 546 Carmel Rancho Shopping Center, Carmel - Mon. to Fri. 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-8541 -

Located at the mouth of Carmel Valley, Brinton’s has been serving the local community for 47 years and has become a no-brainer for hardware, housewares, linens, landscaping and furniture. The store offers 38,000 square feet of merchandise, a warm shopping environment, plenty of parking and friendly, knowledgeable staff members committed to giving the personal attention Carmelites deserve.

Best Pet Store

Petco — 960 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 373-3034 -

One of the chain’s 800 stores, Petco at Del Monte Center has everything you need, not only for dogs and cats, but reptiles, amphibians and birds. The store also holds adoption events to help homeless animals find love, as well as vaccination clinics, and pet classes in subjects such as “puppy socialization” and basic dog training.

Best Garden Shop

Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. - Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 626-0680 -

Founded in the 1960s in Pacific Grove by Dean Griggs, the nursery favored by Pine Cone readers occupies two plant-filled acres in Carmel Valley, where the emphasis is where it always has been: customer service. “We try to be really helpful,” said owner Ken Griggs. “When somebody leaves here, we want to make they sure have everything they need.” Because of our local climate, Griggs specializes in drought resistant plants. “And we also have plenty of things which are deer resistant,” Griggs said.

Best Camping/Skiing/Surfing store

On the Beach Surf Shop — 693 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 646-9283 -

Long a mainstay of the Monterey Peninsula surf scene, OTB has thrived since it moved into its new digs four years ago. Owner Kelly Sorensen stocked his new store with all the latest gear — not only for surfing, but for skateboarding and snowboarding. And the decor makes you feel like you’re in a tropical paradise!

Best Pharmacy

Longs Drugs — 6 The Crossroads, Carmel, (831) 624-0195; 2170 N. Fremont St., Monterey, (831) 373-6134; and 686 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, (831) 655-5404 - 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily -

Not only does it stock prescriptions and basic medical needs, Longs also has a wide variety of food and beverages, candy, greeting cards, cosmetics, household electronics and point-and-shoot cameras, and they have a nifty machine to turn digital photos into prints. It’s amazing what a modern “drug store” has become.

Best Camera/Photo Store

Wolf/Carmel Camera & Video — Fifth Avenue and San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 9:30 to 6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (831) 624-8880 -

Now part of a national chain, but still with plenty of the friendliness and character it had when it was just Carmel Camera, the store boasts an expert staff that really knows the difference between raw and jpeg, which point-and-shoot is best, and whether that $1,000 Nikon zoom lens is worth the money. Another virtue: the store is just uphill from the Carmel post office, and the planter outside Carmel Camera is one of the top Pine Cone distribution sites!

Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys and Books — San Carlos Street and Seventh Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except weekends when the store closes at 8 p.m. - (831) 624-0441 -

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve seen the giant Knex Ferris Wheel in the front window, and you’ve probably encountered some of those cute, animated animals on the mat out front. The store’s motto is “Toys for Thinking Kids of All Ages,” and those include games, puzzles, books, novelties, musical instruments and building sets.

Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Heaven — Lincoln Street between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-6550.

Walk into the stylish and nicely appointed Heaven, and you immediately wish you were little again. The boutique, which caters to girls, features European, contemporary-style clothing, from casual to dressy, as well as shoes and boots. The popular shop also carries up to size 14 to ensure every girl, even the bigger ones, leave with something they really want to wear.

Best Men’s Clothing Store

J. Lawrence Khaki’s Men’s Clothier of Carmel — 3744 The Barnyard, Carmel - Mon. to Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 -

Opened 14 years ago by Jim and Connie Ockert, Khaki’s has become the local favorite men’s store not only for its wide variety of top-of-the-line men’s merchandise — from tuxedos to resort wear — but for its community involvement. The store’s annual Ferrari event has become a mainstay of Concours Week every August, benefitting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Carmel Youth Center.

Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s — Ocean Avenue at Mission Street, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and 3630 The Barnyard, Carmel - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 624-5880 -

Specializing in comfortable and stylish shoes from around the world, including Ecco, Alan Edmonds, Clark’s New Balance and many more. Buying shoes from an inexperienced salesman can be a very frustrating experience ... but that has never been a problem at Hedi’s.

Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

GBG — Mission Street at Seventh Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 626-3368.

Since it opened more than a decade ago, GBG (Girl Boy Girl) has rightfully established its place as THE place to go for upscale boutique and designer goods in Carmel. Owner Sweet Pea puts her mark of personality on the selection of clothing, which is simultaneosly chic, colorful and quintessentially Californian. All the staff treats you like you’re the most important person in the room!

Best Women’s Accessories

Cole Haan — Carmel Plaza, Ocean Aven., Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-2650 -

One of a group of super-luxury shops that have recently opened in Carmel Plaza (including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Wilkes Bashford), Cole Haan of course specializes in fine men’s and women’s shoes. But Pine Cone readers especially appreciate the store for its handbags, leather goods and sunglasses.

Best Women’s Shoe Store

Lloyd’s — Ocean Avenue at Dolores Street, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 625-1382 -

A favorite in downtown Carmel since it opened in 1975, Lloyd’s offers a unique and extensive collection of women’s footwear from Italy, Spain, Brazil, Asia and the United States, along with professional (not overbearing) service. Lloyd’s also has handbags, leg-wear and socks.

Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

Wilkes Bashford — Carmel Plaza, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6262 -

Luxury shopping reached a whole new level downtown when Wilkes Bashford replaced Saks at Carmel Plaza in 2006, bringing such iconic brands as Brioni, Kiton, Loro Piana, Luciano Barbera, Velentino, Oscar dela Renta, Narciso Rodriguez, Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Jean Paul Gaultier. The genius behind the store — and its sister locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mill Valley — is Wilkes Bashford himself, whose attention to detail is obvious. “We remain committed to providing you with uncompromising style, utmost quality and sophistication, and the finest and most comprehensive service,” the store says.

Best Place to Resell Something You Haven’t Worn in Years

The Wardrobe — 167 Fountain Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 655-3636.

The things that distinguish The Wardrobe from other resale shops in the Monterey Peninsula are its no-nonsense sales terms and its popularity ... things which make it easy to offer something for sale, and more likely you’ll sell it! Make an appointment to offload last season’s designer and boutique goods, and you won’t be disappointed. The well trained staff will only accept what’s likely to sell, to the delight of sellers and buyers.

Best Jewelry Store

Hesselbein’s — 143 The Crossroads, Carmel - Mon., to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun., noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-2522

Founded by Arthur Hesselbein in 1968 in King City, Hesselbein’s is a local favorite not only for its exclusive and extensive inventory — watches by Rolex, Patek Phillipe Breguet, Omega and Ebel, pearls by Mikimoto and Faberge jewelry — but because it does service and repairs for watches and jewelry. In fact, where jewelry is concerned, Hesselbein’s does it all, which is not true of most jewelry stores nowadays.

Best Shopping Center/Area

Del Monte Center — Munras Avenue at Highway 1, Monterey - (831) 373-2705 -

So many changes have happened at Del Monte Center in the last five years, it’s definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been there in awhile. In addition to anchor tenants Macy’s and Mervyn’s, DMC has the 13-screen Century Theater, a brand-new Apple Store and Williams-Sonoma, plus Whole Foods, Hollister, California Pizza Kitchen and P.F. Chang’s. With all the quality shopping in Carmel and at the mouth of the valley, Pine Cone readers chose Del Monte Center as their favorite shopping area — which is quite a tribute.

Best Antique Shop

Trotter’s — 590 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-3505.

Owner Lee Trotter has been selling top-quality antiques on the Monterey Peninsula for 60 years, and she hasn’t slowed down a bit. On her sales floor right now are a Baccarat urn, a pair of 18th century French chairs with their original Aubosson fabric, a pair of 18th century original needlepoint chairs, and an 18th century tiger maple Highboy. “I don’t go out looking for anything,” Trotter said. “People call me because they know I appreciate nice things, and I strive to have the most unusual and best in the shop.” She also has an extensive antique doll collection.

Best Bookstore

Borders — Edgewater Center, Sand City - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 899-6643 -

With so much book buying moving to the Internet, a host of locally owned bookstores have disappeared in recent years, and even people who don’t like to shop at chain stores have to be glad Borders is here. With a vast array of titles in hardback and paperback, CDs, DVDs, the best selection of magazines this side of Manhattan, and a very pleasant coffee bar, Borders is a great place to shop, or even just to browse.

Best Car Dealer

Stahl Motors (Mercedes-Benz of Monterey) — 498 Fremont St., Monterey - (831) 375-2456 - 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. -

Not only is it the most beautiful car dealership around, but Bill Stahl’s Mercedes-Benz of Monterey was the first authorized Mercedes dealership in California and the second in the nation — facts in which its owners and capable staff take pride. “We are here to help you discover the true joy of driving. From the minute you enter our showroom or website, and throughout the life of your vehicle, we will do whatever it takes to make your driving experience a pleasurable one,” they pledge.

Best New Car

Lexus — sold locally by Lexus Monterey Peninsula, 1721 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside - (877) 204-2818 -

Since Toyota launched its line of luxury cars in 1990, the Lexus brand has become synonmous with superior technology, outstanding fit and finish, and great value. Among the most popular models are the LX570 SUV, the superior luxurious LS460, and the latest entry to its line of sportscars, the IS F. Another possible reason for the interest in Lexus among Pine Cone readers: the cars are the “official vehicles” of the Pebble Beach Resorts.

Best New Truck

GMC — sold locally by Cardinale GMC Truck, 1340 Fremont Blvd., Seaside - (831) 393-2834 - Cardinale GMC.

Even with the real estate slowdown in the Monterey Peninsula, the streets are still crowded with carpenters, plumbers and electricians plying the new construction and remodel trade. And, often as not, the trucks you’ll see carrying their tools are GMC. Manufacture by General Motors, GMC trucks have a well deserved reputation for ruggedness and durability — and they look sharp enough to take your family on an outing.

Best Gas Station


Pine Cone readers might not like the high price of gasoline, but they have a soft spot for their local Chevron stations. If you’re in Carmel, you can fill up your car at 3645 Rio Road. In Carmel Valley Village, you can find them at 38 W. Carmel Valley Road. If you need roadside assistance, the folks at Rio Road can help you out. The phone numbers are (831) 624-7764 in Carmel and (831) 659-4149 in Carmel Valley.

Best Carwash

El Estero — 590 Fremont Street, Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 373-1801 -

El Estero Hand Car Wash has been serving the Monterey Peninsula’s motoring public for more than 50 years, and owners John Fleige and John Logan have an equal amount of experience in the car wash business. At El Estero, they like to say that everything begins and ends with the customer. Also, El Estero recycles its water and supports the community by donating to local schools, organizations and charities.

Best Computer Store

Computer Works — 1721 Fremont Blvd., Seaside - Mon. to Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -

We at The Pine Cone have a special place in our hearts for Monterey Bay Computer Works which, for the last 20 years, has been pretty much the only place in the Monterey Peninsula to buy Macintosh computers, and is therefore where all the computers in the Pine Cone offices were purchased. Computer Works’ service is excellent, its sales staff is knowledgeable, and the store has every kind of PC, Mac desktop or laptop, iPod and computer accessory you need.

Best Carpet and Flooring Store

Carpets and Floors — 471 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-2300 -

Monterey’s leading flooring business since 1999, Carpets and Floors provides environmentally safe flooring for the home and office. With an in-house interior designer, Carpets and Floors offers custom and bamboo and hardwood floors, Karastan broadloom and area rugs, vinyl and laminate floors, window treatments, hand-knotted and Tibetan rugs, custom area rugs, cork and rubber floors, floor care products and more. And they keep experienced craftsman on hand to professionally install any flooring.


Best Place to Volunteer
Best Place to Work

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula — 23625 Holman Highway, Monterey, and numerous other locations - (831) 624-5311 -

According to our readers, the hospital known as CHOMP is not only the best place to work but also the best place to volunteer — and offers plenty of opportunities to do both. The hospital has about 2,300 employees and about 500 volunteers just in the CHOMP auxiliary, taking care of patients’ families and manning the hospital’s Fountain Court and gift shop, and raising money for projects such as the new Bloodmobile. Also, about 125 people volunteer at the hospital’s hospice, another 300 help out with the Grief Busters program for children who have experienced loss, 30 volunteer for the therapy dog program, and 40 local ministers help out as chaplains. On top of all that, CHOMP has cutting-edge technology in many medical specialities.

Best Retirement Community

Carmel Valley Manor — 8545 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 624-1281 -

Carmel Valley Manor’s mission is to provide high-quality and fulfilling life care for the elderly in a safe, attractive and congenial environment, where residents can live and enjoy an active role in the community, secure in the knowledge their privacy, dignity and welfare will be respected and protected, all in the warm sunshine in beautiful Carmel Valley. President/CEO Jim Valentine invites you to come out and tour the warm and friendly environment.

Best Place To Get Married

Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road, Carmel; 9 a.m. to noon; 1:30 to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-1271 -

Cheerful bougainvillea dance in celebration as bells ring for each couple joined in blessed matrimony at the historic Carmel Mission — one of the most important buildings in the state from the Spanish era. A popular wedding location, reservations book up quickly at this beautiful and sacred structure more than 200 years old. The Mission Basilica seats 450 guests. The Chapel is another option for smaller groups of fewer than 70 guests. The Basilica of San Carlos at the Mission may also provide splendid music for the ceremony. The fee is approximately $1,800 and includes organist and wedding day coordinator. If you hear wedding bells, you should check on where they are ringing ... Carmel Mission!

Best Electrician

Cate Electrical, Inc. — Dolores and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-5361 -

Cate Electrical covers the entire Peninsula, including Marina, to Big Sur and all points in between. Mike Cate and Janine Cate Boone own and operate the business started by their father in 1961. Cate Electrical is committed to the local community in emergency work, residential, commercial, remodel, repair and generators. With four professional electricians, including Mike Cate, Jud Boone, Sean Morgan and Nic Beatty, Cate Electric provides top quality service, with honest and high attention to detail with satisfaction guaranteed.

Best Plumber

A&R Plumbing, Inc. — 1720 Contra Costa Street, Sand City - (831) 394-7221 - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All your plumbing needs, including the kitchen sink, can be handled by A&R Plumbing. Established in 1974, A&R services residential and commercial plumbing needs, including new homes, remodel projects, repairs, replacements, water, sewer and gas lines, sewer video inspections, drain cleaning, sewage ejector and sump pump repair and replacements, to name a few… and, yes, kitchen sinks, too. Family owned and operated, A&R offers superior customer service with a strong work ethic.

Best Architect/Designer

International Design Group — 721 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 646-1261 -

Founded by John Matthams more than 20 years ago, and now with principal architect Jun Sillano, IDG has created designs for clients the world over, including health clubs in Russia, dog racing tracks in Wisconsin and Florida, country clubs in the Bahamas and Florida, luxury homes in Maui, and even a palace for the King of Tonga. But more to the point for Pine Cone readers are the wonderful homes the firm has designed all over Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove and Carmel. They’re good!

Best General Contractor

Leffel & Sons Construction, Inc. — P.O. Box 1095, Monterey - (831) 647-9746.

Hal Leffel draws on his experience as a former Army officer to provide a high level of education and communication to his clients in his home remodel services. Working in the Monterey Peninsula for the last 18 years, focusing on Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Pebble Beach, Leffel combines his communication skills with experience and expertise in all of the elements that go into projects to orchestrate an efficient and appealing end product. Leffel focuses on kitchens, baths and small additions.

Best Real Estate Company

Coldwell Banker Del Monte Realty — 3775 Via Nona Marie, Carmel; Junipero, 2 SW of Fifth, and Ocean Ave., 3 NE of Lincoln, Carmel-by-the-Sea; The Shops at The Lodge, Pebble Beach; 501 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 626-2222 -

Perhaps it’s no surprise Coldwell Banker Del Monte Realty is the Pine Cone readers’ favorite: With 140 agents, several of the local superstars of real estate sales, and 40 percent of the annual market share in Carmel, CBDMR is certainly the largest local firm. But managing broker Rita Lewis knows that’s not all it takes: “We have a terrific team of very knowledgable sales associates and they really work hard to do a great job for their clients,” Lewis said. “That’s the name of the game.” She says the company frequently gets thank you letters from clients, and that being part of a national real estate company has significant advantages. “We have an extensive network across the country ... a wonderful marketing department, an IT department and human resources — all those things agents in a smaller company wouldn’t have access to.” And Lewis is optimistic about the future of the local real estate market. “Coastal property is limited and there are always people with money who want to live near the ocean.”

Best Real Estate Lender

Washington Mutual Bank — San Carlos Street and Sixth Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea, (831) 625-2400; 569 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, (831) 647-3251; 291 Alvarado St., Monterey, (831) 373-8402 -

Washington Mutual may have gone bust because of bad loans, but they must have been doing something right, because Pine Cone readers still love them! At least in this part of the world, Chase bought some good will along with Wamu.

Best Title Company

Old Republic — 126 Clock Tower Place, Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-3880 -

Whether for a multi-million dollar estate on 17 Mile Drive or a humble Seaside bungalow, closing escrow can be complicated, and it’s essential to have pros on your side. Old Republic fits the bill, Pine Cone readers say. “Our office is dedicated to providing exceptional service, which includes professionalism, knowledge, accompanied with a great attitude and love of what we do!  We all put an extra effort in supporting our local Realtors and businesses,” said local manager Lisa Steiny.

Best Personal Banker

Wells Fargo — San Carlos and Ocean, Carmel-by-the-Sea, (831) 624-5302; 26600 Carmel Center Place, Carmel, (831) 625-1767; 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, (831) 624-8562; 1160 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, (831) 375-0987; 399 Alvarado St., Monterey, (831) 655-0280 - Mon. - Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -

With numerous Monterey Peninsula locations, each with an onsite manager and personal bankers to help with checking, savings, credit cards, bill pay, online banking, home mortgage, student loans and auto loans, Wells Fargo was a heavy favorite among Pine Cone readers. Wells Fargo also offers investments in mutual funds, retirement accounts, private banking, brokerage and insurance.

Best Business Bank

Monterey County Bank — Dolores St. between Seventh and Eighth, Carmel-by-the-Sea, (831) 626-6999; 3785 Via Nona Marie, Carmel, (831) 625-4300; 601 N. Munras Ave., Monterey, (831) 649-4600; 542 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, (831) 655-4300 -

Not only is Monterey County Bank President and CEO Charles Chrietzberg Jr. one of the most recognized faces in the Monterey Peninsula business community, his bank is one of its most respected enterprises — at least, Pine Cone readers think so! In these days of banking tumult, Monterey County Bank has maintained its reputation for safety and security, and is one of the places small business owners turn first for help and advice — especially with SBA loans, which Monterey County Bank has written to the tune of $100,000,000 since 1998. And here’s something reassuring: “Monterey County Bank does not and has never provided sub-prime lending,” Chrietzberg says.

Best Investment Advisor

Doolittle & Ganos, LLC — 100 Clock Tower Place Suite 210, Carmel - (831) 624-3317 -

Founded in 1975, Doolittle & Ganos offers professional services in wealth management, investment management and trust administration. With a particular emphasis on risk management, the independent investment advisory company provides sophisticated investment management and financial planning solutions for clients’ complex needs. The firm manages more than $250 million in client assets and works with individuals, family businesses, trust and nonprofit organizations with a minimum of $1 million in investable assets. Tom C. Ganos is principal and portfolio manager; Jerome W. Matecun, Jr. is portfolio manager and investment counsel.

Best Veterinarian

The Animal Hospital at The Crossroads — 3 Crossroads Center, Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. (on Sundays, emergencies and boarding only) - (831) 624-0131 -

The royal treatment in health and grooming can be found for four-legged canine and feline friends at The Animal Hospital at the Crossroads. Celebrity dogs and their famous and not-so-famous owners rely on Dr. George Bishop’s expertise in full service care, including diagnostics, treatment, boarding, vaccinations and more. With more than 30 years experience and a staff of 25, Dr. Bishop serves with concern and compassion for patients and their owners.

Best Yoga Studio

Carmel Yoga Center — Tenth and San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-4949 -

Beginners to advanced can look to Carmel Yoga Center to find inner peace and outer strength through a variety of styles. Located in the heart of Carmel since 1989, the Carmel Yoga Center brings Hatha Yoga to clients to help reduce stress, develop strength, increase flexibility and improve balance and breathing. Since your body does not take a holiday, the Yoga Center is open on some holidays to help you get a session in before a celebration. It also has classes available for kids.

Best Auto Repair

Matteson’s Auto Repair — 234 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-5050.

In business 46 years, the Matteson family has a long-standing reputation for quality work and friendly service among clients on throughout the Peninsula. With four employees, including head mechanic Phil Hoskovich and office manager Wendy McCraner, Matteson’s services all makes and models of cars, foreign and domestic, and some antique cars. Matteson’s offers same-day, prompt service with satisfaction guaranteed for all services, including brakes, tuneup, oil changes, timing belts and water pumps. Matteson’s appreciates its longtime, loyal customers and new customers alike.

Best Auto Body Shop

Gunter-Madsen Auto Body — 1231 Del Monte, Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 375-2497.

Family owned and operated by Richard and Myra Sousa for the last 25 years, Gunter-Madsen handles body repair for all makes and models or cars. Manager Austin Kozloski and his team of experienced technicians work diligently to provide top level customer satisfaction at a competitive price. With four trained and service-minded employees, Gunter-Madsen can help you maintain your fleet, or your personal automobile.

Best Dry Cleaners

Crossroads Cleaners — 123 The Crossroads, Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 p. m.; Sat 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. - (831) 624-5121.

Locally owned and operated by Phillip Yoon for the past 20 years, Crossroads Cleaners has built a reputation of outstanding quality and customer satisfaction. With eight employees, the business has thrived because of its good customer relations. Also, they have recently implemented a plan to operate in a more environmentally friendly and “greener.” Services include dry cleaning, laundry, alterations, draperies, wedding gowns, suede, leather, fur and pillows.

Best Airline from MRY

United — Monterey Peninsula Airport and hundreds of destinations around the world - (800) 864-8331 -

From Monterey, United flies only to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. But from there, the airline can take you to practically everywhere. That includes business destinatons such as Chicago, Atlanta and New York, vacation spots that include Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas and Orlando, and exotic foreign capitals, including Beijing, London, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Air travel isn’t as easy as it was 10 years ago, or as luxurious as it was 30 years ago, but it’s still a modern-day miracle to have breakfast in San Francisco and dinner in Shanghai.

Best Travel Agent

P.G. Travel — 593 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-0631 -

Since 1979, Pacific Grove Travel has provided quality service, fair prices and friendly service on full-service bookings of all cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, hotels and car rentals. Travel the world with a professional to plan all of the details, customized for your personal preferences. Personal service provided by owner Joe Shammas, Christine Harmina, Laura Lockett and Mary Potter makes P.G. Travel a favorite of Pine Cone readers.

Best Hair Salon

Oya — 201 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., open late on Thursdays - (831) 656-0570.

In business since 1996, owner Brian Bode and his team create modern, yet organic, hair fashions for men and women of all ages. With 11 highly trained staff members, Bode and his team draw on expertise and trends from around the globe to create great hair. They also participate in community fashion shows and support charitable causes, such as an upcoming breast cancer event with Community Hospital. Customer service is the key element in bringing stylish hair to area residents. Prior to his salon work locally, Bode worked in his family’s business, Sabastian, as an artistic team member, devoted to cut and color.

Best Skin Care

Yon-Ka — 118 The Crossroads, Carmel - Mon. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun by appt. - (831) 625-4410 -

YonKa Signature Day Spa offers a full variety of spa services, but it’s the expert skin care, led by veteran owner and aesthetician Chatal Tourtin, that pulls in the raves. YonKa has more than 70 proprietary products that bring a European approach to skin care treatments to the Peninsula. Working with every type of age and skin type and customized for each person’s specific needs, the staff provides services in cleansing, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, deep hydration, eye and lip contour, and treatments for blemishes, sun spots and pigmentation problems.

Best Nail Salon

Francis Nails — 569 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - (831) 643-0697.

For years we thought Francis Nails was one of the Monterey Peninsula’s best kept secrets, until the ballots came in for the Golden Pine Cones and revealed that our savvy readers have even discovered the most hidden gems. This unpretentious establishment charges reasonable prices and has calming surroundings ... yet the cleanliness and the artistry are what you’d expect at an exclusive spa. Regulars will come to appreciate the hospitality of owners Francis and Tina Nguyen.

Best Massage Therapist

Monterey Bay Bodyworks — 301 Bonifacio Place, Monterey - (831) 372-4212 -

Monterey Bay Bodyworks is known for its total skin and body care. Owners Kimberly Ann Brousseau and Dawn Schweitzer are both licensed and certified massage practitioners. In addition, Brousseau is a board certified esthetician. Unique to Monterey Bay Bodyworks, a 60-minute massage is truly 60 minutes of work on the client, unlike competitors who may provide only 50 minutes of actual therapy. Available for individuals, groups or events, Monterey Bay Bodywork can help relieve tension, stimulate circulation, increase serotonin, improve muscle tone and promote total mind and body relaxation.

Best Spa

Casa Palmero at Pebble Beach — The Lodge at Pebble Beach - 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily - (831) 649-7615 -

Pure indulgence in rest and relaxation with the utmost and award winning service, The Spa at Casa Palmero won’t disappoint. Located in a former mansion adjacent to The Lodge, the spa offers relaxation, rejuvenation and revitalization of the mind, body and spirit through a broad array of services, including massages, body scrubs, wraps, water treatments, skin, nail and hair care. Casa Palmero provides a soothing and inspiring environment, including 25 treatment rooms, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam and inhalation room, salon, conservatory and outdoor pool.

Best Dentist

Brad Carl, DDS — 26485 Carmel Rancho #3, Carmel - (831) 624-2111 -

Dr. Brad Carl is devoted to restoring and enhancing the natural beauty of smiles using conservative, state-of-the-art procedures that result in beautiful, long-lasting smiles. Seeing a dentist may not be the most relaxing experience for some, but Dr. Carl and his staff work to make each visit positive, comfortable and as pleasant as possible. From restoration, preventative, cosmetic, cleansing and periodontal disease treatments, to education, Dr. Carl provides the services to give patients a reason to smile.

Best Dermatologist

Dr. James Rheim, Cosmetic Laser Center — 757 Pacific St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-4404 -

Dr. James Rheim and his staff work to help clients achieve healthier skin through prevention and treatment. Treatments for conditions such as acne, actinickeratosis, eczema, excessive sweating, psoriasis and rashes are Dr. Rheim’s specialties. Botox, Derma fillers, hair reduction, foto facial, krypton laser and whisper laser are among the cosmetic procedures offered at the Cosmetic Laser Center. Through medical and cosmetic services, Dr. Rheim can diagnose and treat skin to promote its greatest health and beauty. He has been in practice on the Monterey Peninsula for more than 30 years.

Best Ophthalmologist

Dr. Leland Rosenblum, Monterey County Eye Associates — 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive - (831) 372-1500 -

Dr. Rosenblum’s expertise includes cataract surgery, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, refractive surgery and oculoplastic procedures. In practice since 1994, he prides himself on a personal approach to eye care, treatment and prevention and a winning strategy for every vision goal.

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Douglas Sunde — 856 Munras Avenue, Monterey - Mon. & Wed., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fri., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - (831) 372-0200 -

Ask any gorgeous, middle-aged woman reading The Pine Cone at the Beach and Tennis Club or Mission Ranch her secret, and she’ll whisper, “Douglas Sunde.” A Stanford grad who also specializes in reconstructive surgery, Sunde has a gifted touch with your most important parts. The staff is very friendly and professional, and Sunde treats his patients with respect and discretion. Check the website for a list of his specialties.

Voting for the 2009 Golden Pine Cones will be conducted in late August and early September, with results announced Sept. 25, 2009.