The 2009 Golden Pine Cone awards
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The 2009 Golden Pine Cones

WE'VE POLLED our readers two years in a row about their favorite restaurants, wineries, stores, health care providers, recreational opportunities, etc., and they've consistenly demonstrated their refined tastes. The Carmel Pine Cone is one of the finest small-town newspapers in the country, and our readers are even better. So please take your advice from them ....


FOOD and WINE

Best Neighborhood Market
Best Butcher

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

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 gourmet prepared foods, pizzas, barbecue, a meat counter that can’t be beat, and a plethora of other items that make this market No. 1 in the neighborhood. Owner Fermin Sanchez specializes in giving locals what they need, while also supplying tourists with their on-the-road basics.

Best Supermarket

Safeway — The Crossroads Shopping Village, Rio Road and Highway 1, Carmel - open 24 hours daily - (831) 625-8820 - www.safeway.com.

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 The store transformed from a crowded, outdated supermarket into a well organized, roomy establishment, complete with olive bar, huge wine selection, fresh bakery, salad bar, well stocked deli and beautiful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. And it’s one of the most popular pickup spots for The Pine Cone every week!

Best Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers’ Markets

The Monterey Peninsula is awash in farmers’ markets — both seasonal and year-round — pretty much guaranteeing one of them is conveniently located and fits into the busiest schedule. The largest markets are held on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey Tuesday afternoon, and at Monterey Peninsula College Thursday afternoons, while the Monday-afternoon Pacific Grove market on Lighthouse Avenue is more intimate. A market at The Barnyard at the mouth of the valley is held Tuesday mornings May through September, and the same group launched a new market this summer outside Whole Foods at Del Monte Center on Sunday mornings. That market is seasonal as well.

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 Sea Harvest brings in the best. Always ask what’s freshest — and what will be coming in next.

Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Pisoni Vineyards & Winery — (800) 270-2525 - www.pisonivineyards.com

A vivacious, passionate character, Gary Pisoni is known for growing some of the finest Pinot Noir grapes in Monterey County, and selling them to highly regarded labels that produce beautiful wine from his vineyards. But he also makes wine himself, each year offering an estate bottling from his Pisoni Vineyards. “The goal is to make the most complex and compelling Pinot Noir from the vineyard site,” he says. Pisoni is also one of the Garys in the coveted Garys’ Vineyard (Gary Franscioni is the other).

Best Monterey County Merlot

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

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 the Talbott Vineyards tasting room.

Best Family Restaurant
Best Desserts

Rosine’s Restaurant — 434 Alvarado St., Monterey - Sun. to Thurs., 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 375-1400 - www.rosinesmonterey.com

A family-run restaurant for nearly 30 years, Rosine’s was a hit from the start, with its extensive menu and towering desserts. The sunny spot on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey is the perfect venue for families, as it’s casual, lively and a little loud, while it definitely does not compromise on the quality of food or service. And the menu has something for everyone, from entree-size salads´, and hot and cold sandwiches, to fresh fish of the day, steaks and pasta dishes. But leave room for dessert, because Rosine’s is practically famous for its towering cakes, specialty cream cakes, cheesecakes and other sweets, all of which are baked fresh onsite daily.

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 - www.fifisbistrocafe.com.
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, all for moderate prices.

Best Chinese Restaurant
Best Takeout


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

Tucked inside Redwood Court, Tommy’s Wok features Szechwan, 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. and 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 - www.ambrosiaib.com.

Chef/owner Bhupender Singh believes in creating for his patrons memorable, flavorful meals that speak of India in their preparation, aromas and presentation — and has done so well that he opened a café on Cannery Row in July. The lunch buffet at the Abrego Street location is unbeatable (particularly the butter chicken), and Ambrosia’s tandoori ovens produce all types of naan, and bone-in marinated chicken skewered and roasted. The mixed grill includes chicken, minced lamb and prawns, all marinated and spiced with care. Vegetarian delicacies, appetizer, soups and salads, rice, chicken, lamb and seafood entrées are all tempting and affordable. Dine indoors or in the lovely garden.

Best Italian Restaurant

Little Napoli — Dolores and Eighth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Noon to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 626-6335 - www.littlenapoli.com

Restaurateur Rich Pépe’s restaurant is as lively and personable as he is, offering Italian comfort food in a warm, homey atmosphere. Looking for something rich? Try the Veal “Osso Buco” Ravioli with porcini-cream reduction and roasted mushrooms. Want fish? How about the Salmone Coco Pazzo, line-caught poached salmon over saffron vegetable risotto? Pépe’s expansive menu also includes several creative pizzas, sandwiches, salads and entrées that speak of his Italian heritage and Jersey roots.

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 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 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 - www.peppersmexicalicafe.com.

As a testament to its delicious food and its popularity among locals, Scott and Linda Gonzalez’ Peppers MexiCali Cafe is almost always packed at lunch and dinnertime. 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, chiles rellenos, 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 Mediterranean Restaurant
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Best New Restaurant Restaurant (tie)


Dametra Cafe — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel-by-the-Sea, 11 a.m. to 10:30 or 11 p.m. daily - (831) 622-7766

Opened by best friends Faisal Nimri and Bashar Sneeh, Dametra Café features a veritable Mediterranean bounty, with a menu listing Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes. Fans of this always lively, frequently packed restaurant swear the owners make them feel just like family, and Nimri and Sneeh proved it when they stayed open late to feed and shelter guests displaced by a fire in the Cypress Inn several months ago.

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 in Pacific Grove
Best Restaurant for Seafood

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

Ted Walter, who owns Passionfish with his wife, Cindy, is an inspired chef who focuses on seafood sustainability, organic produce and original cuisine. This multi-award winning restaurant offers unique appetizers, like Cambazola panna cotta, and 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 pork shank, duck confit, chicken and vegetarian dishes.

Best Restaurant for Steak

Kurt’s Carmel Chop House — San Carlos and Fifth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Daily, 5 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 625-1199 - www.carmelchophouse.com

Chef/owner Kurt Grasing partnered with longtime friend, chef and media personality Narsai David to open the Carmel Chop House, where the menu features contemporary takes on prime steaks and chops, seafood and seasonal ingredients. Add to that an extensive wine list, and the Chop House is a sure hit when it comes to satisfying that craving for steak.

Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

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

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 New Restaurant (tie)
Best Appetizers

Mundaka — East side of San Carlos Street north of Seventh Avenue, Carmel - Daily, 5:30 p.m. until late - (831) 624-7400 - www.mundakacarmel.com

Talented chef Brandon Miller and Gabriel Georis — who was born and raised in the restaurant business — teamed up to open Mundaka, named for a surfing town in the Basque country of northern Spain, this year, and it was an instant hit. From an ever changing and always intriguing menu of Spanish-style tapas (small plates), to the decor focusing on reclaimed and recycled materials, the place is hip, loud and fun. The wine list offers amazingly affordable bottles, along with splurges, and is a testament to Georis’ experience handling wine at his family’s restaurants. Take friends and try everything — you won’t be disappointed.

Best BBQ

Little Chicken House — 1193 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun. 1 to 8 p.m. - (831) 655-1704

Sure, the place has great chicken, but the ribs, brisket and other barbecued meats are delicious, too, as are the sides. This little place is often overlooked by tourists but is a favorite of locals, who eat at the counter or, more often, take their food to go. Everything is barbecued or smoked onsite. There’s a convenient drive-through, too.

Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel - Daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. -www.katysplacecarmel.com - (831) 624-0199

Katy’s boasts the largest breakfast menu on the West Coast. There are 16 varieties 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 can 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. The huevos rancheros are also worth breaking your diet for.

Best Coffee

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 - www.peets.com.

Cheers were heard throughout the land when Peet’s 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 Coffeehouse

Carmel Coffee House & Roasting Co. — South side of Ocean Avenue west of San Carlos Street, Carmel - Daily, 7 a.m. until afternoon - (831) 626-2095 - www.carmelcoffee.com

Formerly Caffe Cardinale, Carmel Coffee House & Roasting Co. was purchased by Kevin McCord and his business partners awhile back and renamed. Carmel’s only onsite roaster processes beans in small batches to ensure freshness, and the welcoming employees serve up the best espresso drinks, brewed coffee, hot tea and other drinks in town. Add to that a nice selection of baked goods, sandwiches and snacks — as well as an idyllic courtyard, quiet indoor seating area and free wifi — and it’s no surprise that Pine Cone readers named it their favorite coffeehouse.

Best Happy Hour

La Playa Hotel — Camino Real and Eighth Avenue, Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 5 to 6:30 p.m.- (831) 624-4010 - www.laplayahotel.com

The Terrace Grill inside the historic and beautiful La Playa Hotel is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, but locals particularly love its Happy Hour, when chef Bunyan Fortune and his team tempt palates with a wide array of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers like baked Brie, crispy calamari and smoked salmon spoons. The grill doesn’t offer drink specials for Happy Hour, but the food makes up for that in spades.

Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion

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 - www.sardinefactory.com.

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. But more than 40 years later, the Sardine Factory has an international reputation and a long list of celebrity clientele. (A critical scene in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 hit, “Play Misty for Me,” was filmed at the bar.) 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 as The Place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just about any special occasion.

Best Buffet
Best Outdoor Dining

Mission Ranch – 26270 Dolores St., Carmel - Dinner nightly from 5 p.m., Sunday Jazz Brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - (831) 624-6436 - www.missionranchcarmel.com

The restaurant in the hotel owned by former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood, and where he occasionally appears to have a drink by the fire or play the piano, offers a great dinner made even better when it can be enjoyed outdoors on the deck. Well equipped with heaters for those chilly Peninsula evenings, the venue offers sweeping views of pastures full of grazing sheep and the craggy coastline. The decadent brunch ($27.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids 12 and under, and $5.50 for toddlers) offers everything one could want on a relaxing Sunday, including live jazz.

Best Fast Food

R.G. Burgers — 201 The Crossroads, Carmel, and 570 Munras Ave., Monterey (next door to Trader Joe’s) - Daily, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and until 9 p.m. on weekends - (831) 626-8054 - www.realgoodburgers.com.

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 McDonald’s or Taco Bell.

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 - www.coldstonecreamery.com.

Since the new movie theaters opened in 2004, the far end of Del Monte Center has experienced a renaissance, and the cinemas aren’t the only reason. After (or before) watching the latest Oscar contender, 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 - Daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 626-5454 - www.allegrogourmetpizzeria.com.

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.” A crowd favorite is the thick-crust Chicken & Basil Pesto with chicken tenderloin, pesto, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, smoked and fresh, but the list is long and also includes fresh salads pasta, panini and vino.

Best Place to Take Clients

Rio Grill — 101 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel - Lunch Mon.-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Brunch Sun. 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dinner nightly from 5 until 9 p.m. weeknights and 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 625-5436 - www.riogrill.com

The meandering dining rooms, butcher-paper-topped tables (useful for taking important notes or illustrating an important point in your conversation), contemporary fare and modern atmosphere all make the Rio Grill a great place to take clients without breaking the bank or appearing to be trying too hard. One of Tony Tollner’s three restaurants, the Rio has great food, a well stocked bar and the bonus icebreaker of a wall covered with caricatures of famous and not-so-famous locals. Specials are offered daily, in addition to the extensive menu.

Most Romantic Restaurant
Best Restaurant in Carmel


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 - www.casanovarestaurant.com.

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 departed to open his own restaurant in Monterey (Bistro Moulin) two years ago, but the quality, freshness and romance at Casanova have not changed.

Best Restaurant in Big Sur

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

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, the Restaurant at Ventana, 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 - www.caferusticacarmel.com.

A favorite with locals, Cafe Rustica offers enormous salads full of fresh, local produce, mouthwatering 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 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 - www.montrio.com.

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 Pine Cone readers’ Favorite Monterey Restaurant for two years in a row, as well as Esquire Magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” for 1995. 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 and oven-roasted portabella mushroom with ragout of vegetables, this bistro with big-city ambiance has become one of Monterey’s favorites for all occasions.

Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Club XIX - The Lodge at Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive - Dinner nightly - (831) 625-8519 - www.pebblebeach.com

A longtime destination for splurge dinners, Club XIX is classy and picturesque, with its views of the golf links’ famous 18th Hole. The sophisticated and elegant menu, overseen by chef Ressul Ressallat, features everything from Nova Scotia lobster and the signature Eggs in their Shells with Imperial Osetra Caviar, to Dover sole, Scottish salmon, French turbot and Australian lamb, followed by several sweets. Wine and cheese plates are also available.

Best Restaurant in Sand City

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

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, organic ingredients and artisinal products and overseen by a creative chef whose menu offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, weekend brunch, small plates, salads and soups.

Best Restaurant in Seaside

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

A longtime favorite among locals, the Fishwife features 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

Marinus — Bernardus Lodge, 415 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Weds.-Sun., 6 to 9 p.m. - (831) 658-3595 - www.bernardus.com

Executive chef Cal Stamenov’s glorious food, perfectly prepared and plated, and served with whatever wines one might wish, is further accented by the elegant, comfortable dining room and roaring fireplace at Marinus, named for lodge owner Bernardus Pon’s middle name. But the attentive, knowledgeable staff are what make dinner there perfect, from wine director Mark Jensen, whose expert advice and depth of knowledge are delivered without the slightest hint of pretentiousness, to the servers who aptly describe the dishes, those who quietly clear the plates, and the folks who constantly replenish warm bread and chilled water. The service is so good, it’s practically intuitive, and never overbearing or obsequious.

Best Organic Produce

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

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 Foods’ extensive offerings of artfully displayed organic and conventional produce from near and far.

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 - www.nielsenmarket.com.

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 bottles from around the world, ranging from affordable Southern Hemisphere offerings, to hard-to-find vintages with triple-digit prices. Longtime owners Merv and Nancie Sutton retired this summer and sold their market to Tigran and Azniv Amirkhanian, who are carrying on the Nielsen’s tradition. 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 Bakery

Parker-Lusseau Pastries — 731 Munras Ave., Monterey - Weds. to Sat., 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 643-0300 - and 539 Hartnell St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 641-9188 - www.parker-lusseaupastries.com.

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. For a little something less sweet, don’t miss the croissants, and the canelés — a sort of French doughnut — are highly addictive.

Best Catering Company

A Moveable Feast — P.O. Box 902, Carmel Valley - (831) 659-5100 - www.a-moveable-feast.com.

“Maverick” might be a word frequently misapplied, 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 which was 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, chef’s coat and beret, you know the food will be fabulous.

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., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6433 - www.surlatable.com.

When Sur La Table opened in Carmel Plaza a couple of years 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 dozens of 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 — and the fact they will even sharpen knives for you — top off the list of reasons Sur La Table is a local favorite.

Best Monterey County Chardonnay — Bernardus
Favorite Monterey County Wine — Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc

Bernardus Tasting Room - 5 West Carmel Valley Road - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m daily. - (831) 659-1900 - www.bernardus.com/winery.

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery in Cachagua two decades ago, and it has come to be known for producing some of the best wine in Monterey County. Pine Cone readers selected Bernardus for Best Monterey County Chardonnay and also named its Sauvignon Blanc their favorite wine in the entire county. Skilled at finessing every varietal to maximize its most desirable characteristics, winemaker Dean DeKorth works his magic to produce compelling vintages, year after year.


SERVICES and HEALTH CARE

Best Auto Repair

Monterey Bay Motor Works — 1875 The Mall, Seaside - Mon. to Thurs., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to noon - (831) 899-4742 - www.mbmw.com.

Monterey Bay Motor Works has provided comprehensive professional BMW repair and maintenance for residents of the Monterey Peninsula since 1982. Its new Autologic diagnostic and programming tool assures the most up-to-date diagnostic and programming abilities, and found at no other independent repair shop on the peninsula. MBMW give its customers clear, honest information concerning new model maintenance schedules tailored to their ownership expectations. MBMW’s services include everything, from oil and filter changes while you wait, to major component rebuilds. It also supplies local body, repair, and upholstery shops with parts and service.

Best Dry Cleaners

Carmel Cleaners — Junipero and Third Ave., Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-3616.

Carmel Cleaners says, “Good clothes deserve good care,” and offers same-day service if garments are dropped off by 10 a.m. Brides who want to dry clean their wedding gowns can take their dresses to Carmel Cleaners, which calls itself a “wedding-gown expert.” The shop also performs alterations and other laundry services.

Best Airline from MRY

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

From Monterey, United flies only to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. But from there, the airline can take you practically anywhere. That includes business destinations such as Chicago, Atlanta and New York, vacation spots like 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 - www.pgtravel.com.

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 according to your personal preferences. Vast knowledge and pervice 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

March Hare — Fifth Ave. at Mission, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-3024 - marchharesalon@sbcglobal.net.

Pine Cone readers think March Hare in Carmel is the best salon. “Today I went to the March Hare Salon and had such a great experience,” one online person commented. “Not only did I love my hair, but I left feeling so good about myself. The service was excellent! Always offered tea and water, and a selection of magazines to look at during my color. I would expect nothing less from an Aveda Salon!”

Best Nail Salon

Nails by the Sea — Seventh and Monte Verde, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Call for appointment - (831) 625-2623 - www.nailsspabythesea.com.

The goal of Nails by the Sea and its professional staff is to pamper clients with the highest quality nail care and spa treatments in a relaxing and nurturing atmosphere. Nails by the Sea invites its customers to relax and rejuvenate their minds, bodies and spirit in its full-service nail and skin care salon, nestled in the heart of Carmel-by-the- Sea.

Best Massage Therapist

Daniela Urbassek — (831) 521-1117.

Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula are home to some of finest massage practitioners anywhere, which makes sense considering the proximity of the Esalen Institute, which hosts one of the world’s premier massage schools. Daniela Urbassek, who was selected by our readers as the best local massage therapist, has been a member of Esalen’s massage crew since 1990, but she also teaches massage at Esalen. A gifted bodyworker, Urbassek’s massage is influenced by her studies in craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy, yoga, and dance. She also maintains a private practice in Carmel, and she’s available by appointment.

Best Spa

Spa at Pebble Beach — The Lodge at Pebble Beach - 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; holiday hours vary - (831) 649-7615 - www.pebblebeach.com.

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 near to The Lodge, the spa offers relaxation, rejuvenation and revitalization of the mind, body and spirit through an 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 Place to Volunteer
Best Place to Work

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

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 specialties.

Best Retirement Community

Del Mesa Carmel — 500 Del Mesa Drive, Carmel - (831) 624-1853 -www.delmesacarmel.org.

Situated on a peaceful meadow atop a hillside at the mouth of Carmel Valley, Del Mesa Carmel is truly one of California’s most beautiful adult gated communities. Many of Del Mesa’s 289 residences have breathtaking views of sunny Carmel Valley and the north end of stunning Big Sur, with its high mountains, lush valleys and rugged coastline.

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 - www.carmelmission.org.

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 California from the Spanish era. A popular wedding location, reservations book up quickly at this beautiful structure more than 200 years old. The Mission Basilica seats 450 guests. The Chapel is another option for 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 about $1,800 and includes organist and wedding day coordinator. If you hear wedding bells, you should check where they are ringing ... Carmel Mission!

Best Electrician

Cate Electrical — Dolores and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-5361 - K8Electric@aol.com.

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, which was 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 Electrical provides top quality service, with honest and high attention to detail with satisfaction guaranteed.

Best Plumber

Hatten Plumbing — 21 W Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 659-0743.

Carmel Valley-based Hatten Plumbing offers extraordinary customer service, according to an online reviewer. “I had a problem with my toilet leaking. It had been leaking for over a year and I had all kinds of people out to look at it,” according to the woman. “I called Hatten Plumbing, and they were out to my home within the day and were very helpful and knowledgeable. There were two plumbers onsite, and they both exceeded my expectations. They found the problem made by other plumbers and fixed it quickly and efficiently. Whenever I have plumbing needs, I am going to use Hatten Plumbing!”

Best Architect

John Thodos — Seventh Ave. and Mission, Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; weekends by appointment - (831) 624-0866 - www.thodosaia.com.

The office of John Thodos AIA Architect is located in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Thodos has had his own firm since 1969 and held positions with major Portland, Ore., architectural firms for 10 years prior to establishing his own practice. Thodos is best known for his contemporary architecture and has been accorded 14 awards for his designs by the American Institute of Architects and others. Thodos has been the recipient of numerous architectural awards for his design of residences, office buildings, and even a Greek Orthodox church. Thodos also designs custom furniture.

Best General Contractor

Chris Tescher — Monte Verde between Ocean and Seventh - (831) 625-6994.

A builder in Carmel for 34 years, Chris Tescher got his start working in Squaw Valley, working for a developer of custom homes. “I had been a teacher, but I started drifting to where the jobs were,” Tescher said. In 1972, he headed to Carmel, where he continued developing the craft of fine homebuilding.
“I also started drafting, because it was easier to get hired if you could handle the whole project,” he said. In 1975, he did a job for Karen LeVett, and that was beginning of their partnership, which has produced about 30 custom-built homes in Carmel and Pebble Beach. “Tell the people who voted for me I’ll keep my acceptance speech to a minimum,” he said.

Best Real Estate Company

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

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 knowledgeable 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

Wells Fargo - (877) 937-9357 -  www.wellsfargo.com.

Despite all the turmoil in the real estate and mortgage markets, not to mention bank failures, Wells Fargo has thrived and is now the dominant real-estate lender in California. Wells Fargo has locations in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Monterey.

Best Title Company

First American — Dolores Street and 8th Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 625-6775; 3855 Via Nona Marie, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 625-5980.

Closing escrow can be a nerve-wracking experience. Just signing all the documents is daunting! It takes a very professional company to make sure everything goes right, and Pine Cone readers say First American Title Co. is the best. Drawing on more than a century of experience, First American says it “offers accurate, efficient and cost-effective title and settlement solutions.”

Best Personal Banker

First National Bank — 26380 Carmel Rancho Lane, Carmel - Mon. to Thu., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (800) 495-7100; also 495 Washington St., Monterey. 

The First National Bank of Central California offers the capabilities and services of a large national bank and the friendly, responsive service of a local community bank. First National offers personalized service, and an extensive network of banking offices and ATM locations.

Best Business Bank

Monterey County Bank — Dolores 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 - Mon. to Thurs., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fri. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - www.montereycountybank.com.

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 to 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 - www.doolittleganos.com.

Founded in 1975, Doolittle & Ganos offers professional services in wealth management, investment management and trust administration, and 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 net worths between $2 million and $20 million. Todd C. Ganos is principal and portfolio manager; Jerome W. Matecun, Jr. is portfolio manager and senior research analyst.

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 - www.carmelvet.com.

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 — 10th and San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-4949 - www.yogacentercarmel.com.

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 Dentist

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

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. Melvin Gorelick — 261 El Dorado St. Suite 101, Monterey - (831) 649-1817.

Melvin Gorelick has decades of experience in the field of dermatology. According to one patient who posted an online review, Gorelick has provided care to three generations of his family. “I went to three dermatologists before coming to Dr. Gorelick,” according to the patient. “None were as quick, accurate, attentive and caring as his office staff and he were. He has many years of experience, great bedside manner and awesome results. My grandmother, mother and myself have become life long patients due to the care and quality provided.”

Best Ophthalmologist

Dr. Leland Rosenblum — 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive - (831) 372-1500 - www.montereyeye.com.

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 Ave., Monterey - Mon. and Wed., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fri., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - (831) 372-0200 - www1.plasticsurgery.org/ebusiness4/md/-drsunde.aspx

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.


RECREATION and THE ARTS

Best Local Artist
Best Sculpture Gallery

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

One of the world’s foremost sculptors, Steven Whyte is also known as the “Sculptor in the Park” at the annual Carmel Art Festival, where 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 says. He has been selected to create numerous monuments, including a commission he recently received to sculpt a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., for Hollywood, Fla. And he is the creator of the 13-figure Bob Hope tribute on display in San Diego.

Best Photo Gallery

Weston Gallery — North side of Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily - (831) 624-4453 - www.westongallery.com.

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 Art Gallery

Carmel Art Association — West side of Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-6176 - www.carmelart.org..

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 - www.sunsetcenter.org.

For decades, 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 center into a world-class facility. In January 2008, executive director Peter Lesnik took over the leadership of center, and he has specialized in bringing diverse and colorful acts to the theater, which is also home to the Carmel Bach Festival, the Monterey Symphony, Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Carmel Music Society. Dance Kids is back, too!

Best Place to Dance

Cibo Ristorante Italiano — 301 Alvarado St., Monterey - (831) 649-8151 - www.cibo.com.

Located in the heart of downtown Monterey, Cibo 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, it’s open until 1 a.m. Thursdays and until 1:30 a.m. weekends. Owned by Mario Catalano, Cibo also presents an extensive menu of new and old world cuisine, with a special emphasis on Italian favorites and local seafood.

Best Place to Listen to Music

River Inn — Highway 1 in Big Sur, 24 miles south of Carmel - (831) 667-2700 - www.bigsurriverinn.com.

Our readers agree there’s no better place to listen to live music than on the sun-drenched outside terrace at the Big Sur River Inn. Surrounded by towering redwoods and just a stone’s throw from a cool, refreshing dip in the river, the River Inn showcases some of Monterey County’s finest musicians on Sunday afternoons during the summer.

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
Best Place to Take Visitors
Monterey Peninsula’s Favorite Park

Point Lobos — West side of Highway 1 about 3 miles south of Carmel Valley Road - 8 a.m. to 30 min. after sunset - (831) 624-4909 - http://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us.

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 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, the course requires golfers to cross over the ocean on two signature holes, and the ocean comes into play on several others. 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 - (800) 654-9300 - www.pebblebeach.com.

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, and 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 again this year. 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, the Peter Hay par-three golf course and a 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 - www.cvaconline.com.

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. CVAC offers all-new cardio strength equipment, new spin bikes, aqua fitness, personal training, body sculpting, pilates and more. CVAC also has a tennis club that offers clinics and private lessons. The club also offers basketball, a lap pool and bocce, 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 and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - (831) 624-3871 - www.cypress-inn.com.

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 and afternoon tea ... 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 a 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

Bernardus Lodge — 415 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 658-3400 - www.bernardus.com.

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 - www.missionranchcarmel.com.

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).


RETAIL

Best Florist

Tiger Lily Florist — San Carlos and Seventh, Carmel - Mon. to Sat., 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 625-1029.

Located in the heart of downtown Carmel for more than 30 years, Tiger Lily Florist specializes in natural, garden-style arrangements. They’ve also earned a reputation for exceptional wedding work, from making bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages, to creating church decorations, centerpieces and cake flowers for receptions.

Best Furniture Store

Poppleton’s — 299 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sun. noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 649-3083 - www.poppletonshome.com.

A fine furniture and interior design store located in New Monterey, Poppleton’s offers an impressive inventory of beds, bookcases, chairs, chests, buffets, cocktail tables, desks, dining tables, lighting, rugs and sofas. They also feature a talented and helpful staff of designers eager to assist you.

Best Golf Shop

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 - www.worldwidegolfshops.com.

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

Best Hardware Store
Best Housewares Store
Best Garden Shop


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 - www.brintons.com.

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 Peninsula residents 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 - www.petco.com.

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 Camping/Skiing/Surfing store

REI — Imjin Parkway and Second, Marina - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 883-8048 - www.rei.com.

Featuring a dazzling array of gear, equipment and clothing for just about every imaginable recreational activity, REI is a one-stop shopping paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you’re backpacking in Big Sur, running along the beach in Carmel or preparing for a winter ski trip to Lake Tahoe, REI has everything you need to stay warm, dry and stylish.

Best Pharmacy

Carmel Drug Store — Ocean and San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (the pharmacy opens at 9 a.m.) — (831) 624-3819.

A full-service pharmacy that offers free delivery, Carmel Drug Store has been located in the heart of Carmel for nearly a century. The popular drug store also offers film, cameras, sunglasses, cosmetics, travel items, greeting cards and fine gift items.

Best Camera/Photo Store

Myrick Photographic — 598 Fremont St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — (831) 649-1900.

Located in downtown Monterey, Myrick Photographic offers an excellent selection of digital SLR cameras, digital point-and-shoot cameras, camcorders, printers, computers, scanners, lighting, tripods, stands, as well as thousands of performance-enhancing accessories. They also feature a knowledgeable staff that will help you find the right equipment.

Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys and Books — San Carlos and Seventh, 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 - www.thinkertoys.com.

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve seen the giant K’NEX 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

Heaven — Lincoln 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, leaves with something she really wants to wear.

Best Men’s Clothing Store

J. Lawrence Khaki’s — 3744 The Barnyard, Carmel - Mon. to Wed., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thu. to Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 - www.khakisofcarmel.com.

Opened 15 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 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 - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 624-5580; and 3630 The Barnyard, Carmel - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-2055 - www.hedi.com.

Hedi’s specializes 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 at Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (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 simultaneously chic, colorful and quintessentially Californian. All the staff treat you like you’re the most important person in the room!

Best Women’s Accessories

Two Sisters Designs — On the northwest corner of Monte Verde and Ocean, Carmel-by-the-Sea - Open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-1203 - www.twosisters1.freeservers.com.

Sisters Pat and Paula Hazdovac, the latter a longtime member of the Carmel City Council, recently moved their women’s accessories boutique to a dream location on Ocean Avenue. They’ve been in Carmel for 16 years, and they’ve earned a devoted local following for offering stylish women’s accessories like scarves, jewelry and hats at reasonable prices. “We really are two sisters,” Pat Hazdovac explained. “We make some of our items, and others we pick out one by one.”

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 - www.lloydsshoes.com.

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 - www.wilkesbashford.com

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, Valentino, Oscar de la 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/Donate Something You Haven’t Worn in Years

Yellow Brick Road — 26388 Carmel Rancho Lane, Carmel, 626-8480 - (831) 626-8480.

Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop has been described as “the best thrift store around” by one online reviewer. The store, in the Carmel Rancho, carries an eclectic assortment of used, vintage and consignment items for sale. “Designer threads are donated by the Carmel, Pebble Beach and Big Sur locals, and have usually been well cared for,” according to the reviewer. “The volunteer workers and staff are respectful, friendly and polite. An added bonus is that the proceeds benefit other charitable activities. Good work, ladies and gents!”

Best Jewelry Store

Hesselbein’s — 143 The Crossroads, Carmel - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sun., noon to 4:30 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

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

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 a while. In addition to anchor tenant Macy’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, not to mention Pottery Barn, Lalla Grill and Islands. 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

Robertson’s — Dolores and Seventh, Carmel - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-7517 - www.robertsonsantiques.com.

Robertson’s Antiques is one of Northern California’s most established antique shops offering unique merchandise. Owner Nick Robertson has extensive experience in the antiques market and has a wonderful selection of pieces available. Robertson’s also buys antiques and can purchase single items or entire estates.

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 - www.borders.com.

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
Best New Car

BMW of Monterey — 1 Geary Plaza, Seaside - Mon. to Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - 866) 681-6838 - www.bmwmonterey.com.

Long a favorite of luxury car aficianados, in recent years BMWs have also become known for their high-tech reliability. BMW of Monterey’s inventory includes new models, such as the BMW 1 Series, 3 Series Convertible, 6 Series Convertible, 7 Series Sedan, M3 Convertible and Z4 Roadster. BMW of Monterey’s factory-trained auto mechanics and technicians provide quality vehicle service and auto repair (lube jobs, tire rotations, clutch, brakes and more) with original BMW parts and accessories.

Best New Truck

Ford — Cypress Coast Ford-Lincoln-Mercury - #4 Geary Plaza, Seaside - Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 899-8300 - www.cypresscoastfordlm.dealerconnection.com.

Carmel Pine Cone readers think Ford is the best choice for trucks. From the Ranger, to the Super Duty 450, Ford builds tough trucks. On the Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Coast Ford- Lincoln-Mercury is the place to shop for new or used Fords. “From a new-car-buying perspective, I thought these guys were really nice and cool to work with,” one online reviewer recently wrote. “I shopped around in Santa Cruz, Salinas, Watsonville and Seaside and felt that these guys were the most interested in working with me. “

Best Gas Station

Carmel Shell — 7 Carmel Center Pl., Carmel - Mon. to Fri., 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. - (831) 625-3513.

Carmel motorists have several gas stations to choose from when fueling their vehicles, but Carmel Shell beat the others for Best Gas Station. The employees at Carmel Shell are friendly, and the gas prices are competitive with others in the area.

Best Car Wash

El Estero — 590 Fremont St., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-1801 - www.elesterocarwash.com.

El Estero Hand Car Wash has been serving the Monterey Peninsula’s motoring public for more than 50 years, and its owners 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

Apple — 240 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 647-4480.

Whether you’re in the market for an iPhone 3G, MacBook Pro laptop or just need some advice about running a program on your Apple computer, the Apple Store in Del Monte Center is the place to go. The Apple Store is more than just a retail shop. It’s Genius Bar offers super expert advice, insight and hands-on technical support from its resident “Geniuses.”

Best Carpet and Flooring Store

Bereman Carpets, Inc. — 1070 Del Monte Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - (831) 373-7759.

Bereman Carpets, Inc. has been serving the entire Monterey County area with distinction for years, and offers quality products and honest, dependable craftsmanship. Bereman offers a comprehensive selection of brands and products, including area rugs, carpeting, laminate, specialty and wood flooring, and flooring accessories.

Voting for the 2010 Golden Pine Cones will be conducted in late August and early September, with results announced Sept. 24, 2010.

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