The 2015 Golden Pine Cones


The 2015 Golden Pine Cones

Once again this year, readers of The Carmel Pine Cone are asked to name their favorite local restaurants, retail stores and service providers, and one again we were amazed at the quality of their picks.

Below, we present the winners of the 2015 Golden Pine Cones. Reading them is like taking a guided tour through the Monterey Peninsula — a tour that involves sipping the best wines, eating the best food, seeing the greatest sights and shopping at the finest stores — plus getting your teeth whitened, your estate put in order, your shoes repaired and your tummy tucked along the way.

These results are from a poll conducted earlier this month of more than 13,500 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 yet again how important it is to shop locally!


■ Best Deli
■ Best Neighborhood Market
■ Best Butcher

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

From brand names to basics, house-made to made-to-order, this community market caters to visitors and locals, alike. It’s the ideal spot to run to for a rib eye for dinner or more apples for the kids’ lunches, not to mention a dozen eggs or a bottle of wine. Voted best deli, Bruno’s Market is also known for savory sandwiches prepared perfectly, while the meat counter offers top-grade beef, choice cuts of pork and other prime meats. Drop in for fresh-baked pastries and pizzas, bread and barbecue, and this long-standing neighborhood market likely will become your go-to grocer as well.

■ Best Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers Markets — - - - -

If you live here, that means you live on the edge of the Salad Bowl of the World, and Pine Cone readers say it’s their farmers markets that provide the best variety and quality of local organic fruits and vegetables. Good thing they have so many markets to patronize! The largest market takes over Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey on Tuesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. (4 to 7 p.m. in winter), while Monterey Peninsula College hosts a popular 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 presents a modest Monday afternoon market on Central Avenue from 4 to 7 p.m. Seasonal markets take place at The Barnyard at the mouth of the valley on Tuesday mornings May through September, and outside Whole Foods at Del Monte Center in Monterey on Sunday mornings. The newest markets are held on Thursdays on Sixth Avenue in downtown Carmel from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and in Carmel Valley Village on Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.

■ Best Organic Produce

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

At Whole Foods, the produce is fresh and abundant — and much of it is local and organic. Abundant displays are tended to by knowledgeable staff members who can explain every fruit and veggie’s source and benefits. The produce is accompanied by quality foods and other household products, all selected to help customers eat well and live better.

■ Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads - (831) 626-3626 – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -

Sea Harvest market is just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean, and the fresh seafood reflects that proximity — from locally famous dungeness crab in the wintertime, to halibut and sushi-grade tuna. Whether you have it served on site or take it home, Sea Harvest’s knowledgeable staff will provide suggestions on how to cook and enjoy it. Owned by Tina and David Deyerle, this fish market is the best place to go for anything fresh from the sea.

■ Best Bakery

Lafayette Bakery — 3672 The Barnyard - Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. -

Owned by master baker Jean-Bernard Vial, Lafayette Bakery has impressed locals with its lovely diminutive French pastries like colorful macaroons and dainty cakes, warm baguettes and other French breads in the morning, quiches and other delights. Goodies from Lafayette are sure to please any crowd.

■ Best Catering Company

A Moveable Feast – 18840 Cachagua Road, Carmel Valley – (831) 659-5100

For creative and delicious fare, look no further than chef Michael Jones and his catering company, A Moveable Feast. Jones and his wife, Amanda, prepare a wide range of delectable appetizers, main dishes — like tender steak, cooked to perfection and served sliced thin with porcini cream and a sprinkling of salt — salads and sweets. Whether for a small, intimate gathering or a large party, A Moveable Feast is the perfect fit.

■ Best Kitchen Shop
■ Best Housewares Shop

Sur La Table — Carmel Plaza, lower level - Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6433 -

Whether looking for a poaching pan or the newest kitchen knife, Sur La Table is the place to go for any chef, from aspiring, to professional. The store has gifts and gadgets, books and bakeware, napkins and knives — and the staff to tell you how to make the most of it. Splurge on a new Le Creuset pot or stock up on more glassware for the bar, and drop off your knives for sharpening while you’re shopping. Whatever you need for the kitchen, you’ll find it at Sur La Table.

■ Best Wine Store

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

A classic Carmel market that was operated by the same family for decades, until it was sold in 2009 to a new family, Tigran and Azniv Amirkhanian, Nielsen Bros. retains its small-town feel while carrying a wide range of quality products and produce. But its wine store, where tastings are offered regularly, is in a league of its own. The collection spans the globe and features many intriguing and unusual bottles alongside the popular favorites, in a wide range of prices. The recommendations are spot-on, too.

■ Best Monterey County Chardonnay
■ Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc
■ My Favorite Monterey County Wine

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

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery in Cachagua a quarter-century ago, and it has since become synonymous with excellence. So it’s no surprise that Pine Cone readers named it their overall favorite Monterey County wine, and specifically its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Vineyard manager Matt Shea cultivates Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals, and winemaker Dean DeKorth and his team work to produce compelling vintages, year after year.

■ Best Monterey County Rosé

Dawn’s Dream Winery — Tasting room at the NW corner of San Carlos and Seventh – 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday - (831) 659-2649 -

Dawn Galante’s dream was to own her own winery, producing delicious and accessible wines distinctive from those of the Galante Vineyards brand of her husband. She sources grapes from several different growers, both local and farther afield, and among her most popular wines is the rosé of Pinot Noir, with its citrus notes and juicy hints of fresh berries. The wine is dry and crisp, perfect for a day on the beach or a picnic in the mountains.

■ Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Silvestri Vineyards — Seventh between San Carlos and Dolores – noon to 7 p.m. daily - (831) 625-0111 –

In 1989, when composer Alan Silvestri moved his family from Los Angeles to Carmel and bought an old house, the family was inspired to take a chance on a new venture. And when they planted vines in the fertile land of Upper Carmel Valley, the Silvestris created their home in the wine industry. Since then, they have produced notable wines and are changing their lineup all the time, including a few creative blends. Their Pinot Noir is highly regarded for its balance and elegance.

■ Best Monterey County Merlot

Georis Winery — 4 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley – Sunday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 659-1050 –

The Georis family produces wine from a 20-acre estate vineyard in Cachagua, Established in 1982, Georis wines reflect its regional terroir and microclimate, and winemaker Damien Georis uses his classical training in European winemaking traditions to take advantage of the new contemporary technology. The wines have complexity, elegance and finesse, and the Merlot is no exception: rich, balanced and long in the finish.

■ Best Tasting Room
■ Best Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon

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

The Galante family has a long and significant history in the Monterey Peninsula. Owner Jack Galante’s great-grandfather, J. Frank Devendorf, was one of the founders of Carmel, a place known for its scenic beauty, festivity and creativity. So it makes sense the Galante credo is to grow the finest grapes possible and let the fruit express itself in the wine. Galante’s estate-grown grapes in Cachagua produce award-winning wines, most notably premier Cabernet Sauvignon, with its dry tannins, black pepper and a note of ripe cherry. The tasting room was one of the first in Carmel and is always welcoming, casual and fun.

■ Best Desserts  
■ Best Family Restaurant

Rosine’s Restaurant — 434 Alvarado Street, Monterey - Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 375-1400 -

People may come for the great diversity of house-made, family friendly food, but the glass case, which enthralls guests at the door, reveals why they have no problem lingering in line as they study shelves laden with Rosine’s award-winning six-layer cakes, peanut butter pie, chocolate mousse, cookies and other sweet indulgences. For 34 years, family-run Rosine’s has been a Monterey gathering spot, attracting tourists and locals alike with its homespun service and sweets.

■ Best French Restaurant

Fifi’s Café and Bistro — 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – Dinner from 5 p.m. nightly, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday and Friday only, and brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday – (831) 372-5325 –

This authentic French restaurant transports you to a bistro in France as soon as you walk through the door. Since 1985, Fifi’s has consistently served quality French cuisine in a quaint, intimate setting. Elegant but informal, the restaurant owned by Calvin and Michele Wilkes is known for its moules frites, bouillabaisse, Escargots de Bourgogne, flavorful fish and exceptional wines. Fifi’s extensive list runs the gamut, and its wines are also offered for retail sale. 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 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 624-8518 -

It’s lively and always busy — and the food its chefs turn out is fresh and of great quality. That’s why Tommy’s Wok, Carmel’s only Chinese restaurant, often has a line out the door. Tommy’s serves up a menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties and has fostered a devoted following in town over the years. While popular for takeout, guests also tuck in to the tiny dining room to dive into their selections from Tommy’s extensive menu. Quality cooking and extreme efficiency make it all work.

■ Best Indian Restaurant

Ambrosia India Bistro — 565 Abrego St., Monterey - 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, and until 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 641-0610 -

While there are plenty of enticing offerings on the menu, the weekday lunch buffet has become legendary for its delicious food and great value. Chef Bhupender Singh serves authentically flavorful Indian food in an attractive atmosphere on Abrego Street, the site of the former Clock Garden Restaurant. Ambrosia’s menu offers plentiful and diverse vegetarian specialties as well as chicken, lamb and seafood entrees. Business folks on break, locals and visitors become regulars at Ambrosia to enjoy lunch or dinner inside, or on the patio by the warmth of the outdoor fireplace.

■ Best Italian Restaurant  
■ Best Restaurant in Carmel  

La Balena Cucina Toscana — Junipero Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Carmel - Tuesday to Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m., lunch Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. - (831) 250-6295 -

La Balena means “The Whale,” in reference to the Italian fable, “Pinocchio,” (and its new sister restaurant, Il Grillo, means “The Cricket”), and the restaurant is just as charming as the tale. With chef Brad Briske at the helm in the tiny kitchen, La Balena offers a daily seasonal menu based on local ingredients and hand-crafted pasta. Its farm-to-table style is honest and abundant, with Briske shopping at farmers markets and getting meats from local growers. Tucked into a courtyard, the restaurant includes a charming, lush and intimate back patio, as well as al fresco dining in the front, and a diminutive dining room within. Meal after meal, La Balena never disappoints, and its menu is always changing, keeping customers — and the kitchen — interested and engaged.

■ Best Sushi (tie)

Akaoni — Mission Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues - Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 8:45 p.m., lunch Thursday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. - (831) 620-1516

For authentic sushi, Akaoni is simply unbeatable. The husband-and-wife team take their work, and their art, seriously, and it shows in every piece of sushi and every other dish produced at the impeccable bar and out of the tiny kitchen in the back. A tank behind the bar contains live spot prawns and other creatures, and guests can have the privilege of ordering unusual delicacies, like live sea urchin. The house-made tofu is silken and delicious, and everything is prepared impeccably. One note: Because it honors traditional Japanese sushi, guests looking for rolls containing macadamia nuts or cream cheese should go elsewhere.

Robata Grill & Sake Bar — The Barnyard Shopping Village, Carmel - Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m., and until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 624-2643 -

A favorite of visitors and locals for three decades, Robata turns out tasty and consistent Japanese fare, from teriyaki and nikumaki, to more than a dozen specialty rolls, as well as the classics like tekka maki. In a dark-wooded restaurant with fireplaces and bars, guests savor every bite, possibly while sipping one of the house cocktails, like the Kobe Breeze or any of more than a dozen sakes. For a convivial atmosphere, grab a seat at the bar, or for something more private and intimate, slide into one of the many booths. Robata has thrived since 1980 — for a reason.

■ Best Mediterranean Restaurant
■ Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Dametra Cafe — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel - 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily - (831) 622-7766 -

People flock to Dametra for the intimate setting, the delectable food, the lively music performed at any moment by anyone who works there, and the culture it all creates. Established by best friends Faisal Nimri and Bashar Sneeh, Dametra Café features an authentic Mediterranean feast of Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, have built their following on the concept of hospitality, greeting customers warmly and treating them like family. Dametra continues to be a locals’ and visitors’ favorite in part because everyone who walks through the door feels like he belongs there.

■ Best Mexican Restaurant  

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 625-2252 -

Some people come just for the margaritas and the music — or maybe to sample some of the rarest and most unusual tequilas on its extensive list. But plenty come out for the food, a wide and unexpected menu of fresh Mexican fare served fresh and with flair. Consider fresh fish tacos, organic garden tamales, mole enchiladas, or any other favorites. There are plenty of non-Mexican options, too. Baja Cantina is more than a Mexican restaurant — it’s a place where friends meet and strangers become friends — and is particularly popular among car guys and gals, since owner Pat Phinny shares much of his abundant collection of automobile and motorcycle memorabilia there. Whether gathered around the signature central bar or on the patio, where fire pits keep folks warm and music often ignites a party, guests come to Baja for fun.

■ Best Thai Restaurant

Pacific Thai Cuisine - 663 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 646-8424 -

In a restaurant founded on the motto, “We are Thai Family,” the owners of Pacific Thai Cuisine serve up family recipes with distinctive Thai flavors and textures. Located in the heart of Pacific Grove, Pacific Thai offers great food at great prices in a casual setting that’s welcoming to everyone. Chef specials include Gina’s fried calamari with Thai dipping sauce, coconut milk artichoke soup and other creations, while mainstays like Pad Thai and an array of green, red, yellow and Panang curries are always good choices.

■ Best Restaurant for Seafood
■ Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

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

When Ted and Cindy Walter decided to open their restaurant just a few blocks from the beach in Pacific Grove, they aimed to create food that was pure and simple and really, really good. Two decades later, the name, Passionfish, seems more accurate and inspired than ever, given their involvement in sustainable fisheries and other environmental causes, all while producing consistently beautiful, delicious and elegant food out of their Lighthouse Avenue eatery. They source ingredients from small farms, farmers markets and sustainable fisheries, and are generous in their support of local nonprofits and causes.

■ Best Restaurant for Steak (tie)

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine — Sixth and Mission, Carmel - Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., lounge open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, open at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 624-6562 -

Chef/owner Kurt Grasing can always been relied on to produce perfect steaks in a wide range of cuts at his eponymous Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine. Chop House Favorites are USDA Prime steaks from Nebraska, including a 16-ounce, bone-in rib-eye, milk-fed veal chop and a prime-natural New York. Classic steakhouse sides include creamed spinach, mac ’n’ cheese, leek rings and baked potato. And you can always get a specialty salad, classic cocktail and decadent dessert at Grasing’s to round out the feast.

Will’s Fargo Steakhouse + Bar — 16 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Dinner from 4:30 p.m. nightly, with brunch available on weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day - (831) 659-2774 –

An institution for more than a half-century, Will’s Fargo used to have a glass case near the front of the restaurant that was full of cuts of beef, from which guests selected which one, exactly, they wanted prepared for their dinner. Today, the glass case is long gone, but the superlative steaks persist, with a wide range of cuts and preparations available to discerning diners. Will’s also offers a spectacular Cobb Salad, baked potatoes with all the trimmings, and specialties that tap into executive chef Jerome Viel’s French heritage, like buttery escargot. Add to all that a classic bar with fantastic cocktails, and it’s hard to pass up an evening at Will’s, which also offers a great Happy Hour.

■ Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

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

Vegetarians were just coming out of the closet in 1969 when Gil Tortellini opened his nick-namesake restaurant. Since then, Tillie Gort’s has remained the Monterey Peninsula’s indisputable favorite for vegetarian food. Two fresh soups are offered daily, and the cafe’s menu offers classic and new vegetarian, vegan and organic options (including gluten-free cakes for dessert) — many with a Brazilian twist. Most people are aware of Tillie Gort’s vegetarian cuisine, but everyone knows about their legendary black-bottom cupcakes. And there’s plenty on the menu for non-vegetarians to enjoy in the restaurant’s 1970s-style coffeehouse atmosphere.

■ Best BBQ

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

It’s not fancy, but it’s not supposed to be, because it’s barbecue. Little Chicken House is a perennial favorite because its BBQ pits turn out tasty, tender chicken and fall-off-the-bone ribs time after time. BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket, turkey and pork — and even a hamburger — are on the menu. Traditional country sides of salad, slaw, corn bread, mashed potatoes, French fries, beans, garlic bread, mac ’n’ cheese and other options round out the menu. Call ahead to pick up and take home some unbeatable ribs at the end of a busy day or on a lazy Sunday.

■ Best Sandwich or 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. daily, and until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Carmel; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Monterey - (831) 626-8054, (831) 372-4930 -

R.G. stands for Real Good, and that refers to the burgers. Hand-formed and char-grilled, they are always good with just a dollop of r.g. sauce and a little lettuce and tomato. But guests can also take the gourmet route by adding béarnaise sauce, bleu cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions, a dab of guacamole or jalapeño cheddar. And bacon. Lots of bacon. Customers aren’t confined to beef, either, as they can choose ground turkey or chicken breast, or go veggie and order a falafel burger, instead. Go for the seasoned fries and a thick, rich milkshake, made with four scoops of real ice cream in several indulgent flavors, to make for a superlatively satisfying feast.

■ Best Breakfast

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

For a great breakfast on a weekend morning in town, look for the place where hungry patrons are lined up outside and the deck is full of chattering guests. A Carmel tradition since 1982, Katy’s Place is a country kitchen that’s most famous for its whopping 16 varieties of eggs Benedict and eight ways to eat waffles, but it also serves delectable blintzes with fresh berries, Katy cakes and Swedish pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and basics like eggs and bacon. And for those who like to sleep in, Katy’s serves breakfast daily until 2 p.m.

■ Best Coffee
■ Best Coffeehouse

Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. — Roasting facility at 212 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley, with retail locations on Ocean Avenue in Carmel, The Barnyard Shopping Village, The Crossroads Shopping Village, Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, and the City Center at Broadway and Fremont in Seaside - Hours vary by location, but generally open between 6 and 7 a.m. - See for locations, hours and contact phone numbers

Coffee is an important part of the culture of Carmel, and Dean and Janet McAthie, owners of the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co., understand that. They also know their coffeehouses have to be more than a great place to gather, so they’ve made each location unique as well as inviting. Roast master Tina Muia slow roasts Arabica beans in two 25-pound San Franciscan batch roasters that offer constant feedback on the sight, sound and smell of the beans while they’re roasting, allowing for a delicate and perfect touch. CVCRC’s signature blend is the organic Foglifter, but the coffee roaster also provides several other roasts and blends, as well as a few classic flavored coffees. Baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and other treats ensure no one goes hungry while sipping a coffee or espresso drink.

■ Best Happy Hour

Hula’s Island Grill — 622 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m., Monday, 4 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831)655-4852 -

Lively and festive regardless of the weather — it’s inspired by island living, after all — Hula’s is always bustling with business, and a big reason for that is the fantastic Happy Hour.
Offering various “pu-pus,” like the sweet potato fries, crispy coconut shrimp rolls, Hawaiian ceviche and spicy edamame, as well as fantastic tropical cocktails like Hula’s Mai Tai, Painkiller, Dr. Funk and the ever famous Zombie — all for just $6 apiece — Hula’s Happy Hour is tough to beat. Happy Hour is Sunday and Monday from 4 to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m., and all night from 2 p.m. to closing for Tiki Tuesday, providing plenty of opportunity for those who want a little restorative food and libation at the end of their workday.

■ Best Ice Cream

Cold Stone Creamery – 1470 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 649-1346 -

When it comes to ice cream, the folks at Cold Stone Creamery clearly know a thing or two, considering the success they’ve had with their franchises all over the country. In each store, ice cream is made fresh every day, churned from the finest ingredients and waiting to be mixed with the customer’s choice of candy, cakes, fruits or nuts on a frozen granite stone — hence the name.

■ Best Pizza

La Piccola Casa – 212 17th St., Pacific Grove - Monday and Tuesday, 6:30 to 11:30 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 373-0129 -

At his charming little café and restaurant in the heart of Pacific Grove, restaurateur Joe Rombi ensures everyone’s desires for classic Italian comfort food are met. While famous for spaghetti and meatballs, La Piccola Casa also serves 10-inch pizzas in flavors like Quarto Formaggio, Crazy for Mushrooms, and The Godfather, with Italian sausage, meatball, onions, pepperoni, sautéed bell peppers and mozzarella. They’re affordable, too, ranging from $10.75 to $13.95 per pie.

■ Best Fast Food

Chipotle — 500 Del Monte Center and 560 Munras Ave., Monterey; 2140 California Ave., Sand City -

There’s always a line, but it moves quickly, since Chipotle has it dialed in when it comes to fast, relatively inexpensive food that’s nutritious, too. Assembled to order according to the customer’s requests, burritos, bowls and other dishes are filled with high-quality ingredients, humanely raised meats and abundant portions, all for a fair price.

■ Best New Restaurant

Il Grillo – Mission between Fourth and Fifth, Carmel - Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. - (831) 238-9608 -

Opened in June after much anticipation, Il Grillo is the newest restaurant venture by Emanuele and Anna Bartolini, who also own La Balena, winner of this year’s Golden Pine Cones for Best Italian Restaurant and Best Restaurant in Carmel. Chef Brad Briske is at the helm in both kitchens, and Il Grillo specializes in small plates inspired by carpaccio, several house-made pastas (including gnocchi and a gluten-free noodle) that can be served with any of about a half-dozen sauces, a few main courses like whole fish, and sweet treats. The wine list is predominantly Italian and accessible, and the restaurant has a small indoor seating area and several tables on its enclosed patio.

■ Best Place to Take Clients

Tarpy’s Roadhouse — 2999 Monterey-Salinas Highway, Monterey - Daily from 11:30 a.m. for lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch - (831) 647-1444 -

The restaurant in this 1917 roadhouse boasts creative cuisine, much of it cooked over a wood-burning grill that provides fantastic flavors for wild game, fresh seafood and prime steaks. Set on five landscaped acres, the building’s multiple rooms, patios and gardens offer prime spots for confabulating over a table full of well prepared, interesting and satisfying dishes and drinks. Tarpy’s also has seven private and semi-private rooms for banquets, meetings and celebrations. And sometimes, the comfortable bar, with its backed chairs and two- and four-top pub tables, is the perfect place to go with a client — or to decompress afterward. An award-winning wine list and knowledgeable staff help ensure a pleasurable experience, for business or pleasure.

■ Most Romantic Restaurant
■ Best Wine List

Casanova — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel - Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., and until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 625-0501 -

With its nooks and crannies, old-world style, intimate rooms, festive decorations and attentive service, Casanova combines elegance and hospitality with culinary innovation, providing a lovely place for a first date or a special evening out for couples long in love. It’s elegant but not fancy, and expensive but not exclusive, with an extensive and well appointed wine list presided over by advance-level sommelier and certified wine educator Jeff Birkemeier. This year, Casanova was nominated for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program, and the wine list is a point of pride for the wine-savvy Georis family — as is the food, which changes often but is always top-shelf.

■ Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Cypress Inn – Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel - Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. lunch, 5 to 10 p.m. dinner, noon to 3 p.m. for afternoon tea Friday and Saturday, bar open daily noon to 11 p.m., and until midnight Friday and Saturday - (800) 443-7443 - or

Considering it’s co-owned by consummate dog lover Doris Day, it’s no surprise that Pine Cone readers who prefer to dine with their dogs would choose Cypress Inn and Terry’s Lounge as the Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant. Serving lunch and dinner daily, as well as cocktails well into the evening, Terry’s allows guests to bring their canine companions to the table either in the lounge on the short side of the bar or on the outdoor patio. And during High Tea in the living room, pets can order from their own special menu, offered on an elegant tray just for Fido. Smartly, for those who might want to dine away from the dog fur and occasional yips, no dogs are allowed in the main bar and dining room. Custom cocktails prepared by talented bartenders and superlative food, including a dynamite steak salad, ensure people and pets are beyond pleased.

■ Best Buffet

Crazy Horse — 1425 Munras Ave., Monterey, in the Bay Park Hotel - Daily, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 649-4771 -

When looking for choice in a buffet, it’s difficult to do better than the Crazy Horse Restaurant, which makes even the most die-hard carnivore happy to graze at a salad bar. In addition to the abundant salad and veggies, the buffet includes several prepared salads, shrimp curried rice, salami, ham, roasted turkey, homemade soup, baked potato bar, hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, rolls and three-seed bread, and frozen yogurt. All that goes for just $11.95 per person, with as many repeat trips as desired.

■ Best Brunch  
■ Best Outdoor Dining
■ Best Piano Bar

Mission Ranch — 26270 Dolores St., Carmel - Dinner nightly from 5 p.m., Sunday Jazz Brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - (831) 625-9040 -

Mission Ranch restaurant, with its casual cuisine, full bar and popular patio in the twilight hours and during brunch, is perhaps best known for the piano bar, which features local favorites at the keyboard and just about anyone with a sense of song. Owned by former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood, the restaurant offers a special Sunday brunch, and a savory dinner in the dining room or out on the deck. Equipped with heaters for those chilly coastal evenings, the venue offers sweeping views of pastures with grazing sheep — keep an eye out for the black one — the lagoon and an arc of white sand. The weekly Champagne brunch features abundant choices of hot and cold dishes, an omelet bar, sweets and pastries; in short, practically anything anyone could want. And you can always take a walk on the beach after you eat!

■ Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Ventana Inn and Spa — 48123 Highway 1, Big Sur - Daily, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and 6 to 9 p.m. - (831) 667-2331 -

With its spectacular views of the Big Sur Coast, casual elegance and distinctive ambiance, The Restaurant at Ventana offers unique and creative dishes made with locally sourced, sustainably grown ingredients. The culinary team creates menus that reflect classic American flavors and influences, and contemporary California cuisine. The four-course Chef’s Menu runs $75 per person for dinner, but every dish is also available a la carte for those who don’t want to commit to the entire meal. Look for substantial dishes like Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, or lighter fare like Brussels sprout salad. A full bar is ready to provide any desired cocktail, and the wine list offers plenty of options for libation.

■ Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley  

Café Rustica — 10 Del Fino Place - Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. - (831) 659-4444 -

Rustic: casual, unfussy, more country than city, more rough than refined. Though it’s Carmel Valley Village casual, Café Rustica is often a celebration destination, and its European country feel is expressed not only in its décor, but in a menu that boasts the best of California and Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh local produce and house-made soups, thin-crust wood-fired pizzas and unique pastas make owner Julien Belliard’s restaurant one of the busiest in the valley. Nowhere else will you find “Alsatian dishes enhanced with Tuscan flavors” on the menu. Whether eating indoors or in the warmth of the heated patio, it’s always a pleasure to dine at Rustica.

■ Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s — The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17 Mile Drive - Daily, 6:30 to 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5:30 to 10 p.m. - (831) 647-7423 -

At Roy’s, the atmosphere is contemporary and casual, ideal for intimate dining or substantial celebration. Roy’s Hawaiian-fusion cuisine is flavorful and eye-catching, as well as creative. Celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi is known for his innovation and use of tantalizing flavors, and at his Pebble Beach outlet, award-winning chef de cuisine Pablo Mellin adds his own special touches and dedication to freshness, not to mention a dose of warmth and hospitality. Fresh seafood in the forms of sushi, sashimi, blackened ahi and crab-crusted sea bass are most prominent on the menu, but anyone craving beef would be more than happy with Roy’s ginger-scallion encrusted New York Steak and charred garlic honey-mustard beef short ribs. And up ’til sunset, the views of the Pebble Beach coastline and golf course at The Inn at Spanish Bay are a perfect complement to the cuisine.

■ Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
■ Best Bartender

The Sardine Factory/Big Mike Kolpazik — 701 Wave St., Monterey – Daily, 5 to 10:30 p.m., and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 373-3775 -

Fond of noting that they were “on the wrong side of the tracks” when they decided to invest in distressed property on Cannery Row decades ago, Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino put their faith and hope in the fact people needed a place to go where the food was fresh and plentiful. The captivating Sardine Factory, famously featured in Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me,” looks and feels like a dress-up, special-occasion spot — and it is. The Sardine Factory has made fine dining a tradition for more than 45 years, with award-winning chefs preparing fresh, sustainable seafood and USDA prime and dry-aged beef. The restaurant is also a frequent winner of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. In the bar, meanwhile, longtime (as in, more than four decades) bartender Big Mike Kolpazik mixes up a mean selection of custom cocktails, along with the classics — always with a flourish and with a wry smile that makes locals feel like they’ve got the inside track and visitors feel like they’ve found a home bar away from home.

■ Best Restaurant Service
■ Best Chef

Lucia Restaurant/Cal Stamenov/Bernardus Lodge — 415 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - 7 to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m., bar open 2:30 to 10 p.m. - (831) 658-3400 -

Reopened in April after much anticipation, the new Lucia Restaurant & Bar, which replaced Marinus Restaurant and Wickets Bistro, debuted in the remodeled Bernardus Lodge. And though the look and feel of the place, with its modern-rustic elements, new outdoor dining at the front of the lodge and other changes, are new, executive chef Cal Stamenov’s cooking remains as precise, elegant and on point as ever. He’s revamped the menu and launched specials like the phenomenal fried chicken and brisket deal on Wednesdays, while maintaining the special feel and flavors that make his cooking, and his restaurant, so special. A substantial part of the overall draw is the service, of course, and those who work at Lucia are attentive, helpful and knowledgeable, without ever being obtrusive. In short, a perfect experience, all around.

■ Best Restaurant in Monterey

Montrio Bistro — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey – Daily, from 4:30 p.m. - (831) 648-8880 -

Creative cuisine with European and American influences served in a historical Monterey firehouse that includes a fabulous bar, paired with exceptional service, explains why Montrio is Monterey’s best restaurant, according to discerning Pine Cone readers. A downtown bistro with big-city ambiance, Montrio is always bustling, from the popular Happy Hour at the bar, where mixologist Anthony Vitacca creates incredible cocktails, to the busy dining room, where chef/co-owner Tony Baker’s sophisticated comfort food always makes an impression. Whether grabbing a quick drink and a bite at the bar, or settling in for a leisurely evening with friends complemented by great food and wine, guests are sure to be satisfied.

■ Best Restaurant in Sand City

Sweet Elena’s — 465 Olympia Ave., Sand City – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. - (831) 393-2063 -
Since 1992, Elena Salsedo-Steele’s has pleased taste buds with delicious pies, pastries, breads, cookies and other treats from her artisan bakery, where everything is made from scratch and sold fresh. A little hidden among the warehouses-turned-art studios and body shops, the bakery café is a bright beacon once it’s discovered. Its simple, homey furniture is complemented by rotating displays of colorful, expressive art, and Salsedo-Steele makes her own art in the bakery, turning out beautiful breakfast items, desserts and other goods. She also sells homemade granola, cookies and gift items.

■ Best Restaurant in Seaside

Baan Thai — 1760 Fremont Blvd., Seaside - Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. - (831) 394-2996 -

A locals’ favorite soon after Bangkok native Tasani Anderson opened the restaurant in 1997, Baan Thai is known for its authentic, affordable and fresh Thai cuisine. Translated, its name means, “Thai House,” and that’s what Surut and June Somboonsam — Anderson’s son and daughter-in-law, who took over the restaurant in 1998 — strive for: giving their customers genuine Thai cuisine and hospitality. The couple and their staff treat guests like family and want them to feel at home. Lunch specials are hard to beat in value and quality, and Baan Thai is the perfect place to take a fun group that likes to share, so everyone gets a sample of the wide range of flavors and dishes available.


■ 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 –

A name synonymous with fine-art photography, the Westons are among the world’s most accomplished photographers, and this eponymous gallery embodies their legacy. In addition to presenting the work of the Edward 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

Richard MacDonald-Dawson Cole Fine Art — Corner of Lincoln and Sixth – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun. ‒(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.”

■ 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 -

Established in 1927 to advance the knowledge of and interest in art, the Carmel Art Association was founded by local artists intent upon creating a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between artists and the community. Nearly 90 years later, the tradition continues in one of the most intriguing art colonies in the world. Stop in and see what an impressive roster of more than 120 juried member artists are doing today, in a wide variety of styles and media. The Carmel Art Association, one of the oldest art cooperatives in the country, changes its exhibits monthly. 

■ Best Local Theater Company

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

More than more than 20 years after establishing what is now the Pacific Repertory Theater (PacRep), founder Stephen Moorer remains committed to its historical presence, its growth and development, and to producing quality theater of the people, by the people, for the people of this community – and beyond. “Theater has always been for the people,” says Moorer. “The groundlings fill the seats. Peter Pan flying around is for the people. This organization was started by artists and has always been run by artists, with equal right- and left-brain skills, who know how to create theater on a dime. It takes time to keep a cultural organization afloat, but we’ll be here for a while.”

■ Best Concert Venue

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

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 what was built in the 1920s as a grammar school to a world-class concert hall. Executive 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 is home to Carmel Yoga Center, the Arts Council for Monterey County, and the Center for Photographic Art.

■ Best Place to Relax and Listen to Music
■ Most Dog-Friendly Hotel

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

The food is good, the ambiance is special, and the provenance of Doris Day and Dennis LeVett’s Cypress Inn is legendary. But none of that means anything to the canines that congregate in the most dog-friendly hotel in town. Whether gathering for lunch or dinner at Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge, cocktails at the bar, or afternoon tea on the patio, slip into the fireside lounge for a little night music and something to sip and savor. Visit for a calendar of live music performances.

■ Best Local Music Group (classical)

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

The Monterey Symphony Orchestra will open its 70th Anniversary Season with a magnificent program of powerful music, led by music director and conductor Max Bragado-Darman. The majestic music of Richard Wagner highlights this program with “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” an orchestral excerpt from the fourth installment of the epic Ring cycle, Götterdämmerung. “The Monterey Symphony is a unique orchestra,” says Maestro Bragado-Darman. “I am proud of the artistic excellence of our musicians. Our orchestra is the gem of the Central Coast of California, and I feel privileged to be its artistic leader.”

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

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

When word gets out that the Money Band is playing, customers turn into crowds, creating standing room only, which is okay since no one wants to sit down. Perhaps the most popular cover band on the Monterey 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. No matter the eras of their music or the ages of their audience, everything old is new again. We’re putting our money on this one. Apparently, so is everyone else.

■ Best Place to Take Visitors
■ My Favorite Park

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve — West side of Highway 1 about 3 miles south of Carmel Valley Road - 8 a.m. to 30 min. after sunset - (831) 624-4909 -
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 sea vistas, secluded picnic spots and sandy beaches. Established as a state reserve in 1933, Point Lobos, named for the offshore rocks at Punta de los Lobos Marinos, or Point of the Sea Wolves, where the sound of sea lions carries inland, has become a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. 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 — NW Corner of 10th and Mission - (831) 624-1521 -

Alongside the theme of “Bach Inspires,” next year’s 78th Season of the Carmel Bach Festival will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Carmel by-the-Sea, offering a wide variety of chamber music, vocal and solo music as well as orchestral show pieces and open rehearsals. In 2016, the festival’s return to opera will continue with Mozart, and the adventures of Leonard and Rasmus will, once again, inform the children’s concert. Every year, as this world-class festival plays into the rhythms of community life throughout the third and fourth weeks of July, classical music emanates from Sunset Theater, the Church in the Forest, San Carlos Cathedral, Carmel Mission and All Saints Church. The festival, 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 — 5716 Carmel Valley Road – (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 in Carmel, 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 arc of white sand framing the flat or frothy sea is perfect for strolling or sprinting, making sand castles or sunbathing. Kids and canines run free, chasing shorebirds or each other. Surfers bob just past the break, awaiting their ride into shore. The cypress-sheltered beach is an ideal location to take in the sunlit skies, and then wait and watch for the signature green flash just as the sun sinks into the horizon. 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. Carmel Beach is everything the postcard promised.

■ Best Hiking Trail

Garland Ranch Regional Park — 700 W. Carmel Valley Road, nearly 9 miles east of Highway 1, Carmel Valley -

Less than 10 miles from the seashore, the weather warms up, the mountains rise, and the great Carmel Valley ushers in pedestrians and equestrians to commune with the silent sanctuary of pristine nature. Garland Ranch Regional Park encompasses more than 4,400 acres and features miles of hiking trails. A vast network of paths climbs more than 2,000 feet, exploring shady creeks and leading to dazzling, sun-drenched vistas. The park is managed by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, which doesn’t charge an entry fee but somehow manages to keep trails in top condition. Perhaps part of it is a reverence among guests, who become partners in preserving the park.

■ Best Bicycle Shop

Bay Bikes — 3600 The Barnyard Shopping Village 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) -

Bay Bikes offers sales, services and rentals to help you enjoy every scenic mile. The business is an official showroom for Specialized Bicycles, the Morgan Hill company that created the world’s first mass-produced mountain bike. The natural beauty and rolling coastline or rugged trails of the Monterey Peninsula are a bicyclist’s bliss, and Bay Bikes makes it easy to get out there and pedal through paradise.

■ 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 -

Carmel Valley Athletic Club, which honors its heritage as a racquet club with its traditional tennis program, is a multifaceted fitness facility. In addition to its cardio, weight and spin-bike rooms, the club offers a fantastic array of fitness programs, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba, NIA dance, Body Pump and other classes led by experienced instructors and personal trainers.  The club also hosts a beautiful pool and its European-inspired hydrothermal relaxation spa, Refuge. With its rough-wood architecture, lofty ceilings, crackling fireplace and living room lounge, the lobby looks like a ski lodge, and is where members gather for wine tastings and other events.

■ Best Martial Arts Studio

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

American Karate of Monterey teaches students of all ages but specializes in children’s programs. Starting as early as age 3, kids can learn coordination and self control through the martial arts. “At American Karate, we strive to develop the body, mind and spirit through rigorous training,” says owner Matt Durney. “We have all kinds of students, and everyone is welcome at our dojo.” Durney offers a free week of karate lessons and a free month of cardio-kickboxing for new clients.

■ Best Yoga Studio

Carmel Yoga Center — San Carlos and 10th - (831) 624-4949 -

Originating in India more than 2,000 years ago, the ancient practice of yoga teaches students, through a series of poses and breathing techniques, how to reduce stress and increase strength and flexibility. Since 1989, Kathleen Karachale’s Yoga Center of Carmel has presented a wide range of yoga classes for all students, regardless of experience. Conveniently located at Sunset Center, the center offers daily classes, weekend workshops and training for teachers, led by Karachale and her staff of certified instructors.

■ Best Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Links  — 1700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Hours vary by season - (831) 622-8723 -

Even those who have only seen it on television would probably vote for it. Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the course hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliff-side fairways and sloping greens. Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique dynamics of the Pebble Beach Golf Links have challenged and thrilled golfers and their spectators. 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 upcoming U.S. Open Championship in 2019. 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 -

Founded in Carmel as a chapter of the American Federation of Arts in 1959, its mission is to inspire appreciation of the evolving California artistic legacy and to expand a passion for the visual arts. The Monterey Museum of Art, with its eight galleries of American artwork, remains the leading visual arts organization in Monterey County. The museum is distinguished by its exceptional permanent collection, vibrant exhibitions, and engaging educational programs. The strengths of the collection include early California painting, photography, and modern and contemporary art. The museum welcomes all visitors to connect with art and to learn about the enduring artistic significance of the Monterey region.

■ Best Inn/B&B

Green Gables Inn — 301 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove - (831) 372-2095 -

Built by a British engineer and amateur architect in 1888, this gracious multi-gabled Victorian overlooking the sea served as a residence, a source of refuge and a summer home until 1983 when its proprietors, the Post family, dedicated it to year-round guest quarters. More than 30 years later, guests still feel like family, as they enjoy comfortable rooms; fresh, hot breakfasts; and that same beautiful bay view. Located just steps from the coastal recreation trail, Green Gables guests can enjoy an afternoon stroll by the sea, followed by a taste of wine and cheese and freshly baked sweet treats. 

■ Best Hotel

La Playa Carmel — Camino Real and Eighth, Carmel - (800) 582-8900 -

Designed in complement to the Carmel Mission, La Playa was built in 1905 as a private mansion by artist Christian Jorgensen for his wife, heir to the Ghirardelli fortune. Its elegant Mediterranean architecture played gracious host to many prominent guests until the 1920s when The Grande Dame was converted to a boutique hotel. Although the property has been upgraded and expanded considerably over the years, its ambience has remained true to its historic nature as an intimate inn of the hamlet by the sea.


■ Best Florist

Twigery —Seventh Avenue NE of Lincoln - Mon. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday by appointment - (831) 626-8944 -

Michael Merritt’s floral designs have appeared in Washington, D.C., at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and all over the world. He combines flowers and traditional greenery with unusual materials and plants (asparagus, anyone?) to make works of floral art that are anything but ordinary.

■ Best Furniture Store

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

Eighty manufacturers, more than 5,000 fabrics and almost three decades of service make this a go-to spot for an accent piece or a whole home makeover. Let the experienced and friendly staff help you design your princess’ dream bedroom, complete with canopy bed, or a home office fit for a mogul.

■ Best Golf Shop

Pebble Beach Pro Shop — 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - 6 a.m. to sunset daily - (831) 622-8723 -

A round of golf on an unforgettable course deserves the best possible equipment and advice, both of which can be found at the Pro Shop at Pebble Beach. Call to plan your day on the course and don’t forget to stop in after your round to print your complimentary commemorative scorecard.

■ Best Hardware Store

Ace Hardware — 290 Crossroads Blvd. - (831) 293-8050; 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 646-9144; 1136 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 373-3284 (all at; and at 401 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley - (831) 250-5666 -

There were so many Ace Hardware nominations that we decided just to go ahead and honor them all. Great hardware stores have great service, which is why you’ll find savvy Pine Cone readers at one of the four locations shown, shopping outside the box. Call the store nearest you for hours.

■ Best Craft-Knitting-Quilting Shop

Monarch Knitting — 529 Central Ave., Ste. 4, Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sun., 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 647-9276 -

In case you haven’t heard, knitting is hip. You’re as likely to see a 20-something clicking away with a skein of yarn as a grandma. And forget itchy wool. You can get alpaca, silk and cotton, instead. Monarch’s got classes to help you learn and groups to help you grow.

■ Best Pet Store

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

What dog doesn’t feel more sophisticated in a bow tie? Or perhaps you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to dress your cat in a sweater. This is one-stop shopping for the stylish pet and the smart human. Treats, leashes, bowls and grooming products. Bandages for cat owners are not included.

■ Best Garden Shop

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

Whether you need something drought-tolerant or deer-resistant, or just some pretty plants and garden accessories, Griggs Nursery has the knowledgeable staff to help you pick them out. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 acres, or just a little room on the patio, they’re ready to help.

■ 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 -

Novices and seasoned outdoor adventurers alike will find expert help with all kinds of equipment from a like-minded sales staff. Climbing apparel, ski gear and just about any other kind of outdoor equipment you could ask for are available, along with classes to help you get the most out of it.

■ Best Place to buy Athletic Wear

The Treadmill — 111 Crossroads Blvd. - Sun. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-2112 -

For more than 30 years this family-run business has been fitting athletes from around the world with shoes, socks, clothing and accessories. Patience, understanding and good listening skills are hallmarks of their service, as they make every effort to match the person to just the right gear.

■ Best Pharmacy

Carmel Drug Store — Ocean between Dolores and San Carlos - 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3819 -

Back in 1910, locals picked up their milk at shrines, doctors made house calls and Carmel Drug Store began over a century of service to our village. It’s seen the eradication of smallpox and the development of online hypochondria, and it’s still here to serve you.

■ Best Camera/Photo Store

Green’s Camera World/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 - (Also at 555 Del Monte Center and 350 Main Street, Salinas.)

Green’s is thriving in the digital age. By adapting to customers’ changing needs with services like ordering photo prints online, printing your photographic works of art onto canvas and transferring your treasured VHS tapes onto DVD, they continue to provide the service you’ve come to expect.

■ Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys — San Carlos and Seventh, and Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-0441 -

If you need relief from the reign of the screens, look no further. Legos, Tinker Toys, jigsaw puzzles and all the other classics are here. The staff doesn’t know — nor do they care — if you have children. Go ahead, get something for “the grandkids.” No one will judge you.

■ Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Heaven — A Children’s Boutique — Lincoln between Ocean and Seventh - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-6550 -

Heaven and sister store Starchild are dedicated to providing high quality, classic clothing for kids. They have baby clothes fit for a budding golfer and beautiful and unusual dresses for young teens. They also carry a full line of age-appropriate accessories to complete your angel’s ensemble.

■ Best Men’s Clothing Store

J. Lawrence Khaki’s — Carmel Plaza - Mon. to Thurs. and Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fri., 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sun., 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 -

Classic with a contemporary attitude — that’s what Khaki’s is aiming for. Designer clothing, finely tailored shirts and accessories and attention to detail all await the discerning man. There are ties above and beyond the ordinary and for casual moments, jeans that just say, “ahhhh.”

■ Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s — Ocean and Mission - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 624-5580; and 3634 The Barnyard - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-2055 -

A walkable town deserves a good pair of shoes, and according to The Pine Cone’s readers, Hedi’s is the place to get them. With a wide variety of brand-name shoes, and exceptional service, it’s not hard to understand why. The staff gets extra-high marks from hard-to-fit customers.

■ Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

Adventure Apparel — Dolores Street at Ocean Avenue - Sun. to Thurs., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 293-8205  -

Adventure Apparel doesn’t sound like a place you’d expect to pick up a cute little dress or pair of crop pants, but they’ve got them — in addition to all the outdoorsy duds and cozy sweaters you’d ever want. The Alaska-based company opened a branch here; now they call it “their second home.”

■ 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 -

Soft silk scarves in pale pastels? Check. Fancy cowboy boots to go with your new jeans? Yep. Jewelry that ranges from whimsical to stunning? They’ve got that covered, too, along with great designer purses. Leather coats and jackets in a variety of colors and styles await the discriminating shopper.

■ Best Women’s Shoe Store

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

After over three decades in Carmel, Lloyd’s knows its customers. They have dozens of designer shoe brands to satisfy the young sophisticate on the go and the woman of the world settling in to dinner at Casanova. Want to see their latest finds? Check out their Facebook page.

■ Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

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

Girl Boy Girl (aka GBG) is all about the designer names — and about helping you find your dream dress and accessories. Customers rave about the service and the ability of their staff to find just the right look for every individual. They’re trendy, they’re cutting-edge and they’re waiting for you.

■ Best Vintage Clothing

Foxy Couture — San Carlos Ave. 2 NW of Seventh St. - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-9995 -

If you’re looking for a gently-used Coco Chanel broach or an Yves Saint Laurent blouse, Foxy’s a good bet. They’re also known for their designer handbags, including Hermes and Louis Vuitton. Why wear what everyone else is wearing, when you can have a classic standout?

■ Best Jewelry Store

Fourtane Estate and Contemporary Jewelry —Ocean Ave. and Lincoln Ave. - 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Sat. - (831) 624-4684 -

Fourtane isn’t just a great jewelry shop, it’s a place where the elite come to buy and sell the family finery. Pick out a shiny piece of history or a modern bauble that’s just right for your new outfit. Can’t find what you want? They’ll create a special piece, just for you.

■ Best Shopping Center

Del Monte Center — Munras Ave. at Hwy. 1, Monterey - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. to Fri.; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. - (831) 373-2705 -

Chow down on some pizza, catch a movie, get a new phone and even hear live music at this longtime hangout. There are a lot of shops chock full of your latest must-haves — or just enjoy some people watching at this locals’ favorite.

■ Best Antique Shop

Wittpenn’s Antiques — San Carlos Ave. between Seventh and Eighth streets - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Sat.; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. - (831) 624-1336 -

Just the windows at this little gem hold enough eye-catching antiques to keep shoppers occupied for a while. Step inside, and enjoy the colorful glow of Tiffany lamps, the nostalgia of old-time toys and the sound of musical instruments from bygone days.

■ Best Bookstore

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

There’s something wonderful about holding a brand new book and anticipating what you’ll find as you turn its pages. It’s also great to know you can count on the staff at River House Books for excellent, informed recommendations.

■ Best Car Dealer

Victory Toyota — 5 Heitzinger Plaza, Seaside - 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. - (844) 592-6090 -

When you’re ready to get your first Scion, pile your whole family into a new Sienna, redeem your past environmental sins by devoting yourself to a Prius, or mitigate a midlife crisis with a sporty Highlander, Victory Toyota will be ready — just as they have been for decades — with service locals have come to rely on.

■ Best Gas Station

Carmel Shell — Fifth St. and San Carlos Ave. - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-0125

What makes a gas station good? It should have decent prices, be convenient, and provide personal service, and it shouldn’t make you feel like you need a shower after you visit. Carmel Shell is all that and more — sparkling clean and downright cute.

■ Best Carwash

El Estero Car Wash — 590 Fremont St., Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Sat.; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. (hours vary by season) - (831) 373-1801 -

El Estero recycles 70 percent of the water it uses and partners with local nonprofits to help them fund-raise. Add to that the care and attention to detail they put into your baby, and you’ve got a winning combination.

■ Best Computer Store

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

For diehard fans who want the full Apple experience, this place is the Garden of Eden. Equal parts art gallery and geek gallery, it’s the place to get the latest and hippest creations — and to learn to use them.

■ Best Place for Brides to Shop

Collezione Fortuna Fashion — Lincoln Ave. between Fifth and Sixth streets in Su Vicino Courtyard - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sun. and Mon., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed. to Sat. - (831) 626-1287 -

Brides-to-be should make a one-on-one appointment for the personal attention that helped make this shop this year’s winner. Mothers of the bride and bridesmaids of all ages will find something to make them look almost as good as the bride. Almost.

■ Best Gift Shop

Brinton’s by the Lemon Tree — 8 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily - (831) 298-7147

Jayne Brinton expressed happy amazement at being chosen, although she shouldn’t have been surprised — her Carmel Valley shop is uber-cute.
“We go to a lot of markets and do a lot of research for everything we carry, and we just want to thank everybody that voted for us!” she said.

■ Best Music Store

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

Not just a place to buy a CD or some vinyl, Do Re Mi has cool retro stuff like genuine eight-track tape players and phones you can’t lose because they’re wired to the wall. If you’re trying to track down a hard-to-find recording, they’re the ace detectives, too.

■ Best Candy Shop

Lula’s Chocolates — Mission St. between Ocean and Seventh avenues - (831) 624-5852; 244 Crossroads Blvd. - (831) 626-3327 - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Sat.; noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday -

Locally made Lula’s chocolates are grown-up treats that feature sophisticated combinations like Baja toffee with a pinch of chili pepper and truffles with lavender ganache. If you’ve only had rubbery grocery-store marshmallows, Lula’s are a cloud-like revelation. 

■ Best Carpet and Flooring Store

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

If you want to compare hardwood to cork or carpeting, look no further than Bereman’s well-organized website, or go into the store to take advantage of their staff’s extensive experience. Either way, Bereman is there from your selection through installation and beyond.


■ Best Place to Work
■ Best Real Estate Company

Carmel Realty — Dolores between Seventh and Eighth and three other locations - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 622-1000 -

“Family” is the word that keeps coming up over and over with Carmel Realty. At 101 years young, the company is still family owned and operated. Employees have referred to the leadership of the Mitchell family as “inspirational.” Their loyal customers respect their integrity and the fact that they give back to their community.

■ Best Place to Volunteer

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula — 23625 Pacific Grove-Carmel Hwy., Monterey - administrative offices open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 624-5311 -

CHOMP treasures its volunteers and says so every chance it gets. There are more than 450 in the Auxiliary, plus those who work at Hospice of the Central Coast, or volunteer as chaplains, and another 30 in the therapy dog program. With all those people clamoring to help out, CHOMP must be doing something right!

■ Best Place To Get Married

Church of the Wayfarer — Lincoln at Seventh - call for appointment - (831) 624-3550 -

Maybe it’s the beautiful garden setting. Maybe it’s the gorgeous stained glass or the Schoenstein pipe organ, with its full, rich sound. Or maybe it’s the friendly staff who want to make the day just perfect. In any event, this spot is a favorite for locals and destination weddings from all over.

■ Best Retirement Community

Carmel Valley Manor — 8545 Carmel Valley Road - administrative offices open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 624-1281 -

Remember when you couldn’t wait to be old enough to do something, like drive, or vote? This place could bring back that longing. The setting is beautiful, and the amenities include a swimming pool, spa, computer center, hiking trails, and terrific food.

■ Best Electrician

Cate Electric — Dolores and Seventh - (831) 624-5361

For more than five decades, this family-owned business has been committed to the local community. But you sure can’t say they’re stuck in the past — they highlight current projects like the Tuck Box and Folktale winery on their Facebook page!

■ Best Plumber

A&R Plumbing, Inc. — 1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 24-hour emergency service - (831) 394-7221 -

A&R Plumbing promises excellent customer service and fair pricing. With customer compliments like, “prompt,” “lots of energy,” “professional,” and “very courteous,” it’s clear their employees are their greatest assets. If they can’t prevent a problem with one of their maintenance and inspection programs, they’ll be there when you need them to fix it.

■ Best Architect/Designer

Adam Jeselnick — Lincoln between Fifth and Sixth - (831) 620-5164 -

Adam Jeselnick has worked on several high-profile projects, including Affina Food and Wine and the event center at Seventh and Dolores. He also donated time to create a plan for the proposed Dolores Street pedestrian promenade. He thinks of himself as a “community-minded architect” who supports sustainable designs that fit into their environments.

■ Best General Contractor

Bill Lewellen Construction — 7522 Fawn Ct. - call for appointment - (831) 625-2714

Longtime Peninsula contractor Bill Lewellen is known for his integrity, consistency and attention to detail. Disclaimer: Bill’s daughter-in-law and Pine Cone sales rep, Meena, was nowhere near the email server while voting was in progress.

■ Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

Comeau Design — Santa Fe, 3 NE of Fifth Ave - (831) 620-0111 -

Michelle Comeau has been creating beautiful landscapes for more than 40 years, using native and drought-tolerant plants without sacrificing color or style. Her award-winning work has also been featured repeatedly in Sunset magazine and her design at City Hall is in the Smithsonian Institution’s archives.

■ Best Real Estate Lender

RPM Mortgage — 3 SW Corner of Fifth and San Carlos - (831) 574-4500 -

Mortgage lending today is no easy task.  Clients of RPM Mortgage’s Carmel and Monterey offices are the beneficiaries of “white glove service,” unmatched knowledge and the assurance that they are being guided through the lending process by some of the most experienced, ethical and professional mortgage lender teams in town.

■ Best Title Company

Chicago Title Company — 26609 Carmel Center Place - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 625-5676 -

Chicago Title brings more than160 years of experience to their clients, along with a passion to provide the utmost in customer service. As assistant vice president for business Development Rene Ayers said, “We are most excited about our attention to our individual clients and their needs to make their escrows smooth and complete.”

■ Best Personal Bank

Chase Bank — (877) 937-9357 -

The earliest predecessor of what is today Chase Bank, got its charter in 1799 in New York City — but we won’t hold that against them! With convenient locations offering prompt, friendly service in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, and Monterey, Chase is ready to provide a full range of banking services.

■ Best Business Bank

Wells Fargo Bank — Locations pretty much everywhere - check website for individual openings and phone numbers -

Businesses banking services no longer mean just credit services and checking accounts. Wells Fargo is on top of everything from payroll services and fraud protection to specialized advisors for different types of businesses. And they’re not horsing around.

■ Best Investment House/Adviser

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

Partners Steve Merrill, Ken Petersen, Gary Alt, and Cristofer Cabanillas have more than 70 years of combined experience to share with their clients. They help clients gauge risk, stay ahead of inflation and protect their assets for the next generation — and promise to put clients’ interests first, always.  

■ Best Veterinarian
■ Best Pet Boarding

Dr. Bishop, The Animal Hospital at the Crossroads — The Crossroads Shopping Village - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri.; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat.; 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sun. - (831) 624-0131 -

The Animal Hospital at the Crossroads has been helping our four-legged buddies since 1969. In addition to providing high quality pet care, Dr. Bishop and his staff will give your best friend the best of care when he can’t join you for the annual sales conference. Call for reservations; check the website for boarding requirements.

■ Best Pet Care

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 -

Dr. Kathleen Marcus’ Purrfurably Cats is much more than a veterinary practice. Their cat-fancying staff will groom your feline diva, clean her teeth, and provide preventive care. Their deluxe boarding facility has a sunny playroom, where Felix can have a daily workout while you’re away.

■ Best Car Repair Shop

Nystrom Automotive — San Carlos and Fifth - 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 626-4407

When your customers’ raves include words like “wizard,” “trustworthy” and “honest,” you know you’re onto something. Eric Nystrom has been running this repair shop since 2004 and has a great reputation for integrity and excellent work.

■ Best Auto Body Shop

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

When you love your car, seeing it beaten up and bruised after an accident can be downright painful.  Let this auto body shop apply 30-plus years of experience and use its state of the art equipment to make it all better. It’ll be okay.

■ Best Dry Cleaners

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

“Good clothes deserve good care.” That’s been owner Deok Chong’s mantra for over three decades. If you want to pass on your wedding gown one day, they’ll make sure it’s properly preserved. Available alterations and repairs make this a one-stop shop to keep you looking your best.

■ Best Travel Agent

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

Travel websites have proliferated so much that you need a guide just to navigate them. Thank heavens for P.G. Travel owner Joe Shammas and travel experts Laura Lockett and Mary Potter. Let their experience be your guide and scrap the dot-coms for a real spot of calm in the vacation-planning process.

■ Best Hair Salon

March Hare — Fifth Ave. and Mission - Call for appointment, Tues. to Sat. - (831) 624-3024 -

MaryAnna Stahl’s pleasant salon provides a spa-like setting for women and men alike to relax and be pampered. Customers love the way they look and feel with great haircuts, excellent color and flattering styles.

■ Best Skin Care

O2 Skin Renu — 995 Cass St., Monterey - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Sat.; by appointment Sat. - (831) 324-0048 -

With ultra-modern techniques to infuse skin with serums to hydrate, rejuvenate and lighten dark spots, and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber where you can watch a movie while your skin tone improves, it’s no wonder O2 Skin Renu is this year’s favorite.

■ Best Nail Salon

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

Is it time to go from “blah” to “ahhhhhh?” This is the place! Services at our readers’ favorite nail salon exceed expectations — besides mani-pedis that seem to last forever, there’s waxing, and a selection of massages including Swedish and Shiatsu, with aromatherapy. Don’t you feel better just thinking about it?

■ Best Massage Therapist

Donna Ferguson, Central Coast Massage — 26344 Carmel Rancho Ln., Ste. 5U - Call for appointment - (831) 760-9696 -

Donna uses over 10 years’ past experience working with a chiropractor and a physical therapist to “read” a client’s body, figure out what might be causing an ache or pain, and then do what’s needed to release it. She said that whether it’s a round of golf or any other kind of activity, her goal is to “help people maintain what they love to do.”

■ Best Spa

Refuge — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley - 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 620-7360 -

Open 365 days a year, Refuge’s outdoor paradise invites you to warm up in the sauna or steam room, then briefly chill in the equivalent of the blue Pacific or an icy river. Then ooze into an anti-gravity chair, an Adirondack by a fire pit, or one of the facility’s many hot tubs.

■ Best Dentist

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

Dr. Carl can make your smile beautiful, treat your gum disease, and fix a bridge, if need be. He has a reputation for a gentle touch that has brought relief to patients for more than 30 years, and he makes sure to keep up with all the latest techniques and treatments, too.

■ Best Dermatologist

Roya Javid, Coastal Valley Dermatology — 26366 Carmel Rancho Ln., Suite H - 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. to Thurs.; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fri. - (831) 293-8458 -

Dr. Roya Javid and her staff really love their work. She’s a Johns Hopkins graduate who has a passion for helping her patients look and feel their best. Whether it’s microsurgery to remove skin cancer or procedures to keep them looking young, Dr. Javid’s patients can rely on her expertise for quality care.

■ Best Ophthalmologist

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

The sunsets at Carmel Beach and the views from Point Lobos are just two of many reasons to take care of your eyes, and Dr. Rosenblum has been looking out for Peninsula residents’ vision for more than 20 years. He is a specialist in diabetic retinopathy, cataract surgery and glaucoma.

■ Best Orthopedist

Christopher Clevenger — 980 Cass St., Monterey - 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri.  - (831) 622-2760

Dr. Clevenger is a graduate of Dartmouth and Texas Tech. He said he enjoys practicing medicine because, “There’s a lot of nice patients. They’re good people. I’m not trying to see somebody every five minutes anymore. I listen to them and give them more time.” How refreshing — and clearly, it’s working.

■ Best Pediatrician

Pierre LaMothe, Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group - 2 Upper Ragsdale Drive, #210, Monterey - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon Sat. - (831) 333-0999 -

Dr. LaMothe has been board certified in pediatric medicine for 25 years, and said he loves his job because helping kids is fun. His extensive experience working with little ones makes him a reassuring presence to parents around here. When he’s not in the office, you might find him surfing, cooking or gardening.

■ Best Plastic Surgeon

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

Compassion combined with expertise and up-to-date techniques have made Dr. Sunde a perennial winner in this category. Whether he’s helping someone look and feel her best with a tummy tuck or making a scar less visible, patients trust Dr. Sunde for high quality care and customer service.

■ Best Physical Therapist

Amy Altshuler, Carmel Orthopedic & Sport Therapy — 245 The Crossroads, Carmel - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 620-0744

Amy’s been helping people get back on their feet for 30 years. “I really love my job,” she said, “It’s all about the people and making them feel better!” It’s that passion that ensures the great care that garnered this year’s award for her.

■ Best Chiropractor

Aaron Gaily — 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 -

In addition to providing care for the patients in his Monterey office, this Carmel Valley native and 1995 Carmel High School graduate gives back to the community as head coach of the Carmel High varsity boys’ water polo team.

■ Best Divorce Lawyer

Molly Abel Warner — 2100 Garden Rd # A103, Monterey - (831) 375-5553

She didn’t return The Pine Cone’s call requesting a comment on her Golden Pine Cone, but Ms. Warner is a Monterey College of Law grad with 32 years of experience. She must be good and busy — her outgoing voicemail said she’s not taking any new clients!

■ Best Estate Planning Attorney

Albert Nicora, Nicora and Hespe — 26385 Carmel Rancho Blvd. - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 622-2000 -

Estate planning can be an emotional and uncomfortable subject. It requires a deft touch and the expertise to make clients comfortable. With more than 30 years of experience, including several decades as a court-appointed probate referee, Albert Nicora is a well-known and trusted advocate.

■ Best Lawyer if You Need to Sue Somebody
■ Best Defense Attorney

Andrew 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 -

Andrew Swartz has run the New York, Boston, San Francisco and Big Sur marathons, and he brings the same dogged determinations to the clients he represents. The Santa Clara law grad has been practicing in Monterey since 1973. Whether he’s representing the plaintiff or the defendant, you can bet he’ll fight to win.

■ Best Insurance Agent

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

Since its founding in 1948, Carmel Insurance has been dedicated to its clients’ welfare and security. Three generations of the Little family and their colleagues have been committed to doing right by their customers, and it shows.

■ Best Shoe Repair

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

Federico’s opened two years before the U.S. entered World War II. They’ve seen it all, from boots, to Nikes, to saddle shoes, to stilettos. They’ll still fix a pair of shoes, a purse — and recently, even a horse’s bridle. What a great reminder that good service never goes out of style.

■ Best School

Tularcitos Elementary School — 35 Ford Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. - (831) 620-8195 -

Tularcitos Elementary School scored a grand slam this year, winning best school, best principal for Ryan Peterson and best teacher for Teresa Stasio. High levels of parent involvement; creative, passionate teachers and a rich learning environment are the hallmarks of great schools like this one.

■ Best Teacher

Teresa Stasio, Tularcitos Elementary School — 35 Ford Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. - (831) 620-8195 -

Teresa Stasio said she was “honored and touched” to receive her Golden Pine Cone. A teacher for 31 years, she teaches first graders at Tularcitos. She said she tries to create an environment where “creativity and curiosity are valued.” Parents agree, saying she’s passionate about her job.

■ Best Principal

Ryan Peterson, Tularcitos Elementary School — 35 Ford Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. - (831) 620-8195 -

Not every principal volunteers for a harvest festival dunk tank every year, but Ryan Peterson isn’t just any principal. Parents give him high marks for energy and dedication. For his part, Peterson said, “I give all the credit to the teachers, parents and everyone else for the school’s success. I’m just blessed to be here.”

■ My Favorite Nonprofit

SPCA for Monterey County — 1002 Monterey Salinas Hwy. - administrative offices open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 373-2631 -

“All creatures great and small” are welcome at this busy animal care center. In addition to cats and dogs, injured tortoises, abandoned bunnies and horses alike find veterinary care, shelter and compassion. Dog-training classes and the Take the Lead program for at-risk teens benefit two-legged clients as well.