Archive of 2013 email editions


The 2013 Golden Pine Cones

SINCE YOU read The Pine Cone, ipso facto you are a worldly sophisticate whose familiarity with the boutiques of the Left Bank and certainty about the best place to hire a gondola for a tour of the Grand Canal is exceeded only by your working knowledge of the best restaurants in Mumbai and Shanghai. 

And, on top of all that, you know whether the eggs benedict are better north or south of Ocean Avenue, whether you need to head over the hill to Monterey for a quick repair to your Jimmy Choos before you attend a function at Spanish Bay, the one place visitors to the Monterey Peninsula shouldn’t be allowed to miss, and where to go when you need to insure your new Tesla or have a filling repaired.

Want proof of your impressive expertise in local culture, cuisine, services, shopping and scenery? It’s right here in the list of winners of the 2013 Golden Pine Cones.

Whether you’re looking for a new restaurant for a night out, a great place for a family hike, or the best place to pick up some top-notch women’s accessories, our readers (including you) have the quality advice you’re looking for.

The results are from a poll conducted earlier this month of more than 12,000 subscribers to our email edition (to subscribe, go to

Our readers know what they’re talking about, and we make it difficult to stuff the ballot box, and that’s why our winners are the real thing. 

Before you start perusing, we’d like to remind you again how important it is to shop locally!


■ Best Neighborhood Market
■ Best Deli
■ Best Butcher

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

Readers have honored Bruno’s for six straight years, proving that this quintessential family-owned, neighborhood market is indeed a Carmel institution. Offering friendly service (including home delivery), a wide range of groceries, custom-cut meats and deli treats, Bruno’s is also a barbecue joint, with oak-scented specialties such as tri-trip, ribs, chicken and sausages. A go-to spot for picnickers and beachcombers, Bruno’s is a sandwich-lover’s dream, providing a myriad of side dishes along with a bevy of soft drinks from a wall-to-wall cold case. And the fresh meat case holds an inspired array of quality cuts, all managed by expert butchers.

■ Best Supermarket

Crossroads Safeway — The Crossroads Shopping Village, Rio Road and Highway 1 - open 24 hours - (831) 625-8820 -

Well organized, roomy and lavishly appointed, the Safeway at the mouth of Carmel Valley offers locals a full-service supermarket — and a place to gather, chat with friends and roam the expansive aisles. It’s become the go-to place for all the basics, as well as gourmet goods — including one of the best wine selections around (get 10 percent off each case). The store includes an olive bar, fresh bakery, salad bar, deli, bountiful produce aisles, and a Starbucks.

■ Best Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers Markets

A plethora of small family farms surrounding the Monterey Peninsula helps provide a variety of seasonal and year-round farmers markets with safe, fresh and sustainable produce. The largest market is held on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey on Tuesday from 4-8 p.m. (4 to 7 p.m. in winter). Monterey Peninsula College hosts a market on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Monterey Fairgrounds opens Gate 8 on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Grove enjoys an intimate Monday afternoon market on Central Avenue from 4 to 7 p.m. A seasonal market at The Barnyard at the mouth of the valley is held Tuesday mornings May through September, and the same group launched a seasonal market outside Whole Foods at Del Monte Center on Sunday mornings. The new kid on the block is the Thursday market at The Sunset Center parking lot (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

■ Best Organic Produce

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

When shoppers walk into Whole Foods Market, their eyes take in a visual feast of color, variety and freshness in the market’s grand produce section, much of it organic. Fresh fruits and vegetables grown without the use of long-lasting chemical pesticides and fertilizers have taken center stage at this natural foods company that started in 1980 in Austin, Texas. Focused on providing local and regional products, Whole Foods funds and creates awareness for local nonprofits.

■ Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads - (831) 626-3626; 598 Foam St., Monterey - (831) 646-0547 - hours vary by location -

Keeping seafood fresh is a difficult task, but Sea Harvest owner David and Tina Deyerly ensure their staff brings in the best — and stores it appropriately. “Our promise to you is to provide the freshest seafood available,” he says. For 27 years, Sea Harvest has purchased fish from healthy, sustainable fisheries to sell deliciously prepared in the restaurant, or fresh-wrapped from its well stocked case. The restaurant makes everything from scratch, and serves seafood in several preparations, along with a wide selection of Monterey County wines.

■ Best Wine Store/Section

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

This charming corner market has long cornered the market on wine offerings in downtown Carmel.

Owned and operated since 2009 by Tigran and Azniv Amirkhanian, the store boasts a cellar housing a 10,000-bottle collection that spans the globe (an online store makes browsing and buying more convenient). The market also offers wine sampling, and offers its own private wine label. To complement the wine, Nielsen Bros. sells a large selection of prepared foods, and can quickly wrap a gift basket filled with wine, cheese and fruit.

■ Best Bakery

Pavel’s Backerei — 219 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sat. - (831) 643-2636

Since 1997, Paul Wainscoat has produced some of the finest European breads and pastries on the Peninsula out of their cozy bakery off Pacific Grove’s main drag. Customers line up early for fresh-baked breads (baguettes, flaky croissants, olive twists, nine-grain loaves), mouthwatering pastries (cheese Danish, chocolate croissants, scones) and an Italian-style, filled doughnut called a Bomboloni. Lunchtime sandwiches are also popular, as are the chocolate-chunk cookies that sell out by early afternoon.

■ Best Catering Company

Paradise Catering — 24 W. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley - (831) 659-3417 –

For the last quarter century, Paradise Catering has created memorable culinary experiences using the finest fresh ingredients available. The husband-and-wife team of Jon Kasky and Nancy Rohan grow many of their ingredients on their 1-acre farm in the hills above Carmel Valley Village, including heirloom lettuces, tomatoes, squash, beans and edible flowers. It’s part of a business philosophy that sets a high standard in the local catering world. In the off-season, Kasky and Rohan travel the world and create menus for their clients based on inspiration from those trips.

■ Best Kitchen Shop

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

In 1972, the first Sur La Table opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and immediately serious cooks took delight in the store’s surprising selection of culinary tools from around the world. Today there are more than 100 stores across America, including one in the Carmel Plaza. From bakeware, to cutlery, to the ultimate gadgets, the store seems to have everything to help create a well stocked kitchen. The friendly and knowledgeable employees — and the fact they will even sharpen knives for you — top the list of reasons why Sur La Table is a locals’ favorite.

■ Best Tasting Room

Scheid Vineyards — Tasting Room at San Carlos and Seventh avenues, Carmel - noon to 7 p.m. daily - (831) 656-WINE (9463) -
With 10 estate vineyards in Monterey County spanning an array of soils and microclimates, Scheid Vineyards prides itself on being able to carefully select only the fruit it believes will make the finest wine possible. Its new tasting room in downtown Carmel was an instant hit, offering a comfortable, inviting spot to enjoy three different wine tasting flights, including Scheid’s popular reserve Pinot Noir tasting.

■ Best Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon
■ Best Monterey County Merlot

Galante Vineyards — 18181 Cachagua Road, Carmel Valley; tasting room at Dolores between Ocean and Seventh avenues, Carmel – noon to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3800 –

The philosophy at Galante Vineyards is simple: Grow the finest grapes possible and let the fruit express itself in the wine. Galante’s estate-grown grapes deep in Carmel Valley produce award-winning wines, most notably premier Cabernet Sauvignon and its deep ruby-red merlot, with its dry tannins, black pepper and a note of ripe cherry. The Galante family has a long history on the Peninsula. Owner Jack Galante’s great grandfather, J.F. Devendorf, founded Carmel.

■ Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Dawn’s Dream Winery — Tasting room at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday - (831) 659-2649 -

Dawn Galante has built her life on Henry David Thoreau’s belief that “Dreams are the touchstones of our character.” Dawn’s dream was to own her own winery, away from the shadow of her husband Jack’s successful Galante wine brand. The result is Dawn’s Dream, and she handles almost every aspect of the venture. The wife and mother of five specializes in Pinot Noir, and produces five different categories, sourcing grapes from Carmel Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and the Carneros region of Napa. All of the expressions of this grape are approachable, with luscious fruit, appropriate tannins and a lovely elegance.

■ Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc

Bernardus — Tasting room at 5 W. Carmel Valley Road - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. - (831) 659-1900 -

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery more than two decades ago, and it has won awards and accolades far and wine. Pine Cone readers have hung a figurative medal on the Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc as their favorite in that varietal. Bernardus offers two Sauvignon Blanc, one using Monterey County grapes, and other using the famous Musqué clone in the celebrated Griva Vineyard. Winemaker Dean DeKorth and his team turn those grapes into the purest expression of Sauvignon Blanc aromas and flavors.

■ Best Monterey County Chardonnay
■ My Favorite Monterey County Wine

Talbott Vineyards — Tasting Room at 1380 River Rd., Salinas, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thurs. to Mon. - 25 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon. - Fri., and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. (831) 675-0942 -

Robb Talbott — whose mother launched the Robert Talbott clothing company sewing silk neckties in her Carmel Valley home in 1950 — began making wine 30 years 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. Pine Cone readers love the Chardonnay, but they also voted Talbott their favorite Monterey County wine overall, dethroning Bernardus.

■ Best Family Restaurant

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

For more than 30 years, family-run Rosine’s has been one of Monterey’s gathering spot, where guests fuel up on coffee and eggs Benedict, fiesta salads and patty melts, and decadent desserts that topple many off the diet wagon. The restaurant draws its fair share of tourists at its charming location in the center of Old Monterey (especially for weekend breakfasts), but Rosine’s really hangs its hat on locals, especially families, who find themselves drawn to the classic menu and the homespun service.

■ Best French Restaurant

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

Since 1985, Fifi’s has been Monterey Peninsula’s more beloved restaurants, with its great success attributed to earning loyal customers who return for the French bistro-style restaurant’s quality and consistency. Elegant and well appointed, the bistro features a quaint French-country flair and a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. While Fifi’s is well known for its Moules Frites and Escargots de Bourgogne, it’s equally regarded for its exceptional wines. Fifi’s extensive list features everything from a $3 glass of house wine at lunch, to Grand Cru vintages from Burgundy, and the restaurant offers wine tasting on many weekends.

■ Best Chinese Restaurant

Tommy’s Wok — Mission between Ocean and Seventh - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tues. to Sun. - (831) 624-8518 –

Nearly every Carmelite has a copy of Tommy’s menu tucked in a drawer or tacked to a wall. The longtime hidden gem offers a quaint dining room, but Tommy’s is well known for its takeout line out the back door, as eager customers watch frenzied cooks laboring over spattering woks. Serving an irresistible menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties while maintaining consistent quality, it’s easy to see why Tommy’s has earned the everlasting devotion of locals.

■ Best Indian Restaurant

Ambrosia India Bistro— 565 Abrego St., Monterey - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. - (831) 641-0610 -

Hands down the best Indian restaurant on the Peninsula, Ambrosia offers a delectable mix of vegetarian specialties as well as chicken, lamb and seafood entrees. Chef Bhupender Singh has made his mark in Monterey, serving beautiful, authentically flavorful Indian food in an intimate atmosphere on Abrego Street. It has become a go-to place to enjoy lunch or dinner inside, or on the patio by the light of the outdoor fireplace. On weekdays, locals line up for Ambrosia’s irresistible — and bargain-priced — lunch buffet.

■ Best Italian Restaurant

Little Napoli — Dolores and Seventh - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 626-6335 -

Restaurateur Rich Pèpe embraces his Italian roots at Little Napoli, offering comfort food from Naples — while adding a little New Jersey attitude for fun. His Dolores Street eatery is lively and personable, with the kitchen cranking out Old World classics such as Veal “Osso Buco” Ravioli with porcini-cream reduction and roasted mushrooms. Want fish? How about the Cioppino Rosso? Pèpe’s expansive menu also includes several creative pizzas, sandwiches, salads and entrées.

■ Best Sushi

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

Offering authentic Japanese fare — including a mouth-watering mix of more than 150 varieties of fresh sushi and rolls, Sushi Heaven attracts a hungry crowd inside is cozy, intimate space. This is where sushi novices need to stray away from the California roll. Purists love the elegant sashimi paired with one of several sake selections, and being greeted by a hostess wearing a formal kimono.

■ Best Mediterranean Restaurant
■ Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Dametra Café — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel - 11 a.m. to 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. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, have reinvented the concept of hospitality, greeting customers warmly and treating them like family. This intimate, familial space fills up with warmth, music and love — and the occasional belly dance, and is a go-to, after-work spot for local chefs.

■ Best Mexican Restaurant

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel –11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat. to Sun. - (831) 625-2252 -

“Fill ’er up” is the familiar refrain at this rural roadhouse that serves up creative Mexican fare, exceptional margaritas and a festive atmosphere. The menu includes favorites such as Guadalajara Carnitas, Chile Verde en Molcajete and Teresa’s handmade tamales. With its vintage automobile memorabilia adorning the restaurant, the Cantina is a fun, friendly place to dine, catch up with friends, watch sporting events, or hang out on the patio, where local bands play frequently.

■ Best Thai Restaurant

Thai Bistro II — 159 Central Ave., Pacific Grove – 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily - (831) 372-8700 -

Bangkok natives Jill and Nicky Sriprayul have been bringing the exotic, captivating flavors of Southeast Asia to the Monterey Peninsula for nearly 20 years. There’s something for everyone at this converted house on Central Avenue. From the ubiquitous noodle dish pad Thai, to green papaya salad, to spicy curries, this shrine to flavor and authenticity packs them in for budget-friendly lunches and casual dinners.

■ Best Restaurant for Seafood

Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – From 5 p.m. daily – (831) 655-3311 –

Co-owned by wildly talented chef Ted Walter and his wife Cindy, a champion for ecology and sustainability, Passionfish has pleased palates and satisfied souls for years.  Sourcing ingredients from small farms and farmers markets and sustainable fisheries, Passionfish walks the walk as the Peninsula’s first certified green restaurant. Ted Walter does not shy away from flavor, preparing a wide variety of seafood, including the likes of sturgeon, sustainable shrimp, trout and striped bass, paired with eclectic, hard-to-find wines priced near retail.

■ Best Restaurant for Steak

The Whaling Station — 763 Wave St., Monterey – From 5 p.m. daily - (831) 373-3778 -

Classic steakhouse traditions live on at this shrine to fine beef above Cannery Row. Celebrity chef John Pisto takes his steak seriously, serving only USDA Prime, some of it dry-aged in the restaurant’s carefully monitored, glass-walled aging room. Diners can select their exact cut from a silver tray, or prime rib from an antique 1930s carving trolley, or watch their Caesar salad tossed tableside. The popular bar area seats 60 guests, and has its own menu, highlighted by Pisto’s signature open-faced steak sandwich.

■ Best Restaurant For Vegetarians

Tillie Gort’s Café — 111 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 373-0335 -

Since it was founded in 1969 by Gil Tortolani — the restaurant’s namesake — Tillie Gort’s has been the Monterey Peninsula’s indisputable favorite for vegetarian food. Two fresh soups are offered daily, and the cafe’s menu is filled with vegetarian, vegan and organic options (including gluten-free cakes for dessert). There’s also plenty on the menu for non-vegetarians in this warm, wood-trimmed, coffeehouse atmosphere.

■ Best Appetizers
■ Best Happy Hour

Vesuvio —  Sixth and Junipero, Carmel – 4-10 p.m. daily, 4-6 p.m. happy hour – (831) 625-1766 -

Rich Pepe gives modern diners exactly what they want — a comfortable, convivial spot where friends can gather (especially during Happy Hour) to share appetizers and clink creative cocktails. Whether in the downstairs restaurant/lounge or upstairs at the Starlight Lounge, diners discover a multitude of options on an appetizer-laden menu. Create your own caprese salad at the mozzarella bar, share a salumi plate, pass around meatball lollipops or indulge in Harry’s Bar-inspired carpaccio … for starters. And Carmel’s best Happy Hour includes a variety of small bites and drinks in the $5 to $6 range.

■ Best BBQ

Henry’s BBQ — 401 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. - (831) 646-6999 -

Henry’s stands as one of the few true barbecue joints left standing on the Peninsula. Locals love the mounded plates of tender, juicy, flavorful meats, including ribs, tri-tip, chicken, pulled pork or pork loin. A common starter is the plate of pork riblets glazed with Henry’s special honey BBQ sauce. Meals here come with beef and bean chili, potato salad or macaroni salad, cole slaw, green salad or French fries and Bert’s Bacon-Cheese Bread or garlic bread.

■ Best Burger

r.g. Burgers — 201 The Crossroads, Carmel, and 570 Munras Ave., Monterey (next to Trader Joe’s) – 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. - (831) 626-8054, (831) 372-4930 -

R.G. stands for Real Good … and there is not a hint of false marketing there. Hand-formed and char-grilled, the burgers come with béarnaise or secret house sauce, bleu cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions, a dollop of guacamole (the choices seem infinite). Carnivores can choose ground beef, turkey, bison or chicken. Vegetarians relax, because r.g. makes a mean falafel burger with all the trimmings, and salads abound. What’s more, the milkshakes are made with four scoops of real ice cream. Enough said.

■ Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth - 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily - (831) 624-0199 -

Katy’s Place has been a Carmel tradition since 1982, proving to residents and visitors alike that breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, but the tastiest as well. The menu is laden with specialties, starting with 16 varieties of eggs Benedict. Or try one of the eight sinful waffles, including Katy’s signature Belgian. Owner Randall Bernett also offers blintzes with fresh berries, Swedish pancakes, corned beef brisket hash and Miss Audrey’s biscuits and gravy, just to name a few. And if you don’t rise until noon, no worries, Katy’s serves breakfast daily until 2 p.m.

■ Best Coffee
■ Best Coffeehouse

Carmel Valley Roasting Co. (six locations) — Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde, Carmel (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. to Thurs., 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. - (831) 626-2913); 246 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel (6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. - (831) 626-8784); 3720 The Barnyard, Carmel (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sun. - (831) 620-0844); 319 Mid Valley Center, Carmel (6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sat.-Sun. - (831) 622-0787); 510 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove (6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily - (831) 920-1663); East Village Coffee Lounge, 498 Washington St., Monterey (6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. - (831) 373-5601) – -

The only certified-organic coffee roaster on the Monterey Peninsula, CVRC co-owners Dean and Janet McAthie have hit on a winning formula. Led by roast master Tina Muia, the company slow roasts Arabica beans in one of two 25-pound San Franciscan batch roasters. Its signature blend is Organic Carmel Foglifter, served in each of its six coffeehouses (four in Carmel).

■ Best Desserts

Pastries and Petals — Mission Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, Carmel – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Sat., 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sun. - (831) 620-1400

Carmel’s only in-house bakery calls itself a “culinary boutique,” each day creating at least a few dozen fresh items to satisfy any sweet tooth. From the warm, sticky pull-apart pastry that oozes caramel and icing, to the pumpkin doughnuts or the chocolate, salted, caramel shortbread, the tiny shop comes alive each morning, and also satisfies the lunch crowd. Owner Jeanne Johnston bakes everything fresh, and adds a dose of whimsy to some of the offerings. (How about a bacon waffle, with chunks of the meaty goodness baked inside the batter?)

■ Best Ice Cream

Cold Stone Creamery — 1470 Del Monte Center, Monterey – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 649-1346 –

For more than 25 years this American-based ice cream parlor chain has served ice cream, cakes, smoothies and shakes to an adoring public. But the signature process of preparing customized ice cream creations on a frozen granite stone is what really turns heads. Popular mix-ins include fresh fruit, caramel, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter, cake and candy. At the Monterey store, lines often form out the door, especially after movies let out at nearby Century Cinemas at Del Monte Center.

■ Best Pizza

Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria — 3770 The Barnyard - 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 626-5454 -

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.” The pies get most of the attention, but the kitchen also cranks out fresh salads, pasta, panini and other Italian favorites. A new wine bar offers sips and samples, and retail deals on fine bottles.
■ Best Fast Food

Chipotle Mexican Grill — 500 Del Monte Center, Monterey; 2140 California Ave., Sand City - Mon. to Sun., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (DMC) and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sand City) - (831) 899-1096 (DMC) and (831) 641-9353 (Sand City) -

It may be fast food, but it’s good food: fresh, high-quality ingredients, humanely raised meats and abundant portions, all for decent prices. Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle in the site of a former Dolly Madison ice cream shop in Colorado in 1995 and has since expanded the chain promising “food with integrity.” Best known for its burritos, which could easily feed two, Chipotle also offers burrito bowls, salads, crispy and soft tacos, and chips and guacamole. And it’s expanding, with a soon-to-open store next to Trader Joe’s in Monterey.

■ Best Buffet
■ Best Brunch
■ Best Outdoor Dining

Mission Ranch — 26270 Dolores St. - From 5 p.m. daily, Sunday Jazz Brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - (831) 624-6436 -

Former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood bought this rustic property in 1986 and restored the ranch-style buildings to their original integrity. Hugely popular with steak lovers, jazz fans and those who adore the pastoral view on the back deck, Mission Ranch also puts on one of the finest brunches on the Peninsula. The Sunday Jazz Brunch starts with a glass of bubbly, and includes a salad station, main dishes such as eggs Benedict and whole baked salmon, an omelet station, carving station, classic breakfast dishes and desserts. And need we mention that the piano bar is a perennial favorite among locals with songs in their hearts? Now and then, a real pro shows up and the lively bar scene becomes a concert, and once in a while, Clint is there, too. The deck is equipped with heaters for those chilly Peninsula evenings and offers sweeping views of pastures with grazing sheep, the lagoon and arc of white sand framing Carmel River Beach.

■ Most Romantic Restaurant
■ Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
■ Best Wine List

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

Established in 1977 by the multitalented Georis family, Casanova combines old-world elegance and hospitality with culinary innovation, led by executive chef Johnny DeVivo. Sitting in the footprint of the vintage Aunt Fairy Bird’s House, the now-expanded restaurant has created a much-copied “Casanova style,” combining romance, whimsy and an eye for detail. Diners can choose to sit in the original dining room, the covered garden patio or a variety of other hidden rooms. The restaurant’s legendary wine list has won the Grand Award from Wine Spectator numerous times. It is deeply varied and a point of pride for the wine-savvy Georis family (Walter also owns Georis Winery in Carmel Valley).

■ Best New Restaurant

La Balena — Junipero Ave. – Lunch & Small Bites, Thurs. to Sun. 11:30 am to 3:30 p.m., Dinner, Tues. to Sun. 5 to 10 p.m. - (831) 250-6295 -

Tucked into a courtyard where others have gone before, Emanuele and Anna Bartolini’s La Balena Cucina Toscana is intent on sustainability, both in the community and in its sourcing of fresh, local fare. The restaurant, whose name means “The Whale” but sounds more romantic in Italian, offers a daily seasonal menu based on local ingredients and hand-crafted pasta. The newcomer to town has proved most popular for its spare, artisanal setting of reclaimed, refinished and reupholstered furnishings, as well as its “farm-to-table” style little bites and full meals. With a provenance at New York’s famed Del Posto, as well as Carmel’s Cantinetta Luca and Salumeria Luca, Emanuele’s reputation precedes him, while Anna’s aesthetic as a designer has created the rustic, welcoming atmosphere at this best new restaurant.

■ Best Place to Take Clients  

Rio Grill — 101 Crossroads Blvd. – Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., brunch, Sun. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner from 4 until 10 p.m. Sun. to Thurs. and 4 to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 625-5436 -

It may be the service or the setting, where southwestern flair meets southwestern flavor at Rio Grill restaurant, a favorite place to de-stress and impress. In a fusion of art and artisanal ingredients, the colorful décor complements the cuisine by chef Cy Yontz. His appetizers are such culinary art projects that some guests make a meal out of many. Consider the Dungeness crab cakes, Castroville artichoke, bacon-wrapped scallop bruschetta or a haystack of super-thin crisp onion rings, and you might just not have room for the main course. Don’t miss the pumpkin seed-crusted salmon or baby back ribs and a basket of skinny fries with aioli sauce. Pair it with a glass of wine, and save room for the pie.

■ Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant
■ Best Place to Listen to Music  

Cypress Inn - east side of Lincoln Street north of Seventh Ave. - lunch, noon to 4 p.m., afternoon tea, 1 to 4 p.m., dinner, 5 to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3871 -

When the inn is located in one of the world’s foremost canine communities, and owned by dog devotee Doris Day, there will be room at the inn and a place at the table for your pet. Enjoy lunch, dinner, cocktails or afternoon tea at Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge, accompanied by your faithful furry friend. The specialty lunch menu includes crab cakes, served with orange and Grand Marnier cranberry chutney; and the Cypress Burger, topped with Gruyere cheese. Dinner features full entrees and tapas made from fresh, local ingredients, and afternoon tea features a selection of homemade scones with jam and thick cream, cookies, sandwiches, cakes, and Mighty Leaf teas. Dogs dine from their own tea tray of delectable doggie treats.

■ Best Restaurant in Carmel

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine — Sixth and Mission, Carmel – Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 624-6562 —

In 1998 Kurt Grasing created his signature restaurant and immediately began racking up awards, including a feature in Bon Appétit magazine’s Best of the Year issue (“Grasing’s turns local ingredients into inspired cuisine,” it wrote). Fast-forward 15 years, and Grasing’s contemporary menu and attention to detail still combine to win hearts and stomachs everywhere. Grasing has a deft touch with seafood, and the restaurant is also renowned as a carnivore’s choice, serving USDA Prime steaks, including a 16-ounce, bone-in rib-eye, milk-fed veal chop and a Prime-natural New York. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, Grasing’s has also expanded its space to create a lively bar and lounge area with its own menu.

■ Best Restaurant in Big Sur

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

The story begins with the marriage of actor Orson Wells and ends with one of the best burgers in the county. In 1944, Welles bought a redwood log cabin, built by the Trotter brothers and intended to be his hideaway from Hollywood, with bride Rita Hayworth. But the marriage was brief, and the cabin was purchased by Bill and Lolly Fasset to create Nepenthe, a roadside café intended to secure the livelihoods of generations to come. The restaurant remains the family legacy and one of the most popular and scenic spots in Big Sur. If you want to partake of its history during the hippie era, be sure to catch Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in “The Sandpiper” some time on Netflix. (Weren’t the ’60s embarrassing?) In our more civilized era, you can stop by to listen to music, dance on the patio, ponder the ubiquitous ocean and gormandize on the legendary Ambrosia Burger. Don’t forget the basket of fries.

■ Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley  

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

Café Rustica’s charming simplicity is complemented by an extensive menu that melds the best of California and Mediterranean cuisine. Rustic refers to casual, unfussy and full of country élan. Which doesn’t mean you can’t dress up. The fresh local produce and housemade soups, thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas and unique pastas make owner Julien Belliard’s restaurant one of the busiest in the valley. Eat indoors or in the warmth of a heated patio table.

■ Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach  

Roy’s — The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17 Mile Drive - breakfast, lunch and dinner daily - (831) 647-7423 -
Anywhere it’s served, Hawaiian-fusion cuisine creates a festival of flavor. And celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi is known for his culinary innovation and pairing of tantalizing flavors at this sophisticated Pebble Beach restaurant. Fresh seafood is most prominent on the menu, such as sushi, sashimi, blackened ahi and crab-crusted sea bass, but Roy’s ginger-scallion encrusted New York Steak and charred garlic honey-mustard beef short ribs remain in demand. The atmosphere is contemporary and casual, ideal for intimate dining or big celebration, where every age is the in crowd. Right up till sunset, the views of the shoreline and golf course complement the cuisine and the culture at Roy’s. Chef Pablo Mellin is a true local treasure, not only for his amazing food, but for his great smile.

■ Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove  

Fandango — 223 17th Street - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. until closing, daily - 831-372-3456 -

A warren of dining rooms accommodates large parties or dinner for two, and the extensive Mediterranean menu has something for everyone. Particularly popular are the Croque Monsieur souffle style, cassoulet, and paella with lamb. And the decadent desserts are de riguer. Pierre and Marietta Bain’s Fandango restaurant is a longtime favorite for its welcoming atmosphere, fresh food and extensive wine list. Testament to the Bains’ conviviality are their dedicated staff and regular customers, who feel like family at Fandango.

■ Best Restaurant in Monterey  

Montrio — 414 Calle Principal - 4:30 to 10 p.m. nightly, and until 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 648-8880 -

For five years in a row, chef and co-owner Tony Baker has made Montrio Pine Cone readers’ favorite restaurant in Monterey by constantly keeping his menu fresh. Retaining old favorites while deftly applying his creative touch and love of rich, bold food, Chef Baker crafts his savory bacon-wrapped prawns, bacon & egg salad, and crispy brie, while working with sustainable seafood. Pair creative cuisine with European and American influences, add a historical Monterey firehouse and a fabulous bar, and introduce exceptional service, and you have a small bistro with big-city ambiance, making it Monterey’s favorite for all occasions.

■ Best Restaurant in Sand City

Sweet Elena’s — 465 Olympia Ave. - (831) 393-2063 – Mon. to Fri.7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Closed Sun. –

Just off the main drag, amidst a warren of warehouses in a tracery of side streets, the bakery café is most easily found by breathing in. Spare, with its cement floors and simple furniture complemented by bright colorful art, the café offers succulent fruit pies and tarts made with local Meyer lemons; cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Savor vegetable or chicken and chard galettes, or spinach and mushroom quiche. Taste fresh granola made with Amen bee honey, crisp biscotti with anise, and star cookies filled with raspberry jam. You owe it to yourself to experience Elena Salsedo-Steele’s artisan bakery, where everything is made from scratch and enjoyed fresh. Just don’t show up hoping to have a Sunday brunch.

■ Best Restaurant in Seaside

Fishwife — 789 Trinity Ave. at Fremont - lunch and dinner daily - (831) 394-2027 -

Some people love this restaurant just because of the air-popped potatoes, but at Fishwife, the chef focuses on sustainable seafood, offering “California cuisine with a Caribbean accent.” Daily specials feature the local fresh catch and seasonal fish, including Monterey Bay sand dabs, salmon, mahi mahi, halibut, swordfish and sea bass. Salinas Valley produce and fresh house-made desserts complete the meal. The atmosphere is colorful and casual, prices are reasonable, and friendly servers contribute to a warm and welcoming ambiance.

■ Best Restaurant Service  

Marinus — Bernardus Lodge, 415 W. Carmel Valley Road - Wed. to Sun., 6 to 9 p.m. - (831) 658-3595 -

With executive chef Cal Stamenov in the kitchen, the food is as special as the setting in this elegant dining room at Bernardus Lodge. Yet the experienced, attentive staff makes the occasion truly special. Wine director Mark Buzan offers expert advice, while the warm and welcoming wait staff creates a pleasant atmosphere. Named for lodge owner Bernardus Marinus Pon, the restaurant carries his signature sophistication and elegance. Whether you’re staying at the Lodge or just in for the evening, Marinus is a popular special-occasion restaurant. The more casual restaurant on the premises, Wickets, is also perfect for a sunny-day lunch on the patio.


■ Best Local Artist

Johnny Apodaca –

Johnny Apodaca’s sense of the landscape likely evolved from having seen much as a child. Born to a military father, he grew up all over the world, his vantage influenced by brief stays in many places. Yet 20 years ago, during a summer foray, he was drawn to the Peninsula from San Antonio, Texas, where he had studied art at the institute at McNay Art Museum. He stayed. “This area has such a great sense of place,” Apodaca says. “I don’t need to go anywhere else.  There is plenty in the landscape to keep me busy here. It’s a painter’s paradise whose legacy and tradition continue through my work and others’. I do believe my mission is not merely to continue the past, but to contribute a new and enduring link to it.”

■ Best Photo Gallery 

Weston Gallery — north side of Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tues. to Sun. - (831) 624-4453 –

Known as the Father of Photography, Edward Weston used to look at the light and then go out shooting with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and a few other familiars to see what they could make of the intimacy of the moment in the “greatest meeting of land and sea.” In the community where it essentially all began with the pioneering image maker, what better place than the gallery that bears his name to learn about the impact a handful of local photographers made in the world of fine art. In addition to presenting the work of the senior Weston and his sons, Cole and Brett, the gallery features the photographs of Ansel Adams, the late Carmel Highlands resident who may be the most famous of all fine art photographers.

■ Best Sculpture Gallery  

Dawson Cole Fine Art – Corner of Lincoln & Sixth – (800) 972-5528 –,

Before Michelangelo sculpted David, he drew him, many times, inspired by his strength and courage, his heart and his hands, and then studied him, in all his forms that had come before. “Anatomy is but one element,” says world-renowned figurative sculptor Richard MacDonald. “My intent is to render things to the point of expression and, hopefully, not go one moment beyond. When you walk out of my gallery, I want you to feel the level of excellence, the honesty and integrity, and the emotion of each sculpture; the single thread that moves through them.” MacDonald’s works are featured at one of Carmel’s most distinctive galleries, Dawson Cole Fine Art, which is just north of the Harrison Memorial Library.

■ Best Art Gallery  

Carmel Art Association — West side of Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-6176 -

On an afternoon in August, 19 members of Carmel’s artistic community met in the living room of “Gray Gables,” home of Josephine Culbertson and Ida Johnson, to establish what has become the second-oldest art cooperative in the country. The Carmel Art Association was founded in 1927 to advance the knowledge of and interest in art, and create a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between artists and the community. Featuring an impressive roster of more than 120 local and regional artists, the art association displays a wide variety of styles and media, and changes its exhibits monthly.

■ Best Concert Venue  

Sunset Center — San Carlos between Eighth and 10th - (831) 620-2048 -

What was built in the 1920s as a grammar school has become a world-class concert hall. For decades, Sunset Center has been at the heart of Carmel’s thriving performing arts scene, yet a $21.4 million renovation in 2002 elevated the status of the facility to an exceptional venue. Managing director Christine Sandin, who took the helm in 2011, has specialized in bringing diverse and colorful acts to the theater, also home to the Carmel Bach Festival, the Monterey Symphony, Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Carmel Music Society. The center also presents various local arts programs, among them Classroom Connections, which promotes the arts in local schools. The center also is home to Carmel Yoga Center, the Arts Council for Monterey County, and the Center for Photographic Art.

■ Best Movie Theater  

Cinemark Monterey 13 — 1700 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey - (831) 373-8051 -

With 13 theaters, there’s a good chance your movie is playing, and there’s still a seat above the front row. When it was determined that outdated couldn’t be sufficiently updated, the movie theater at Del Monte Shopping Center became a furniture store, and the center started over with this 13-theater complex, opened in 2004. Now, movie lovers don’t have to leave town to enjoy stadium seating, high-tech sound and even digital projection. Audiences can even order tickets online and print them at home, but you still have to stand in line at the refreshment stand which is more like a food court, with fresh popcorn, ice cream, a candy store, hot dogs and beverages.

■ Best Place to Dance

Sly McFly’s — 700 Cannery Row, Monterey – 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. – (831) 649-8050 -

A popular watering hole known more for its blues and other rhythms that make people get up and dance, the name doesn’t make sense unless you know the tragic tale. As the story goes, Sly McFly was raised by Maggie McFly, a madam at an elite Nob Hill saloon in San Francisco, until he left home to compete in European racecar driving. Yet to secure a win, he placed second at a Trophy Race in Ulster, Ireland, and seemed most disappointed at missing out on the winner’s rose and kiss from beautiful modern dancer Isadora Duncan. Later, after he survived a spectacular crash, Duncan flew to his side, launching a tragic courtship. When driving through the countryside in McFly’s 1929 Ulster, Duncan flung her long, trailing scarf round her neck with dramatic flair, and it promptly caught and wove itself into the spokes of the Ulster’s rear left wheel. Sly McFly didn’t race for a year. More than 80 years later, his infamous racing career is immortalized in prints and paraphernalia throughout the namesake nightclub.  

■ Best Local Music Group (classical)

Monterey Symphony Orchestra — 2560 Garden Road, Suite 101, Monterey - (831) 646-8511 -

“The Monterey Symphony is a unique orchestra, most notably because of the quality of its performances, comparable to the leading orchestras in California and because of the anticipation surrounding each of the concerts,” says music director and conductor Max Bragado-Darman. “I am proud of the artistic excellence of our musicians and the product we achieve together. I urge everyone to come see what all the excitement is about. Our orchestra is the gem of the Central Coast of California and I feel privileged to be its artistic leader.” Not only is the orchestration exceptional, but the seasonal selection of performance pieces, paired with renowned guest musicians, makes for a world-class experience and a wonderful night out. The 2013-14 season promises memorable performances of the greatest works for piano and orchestra.

■ Best Local Music Group (rock, jazz and pop)

The Money Band — 316 Mid Valley Center - (858) 752-3590 -

You’ve just got to get up and dance! When word gets out that The Money Band is playing, customers turn into crowds, creating standing room only, which is OK, since no one wants to sit down. Perhaps the most popular cover band on the Peninsula, fronted by dynamic lead vocalist Zoe Alexander, The Money Band plays every style from country to classic rock, disco to funk, reggae to modern rock and plenty of pop. We’re putting our money on this one. Apparently, so is everyone else.

■ Best Place to Take Visitors

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

Since it opened in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has transformed not only the entire Cannery Row district — from a decaying neighborhood filled with the wreckage of its sardine-packing past into a thriving tourist destination — but also the entire Monterey Peninsula, which has become a must-see vacation stop for millions of families in the United States and around the world. From its massive deep-ocean tank, to its sea otters, jelly fish and stingrays, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world. But Pine Cone readers love to take visitors there not only for its artful and authentic displays of sea life, but also for the way the aquarium weaves local history and ecology into its many exhibits.

■ My Favorite Park
■ Best Hiking Trail

Point Lobos State Reserve — West side of Highway 1 about three miles south of Carmel Valley Road, Carmel - 8 a.m. to 30 min. after sunset - (831) 624-4909 -

Point Lobos reportedly inspired the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Established as a state reserve in 1933, it has since become a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Noted for its dramatic, rocky coastline and dense groves of Monterey pines and Monterey cypress, the park features miles of walking paths that lead to stunning sea 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 pays tribute to its fascinating legacy as a whaling center, and also has some interesting exhibits about Hollywood movies made in the area.

■ Best Local Festival

Carmel Bach Festival — Offices at the NW Corner of Tenth & Mission - (831) 624-1521 -

For 76 years, Carmel-by-the-Sea has hosted its world-class Bach Festival, which plays into the rhythms of community life throughout a couple of weeks in July. Classical music by Johann Sebastian Bach and by Johann Christian Bach, his eleventh child and youngest son, as well as a host of other classical composers — Haydn, Handel, Telemann, Mozart, Beethoven, Corelli, Schubert and Vivaldi — emanates from the Sunset Theater, Church in the Forest, San Carlos Cathedral, Carmel Mission and All Saints’ Church. The festival, which continues to create an alchemy of traditional and progressive approaches to classical music, remains the favorite festival among townspeople and tourists.

■ Best Church-Sponsored Event

Jewish Food Festival  — Congregration Beth Israel - 5716 Carmel Valley Rd. – (831) 624-2015 –

People wait all year for a taste of rugelach — that small swirl of flaky pastry wrapped round chocolate or cinnamon and sugar. Or freshly made latkes, homemade challah bread, and the creamiest cheesecake west of New York. Every year, on the last Sunday in August, a village springs up on the grounds of Congregation Beth Israel, conjuring the fictional 1905 Anatevka from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Represented by traditional Jewish costumes and rituals, music and dance, food and drink, the village harkens congregants to their heritage and the culture that reminds them who they are and what they represent.
■ Best Place To Watch The Sunset
■ Best Place to Walk Your Dog
■ Best Beach  

Carmel Beach — Foot of Ocean Ave. and west side of Scenic Road.

The cypress-sheltered shore features less fog and wind than most nearby beaches, making it an ideal location to take in the striations of sunlit skies, and then wait and watch for the signature green flash just as the sun sinks into the horizon. Carmel Beach is everything the postcard promised. The arc of white sand framing the flat or frothy sea is the envy of beachgoers all over the world. Located just down the hill from town and in the lee of Pebble Beach, it offers a generous slice of California coastline that reaches from Carmel Point to the scenic greens of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.

■ Best Fitness/Health Center

Carmel Valley Athletic Club — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sat. to Sun., 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-2737 -

Offering some of the Peninsula’s finest resources for fitness and relaxation, Carmel Valley Athletic Club is home to tennis, pool and gym facilities, dining amenities, and a “Kids Klub.” Along with these signature features, CVAC’s most recent addition is Refuge, a relaxation spa that has been reviewed as “truly magical.”

■ Best Martial Arts Studio

American Karate — 182 Country Club Gate Shopping Center, Pacific Grove - 3:30 to 9 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Sat. - 
(831) 372-KICK (5425) -

American Karate specializes in children’s programs, but has a full complement of classes for adults as well. Owner Matt Durney offers a free trial week for all karate and kickboxing classes. Beginners welcome: Build strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination and character!

■ Best Yoga Studio

The Yoga Center of Carmel — Tenth and San Carlos - open 7 days, call for hours - (831) 624-4949 -

Director Kathleen Karachale and her staff of certified instructors offer daily classes, weekend workshops and training for teachers. She says the key to the studio’s success is “respecting that each individual is unique,” and providing a range of practice styles to benefit a diverse body of clients.

■ Best Bicycle Shop  

Bay Bikes — 3600 The Barnyard Shopping Center, and 585 Cannery Row, Monterey – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Thurs., Fri. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-RIDE (7433) -

The sun is out, the air is calm and the fog is at bay — ideal conditions for a bike ride, if only yours were ready to roll. Bring your bike to Bay Bikes retail and rental shop or rent one there. Everyone else does. With the shop fronting the first stretch of what will become the Carmel Hill and River Bicycle Trail, the shop is well positioned to serve cyclists on the move. The business is an official showroom for Specialized Bicycles, the Morgan Hill company that created the world’s first mass-produced mountain bike.

■ Best Dive Shop

Aquarius Dive Shop — 2040 Del Monte Ave., Monterey – (831) 375-1933 – Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. -

Approved as a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) 5-Star Instructor Development Center, Aquarius Dive Shop offers recreational dive training for beginning, open-water levels up through PADI IDC Staff Instructor, including Specialty and EFR instructors.  Established in 1970, Aquarius, the Latin name for “water carrier,” is as close as we get to Poseidon, ruler of the sea and protector of those who dive in. The shop is known for its commitment to “provide thorough, safe and enjoyable dive training, in full compliance with all PADI training standards.”
■ Best Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Links — 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Hours vary by season - (831) 622-8723 -
Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the Pebble Beach Golf Links hug the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliffside fairways and sloping greens. Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique dynamics of the course have challenged and thrilled golfers and their spectators. The famed course has been the site of some of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and the 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000, 2010 and upcoming 2019 U.S. Open Championships. Pebble Beach Golf Links also include chipping and putting greens, the Peter Hay par-3 golf course and a practice range.

■ Best Museum

Monterey Museum of Art — 559 Pacific St., Monterey - Wed. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 372-5477 -

Located in the center of Old Monterey, the Monterey Museum of Art is the county’s epicenter of American artwork. Along with eight different galleries, the museum has a reference library and gift shop, along with its sister location for temporary exhibits at 720 Via Mirada.

■ Best Local Theater Company

PacRep Theatre — Monte Verde and Eighth - (831) 622-0100 (box office) -

For yet another year, Pacific Repertory Theatre continues its mastery of the works of Shakespeare and great playwrights alike. It is, after all, the only professional theater on the Monterey Peninsula. The company is showcasing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” until Oct. 20.

■ Best Hotel

Monterey Plaza Hotel — 400 Cannery Row, Monterey - (831) 646-1700 -

Monterey Plaza Hotel provides luxury rooms and suites, fine dining and a spa, all with sweeping views of the Monterey Bay. These amenities, along with its convenient location on Cannery Row, make this Forbes Four-Star Award winner a top choice for any visitor to the Monterey Peninsula.

■ Most Dog-Friendly Hotel
■ Best Inn

Cypress Inn — Lincoln and Seventh - (831) 624-3871 -

It is unsurprising that Cypress Inn is again the favorite destination for dog lovers. Carmel’s most famous hotel encourages owners to bring their pet companions everywhere from the cozy parlor to Terry’s, the in-house bar and lounge. Along with a love for animals, Cypress Inn is committed to sustainability and environmental conservation; the hotel participates in the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch as well as “an extensive recycling program.”


■ Best Florist

Twigery — Seventh Ave. between Lincoln and Dolores - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 626-8944 -

Heralded as “The most amazing floral design studio I have ever seen!” by one happy patron, Twigery continues to enchant Carmelites and visitors alike. With all designs created by owner Michael Merritt, the shop offers flower arrangements to suit every occasion, as well as private floral design classes.

■ Best Furniture Store

Mum’s Place — 246 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sun., 12 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-6250 -

Mum’s Place has been a Pacific Grove institution for over 27 years. The shop offers furniture from 80 different manufacturers in 5,000 different fabrics, with dedicated interior designers to ensure all customers make the perfect choice. Its smaller outpost, Mum’s Cottage, is located at Lighthouse and 15th.

■ Best Golf Shop

Pebble Beach Pro Shop — 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. - (831) 622-8723 -

The Pebble Beach Pro Shop is the place to begin when heading out for a day on the course. Along with several staffers who will help you arrange tee times, the shop offers clothing, clubs and other equipment to prepare you for the Pebble Beach golf experience.

■ Best Hardware Store

Knapp Hardware — Mission and Eighth - Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat., 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 624-8231

Knapp is the local go-to for all things hardware. Despite its tiny size and shop-around-the-corner friendliness, Knapp is fully equipped to service your hardware needs: The store offers tools, plumbing and electrical materials, plywood, and cabinet, shuttering and countertop supplies.

■ Best Housewares Store

Sur La Table — Carmel Plaza - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6433 -

Stocked with the full spectrum of cooking and dining wares — from every sort of spatula, bowl, baking mix and cookbook, to state-of-the-art coffee machines and high-end knives — Sur La Table beckons customers with its knowledgeable staff and a bustling atmosphere.

■ Best Craft-Knitting-Quilting Shop

Beverly’s Fabric and Crafts — 2090 North Fremont Street, Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 646-5141 -

With the countless quaint shops in Carmel and Pacific Grove, it may come as a surprise that an enormous craft emporium near the Monterey Fairgrounds is a local favorite. Despite its 18 locations around California, Beverly’s — owned by none other than Beverly herself — has been the longtime favorite of many Peninsula crafters. With products ranging from fabrics and yarn, to beads and stamps, the store charms creative individuals of all ages.

■ Best Pet Store

Diggidy Dog — Ocean and Mission - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-1585 -

Diggidy Dog is once again the preferred boutique for Carmel’s well loved canines and felines. What pet doesn’t deserve a chance to browse walls hung with colorful collars and matching leashes, select a plushy new toy, or investigate some handmade treats at the full-service “biscuit bar?”

■ Best Garden Shop

Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-0680 -

Griggs Nursery believes local is best, and its many patrons certainly agree. For more than 37 years, the nursery has offered a plethora of plants and pottery sourced from local farmers and craftsmen. Still a family-owned institution, Griggs is just as committed to its wares as it is to customer service and gardening know-how.

■ 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 -

REI is a frequent stop for outdoorsy Peninsula locals. Located in Marina, REI is extensive in size and in the range of goods it offers. Test out one of the sample tents or a pair of new running shoes, then browse sleeping bags, water bottles and fleece jackets before packing up for your next camping trip or hike. You’ll see that a visit is worth the extra drive.

■ Best Place to Buy Athletic Equipment

Sports Authority — 905 Playa Ave., Sand City - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sun., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 899-1436 -

Stocked with well known activewear brands, such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, Sports Authority makes getting out on the field or stepping into the gym much easier. Sports equipment, shoes, apparel, bags, exercise mats, weights and more greet customers inside, as well as an excellent rewards program that will keep you coming back for more.

■ Best Pharmacy

CVS – 6 The Crossroads, Carmel;  686 Lighthouse Ave. (open 24 hours) and 2170 Fremont, Monterey –– Store: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Pharmacy: Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sat. to Sun., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-0148 -

Since replacing Longs Drugs in The Crossroads, CVS has quickly established a strong customer loyalty in the Carmel area. The superstore offers everything from makeup and cleaning supplies, to groceries and greeting cards. CVS also houses a pharmacy and immunization clinic and a photo center. The other Monterey Peninsula stores are similar, and the one in New Monterey is open 24 hours.

■ Best Camera/Photo Store

Green’s Carmel Camera Center — Fifth and San Carlos - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-8880 -

“Come in to see the Green’s Carmel Camera difference.” Printing, rentals and camera equipment purchases are upgraded at Green’s Carmel Camera, the local center for all things photography. For the most tech-savvy of photographers, staff members are also digital SLR camera specialists. The store has additional locations in Salinas and Monterey. Also important: The planter in front of the Carmel store is one the busiest locations for picking up The Pine Cone every week. Thank you, Green’s!
■ Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys — San Carlos and Seventh, Carmel, and Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Thu., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fri. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-0441 -

Thinker Toys is famous for having fans both young and old. Considering the enormous Ferris wheel in the window, it is no surprise that the store is a shopper magnet. From simple puzzles, to art supplies and the latest board games, Thinker Toys is a place where everyone can be a kid again.

■ Best Children’s Clothing Boutique

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

Heaven offers luxury children’s clothes from all over the world, an item from Heaven is the ultimate sartorial treat for your little one. Girls will delight in a flowered dress, a pair of patent-leather boots, or a voluminous tulle skirt, which are just some of the pieces around the shop at Heaven.

■ Best Men’s Clothing Store

J. Lawrence Khaki’s — Carmel Plaza - Mon. to Wed., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thu. to Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 -

Recently dubbed “a pocket of perfection in Carmel” and a source of “fall ‘menspiration’” by the San Francisco Chronicle, J. Lawrence Khaki’s enters its sixth year as a Golden Pine Cone winner with flying colors. The quality men’s apparel, footwear, accessories and impeccable service all have their foundation here in Carmel, where Khaki’s was founded and has grown over the years.

■ Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s — Ocean and Mission - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 624-5580; and 3630 The Barnyard - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-2055 -

For shoes that are kind to your feet, look no further than Hedi’s. A local institution for more than 20 years, Hedi’s offers both dress and casual shoes from Cole Haan, Ecco and Sofft, among others. With a focus on good fit and the latest in comfort technology, Hedi’s assures its customers that they will find “the perfect pair.”

■ Best Women’s Shoe Store

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

Since 1975, Lloyd’s has been an Ocean Avenue favorite. With a range of comfortable and contemporary brands, including Born Crown, Frye, Jeffrey Campbell and Sam Edelman, Lloyd’s staff will find a style to fit every customer. And while you’re there, why not pick up a new handbag from the stylish selection?

■ Best Women’s Clothing Boutique
■ Best Women’s Accessories
■ Best Leather Goods Store

Augustina’s — Ocean and San Carlos - 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 626-6353 -

Augustina’s is crowned with not one, but three Golden Pine Cones this year — and for good reason. Augustina’s product range extends from fine furs and men’s and women’s apparel; to belt buckles, jewelry, handbags and leather goods. Recently, the store collaborated on a collection with Paula Lishman, a hand-knit furwear designer.

■ Best Place for Brides to Shop

Epiphany – Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 626-7700 -

With more than 16 bridal collections, Epiphany can help every bride can coordinate her dream day. Though Christine DiLullo founded it as the first and only bridal store in Carmel, Epiphany also offers wedding looks for all members of the bridal party, as well as a selection of prom dresses.

■ Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

GBG — Mission and Seventh - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 626-3368

As soon as you walk into GBG, you know you have come to the right place for the latest in high-end fashion. The stylish staff and bursting racks of clothes designed by the likes of Isabel Marant, Vince, A.L.C. and Rag & Bone assure that you are in good hands when looking for a fashionable new buy.

■ Best Vintage Clothing Store

Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop — 26388 Carmel Rancho Lane - Mon. to Tue., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wed., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Thu. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 626-8480

Yellow Brick Road has a mind for service and a sensibility for vintage fashion. Run by the Carmel Presbyterian Church, the store offers a half-price sale at the end of every month as well as a weekly book sale. Over its history, Yellow Brick Road’s profits have benefited more than 480 charities around the area.

■ Best Jewelry Store

Hesselbein’s — 143 The Crossroads - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sun., 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 625-2522 -

Hesselbein’s has been a part of Monterey County for more than 45 years, and with its local and international customer base, it will certainly be here for many years to come. This is the sixth year that this Rolex Official Jeweler and gemologist-staffed shop has won the Golden Pine Cone for Best Jewelry Store. Along with fine jewelry and watches, Hesselbein’s offers repair and maintenance services.

■ Best Shopping Center

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

Del Monte Center is a mecca for shopping, dining and entertainment for residents and tourists. You might recognize it as the location of the Apple Store, Cinemark Theaters, P.F. Changs, Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. Not only does the center include these favorite stops, but it is also the location of various events and a weekly farmer’s market. Its most recent store addition is Kara’s Cupcakes.

■ Best Antique Shop

Trotter’s Antiques — 590 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. and Wed. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 373-3505 -

With a 6,000-square-foot showroom, Madeline Trotter can and has taken advantage of her space, filling it with personally selected antiques and goods to delight many a shopper. With a selection of “rare furnishings, glass, porcelain, silver and much more,” Trotter’s offerings encompass the best of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century history.

■ Best Bookstore

River House Books — 208 The Crossroads - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-2665

River House Books is one of Carmel’s last vestiges of independent bookselling. In an age of iPads and Kindles, River House Books has flourished on the premise of careful curation and knowledge of its customers, resulting in a captivating array of books for children and adults.

■ Best Car Dealer

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

Recognized by its shiny selection of automobiles overlooking Fremont Street, Stahl Motors is the place to go for a family-owned, boutique-style buying experience. It’s the oldest Mercedes-Benz dealership in the nation. There is no doubt that every customer will get the true Mercedes-Benz experience, complete with a selection of new and pre-owned cars and a full service center.

■ Best New Car

Lexus — sold locally by Lexus Monterey Peninsula, 1721 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside - Mon. to Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 393-3030 -

Simply count the number of Lexuses (Lexi?) on local roadways, and you start to notice a trend. Carmel has once again verified that Lexus truly does offer what it declares are “the finest cars ever built.” Lexus makes its commitment to quality, design and service in everything from its powerful hybrid sedans to its “Luxury Utility” SUV. It is also the official car of Pebble Beach, and its various models can be seen at all the P.B. Co. hotels, golf courses and special events.

■ Best Gas Station

Carmel Shell — Fifth and San Carlos - (831) 625-3513

Convenient for residents and visitors on their way out of town, and cute as a button (for a gas station), Carmel Shell has been the city’s gas station for longer than most young drivers can remember. Stop by for a quick fuel up — you’ll recognize its wooden Shell and “cozy” driveway!

■ Best Car Wash

El Estero Car Wash –– 590 Fremont St., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-1801 -

Located conveniently in downtown Monterey, El Estero Car Wash is one stop that will keep your car looking great. From various car wash packages, to detailing work, El Estero is a center for good service and good value. Plus, the business makes it easy to enjoy everything it has to offer, providing options such as a club plan, gift certificates and coupons.

■ Best Computer Store

Apple — 240 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 647-4480 -

Even the best of local technology businesses cannot keep up with the Apple empire. However, that is nothing to be ashamed of: the Del Monte Apple outpost balances the most cutting-edge phones, computers and software with some of the friendliest staff around. Where would we be without Apple?

■ Best Gift Shop

The Quill –– 553 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - (831) 373-8189

The Quill is not just the place to go for stationery and wedding invitations, although its invitation design services have earned five stars on many online review sites. Behind its colorful storefront, the Pacific Grove shop offers adorable cards, trinkets, accessories and children’s gifts that would be equally appreciated as hostess gifts as for birthday presents.

■ Best Music Shop

Do Re Mi Music & Video — 26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Suite B1 - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-1229

Promoting the now-vintage approach to music buying, Do Re Mi has again garnered the recognition of Carmelites for its commitment to quality music. DO Re Mi sells classics as well as contemporary tunes, and remains a family-owned business in the age of online downloads and FM radio.

■ Best Candy Shop

Cottage of Sweets — Ocean between Monte Verde and Lincoln - Mon. to Thu., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fri. to Sun., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 624-5170 -

Housed in nothing other than a super-cute, Comstock-style cottage, Cottage of Sweets is certainly the city’s tiniest landmark. With a selection of imported candies and a fully stocked case of chocolates and fudges, there is no doubt that just the scent wafting out the door will lure you in. If you can’t get your fix by just feasting your eyes on the array of giant lollipops, pick a piece (or a bagful) and enjoy.

■ Best Carpet and Flooring Store

Bereman Carpets — 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 is a full-service flooring and carpeting company and has been serving Monterey County for years. In addition to traditional hardwood floors, tile and carpet, they also offer environmentally friendly reclaimed wood for floors with a conscience.


■ Best Place To Work
■ Best Skin Care

Coastal Valley Dermatology — 26366 Carmel Rancho Lane, Carmel - Mon. to Thur., 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. - (831) 293-8458

Employees and patients alike enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at this office. In addition to the fun of trying out the latest in skin care technology, the staff say they feel like a family. This may be the only workplace where you can get laugh lines and also have them removed!

■ Best Place to Volunteer

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

CHOMP’s management, staff and patients equally treasure its 1,000 volunteers, who are vital to the hospital’s everyday operations and provide a real community touch to everything it does. Some volunteers have been there for many years, doing everything from greeting patients and running the gift shop and the Fountain Court Café, to bringing in therapy dogs for visits.

■ My Favorite Non-Profit

Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop — 26388 Carmel Rancho Lane - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon., Tues., Thurs. and Sat.; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed. - (831)626-8480

This outreach of Carmel Presbyterian Church is a great place to hunt for bargains on gently used clothing, accessories, toys, antiques — and just about anything else you can think of. According to their Facebook page, the shop’s given $4.5 million back to the community since it opened in 1989.

■ Best Place To Get Married

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

Founded in 1770 and one of the most historic buildings in California, the weathered and dignified Carmel Mission Basilica is a link to the past, not only of Carmel, but the of the whole Western United States, and is also a perfect place for couples to begin their future together. Weddings large and small can be performed in the Basilica or the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Wedding guidelines are on the Mission’s website.

■ Best Retirement Community

Del Mesa Carmel — 500 Del Mesa Drive - (831) 624-1853 -

High atop a hill overlooking Carmel Valley, beautiful Del Mesa Carmel offers its 400 residents plenty to do — arts and crafts, a heated indoor pool and spa, lawn bowling and clubs for shared interests. Del Mesa Carmel is proud to offer “retirement at its best — a carefree lifestyle in beautiful surroundings.”

■ Best Electrician

Cate Electrical — Dolores and Seventh, Carmel - (831) 624-5361

Since 1961, this family-owned business prides itself on top quality service in residential and commercial work, repairs and generators. Cate Electrical pays attention to detail and customer satisfaction is guaranteed. You can check out their work by liking them on Facebook, too!

■ Best Plumber

A&R Plumbing — 1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City - (831) 394-7221 -

A&R Plumbing has a dedicated team of longtime employees, and the founders’ family still runs the show. They’re ready to help unclog pipes, install washing machines, inspect sewer lines and more. They pride themselves on excellent customer service, hard work and fair pricing.

■ Best Architect

Eric Miller — 157 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 372-0410 -

Award-winning architect Eric Miller has designed numerous high-profile projects, including The Carmel Foundation’s Trevvett Court. He enjoys working closely with his clients so he can create extraordinary spaces that reflect their personalities and fit their lifestyles. A separate interior design department ensures attention to detail inside and out.

■ Best General Contractor

Chris Tescher — Dolores & Third - (831) 625-6994

Chris Tescher’s been building custom homes in and around Carmel for more than 40 years. “I like my work,” he says. He started out as a teacher, but eventually gravitated to homebuilding. He says he would like to “thank everyone who voted for me, and I’m glad they like my houses.”

■ Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

Monterey Bay Gardening and Landscape — 156 John St., Monterey - (831) 601-0258 –

Owner Vince Cricchio has worked in landscaping and gardening for more than 25 years. He believes the key to his success is making sure he’s onsite at his numerous clients’ homes and businesses to ensure that everything’s done to his exacting standards. He assures his customers, “When there’s work going on, I’m there!”

■ Best Real Estate Company

Carmel Realty — Five SW of Dolores & Seventh and two other locations - (831) 622-1000 -

As Carmel Realty celebrates its 100th birthday this year, owners Dan and Shelly Lynch, Bill and Vicki Mitchell and Peter and Cara Butler, continue providing their clients with the highest level of customer service. “We are a quality-driven company and not a quantity-driven one,” notes Peter Butler.

■ Best Real Estate Lender

Blue Adobe Mortgage — 23690 Carmel Rancho Lane - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-2112 -

Mike Boerlin and his employees have been helping their customers become homeowners for more than 10 years. Blue Adobe’s strong ties to the local community and ability to perform purchase transactions on time make them a favorite with Pine Cone readers.

■ Best Title Company

First American — Dolores, 3 SW of Seventh - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-5980 -

The ream or so of paper hits the desk and the homebuyer starts initialing. And signing. And initialing some more. It can be pretty daunting, but branch manager Christine Chin is dedicated to easing the stress as much as she and her staff can, with friendly and knowledgeable service.

■ Best Personal Bank
■ Best Business Bank

Wells Fargo — (877) 937-9357 -

The Wells Fargo Wagon keeps on rolling along, providing high-quality, reliable personal and business banking services our readers love. With locations in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Monterey, there’s always a bank nearby, ready to serve.

■ Best Investment House/Adviser

Monterey Private Wealth — 2340 Garden Road, #202, Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-3426 -

Partners Steve Merrill, Ken Petersen, Gary Alt and Cristofer Cabanillas have more than 70 years of combined experience. Merrill said of the firm, “We like to foster a close relationship with our clients so they feel comfortable.” In a world where many investments are still unsettled, comfort is a valuable asset.

■ Best Veterinarian

Ocean View Veterinary Hospital — 109 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Thu., 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-0131 -

Dr. Frank Kocher and his staff know that pets don’t only get sick on weekdays, and their humans often have jobs that make coming in during normal business hours difficult - so they’re open all week to help out. They believe in practicing good medicine in a caring, compassionate way.

■ Best Pet Boarding

Purrfurably Cats — 481 Cortes St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. - (831) 655-2287 -

Cats don’t like to sleep away from home, but Dr. Kathleen Marcus’ Purrfurably Cats is an exclusively feline boarding facility dedicated to providing exceptional hospitality. The cat-fancying staff will set your kitty up with a room and access to a play condo with a view of the great outdoors.

■ Best Car Repair Shop

Nystrom Automotive — San Carlos and Fifth – Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 626-4407

When it comes to cars, Nystrom Automotive has you covered — oil changes, tires, batteries, air conditioning repairs — and all in a convenient spot in the heart of Carmel. Eric Nystrom, a lifelong resident of town, has been providing personable service since 2004.

■ Best Auto Body Shop

Gene’s Import Auto Body — 531A Shasta Ave., Sand City - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 899-0343 -

Since 1979, this Mercedes Benz- and BMW-certified repair shop’s skilled technicians have been using state-of-the-art equipment to restore damaged autos to their former glory. They’re happy to help “melt away your stress and anxiety” and quickly get your car back in tip-top shape.

■ Best Dry Cleaners

Carmel Cleaners — Junipero and Third - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 pm., Sat., 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-3616

For the past 30 years, owner Deok Chong has believed that “Good clothes deserve good care.” These wedding gown experts also perform alterations and other laundry services. The kind and patient service keeps people coming back. One online reviewer gushed that they’re not only gracious, but compassionate toward customers.

■ Best Shoe Repair

Federico’s Drive In Shoe Service — 542 Abrego St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 8a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 649-3322

Charles Federico began repairing shoes in 1939, and now son Henry continues the tradition of saving soles. They can also fix your luggage, do engraving, create signs and banners, and etch glass. Old-fashioned service and one-stop shopping — a great combination!

■ Best Travel Agent

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

Owner Joe Shammas is proud of the personal service his agency provides. “Clients don’t want to go through thousands of Internet pages and book with someone they don’t know.” Whether it’s an ocean cruise or a group tour of Southeast Asia, Joe and his staff are here to help, start to finish.

■ Best Hair Salon

March Hare — Fifth Ave. and Mission - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues. to Sat. - (831) 624-3024 -

The spa-like atmosphere combined with stylists who “love bringing out the best in people by creating styles unique to each one,” are owner MaryAnna Wagner Stahl’s secret to success. She should know — she’s been doing hair for 44 years, and has owned the popular salon since 1985.

■ Best Nail Salon

Nails Spa by the Sea — Seventh and Monte Verde - Call for appointment - (831) 625-2623 -

Whether you want a 20-minute manicure or a one-hour pedicure, Nails Spa by the Sea is ready to help. Despite the name, services go beyond just nails — there’s waxing, and a selection of massages including Shiatsu, Swedish and Aromatherapy to ease away the week’s stresses.

■ Best Massage Therapist

Stephen Hekhuis — Call for appointment - (831) 224-4669 -

Stephen Hekhuis jokes that he’s nothing more than a “glorified janitorial service — I vacuum out the stress for people!” His practice is outcall-only; he does both individual massage and mini-sessions for parties. Stephen uses his 26 years of experience to help clients relax and heal.

■ Best Spa

The Spa at Pebble Beach — 1518 Cypress Drive - 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily - (831) 649-7615 -

When you really want to treat yourself to a world-class spa experience, Pebble Beach is ready and waiting. The signature “Royal Treatment” combines beeswax, honey and royal jelly to smooth, soften and pamper. Oh, and they offer pre- and post-golf packages, too. Of course.

■ Best Dentist

Bradford Carl — 26485 Carmel Rancho Lane., #3C - 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. to Thurs.; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Fri. - (831) 624-2111 -

Dr. Carl’s been treating patients in Carmel for more than 30 years. Known for his gentle touch and great laugh, he also manages to keep abreast of current technology and dental techniques to prevent and treat diseases and create beautiful smiles.

 ■ Best Dermatologists

James Rheim and Joseph Rheim — 757 Pacific St., Suite A-1, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 373-4404 -

Dr. James Rheim, son Dr. Joseph Rheim and their staff work together to help clients prevent and treat a variety of skin conditions. Whether patients need help with acne, sun damage and skin cancer, or are seeking cosmetic services like Botox, they know they’ll be treated with respect and compassion.

■ Best Ophthalmologist

Leland Rosenblum — 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Ste. 200, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri., - (831) 375-2020 -

Your vision is too important to trust to just anyone. Dr. Rosenblum’s been practicing in Monterey since 1994 and his expertise includes cataract surgery, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, refractive surgery and oculoplastic procedures. He prides himself on a personal approach to eye care, treatment and prevention and a winning strategy for every vision goal.

■ Best Orthopedist

Peter G. Gerbino, Monterey Joint Replacement and Sports Medicine — 900 Cass St., Suite 200, Monterey - 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri.  - (831) 655-2122 -

Peter Gerbino has worked with both the Boston Ballet and the U.S. Figure Skating Team. He’s also a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. He’s happy to put his experience and dedication to excellence to work for his patients, helping them overcome knee and hip pain and injuries.

■ Best Plastic Surgeon

Douglas Sunde — 856 Munras Ave., Monterey - 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 372-0200 -

Whether you’re looking for a tummy tuck or an eye lift, you can count on Dr. Sunde to treat you with respect and discretion. With nearly 20 years of experience in Monterey, he’s ready to help you look your best.

■ Best Physical Therapist

Chuck Krpata, Krpata Sports Therapy — 26617 Carmel Center Pl., Carmel - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 622-0599 -

Chuck says he really enjoys working with his patients; he says they’re “very motivated and willing to work” when it comes to recovering from an injury or surgery. He brings more than 40 years experience — including several years as Head Athletic Trainer with the 49ers — to his practice.

■ Best Chiropractor

Aaron Gaily, Gonstead Family Chiropractic — 1299 Pacific St., Monterey - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon., Wed., and Thurs.; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tues. - (831)657-0191 -

Aaron Gaily uses the Gonstead Method of chiropractic, which emphasizes accuracy, precision and attention to detail so only areas of the spine that require treatment are adjusted. He’ll also prescribe exercises specific to patients’ needs and provide nutritional advice to promote wellness.

■ Best Divorce Lawyer

Michael McClure — 24600 Silver Cloud Ct., Ste. 104, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 649-6161

Even the most amicable divorce can be a minefield of legal and emotional pitfalls. Michael McClure’s 45 years of experience and attention to detail help him guide his clients through the process. According to wife and sometime-office assistant Marianne, “He clearly sees what needs to be done, and he does it!”

■ Best Estate Planning Attorney

Charles Des Roches - Noland, Hamerly, Etienne and Hoss — 470 Camino El Estero, Monterey, with offices in Salinas, Gilroy, and King City - (831) 373-3622 -

Charles Des Roches is a California State Bar certified specialist in probate, estate planning and trust law. A 2000 graduate of Monterey College of Law, he serves his community as a board member of Legal Services for Seniors, Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley, and the Monterey County Bar Association.

■ Best Lawyer for Suing Somebody

Andy Swartz - Spiering, Swartz, and Kennedy — 550 Hartnell St., Ste. A-3, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 373-3235 -

If you need a problem solver, Andy Swartz is your attorney. He came to Monterey in 1973. “I’ve been suing people and representing nice people who are being sued ever since,” he says, tongue slightly in cheek. He sees trial as a last resort, preferring to resolve cases through negotiation and arbitration.

■ Best Defense Attorney

Larry Biegel - Biegel Law Firm — 2801 Monterey-Salinas Highway, Ste. A, Monterey - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (877) 223-8982 -

Larry Biegel knows that any arrest is traumatic. He and his staff of attorneys vigorously defend clients who bring everything from DUIs to murder cases to his firm. He’s even been known to set up a mock trial with a jury to preview a case.

■ Best Insurance Agent

Carmel Insurance — San Carlos and Eighth - Mon. to Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 624-1234

Carmel Insurance has been going to bat for their clients since 1948. Matt Little, his son Matt Little, Jr., and the rest of the team at Carmel Insurance will fight with insurance companies to make sure they do right by their customers.

■ Best Internet Service Provider

Comcast — We tried following their van home, but they lost us - (888) 266-2278 -

The vendors of Double and Triple Play packages have hit another home run with our readers. And the same thing must be true nationally — Comcast is so successful, it recently bought out NBC and Universal. And now it’s branching out into the home telephone and home security industries. If only we didn’t feel like they were reading over our shoulders ....

■ Best School

Carmel River Elementary School — Monte Verde and 15th - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 624-4609 -

Carmel River’s students enjoy a rich learning environment. Whether they’re planting vegetables in the Life Science Garden or logging exercise time to earn “Running Feet” charms, students receive a well rounded learning experience that consistently produces students with some of the top scores on standardized tests. The school’s website keeps parents up to date with a weekly principal’s newsletter, too!

■ Best Teacher

Chris de Bellis, Carmel River Elementary School — Monte Verde and 15th - (831) 624-4609 -

Chris de Bellis is a hit with fourth graders and their parents. He’s been teaching for more than 15 years, and the last eight or so have been at Carmel River School. He enjoys teaching the “three R’s” to the kids — and the whole community seems to appreciate his efforts.