The Carmel Pine Cone


IT’S FUN to think about — did Sinclair Lewis ever get into it with Robinson Jeffers over where the best fried abalone was to be found• Did Bing Crosby and Bob Hope ever argue about the best place to buy a new 9-iron?

Even if you’re not a celebrity, as a Pine Cone reader, you almost certainly have estimable opinions about where to get a great breakfast, a good massage and where to go pop out a dent in your Beemer’s fender.

That’s why we asked — and for the ninth year you responded. More than 14,000 readers of our email edition (go to to subscribe) were polled in an election that’s pretty tough to rig. The results are in — this year’s Golden Pine Cones for everything from where to take a hike or grab a burger to where to get your Rolex or your Louboutins repaired.

Under the headings of things “you don’t want to need, but want to have done well when you do,” you told us where to find a good lawyer, a terrific physical therapist and an excellent plastic surgeon. Do-gooders are also honored, as are good bosses. And of course, all things kitty and puppy are part of the fun.

So read on, enjoy — and remember to shop locally!


• Best Neighborhood Market
• Best Butcher

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

With all the items you might need to run out to the market for — a loaf of bread from a local bakery, a head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley, the best hot sauce or a quart of milk — Bruno’s Market is everything a corner store should be, and more, with name brands and basics, house-made and made-to-order. It’s the ideal spot to run to for steaks to cook for friends or fruit for the kids, along with a freshly made sandwich for lunch. Also voted best butcher, Bruno’s Market’s meat counter carries top-grade beef, choice cuts of pork and other prime meats. It’s an especially busy place during the holidays.

• Best Fruits and Vegetables
Farmers Markets — - - - -

If you live here, why even bother shopping for produce at the grocery store, when a nearby farmers market has better goods for lower prices practically every day of the week• Pine Cone readers know the best fruits and vegetables are found at their local farmers markets — and there are plenty. 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 May through October. 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 Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 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. Lavish displays are kept fresh and well stocked by knowledgeable staff members who can explain every product’s source and benefits, from Asian pears to zucchini. Adding to the benefit of shopping there, prices are often competitive, despite the market’s reputation as a spendy choice. The store is full-service, of course, also carrying fresh and frozen meats, dairy, cheeses, dry goods, baked items, plenty of vitamins and supplements, wine and beer, and even some household items, clothing and accessories.

• Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads and 598 Foam St., Monterey - (831) 626-3626 and (831) 646-0547 - 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily in Carmel; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Monterey -

A stone’s throw from the Pacific, Sea Harvest market boasts the best in fresh seafood daily, from locally famous dungeness crab and sand dabs, to halibut, sushi-grade tuna, and a wide range of other shellfish and bounty from the sea. Whether you are served at one of the market restaurants or take your fish home, Sea Harvest’s knowledgeable staff is there to help you select the freshest choices.

• Best Bakery

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

“Bread & Happiness,” notes the website of Lafayette Bakery, a local favorite since it opened its doors at the Barnyard shopping center a few years back. Owned by master baker Jean-Bernard Vial — who has been baking since 1976 — and also tapping into the skills and knowledge of pastry chef Pascal Merle, Lafayette has impressed patrons with its lovely and diminutive French pastries, tarts, whimsical cookies and cakes, breads, quiches and other delights. Most mornings, the charming spot is crammed with people sipping coffee and nibbling something delectable.

• Best Catering Company

Aqua Terra Culinary  — (831) 657-9790 -

Offering corporate catering, as well as catering for weddings and other private events both on- and off site, Aqua Terra Culinary was started by executive chef Dory Ford and focuses on farm-to-table cuisine that’s innovative as well as accessible. Ford and his team turn out bright, beautiful and creative dishes, and he says on the company’s website that regardless of size and type, his firm “has the staff, equipment and know-how to match.” Aqua Terra also recently expanded to Colorado.

• Best Kitchen 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 -

If you’re looking for a baking sheet, the latest chef’s knife, or any other tool for the kitchen, Sur La Table is the place to go for anyone who cooks, whether professionally or just for fun. The store has lots of gifts and great gadgets, books, napkins, glasses — and, of course, everything a chef needs in the kitchen — as well as the staff to help you make the most of it. Splurge on a new Le Creuset pot or stock up on more martini glasses for the bar, and drop off your knives for sharpening while you’re shopping. Whatever you need for the kitchen, you’ll find it here.

• Best Wine Store

Nielsen Bros. Market — NE corner 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 Tigran and Azniv Amirkhanian, Nielsen Bros. has never lost its small-town feel while carrying an impressive collection of wines from all over the world. Its wine cellar regularly hosts free tastings, and the resident wine staff is knowledgeable and helpful, whether you’re looking for a splurge-worthy Champagne to celebrate a milestone, or a Spanish sleeper that will impress your friends without breaking the bank.

• Best Monterey County Chardonnay
• Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc

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 26 years ago, and while he started with the goal of creating a red wine that would rival the best of Bordeaux, the winery’s Chardonnays, Pinots and other varietals have also garnered praise from near and far. Nearest of all, Pine Cone readers selected its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as their favorites of those varietals this year. Vineyard manager Matt Shea cultivates Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes at the winery’s estate vineyards in Cachagua and Carmel Valley, and winemaker Dean DeKorth and his team work to produce the wines that keep fans coming back.

• Best Monterey County Rosé

Dawn’s Dream Winery — Tasting room at the NW corner San Carlos and Seventh – noon to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday - (831) 659-2649 -

Once dismissed as syrupy sweet and not worthy of real wine drinkers, rosé has become the darling among many locals who appreciate the dry (as in, not at all sweet) version’s drinkability, diversity and affordability. While 15 years ago, only one or two local wineries produced a dry rosé, they now number more than a dozen, and Dawn’s Dream was the favorite again this year. Owned by Dawn Galante, the winery produces a rosé of Pinot Noir that offers bright citrus notes and juicy hints of fresh berries. It’s dry and crisp, while still being layered with flavor, making it ideal for any occasion.

• Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

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

In 1989, award-winning film composer Alan Silvestri and his family moved from Los Angeles to Carmel, and they subsequently decided to take on a new venture, planting vines in the grape-friendly soil of Upper Carmel Valley. Over the years, the Silvestris and their winemaker have turned out consistent vintages, which they showcase in their tasting room in downtown Carmel, as well as at the many charitable events to which they are very generous. They make several different Pinots, each distinctive, and all praised for their balance, elegance and craft.

• My Favorite Monterey County Wine
• Best Monterey County Merlot
• Best Tasting Room
• Best Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon

Galante Vineyards — Tasting room on Dolores between Ocean and Seventh – noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday - (831) 624-3800 –

As Carmel celebrates its 100th birthday this year, the Galante family is celebrating alongside it, with a special centennial bottling of red wine. And that makes sense, considering founder Jack Galante’s great-grandfather, J. Franklin Devendorf, was one of the founders of the city, a place known for its scenic beauty, festivity and creativity. The Galantes have always focused on growing the finest grapes possible on their Cachauga vineyard and letting the fruit express itself in their wines — efforts that have been rewarded with praise and support from Pine Cone readers, who not only selected the winery’s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as their favorites, but chose it as their favorite tasting room and their favorite wine overall.

• Best Family Restaurant

Il Fornaio — Monte Verde between Ocean and Seventh – breakfast 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, brunch 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends, and dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 622-5100 -

When it comes to preparing authentic Italian food, the chefs at Il Fornaio have been at it for decades, and the Carmel location is as beautiful as its food is delicious. Regularly celebrating the cuisine of various regions of Italy, Il Fornaio at the Pine Inn is also a great place to take the whole family, considering its spacious interior and relaxed but lively atmosphere. The restaurant offers a great Happy Hour and wine dinners featuring local producers, with special menus to match.

• 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 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday – (831) 372-5325 –

Owned by Calvin and Michele Wilkes, this authentic and charming French bistro transports you from Pacific Grove’s busiest street to a quiet village in France as soon as you walk in the door. Since 1985, Fifi’s has consistently served quality French cuisine in a quaint, intimate setting that’s elegant, but also informal. Fans go for traditional favorites like moules frites, Escargots de Bourgogne and duck confit salad, and the restaurant has a wine store that carries a wide selection of exceptional wines. Now under the guidance of Jacques Melac, the wine store at Fifi’s offers 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 always busy and bustling, and with good reason: The dishes paraded out from its tiny kitchen are bright, fresh, aromatic and satisfying in the ways that only really good Chinese food can be. And that’s why Tommy’s Wok, the city’s only Chinese restaurant, is a perennial favorite among Pine Cone readers. Tommy’s serves up a menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties, and is popular for takeout, as well as dining in.

• 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. daily - (831) 641-0610 -

With an extensive menu, including many vegan options, Ambrosia India Bistro is the best spot on the Monterey Peninsula for Indian food, bar none. And while lunch and dinner provide numerous choices, the weekday lunch buffet is legendary for its delicious food and great value. The chefs at Ambrosia pride themselves on providing authentically flavorful Indian food in an elegant atmosphere. 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  

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

Since 1990, Little Napoli has helped bring a little bit of Italy to downtown Carmel, and owner Rich Pepe is proud of his legacy. With the feel of a café in Naples, Little Napoli offers antipasti, pizza, pasta and risotto that are “prepared perfectly with the handed down Pepe family signature recipes,” according to the restaurant. Among the favorites is the veal osso buco ravioli with mushrooms and porcini cream, and, of course, the various Pizza Napoletana offerings.

• Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

Robata Grill & Sake Bar — The Barnyard Shopping Village - 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 -

Robata has been an institution practically since it opened its doors more than 35 years ago in the charming Barnyard shopping center. There, dark-wood ambiance melds with delicious and consistent Japanese fare, from teriyaki and nikumaki, to more than a dozen specialty rolls, classic sushi and sashimi. The variety of house cocktails matches the abundant menu, with specialty Bloody Marys and other popular libations, including more than a dozen sakes. Meet old and new friends in the bar, or settle in with the family or your date a booth to share a Japanese feast that can’t be beat.

• 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 lively atmosphere, the delectable Mediterranean food, and the music performances that can happen at a moment’s notice. Friends Faisal Nimri and Bashar Sneeh were brought together by their love of music — both play the traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument, the oud — and their desire to create a restaurant that feels like home led to their opening Dametra Café. Always with a line out the door, Dametra offers all varities of Mediterranean dishes. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, continue to build their following by displaying their inimitable hospitality, which fans can also now experience at their new restaurants, Mediterranean and PortaBella.

• Best Mexican Restaurant  

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – from11:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, and from 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 625-2252 -

Some people go just for the margaritas and to dance to the band playing on the outdoor deck, while others prefer to sip some of the more unusual offerings among an extensive list of tequilas. But most of those who flock to Pat and Gina Phinny’s cantina go for the broad and unexpected menu of fresh Mexican fare served with flair. Fresh fish tacos, organic garden tamales and mole enchiladas are just a few of the many favorites. 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 much of Phinny’s abundant collection of automobile and motorcycle memorabilia is on display there. With a large bar and several televisions, Baja is also a great spot to grab a beer and watch the game or a Formula 1 race.

• Best Thai Restaurant

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

In a restaurant founded on the motto, “We are Thai Family,” the owners of Pacific Thai Cuisine pride themselves on sharing family recipes with distinctive and traditional flavors and textures. Located in the heart of Pacific Grove on Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Thai offers great food at reasonable prices in a casual setting. Chef specials include Gina’s fried calamari with Thai dipping sauce, and coconut milk artichoke soup, while mainstays like Pad Thai and an array of green, red, yellow and Panang curries are always solid choices.

• Best Restaurant for Seafood

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

If ever there was a restaurant that epitomized “doing well by doing good,” it’s Passionfish. The Pacific Grove hotspot can be fairly categorized as an institution, since it opened nearly 20 years ago in 1997. In addition to serving up sustainable seafood, meat and poultry, owners Ted and Cindy Walter, ably aided by Jannae Lizza, the wine director, have made it their mission to make good wine accessible to everyone. Wine selections are eclectic, and are carefully paired with dishes like sturgeon, halibut or sea scallops. The Walters are also very generous in donating their efforts and resources to local charities.

• Best Restaurant for Steak

The Whaling Station — 763 Wave St., Monterey - From 4:30 p.m. daily for cocktails; dinner begins at 5 p.m. - (831) 373-3778 -

Speaking of local institutions, this one’s been around for more than 40 years. If you’re seeking USDA Prime aged beef and service that hearkens back to gentler days, this is the place. There are red wine-braised short ribs, beef Wellington, a porterhouse for two and a rack of lamb. You can add a lobster tail and have your Caesar salad made tableside. Add all your steakhouse favorite sides, including loaded twice-baked potato, sautéed wild mushrooms, creamed spinach or scalloped potatoes. And the bartender still knows how to make a Rob Roy. If you’re looking for something slightly lighter and easier on the pocketbook, the bar menu offers up crispy organic cauliflower, prime rib egg rolls and a blackened king salmon filet with an iceberg wedge and fries. And your server just may have been there for a decade or two!

• Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant — 1180 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and lunch 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 656-9533

At Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant in the back of the Forest Hill Shopping Center near Fifi’s, the vibe is more hippie than hipster. The staff will process your scraps for compost and serve only the finest reverse-osmosis filtered water. Entertainment Mon. through Thurs. starts at 6:30, and promises to take you back to the ’60s and ’70s. In addition to the requisite veggie burgers and roasted tofu, there is a seitan and barbecue sauce pizza and a variety of salads, including a strawberry salad and one made with roasted veggies. There’s also a hot Thai green curry and a rice biryani with spinach, tofu, roasted vegetables, golden raisins and pumpkin seeds.

• Best BBQ

Big Sur River Inn — 26 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1 - 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daily - (831) 655-1704 -

There’s something magical about whiling away the afternoon in an Adirondack chair with your toes in the Big Sur River, and something even better about beginning or ending that afternoon with some top-quality barbecue from the Inn’s restaurant. The pulled pork sandwich with a refreshing side of crunchy coleslaw will take you straight to North Carolina, while the baby back ribs will leave you satisfied and possibly in need of a nap. Besides the ’cue, there’s buttermilk fried chicken and a double cut pork chop with onion marmalade. On the lighter side, there are plenty of salads and starters, as well as the restaurant’s signature hot apple pie for dessert. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily to happy locals and tourists alike.

• 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 -

These burgers are indeed “r.g.” — real good! They’re always juicy, and plenty of choices are at hand. There are more than 20 burgers, from the Hawaiian with grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce, to the Mediterranean with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese. Or you can take the simple route and have yours with a slice of American cheese and some of the restaurant’s special sauce. Your burger can be made from ground beef, ground turkey, chicken or falafel and there are plenty of vegetarian sides and entrée salads. Step back in time with a 50/50 (orange soda with vanilla ice cream), and since you’re not even pretending to eat healthy at that point, round out the meal with a chocolate brownie sundae.

• Best Breakfast

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

The Pine Cone readers’ favorite place for the most important meal of the day since 2008, Katy’s Place continues to reign supreme. It’s even trademarked its brand, “Carmel’s Breakfast Tradition,” and as its website says, “The most precious ingredient that goes into every meal at Katy’s Place is ... Love.” Of course, contrary to popular romantic delusion, you can’t really live on love, so let’s get down to business. How about eight kinds of waffles and 11 kinds of pancakes• Or maybe you’ll be egged on to choose from the 20 kinds of Benedict, including a Cajun offering with shrimp or a luxury edition with lobster. And please bring the kids — there’s a box full of toys to keep them occupied while the grownups sip on their mimosas.

• 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

Mermaid• What mermaid• No matter where you are in and around town, a delicious cup of freshly roasted coffee is only a few minutes away at this local wonder. In business since 1994, CVCRC set out to do one thing: “provide serious handcrafted coffee, using the finest Arabica beans, delivered very fresh to discerning customers.” It’s also a certified organic roaster by California Certified Organic Farmers. Roast Master Tina Muia and her staff slow-roast organic coffee beans daily, churning out the original Carmel Foglifter and 14 other varieties and blends. Owners Dean and Janet McAthie “get” coffee culture, too. Every location is designed for relaxation and convivial pleasure. Baristas are friendly and knowledgeable, and there are plenty of locally produced snacks to nosh on. Sip in the shop or take home a bag o’beans — or do both.

• Best Desserts

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

Rosine Culcasi and her family have been serving up extravagant desserts since the place opened in 1980. The family makes all the desserts in-house, and they’re proudly displayed by the entrance, so you can start making decisions while you’re waiting to be seated. On any given day you might be confronted with a six-layer German chocolate cake, a chocolate peanut butter cake and pie, and a key lime pie, just to name a few. Portions are plenty big enough to share, and the sweets are as pretty as they are tasty. If you’re afraid you won’t have room, you can take one to go — or take this bit of sage advice: Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

• Best Happy Hour

Vesuvio — Corner of Sixth and Junipero - Daily, 4 to 11 p.m., Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-1766 -

Named for the volcano, Vesuvio is part of Chef Rich Pepe’s Italian empire. The paisan from Jersey grew up making homemade wine with his family every year, laughing and enjoying their company, so it was only natural to want share that fun and lively atmosphere with his customers here. Or as he put it on his website, “Today, it is my passion and dream to pass along and share my family’s lifestyle and traditions through my restaurant, wine, travel and hospitality ventures.” Vesuvio has two bars, one indoors and one on its rooftop terrace, and each serves up great cocktails, including an Aperol Spritz, made with the Italian aperitif, Aperol, prosecco, and soda. Order something from the trattoria-style menu of small bites, pizza, pasta or a big bowl of cioppino. Sit back, sip, relax, repeat. Alla salute!

• 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 -

It takes a lot for Pine Cone readers to vote for a franchise operation as their favorite, but once again, in the Best Ice Cream category, it’s Cold Stone Creamery, hands down. With ice cream churned fresh in-house daily and almost infinite combinations with fresh ingredients like strawberries and bananas, it’s always time for dessert. They mix up your favorite add-ins in signature combinations like crème berry brulee, with crème brulee ice cream, strawberries, blueberries and caramel; or “That’s how I roll” with cake batter ice cream, chunks of yellow cake, pecans and cinnamon. Don’t care for any of their suggestions? Pick from among the many flavors of ice cream and the 30 or so add-ins and make your own creation, mixed up on the eponymous cold stone in the store
• Best Pizza

Allegro Gourmet Pizza – 3770 The Barnyard - Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12 to 9 p.m. - (831) 626-5454 -

On the southwest corner of The Barnyard shopping center is a place that’s been dishing up pizza by the pie and the slice since 1988. If you’ve ever picked up a big wedge of East Coast pizza, folded it in half and nibbled from tip to crust while molten cheese burned your mouth, its offerings will be satisfyingly familiar. Allegro’s cranking out traditional combos like pepperoni and cheese, and meatball and cheese with homemade meatballs, and fancier pies like the Sicilian with a thicker crust, olive oil, light tomato basil sauce, oregano, caramelized onions, provolone and Parmesan. There are some combinations that might push a traditionalist to the edge, too — a bacon cheeseburger pie and “The Artichoke Hot Wing Thing.” There’s a pleasing selection of wines by the glass and you can taste a flight of three reds or three whites for $6. Pull up a chair in the restaurant, decorated with hanging bunches of empty Chianti bottles and braids of garlic, or get your pizza to go.

• Best Fast Food

In-N-Out Burger — 1350 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside - Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. -

The paint at the much-vaunted and long-awaited Peninsula location of In-N-Out Burger’s was barely dry before a queue of cars filled with cult-like devotees formed around the building and out the driveway. It’s always busy, but efficient, and does what MacDonald’s was once best at — providing a limited menu of well prepared items quickly. Like in John Belushi’s Olympia Restaurant on Saturday Night Live, you can get “hamborger, cheezborger.” Unlike it, you can get fries, no chips and Coke, no Pepsi.

• Best New Restaurant

Cultura Comida y Bebida — Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - Monday and Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m., closed Wednesday - (831) 250-7005 -

Managing partner Sarah Kabat-Marcy and chefs John Cox and Michelle Estigoy, all formerly culinary power players at Post Ranch’s Sierra Mar restaurant, left their office above the rocks and waves of Big Sur for more modest and casual digs here in town selling elegant Mexican food. That’s good news for locals who no longer have to make the trek south for their creative cooking. It’s quite a bit more wallet-friendly, too. After its August opening, it rocketed to the top of the list of “Top 12 Restaurants in Carmel,” as chosen by Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle, and garnered five-star ratings on Trip Advisor and Yelp. The food is sophisticated but recognizable, with Estigoy drawing on her Oaxacan heritage to turn out items like chicharron (fried pork rind), street tacos, Monterey abalone with a charred pasilla pepper and pickled seaweed, and halibut ceviche served in a coconut shell. If you imbibe, there’s an emphasis on mezcal, the smoky liquor from the agave plant that you can think of as tequila’s more complex cousin.

• Best Place to Take Clients

Rio Grill — 101 Crossroads Blvd. - Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. - (831) 625-5436 -

Great food that won’t break the budget? Check. Friendly atmosphere where you can still hear the conversation? Check. Full bar and rooms for private parties? Yup. And all in a place where you’ll feel equally at home in a suit or a pair of jeans. The service is terrific — warm and knowledgeable — and Chef Cy’s southwestern food is creative without pretense. You can share appetizers like empanadas with tri-tip and Hatch chilies, and calamari with an orange-sesame dipping sauce replacing the ubiquitous tartar and cocktail sauces. Lighter entrees like the sweet/sour/salty/crunchy Chinese chicken salad and sandwiches like the salmon BLT with avocado are good choices, as are entrees like house-smoked chicken.

• Most Romantic Restaurant
• Best Restaurant in Carmel

Casanova — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel - Daily, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m., and until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 625-0501 -

When you think of romance, do you think “stiff” and “formal•” Probably not. You think of someplace relaxed and intimate — a place like Casanova. Since 2008, it’s been the “winner winner romantic dinner” spot for Pine Cone readers. Why• Its short and simple menu is packed with complex flavors, from the bread with house-churned butter and sea salt to the chocolate cake with banana and banana hazelnut ice cream. And you won’t be left struggling with food words you can’t pronounce. The service is understated and the surroundings bring a touch of Europe to your date. The wine list is extensive and staff is ready to explain, describe and pair to your dinner selection. For a really special occasion, reserve Van Gogh’s table and dine where the “Starry Night” painter took his meals. All you have to bring to the table is your charming personality.

• Best Wine List
• Best Restaurant Service

The Sardine Factory — 701 Wave St., Monterey - Daily, 5 p.m. to 9:30 and 5:30 to 10 p.m., and until 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday - (831) 373-3775 -

So, let’s say you’re Leon Panetta and you’re hunting down the worst terrorist in the history of the United States. And let’s say a friend who’s a restaurant owner promises you a bottle of wine if you succeed in getting the bastard. You want that guy to be Ted Balestreri and you want the restaurant to be that Monterey mainstay, the Sardine Factory. The bottle for Mr. Panetta was an 1871 Chateau Laffite Rothschild valued at between $10,000 and $15,000, and by all accounts, it was pretty good. Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to get a great glass of vino at the Factory, but oenophiles should budget an extra 10 to 15 minutes to peruse the list. Expect classic and unobtrusive fine dining service with flourishes that will take you back to more genteel and formal days — but still allow you to dine in comfort.

• 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, Sunday Brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., bar open daily noon to 11 p.m., and until midnight Friday and Saturday - (800) 443-7443 - or

Que sera sera. And in this case, what will be is the height of le chien chic, at the hotel and restaurant owned in part by Doris Day and named for her late son, record producer Terry Melchior. Order your best friend a Mutt-ini and get yourself a Prawn Martini — five big ol’ shrimp with spicy horseradish cocktail sauce in a martini glass. Or have the classic Monterey Sand Dabs: succulent, delicate fillets with tarragon cream sauce and potatoes. The cocktail menu’s been curated — no, really — from Hollywood history. Have a Marlene Dietrich with whisky, grand Marnier and citrus accouterments, or the classic French 75, an elegant Champagne cocktail unexpectedly named for a French artillery shell. The best thing about having drinks with your dog is that he won’t shame you, or post an unflattering photo with what you said about your ex on Facebook later.

• 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 -

The buffet at Crazy Horse in Bay Park Inn hasn’t changed much since at least 1988, before Paul Miller even thought about owning a newspaper, and it’s still a Very Good Thing. Unlike a post-millennial tofu-ridden arugula fest, this place has shaved roast beef, turkey and hard-boiled eggs on the line. The triple-seed bread is just as crunchy and flavorful, the bottomless iced tea is just as fresh, and the curried shrimp salad is just as savory as it was in the days of big hair and Wham! In an outstanding example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” this spot is still packed for lunch, even on a Tuesday in the off season. Pine Cone readers know value when they see it.

• Best Deli

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

Need a nosh• Maybe a juicy roast beef sandwich almost as big as your head• Bruno’s is the place to go, at least in our readers’ always-tasteful opinion. You can be the captain of your picnic and have it made to order, right down to the type of bread and the condiments, or you can grab something ready to go from the refrigerated case. Hardcore DIY’ers, can get deli meat cut to order and then go home and slather on that special mustard Aunt Hedwig sent over from Munich.

• Best Outdoor Dining

Forge in the Forest — Corner of Fifth and Junipero, Carmel - Open daily from 11:30 a.m.; Sunday-Thursday until 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.; Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. - (831) 624-2233 -

While this restaurant’s fame stems from its origins as an actual working forge (still preserved in the bar), its exalted status as the best place to enjoy lunch on a sunny afternoon can be attributed to its cozy patio, where locals and visitors alike love to while away the hours enjoying specialties like ceviche, seafood ravioli and the Forge’s legendary grilled cheese sandwich. Dogs are welcome, too, which always adds to the fun, and so do the restaurant’s generous happy hours, everyday from 3 to 5 p.m., and again from 9 p.m. to closing.

• Best Brunch
• 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 -

This is where locals go while tourists are still trying to spot Clint at the Hog’s Breath. Owned by the former Hizonner, this hotspot by the sea is a place for song lovers, food lovers and lovers of the civilized outdoors alike to congregate and enjoy life. Take a walk on the nearby beach and work up an appetite, or watch the herd of sheep feeding nearby and relax. Brunch is pretty much whatever you want — a Benedict, an omelet to order, or even salmon and a salad. There are so many options you could eat here every Sunday for a year and not have the same meal twice. Or come for the dinner menu that’s precisely what you’d expect from Clint — chops, steaks, straightforward seafood and local produce on the side. Finish up with some New York cheesecake and a glass of port, and you’ll be ready to sing along with the Great American Songbook at the best piano bar in town.

• Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
• Best Bartender

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine/Ira Comello — Sixth and Mission - Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Lounge 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, open at 10:30 Saturday and Sunday - (831) 624-6562

Sometimes you need somewhere special for a day that’s a really big deal — a marriage proposal, retirement, turning the big five-oh or celebrating that silver anniversary. While there are many such places around here — an embarrassment of riches, in fact — Pine Cone readers chose Grasing’s as this year’s winner. Kurt Grasing has created an atmosphere of modest elegance in which diners can still hear conversation while feasting on dishes like herb crusted sea bass with white beans, bacon, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, oven dried tomatoes and roasted garlic cream sauce; or a perfectly roasted half chicken with truffle polenta. The wine list is one of the best in town and you’ll find no shortage of quality recommendations to accompany your menu selections. You could also enjoy one of bartender Ira Comello’s signature libations. The longtime “social chemist” combines creative ingredients, to make wonders like the Bellini-tini, with peach puree, Champagne, and a dash of Stoli peach vodka. If you don’t have a special occasion, Grasing’s can make just about any night into one.

• Best Chef

Tim Wood, Carmel Valley Ranch — One Old Ranch Road, Carmel Valley - various locations around the resort and openings daily; call or check the website - (855) 421-2958 -

The picture of chef Tim Wood on Carmel Valley Ranch’s website tells you much of what you need to know about him. He’s standing in the Ranch’s organic garden, with a handful of multicolored beets he’s thrusting toward the camera, leaving Wood slightly out of focus in the background, smiling broadly. And that’s him — he expresses himself and his happiness through his food. There are bees kept there for honey, and the restaurants at the resort harvest their own sea salt. Don’t let that lead you to think this is snooty food, however. Like Wood, it’s very down to earth — huevos rancheros for breakfast, donuts from Red’s (a Monterey institution), sandwiches for lunch, truffle fries (OK, that’s a little snooty, but delicious) and roast chicken for dinner — simple food, but elevated to a level you’d expect at a resort like CVR.

• Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Big Sur Bakery — 47540 Highway 1, Big Sur - Bakery opens daily at 8 a.m.; breakfast and lunch served Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to close - (831) 667-0520

This little restaurant wants you to “slow down and come to your senses.” The team at Big Sur Bakery turns out breakfasts and brunches that will carry you through the hike to the waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There are pastries, house-made granola and great coffee — and they’re just getting warmed up. For lunch and dinner, pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven with toppings familiar — marinara and buffalo mozzarella — and unusual, like chili verde, chicken, purslane and queso fresco. Vegetarians can enjoy a risotto made with them in mind, while carnivores can feast on a wood-fired half chicken. And the desserts• Well, it’s a bakery, for crying out loud. How about some strawberry rhubarb pie or a flourless brownie with hot fudge, candied walnuts and walnut ice cream•

• 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 -

Café Rustica lives up to its name. With a Mediterranean feeling and simple, country home furnishings, it’s the perfect place to pull up a chair with a companion on a Friday morning. Inside, it’s warm and cozy — outside, almost always sunny on the heated patio. For solo diners, the counter is a welcome sight. It means having someone else to converse with, or not. And of course, dining for one at a table is perfectly fine. The soups are consistently delicious and the food’s unfussy fare with roots in Tuscany and Alsace. Don’t miss the Hungarian paprika goulash, and bring your patience — this place’s popularity means that sometimes, you’ll wait a little while for a table.

• Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Fandango — 223 17th St., Pacific Grove - Monday through Saturday, lunch 11:30 to 2:30 and dinner 5 p.m. to close; Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner 5 p.m. to close - (831) 372-3456 -

Let’s start at the end. You must have the profiteroles — cold ice cream in little warm pastry shells, swimming in hot fudge sauce. Now that that’s out of the way — Fandango is a place where you can sit by a fire, be waited on by a grownup who actually understands the food, and truly dine. Not in the American tradition of checking the time to get in and out in under 40 minutes, but in the European tradition of enjoying conversation, and tasting — really tasting — the food. The classics are all here. Start with a cup of the French onion soup, or the pate maison. Salads are generous, and the paella is more than enough to share. Or indulge in a rich, braised veal shank osso bucco. Let owner Pierre Bain or one of the other wine experts guide you through the voluminous wine list that spans the globe and the decades.

• Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

The Bench — The Lodge, 1700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Lunch and Dinner daily - (800) 877-0597 -

Even those with fond memories of Club XIX have been known to be won over by its replacement, the Bench. Its odd name is from the bench at the 18th Hole, commemorating the 1999 purchase of Pebble Beach by an investment group led by Clint Eastwood, Peter Ueberroth and the late Arnold Palmer, who bought it back from a Japanese company. The view of sky and sea is exceptional, and there are no bad seats. Even on a cool day, a seat at a fire pit on the patio can be pleasant, what with heaters and blankets and perhaps an adult beverage to keep you cozy. Chef Aaron Burns’ food rocks — Portobello fries are crispy outside, and juicy inside with a smoked cheddar-Parmesan dip that’s a perfect complement. The grilled flatbreads are fun finger-food and the black mussels in coconut chili-lime broth are an Asian twist on classic moules frites.

• Best Restaurant in Monterey

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

Montrio is the kind of place where you want to go, hang out with your friends and try the bar’s offerings, then share some plates. Chef and co-owner Tony Baker’s menu is an ever-evolving creative exercise that’s playful, but never silly. You’ll find traditional treats like mac and cheese, and smoked bacon-wrapped shrimp (Baker makes his own bacon), but you can also order up a Szechuan popcorn and duck confit. You’ll find good old Caesar salad and the requisite kale salad, but you can also chow down on a BLT — salad with bacon and blue cheese, heirloom tomatoes and gem lettuce. Did we mention the bacon? With names like “Beaureguard’s Revenge” and “Fractured Fairy Tale,” the cocktail menu deserves some attention, too. Even non-tipplers can enjoy a creative spiced maraschino cherry soda or a pineapple ginger beer.

• 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 -

Elena Salsedo-Steele’s little bakery café isn’t the easiest thing to find — but once you do, you’ll be amply rewarded for your efforts. Delicious homemade pies, breads and biscotti await. It’s not just sweets, either. There are quiches and savory pies with flavors like smoked salmon and leeks or spinach, ricotta and mushroom. Or, grab one of the cute little baguette sandwiches that are just the right size for lunch. She also sells homemade granola, cookies and gift items. And just a tip — the croissants are flaky, buttery bites of heaven.

• Best Restaurant in Seaside

Gusto’s — 1901 Fremont Blvd., Seaside - Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 899-5825 -

Denis Boaro, owner and general manager of Gusto’s, was born and raised in a tiny town in the province of Treviso, northwest of Venice. His grandfather owned a restaurant, and Boaro used to watch him cook, making pasta and pizzas from scratch. Chef Michele Cremonese is from Verona, where he learned to cook from his mother. The two longtime friends have joined forces to open up a friendly, casual eatery that reminded them of home. There are 11 house pizza combos, and 14 pasta dishes, plus a choice of antipasti and salads, sure to leave you feeling full — but just in case, you can also pick up fresh pasta and sauce to take home for a midnight snack.


• Best Local Artist

Melissa Lofton —

The daughter of another respected local artist, the late Richard Lofton, Melissa Lofton has long charmed locals and visitors with her colorful and graceful paintings, which often capture the landscape that surrounded her Big Sur home and studio. Sadly, both were destroyed in the Soberanes Fire in July, but her paintings survived the blaze. While Lofton struggles to rebuild her home after the fire, friends and neighbors have rallied to support for her, and her artwork has received much-deserved attention. For a closer look at Lofton’s paintings, you can visit the Carmel Art Association, The Gallery at Ventana and Carmel Bay Company.

• Best Photo Gallery

Weston Gallery — On Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln -  10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 624-4453 -

Perhaps the most famous family in fine art photography, the legacy begins with Edward Weston, who established himself as one of the world’s most influential photographers in the early 20th century. Two of his sons, Cole and Brett Weston, followed in their father’s footsteps, and each received acclaim for their own work. Today, the images of all three can be found in the Weston Gallery, along with photographs by Cole’s daughter, Cara Weston. Besides showcasing the talents of one family, the gallery also features work by luminaries like Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Imogene Cunningham.

• Best Sculpture Gallery

Steven Whyte's Sculpture Studio and Gallery — On Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 620-1917

In a town that appears to be filled with more art galleries than working artists, sculptor Steven Whyte’s downtown studio and gallery stands out as a hub of industry and creativity. With his trusty canine companion, Wellington, by his side, Whyte has brought to life ambitious, large-scale sculptures depicting a wide range of subjects, from Martin Luther King and John Steinbeck, to Jumbo the Elephant. A life-sized sculpture of the latter had to be helicoptered into Tufts University so it could be installed. In his studio, you can watch the artist and his sidekick at work on their latest piece.

• My Favorite Park
• Best Place to Take Visitors

Point Lobos State Reserve — On Highway 1 three miles south of Carmel - 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset daily -

Offering nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts an ideal “Gateway to Big Sur,” Point Lobos State Reserve is dwarfed in size by other local parks, mostly because only 550 of its more than 10,000 acres lie above the surface of the sea. But with its dramatic coastline, quiet groves of pines and oaks, rich history, user-friendly trails and easy-to-reach scenic vistas, the park packs a mighty punch. It’s also just a quick jaunt away from the heart of the Monterey Peninsula and its many fine restaurants — making it easy to follow up your hike with a culinary adventure.

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

Carmel Beach — Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road - free parking along Scenic is permitted from 6 a.m. to midnight -

It may not get as many sunny days as Malibu or Waikiki, but Carmel Beach is in a league of its own if you’re looking for the perfect place to put your toes in the sand. Mother Nature smiled on the Central Coast when she created this crescent-shaped beauty, which is world famous for its white sands and its thriving resident population of canines. It’s a wonderful place for a contemplative stroll, a romp in the surf with your dog, or a romantic picnic at sunset. It’s also a great destination for a late night marshmallow roast, but be sure to check the latest city regulations on beach fires because they are a work in progress.

• 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  -

One of the oldest operating nonprofit galleries in the United States, the Carmel Art Association was founded in 1927, and today, it represents more than 100 local artists, including familiar names like Johnny Apodaca, Will Bullas, Albert Paley, Erin Gafill, Warren Chang, Mark Farina and Melissa Lofton, who was named Best Local Artist in this year’s Golden Pine Cone readers’ poll. Besides staging monthly exhibits and receptions — and serving as the epicenter of the local art scene — the recently-renovated downtown gallery is the site of numerous events ranging from art demonstrations and lectures, to films and theatrical productions.

• Best Local Theater Company

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

PacRep Theatre produces an array of theatrical productions and events throughout the year, including the annual Carmel Shakespeare Festival. Founded by Stephen Moorer as GroveMont Theatre in 1982, the theater company’s name was changed when it moved into the Golden Bough Theatre 12 years later. Besides the many plays and musicals it stages at the Golden Bough and Forest Theater, PacRep produces an enduring and ever-changing rock ’n’ roll tribute concert that calls attention to the pop music of the 1950s and 1960s. The theater group’s School of Dramatic Arts introduces local youngsters to the joys of live theater.

• Best Concert Venue

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

What started in 1926 as a school is now a state-of-the-art performing arts center that attracts world-class talent from around the globe. Owned by the city and run by a nonprofit group, the theater offers an eclectic schedule that’s full of surprises. This year’s slate of events includes performances by Chris Botti, Graham Nash, Boz Scaggs, the Havana Cuba All-Stars, the Chieftains, Bela Fleck, the Vienna Boys Choir, Smuin Ballet and many others. The theater hosts classical music concerts presented by three local groups, 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

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

Elegant yet casual, Cypress Inn offers locals and visitors an ideal place downtown to unwind, savor a cocktail and enjoy live music. Some of the Monterey Peninsula’s finest musicians play here Friday, Saturday and Thursday evenings, and Sunday afternoons when brunch is served. When Carmel lifted its longtime ban on the practice 10 years ago, the Cypress Inn became the first business in town to add live music. Perhaps because Doris Day is a part-time owner, the inn is famously friendly to people’s pets, who like their owners, seem to enjoy its jazz-heavy lineup of performers.
• Best Local Music Group (classical)

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

Founded in 1947 and now led by conductor Max Bragado-Darman, the Monterey Symphony is Monterey County’s only all-professional orchestra. Each year, the symphony presents a half dozen concerts in Salinas and Carmel that showcase the orchestra, call attention to world-class guest performers and keep alive the legacy of classical music.

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

The Money Band — (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 Piano Bar

Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant — 26270 Dolores - (831) 624-6436 -

Besides its fabulous brunch and its perfect setting for watching the sun set over Point Lobos, Mission Ranch is a magnet for jazz lovers. Pianists Maddaline Edstrom, Gennady Loktionov, Tom Gastineau and David Kempton take their turn at the keys, serving up the perfect background music for a relaxing evening of food and drink. Also, be sure to check out Loktionov’s jazz duo, which plays every Sunday for brunch starting at 10 a.m.

• Best Local Festival

Carmel Bach Festival — NW Corner of 10th and Mission - (831) 624-1521 -

Every summer when the Carmel Bach Festival comes to town, classical music emanates from Sunset Theater, the Church in the Forest, San Carlos Cathedral, Carmel Mission and All Saints Church. From its humble beginnings as a four-day series of concerts, the festival has grown into a three-week celebration of concerts, recitals, master classes, lectures, and open rehearsals. Calling attention to the works, inspiration and enduring influence of Johann Sebastian Bach, the festival remains a favorite among local and visitors.

• 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 Bicycle Shop

Bay Bikes — 3600 The Barnyard Shopping Village and 585 Cannery Row, Monterey - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 655-2453 -

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 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 Fitness/Health Center
• Best Yoga Studio

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 -

Honoring its heritage as a racquet club with its traditional tennis program, Carmel Valley Athletic Club is a multifaceted fitness facility. Besides its cardio, weight and spin-bike rooms, the club offers a fantastic array of fitness programs, including yoga, pilates, zumba other classes led by experienced instructors and personal trainers.  The club is also home to 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 gatherings.

• 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 spectators. The famed course has been the site of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the upcoming U.S. Open Championship in 2019. There are also 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 – Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 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 paintings, 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

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

To awaken in your rustic Bunkhouse, 1850s Farmhouse, Main Barn or the new Meadowview rooms, to the sheep grazing in the meadow, the surf crashing on Carmel River Beach, or the beautifully landscaped gardens with their riot of bougainvillea is something most people only dream of. Accommodations scattered across the landscape of the legendary ranchland are charming and spacious, with fireplaces, private baths and luxury linens. The atmosphere is home as you wish it were and, for the duration of your stay, it’s yours. For the ultimate in private, cozy accommodations, consider the Hayloft, with its king bed, fireplace, private bath with whirlpool tub under the apex of the open, shingled ceiling. The Honeymoon cottage is perfect for newlyweds and other romantic couples, for your own little getaway by the sea. Despite the celebrity of its owner, Clint Eastwood, Mission Ranch Restaurant is perhaps best known for its piano bar, which features local favorites at the keyboard and just about anyone with a sense of socializing and song. Hotel guests can simply wander across the lawn to dine at the restaurant, which offers a special Sunday brunch, or a savory dinner in the dining room or out on the deck overlooking that same stunning coastal landscape you saw from your room.

• Best Hotel

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

Designed to be reminiscent of 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.

• Most Dog-Friendly Hotel

Cypress Inn  — Lincoln and Eighth - lunch noon to 4 p.m., afternoon tea 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., dinner, 5 p.m. 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. An animal activist renowned for her efforts to save and shelter dogs, you can rest assured Ms. Day will house her guests and their dogs in high-quality accommodations. Although established in 1929, the landmark hotel offers fresh, elegant furnishings, with luxurious linens and robes, a sip of sherry, and a little something for Scruffy. All rooms are non-smoking, pet friendly and provide free WiFi. Your room comes with breakfast downstairs in Terry’s Lounge for you and your four-legged friend. Terry’s Lounge is ideal for parties up to 20 guests, and fully furnished conference rooms accommodate a dozen. Located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, guests and their dogs can wander easily through town and on down to the beach.


• Best Florist

Twigery — Seventh, between Lincoln and Dolores –  Monday through Saturday,10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-8944 -

Master floral designer Michael Merritt believes, “Beauty is not primarily planned; it is the phenomenon that occurs at the moment when all relationships are perceived to be harmonious.” Merritt is a visionary artist renowned for his artistic expression and diversity of design. He gives the same attention to a floral arrangement in a vase as he does to the floral décor for a political reception for 1,000 guests in Washington, D.C. While his work has been showcased internationally and across the country, in exhibitions, grand events and magazines, he also delights in creating his floral artistry through Twigery, the boutique he and his wife Cheryl have owned and operated since 2009.

• Best Furniture Shop

Mum’s Place — 246 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove - 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 372-6250 -

Customers here tend to take their time, to linger, lie down and relax until it feels right. Some things just cannot be hurried, such as finding the furniture to complement or create your lifestyle. Mum’s Place is an enclave of fine home furnishings, where the modest storefront belies a 10,000-square foot showroom filled with a diversity of furniture, accessories and objets d’art. Wandering among the classic, traditional, transitional, Country French and contemporary collections, clients can access their aesthetic in more than 80 furniture lines and some 5,000 fabrics that enable them to customize their choices. If they don’t find what they want, they just might want what they find. Owner Mugo Tersakyan is dedicated to bringing in the latest designs on the market, in great variety to please every taste, every budget. Rarely do you find the owner of a furniture store on the floor, he says, working with clients. It is this personalized service that people respond to. And it is, perhaps, why Mum’s won the Golden Pine Cone award.

• Best Golf Shop

Pebble Beach Pro Shop — 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach – Daily, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. - (831) 622-8723 -

When guests walk in, employees here know that most are about to embark on their Pebble Beach Golf Links experience. The golf shop will be one of the first parts of the experience, so people there work to ensure it lives up to their expectations. “We know our guests are traveling from all over the world,” said Director of Retail Kevin J. Kakalow. “So our mission from a retail standpoint is to ensure we provide them products and services they are not likely to see elsewhere. For international tourists who have never held a golf club, or avid golfers who experience a number of golf clubs in a year, our teams are really good at balancing the new and exciting with proven core brands.” Because the merchandise is also a souvenir of guests’ Pebble Beach experiences, the pro shop tries to provide products worthy of bearing the Pebble Beach brand.

• Best Hardware Store

Carmel Ace Hardware, Forest Hill Ace Hardware, Pacific Grove Hardware — 290 Crossroads Blvd., 1146 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 10 East Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley -

Perhaps it’s those great radio commercials that create a cultural context for the seasons — lawn mowers and barbecues in the summer, Halloween décor and landscape lighting in the fall, outdoor hardware for winter clean-up, pipe wraps and lighted snowmen for winter holidays, and fresh paint colors and plants in the spring •that make folks feel at home at Ace Hardware. Or maybe it’s that each Ace Hardware store is a member of the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the business, giving customers a sense of shopping locally, but with the backing of big business. Possibly it is the specialized service of independently owned stores that remind customers, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.” It sure is!

• Best Housewares Store

Prim’s — 546 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 620-1251 -

Prim’s had to rise to the challenge of replacing a store with 50 years of history — and it has succeeded as our readers’ choice for Best Housewares Store. Prim Family Partnership, the landlord for the previous store, opened Prim’s in late 2012, following renovations to the property. Rather than continuing what was, the company created a fresh venue, increased the hardware, housewares and paint sections of the store; developed the patio, home furniture, bedding and gift departments; and brought in new vendors, such as the Do It Best Corp, a distributor of lumber, hardware, and building materials. Living up to the company motto no doubt brought home the Golden Pine Cone: “We stand out from the competition because we deliver the products you can’t get anywhere else. We not only offer the best products but the best value for you.”

• Best Craft-Knitting-Quilting Shop

Knitting-by-the-Sea — Fifth and Junipero -  Monday through Saturday,10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 624-3189 -

During its nearly 40 years in business, Knitting-by-the-Sea has spent 30 years in its present location, 18 of those under the ownership of Maurya McBride. An engineer by trade, she has knitted and crocheted her way through life. Enamored of the fabulous yarns she always found at Knitting-by-the-Sea, she decided she wanted to be involved in the store. So, she bought it. “I have come to realize the longevity of my store has a lot to do with me. I can solve any problem and get you through any project,” McBride said. “I am a natural-born teacher, who can help you accomplish your goal. I’m not just selling yarn. It’s about getting customers through their projects.” Yarns have changed a lot over the years, says McBride, who cites a greater tendency toward luxury, such as her 50 percent cashmere-and-50 percent Yak yarn. “There’s no reason your yarn has to itch anymore.”

• Best Pet Store

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

It only makes sense, in a canine-crazy community, to have a dedicated dog boutique. Jeff and Napisa Pollock opened Diggidy Dog in 2003 to cater to canines, flatter felines, and provide a place where their people could indulge them. In a 2,000-square foot space, they focus on unique, functional and healthy products for dogs — and cats. “Made in the USA, and having a certain level of style are huge factors that determine whether or not a product gets floor space at Diggidy Dog,” said the Pollocks. “We really don’t have too many items for sale that are actually for humans, as our main focus is the dog or cat. Our own personal experience with our pets helps us decide what’s for sale at Diggidy Dog. If ours won’t touch it, it likely won’t make the sales floor.” Diggidy Dog’s wide array of treats, toys, apparel, collars and leashes is sure to satisfy the most discerning dog or finicky feline.

• Best Garden Shop

Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Rd. - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-0680 -

Ken Griggs grew up on the Peninsula, working for his parents, managing their namesake nursery. Ken and his wife Catherine eventually bought the business from the senior Griggs, who are still around, “making olive oil on the hill.” For 16 years, Griggs Nursery has been in its present location, where customers have been watching the newest generation of Griggs kids grow up among the plants. When the economy took a downturn, the family changed the way they did business. They started identifying the holes in the nursery market, and hand-selecting their plants. “What is most important,” said Catherine, “is customer service, getting people what they want and need. So we hand-pick our plants for them, most of which we grow on a five-acre parcel on Schulte Road, and then bring to the nursery. That way, we have a better control of the type of plants we provide. We know what works here, so we can grow the variety and quality we want for our customers.”

• Best Camping/Skiing/Surfing Store

On the Beach Surf Shop — 693 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 646-9283 -

Kelly Sorenson was just 20 years old in 1986 when he and Mike Locatelli co-founded On The Beach Surf Shop at Ocean and Mission. Three years later, he became the sole owner and, in 1993, he opened a second store on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey. Six years later, he closed the Carmel store. Thirty years and various moves and renovations later, On The Beach fills nearly 6,000 square feet of a tropical-themed retail space, designed by Sorenson and created by contractor Chris Murren. With bamboo and beach sand throughout, tiki huts filled with clothing, and classic surfboards, On The Beach, says Sorenson, feels like a surfer’s paradise, filled with clothes from all the coolest surf and skate companies, and a great selection of accessories. “What means the most,” said Sorenson, “is that I’ve been able to watch our community’s kids grow up in the surf and sand, making On The Beach their hangout and source of active outdoor gear.”

• Best Place to Buy Athletic Wear

The Treadmill — 111 Crossroads Blvd. - Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-4112 -

The founders began with a vision, just over 30 years ago, to develop a store that would anchor the running community like a starting line. They focused on running, but featured a wider array of fitness products, both high tech and low maintenance and called it The Treadmill. It was established in the Crossroads, next to what would become the finish line for the Big Sur International Marathon. Current owners Janice and Chris Cleary, and his sister Cathy and Mike Hirst, are coming up on five years since they bought the store and shifted the focus to athletic and athleisure wear. The store is very community oriented. “Our kids are growing up here, and our community gets more and more important,” said Chris. “We’re always doing fund raisers. We support the Big Sur Land Trust and the Ventana Wilderness; if people come to us, and we believe in what they’re doing, we support it.”

• Best Pharmacy

Carmel Drug Store — Ocean between Dolores and San Carlos - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-3819 -

This classic drug store and family pharmacy has been independently owned and serving the community since 1910. Known for offering quality products and service, this drug store might just be the most convenient game in town. Located in the heart of town, its narrow storefront is chock full of almost everything you — or a forgetful out-of-towner — just might need. The back of the store looks like the old-fashioned pharmacy it is, yet it provides state-of-the-era service and products. The store carries greeting cards and postcards, magazines and books by local authors. It has hair accessories and hygiene products, perfume and make up, candy and scented candles. It carries reading glasses, and sunglasses, Vitabath, bubblebath, sunblock and lip balm, plus Bonny Doon Farm lavender soap and Sierra Essentials soy candles. The only thing missing is a soda fountain.

• Best Camera/Photo Store

Green’s Camera World — Fifth and San Carlos, 555 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-8880 -

Serving Monterey County since 1921, Green’s Camera World is known as a one-stop shop for cameras, featuring Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Samsung. Whether it’s a popular, brand-name camera in mind, or a specialty camera for fine-art or professional photography, the experts at Green’s Camera World know what their clients need. Prepared to provide products for every project and price, Green’s is considered the county’s complete camera shop for sales, service and solutions.

• Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys — Seventh and San Carlos - Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-0441 -

Plenty of parents and grandparents have used Thinker Toys as childcare while they “just ran an errand or two up the street.” And plenty of kids hardly noticed. Partly responsible is the great diversity of toys and games. It’s also because kids are allowed to touch them, to try them out and to play to their heart’s content. Which is likely why Thinker Toys, which has been a local landmark since 1969, is regularly the readers’ choice for Best Toy Store. The store prides itself as an “old-fashioned toy store, featuring classic educational and imaginative toys for children and adults.” If you’re thinking of stopping in, plan to stay awhile. You’ll find cards and costumes, birthday presents and party favors, coloring books and crayons, Barbies and baby dolls, board games and books, Sesame Street and Schleich figures, Legos and lollipops, K’NEX and Kanoodle, and that’s just in the first five minutes.

• Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Heaven Children’s Wear — Lincoln between Ocean and Seventh – Monday through Saturday,10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-6550 -

Theirs is a match made in Heaven.  He is a fashion maven from London, whose Vancouver boutiques have been known among those who know style. She is a costume designer from the movie industry. But surely, it was the arrival of their child, Alia, that really brought them to Heaven. Ash and Monique Vasanji celebrated the grand opening of “Heaven,” their European-style children’s boutique designed for the customer who has “exquisite taste and wants quality and style,” in 2001. It all sounds pretty pricey.  Some of it is, which keeps things interesting.  Some of it isn’t, which is even more exciting. Located on Lincoln, “Heaven” beckons customers through double doors into a gracious, well-lit salon appointed with very special, very select children’s apparel. It’s as if you’ve wandered into the custom wardrobe of a privileged child. Surely it is a haven for gifts, grandmas and that little something special that turns every day into a special occasion.

• Best Men’s Store

Khaki’s of Carmel — Carmel Plaza on Ocean – Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 -

Those who still value the shopping experience as an integral part of the purchase work with Khaki’s of Carmel, a respected purveyor of contemporary European and American menswear that still sells clothing the old-fashioned way — up close and personal. The essence of Khaki’s lies in the touching — some of the finest fabrics in the world; the trying — to see if it becomes you before it becomes yours; the tailoring — including custom fits and made-to-measure apparel; and the tradition — of providing the ultimate in customer service. The store is the pursuit and the passion of Jim and Connie Ockert, who met in high school, later married, and combined creative and entrepreneurial talents to raise a family and grow a business. Both continue to thrive. “What makes us different,” said Jim Ockert, “is our ability to think, react and change with our market. I don’t wake up and think about the competition, I think about our customers — who they are, what they want, and how to provide it.”

• Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s Shoes — Ocean and Mission – Daily,10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-5580 -

Hedi’s Shoes has always been about comfort. When Haydar Movahedi opened the shoe store more than 20 years ago, European comfort shoes was an emerging category. “Hedi” cobbled together comfort, quality and convenience and, as his daughter, Shara McIntyre says, “He hit the nail on the head.” When her dad opened Hedi’s, she added, “a 65-year-old woman was a grandmother who wore sincere clothing and had resigned herself to sensible shoes. She sacrificed fashion for function and form for fit.” Today’s 65-year-old woman has been on a low-carb diet for the last 10 years, and exercises regularly. She is active in mind and body, and applies a great sense of style to more form-fitting clothes. She is not ready to give up fashion, even if it means settling for a lower heel. She still wants to look fabulous. And, according to Pine Cone readers, Hedi’s has what she and plenty of others are looking for.

• Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

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

Girl Boy Girl, which recently celebrated its silver anniversary, has enjoyed 25 years of dressing women in fashions considered not trendy but current. Consider Ula Johnson, Isabel Marant, Vince, Golden Goose, Veronica Beard, Theory, and a large selection of cashmere and denim, designed to fit and flatter. Drawing from a stable of more than 50 contemporary designers, all “thoughtfully curated” for the store, GBG specializes in “wearable clothing” for women of all sizes and shapes, ages and aesthetics. “We have to get dressed, so we might as well enjoy it,” said owner Sweet Pea Ivester. “Our staff is an amazing team, who has worked here a long time, and we love styling people. We are grateful to have had the store this long and for our customers who shop here.”

• Best Women’s Shoe Store

Lloyd’s Shoes  — Ocean and Dolores - Daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 625-1382 -

Family-owned and operated, Lloyd’s Shoes celebrated its 36 anniversary in July. The family prides itself on offering merchandise based on the “highest style, comfort, function and quality.”  “I think it’s our very thoughtful mix of products that stands out to our customers,” said manager Tess Calhoon, “and that is what we hope differentiates us from other retailers. We aim to have something for every shopper.” Whether that is the trendiest new style of the season or the best shoe to take on trips, Lloyd’s makes it its mission to satisfy its customers’ needs. Lloyd’s currently features more than 50 shoe brands; most popular are Aquatalia, Arche, AGL, Beautifeel, Dolce Vita, On Running and Thierry Rabotin. Handbag lines from Rebecca Minkoff, and Foley + Corinna also are very popular.

• Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

Debra C — 129 Crossroads Blvd. - Monday through Saturday,10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-9400 -

Debra Couch, clad in a cashmere twinset over a slim pant, pulled together with a fabulous alligator belt, makes it look easy. It is, she says, particularly if you shop at Debra C, her eponymous boutique of European designer apparel for women. She started with a store in Beverly Hills and then, in 2011, she opened a second store at The Crossroads. The important thing, she says, is whether you’re looking at Valentino, Missoni, Bogner or even the store’s private label, you don’t have to be so dressed up anymore. It’s about the way it’s put together. “We’re high end,” she said, “so the apparel endures. You can do the same look next year, or add a new piece and mix it up.

• Best Women’s Accessories
• Best Leather Goods Store

Augustina’s — Ocean between Mission and San Carlos – Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-2403 -

Established in 1987, Augustina’s offers unique designs and personalized service. Augustina’s invites customers to indulge in exclusive designs by Paula Lishman - Original Hand-Knit Fur. It also carries styles by Olvi’s, Tadashi Shoji, and Komarov. Men will appreciate Northern California’s largest collection of sterling silver buckle sets, golf shoes by Michael Toschi, and Remy Leather jackets. Clients are partial to designer jewelry by Paul Morelli, John Hardy, Pomellato, Armenta, and Konstantino. Augustina’s friendly and knowledgeable personal stylists are ready show customers the finest designer fashions and accessories from around the world.

• Best Vintage Clothing Store

Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop — 26388 Carmel Rancho Blvd. - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday - (831) 626-8480 -

The road to Oz was paved with good intentions. And everyone who traveled its way got what they deserved. More than 20 years ago, Shirin Snyder, wife of Reverend John Snyder, pastor of Carmel Presbyterian Church, sought a way to effect a wider outreach in the community. Her plan was to create a benefit shop that would give some people a chance to give, others a chance to buy bargains, and those in need, a chance to receive. Not everyone believed a benefit shop would thrive in an upscale community. But Snyder saw the affluence as an asset, a resource for quality castoffs. She made a plan and set out to realize her vision. Along the way, she began to gather friends from her faith community. Within a year, she and her committee had established The Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop to sell donated household goods and apparel, with the proceeds benefiting local nonprofit charities and projects. There is no place like home to start giving.

• Best Jewelry Store

Fourtané Jewelers — Ocean and Lincoln - 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 624-4684 -

Fourtané Jewelers first offered its unique jewelry and objets d’art to residents and visitors in 1950. Today, Fourtané is one of the country’s leading providers of estate jewelry and watches dating from the modern era to 300 years ago. In particular, Fourtané is renowned as an authorized Rolex retail store and specializes in vintage Rolexes. Although its clientele now spans the globe, and the store has significantly expanded, Sandy and John Bonifas, who purchased the business in the 1980s, have maintained the original intimate, friendly, and personalized atmosphere customers appreciate. “Our parameters for buying any piece are that it has to be pretty, be well made, and offer good value,” John Bonifas has said. “Integrity in any business is important.”

• Best Shopping Center

The Crossroads — 243 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 625-4106 -

With dozens of interesting shops, boutiques, restaurants and service-related businesses, many of which have been tenants for a long time, The Crossroads off of Rio Road has been a go-to place for Carmel residents and others for decades. So go to The Crossroads and grab a bite to eat at Rio Grill or Sea Harvest before checking out the Rolex watches at Hesselbein's Jewelers, the latest travel gear at Tops n Travel, the coolest running and hiking accessories at the Treadmill, or the most indulgent sweets at Lula’s Chocolates or Nothing Bundt Cakes. With more than 60 shops, restaurants and services, why go anywhere else than The Crossroads for shopping•

• Best Antique Shop

Wittpenn’s Antiques — San Carlos Ave. between Seventh and Eighth streets - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesdays. - (831) 624-1336 -

Just the windows at this little gem hold enough eye-catching antiques to keep shoppers occupied for a while. Come browse a wide selection of antiques and collectibles including sterling silver, Victorian furniture, books, globes, clocks, musical instruments, desks, Quimper, China, porcelain, Early American, Renaissance Revival, Louis Phillipe items and many others.

• Best Bookstore

River House Books — 208 Crossroads Blvd. - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 626-2665 -

There’s something wonderful about holding a brand new book and anticipating what you’ll find as you turn its pages. Choose from an exciting and changing selection of new works in the humanities and sciences, bestselling fiction and nonfiction, children's classics, youth favorites, travel, foreign and domestic magazines and newspapers plus gift-worthy tomes on architecture, art, cooking, gardening and many other topics.

• Best Car Dealer

BMW of Monterey — 1 Geary Plaza, Seaside - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday - (831) 474-5628 -

The folks at BMW of Monterey offer top-notch customer service, which is one of many reasons why Pine Cone readers awarded them a Golden Pine Cone this year. BMW of Monterey thrives on helping its customers find their next car, whether its the new 2017 BMW 230i Convertible, the 2017 BMW 740i Sedan or a certified pre-owned vehicle.

• Best Gas Station

Lemos 76 — 544 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel - 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. - (831) 624-2925 -

Lemos 76 is a trusted source for fuel and complete automotive repairs. Family owned and operated since 1961, not only is Lemos 76 the “premier 24/7 fuel station,” it offers propane tank refills as well as complete auto repair service and smog inspection. “We strive to provide a great experience, with free Wi-Fi, a dog-friendly policy, and shuttle service to the Carmel area with shopping nearby,” according to Lemos 76.

• Best Car Wash

El Estero Car Wash — 590 Fremont St., Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. (hours vary in winter) - (831) 373-1801 -

The folks at El Estero recycle 70 percent of the water they use. With that in mind, having your ride detailed isn’t an indulgence, it’s an act of conservation. Drive in dusty, drive away shiny and fresh-smelling with some greeting cards from the gift shop. Your conscience will be clean, too.

• Best Computer Store

Apple Store — 240 Del Monte Center, Monterey - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 647-4480 -

Apple users are a different breed. They’re hip, they’re cool, and they demand an equally hip and cool place to shop. This is it — glossy white tables with the latest technology displayed like museum pieces and the acolytes of Apple can’t wait to show you the Apple Way.

• 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. Monday, Closed Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. - (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

Carmel Bay Company — Ocean Ave. at Lincoln - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3868 -

If ever there was a place to shop for that hard-to-buy-for in-law, this is it. It’s also a great spot for browsing. Interesting, often whimsical, and decorative items large and small can be found at every turn. Customer service is enthusiastic and helpful, making gift shopping fun.

• Best Music Store

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

Just as there’s nothing like holding a real newspaper, there’s nothing like having a great collection of music that’s more down-to-earth than housed in the cloud. Family-owned and operated, Do Re Mi’s dedication to great service and good music sets them apart.

• Best Candy Shop

Cottage of Sweets — Ocean Ave. between Monte Verde and Lincoln - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 624-5170 -

There’s a reason this place has been satisfying sweet tooths (teeth•) for 45 years. Mouthwatering fudge, crunchy chocolate and caramel turtles and rich, creamy truffles are all tucked away in a charming historic cottage right out of a fairy tale. Temptations for kids of all ages await! “For the best tasting sweets on the West Coast, turn to our shop. We offer a variety of fudge and licorice candies made in store and imported from abroad,” according to Cottage of Sweets.

• Best Carpet and Flooring Store

Carpet Caravan — 877 Broadway Ave., Seaside - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday - (831) 394.2700 -

Founded by Frank Flores, Carpet Caravan offers hardwood, carpet, laminate, vinyl and tile flooring. Whether you’re buying carpet for the first time or the 57th time, Carpet Caravan’s team is on your side. The good guys at Carpet Caravan say they “take pride in giving our customers exactly what they need … not what we want to sell to them.”


• Best Place to Work
• Best Real Estate Company

Sotheby’s International Realty — Brokerages in Carmel, Carmel Rancho, Carmel Valley and Pacific Grove - Hours vary - (831) 624-9700 for Ocean Avenue brokerage -

Sotheby’s International Realty offers some of the most exceptional homes for sale on the Monterey Peninsula, but it’s also a great place to work, according to its employees, who landed the business a Golden Pine Cone for the Best Place to Work. The Pine Cone’s real estate section is always full of the company’s latest offerings, or you can look online to view some of the amazing properties Sotheby’s has on the Monterey Peninsula — or elsewhere. Among the many stunning homes Sotheby’s has for sale right now is a 10,000 square-foot, $22 million Mediterranean estate on Del Ciervo Road in Pebble Beach. It features four suites with an optional fifth suite or office, stunning kitchen, formal living and dining rooms, elevator, extensive patios and exquisite gardens. If that wasn’t enough, the home offers truly panoramic views of Carmel Bay, Point Lobos and The Pebble Beach Golf Links from virtually every room. It’s homes of this caliber and Sotheby’s impeccable customer service that helped it win two Golden Pine Cones.

• Best Place to Volunteer

Carmel Foundation — Lincoln and Eighth - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday - (831) 624-1588 -

Seniors who want to socialize, get help with their technology, or just enjoy a great lunch know that the Carmel Foundation’s the place to go. In addition to onsite events and lectures, the Foundation’s outreaches like in-home meals and support help people live longer lives in their own homes. Qualified volunteers lead activities such as bridge, a men’s discussion group, wood carving, needlecraft and photography, among others. More than 50 fun things to do are available to its members each week.

• Best Place to Get Married

Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road, Carmel - 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday - (831) 624-1271

In diminutive Carmel lies arguably the most iconic mission in the state — San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission — known more commonly as the Carmel Mission. So it’s no surprise that readers of The Pine Cone voted it the Best Place to Get Married. “The church seeks to help you prepare yourselves for the great day of your wedding as well as helping you with spiritual, psychological and practical things that will make your wedding day a Sacrament that will last a lifetime!” according to the Mission’s website.

• Best Place to Get Married (non-church)

Gardener Ranch — 114 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - call for hours - (831) 298-7360

Tucked along the banks of the Carmel River is Gardener Ranch, a property with a rich history of hosting U.S. presidents, dignitaries, and movie stars seeking exclusive, private, and rustic charm. The property is an idyllic 24 acres of majestic oaks and lush meadows that can also host myriad events including weddings. Gardener Ranch says it combines the rustic charm of Carmel Valley and the simple elegance of its natural setting to offer the “wedding of your dreams.” We don’t doubt it.

• Best Retirement Community

Carmel Valley Manor — 8545 Carmel Valley Road - marketing offices open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday - (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. For half a century, Carmel Valley Manor has provided seniors with the opportunity to relax and enjoy every day. Carmel Valley Manor has with an emergency response system, onsite clinic and licensed registered nurses available 24 hours a day. If you require more care, such as temporary in-home assistance or assisted living — the Manor can provide those things, too.

• Best Electrician

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

For more than five decades, this family-owned business and Golden Pine Cone veteran has been committed to the local community. Cate Electric specializes in customer service from service calls to home remodels to landscape lighting and more.

• Best Plumber

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

Need a new hot water heater or your toilet replaced? The kind folks at A&R Plumbing in Sand City will gladly oblige. While other plumbing companies have changed to "flat rate" pricing,  A&R feels “the traditional method is a more honest and fair way to charge customers,” according to Sand City-based business. 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

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

Adam Jeselnick has worked on several high-profile projects, including Affina Food and Wine, the Event Center at Seventh and Dolores and The Dance Center in the Carmel Rancho, which was completed in 2015. He thinks of himself as a “community-minded architect” who supports sustainable designs that fit into their environments.

• Best General Contractor

Acosta Builders — 24215 Pheasant Ct, Salinas - (831) 484-5899

Pine Cone readers hold Acosta Builders in such high esteem they awarded the construction company a Golden Pine Cone this year. Owned by Reynaldo Acosta, Acosta Builders offers residential construction, custom-home builds and green construction.

• Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

Mission Landscaping — Pacific Grove - (831) 373-8293 -

For more than 30 years, Mission Landscaping has brought a mosaic of expertise to countless projects. Whether you need stone work, a new driveway, water features, outdoor railings or a fire pit, the company’s talented construction staff of carpenters, masons, irrigation specialists and gardeners are there to help. “We are dedicated to providing custom design services and quality installations to enhance our unique area and satisfy the most discriminating client,” Mission says.

• Best Real Estate Lender

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

One of largest banks in the United States, Wells Fargo Bank offers mortgage-lending services for first-time home buyers, those who have previously gone through the buying experience or those who want to refinance their home. With branches in Carmel and other areas on the Monterey Peninsula, you’ll have no problem finding someone at Wells Fargo to help.

• Best Title Company

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

Respected for more than 160 years of outstanding customer service, with special attention to making the escrow process smooth and complete. Chicago Title’s stated goal is to help ensure growth and success for lenders, builders, developers, attorneys and real estate professionals. A full page of testimonials on the Carmel branch website applaud Vice President Rene Ayers and his staff for patience, helpfulness, knowledge, positive attitude, availability, and making use of the latest technology.

• Best Personal Bank

Chase Bank — (877) 937-9357 -

A full range of banking services are available with prompt, friendly service, at convenient locations in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove and Monterey — just part of the reason Chase Bank is a repeat winner of The Golden Pine Cone. The earliest incarnation of what today is Chase Bank received its charter in 1799, and the current corporation ranks as a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.4 trillion. Chase operates in more than 100 countries, employs 235,000 people, and serves millions of consumers, small businesses, corporations, institutions, and government clients worldwide.

• Best Business Bank

Monterey County Bank — 3785 Via Nona Marie, #100, with additional branches in Monterey, Pacific Grove and Salinas - (831) 625-4300 -

To earn the distinction of being the oldest locally owned, locally managed bank in Monterey County, you’ve got to be doing a whole lot of things well. Monterey County Bank has been open since May 1977, specializing in all aspects of business banking, including bragging rights as the No. 1 Small Business Administration lender in the county. This is a business that takes pride in providing very competitive commercial lending products, outstanding merchant credit card services, and personal attention to its clients.

• Best Investment House/Adviser

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

Monterey Private Wealth Management can boast of more than 70 years of combined experience between partners Steve Merrell, Ken Petersen, Gary Alt and Cristofer Cabanillas, who have established an exceptional reputation for helping clients gauge risk, stay ahead of inflation, and protect their assets for the next generation. The stated mission of this company includes operating with complete transparency, avoiding conflicts of interest, and disclosing all details, fees and expenses. Clients’ interests always come first.

• Best Veterinarian

Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital — 13738 Center Street, Carmel Valley Village - 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday (831) 659-2286 -

This is a remarkable, full-service veterinary practice, beloved locally for its intense focus on providing your pet with the very best professional care. Dr. James Holt, who has operated the hospital since 1975, takes pride in a staff that prioritizes your pet’s health and well-being, and will love your pet the way you do. Holt says his favorite part about being a veterinarian is “the human/animal bond,” and says he derives great personal satisfaction from knowing he is helping both the animals and their owners. “Friendly, caring, kind,” writes a 30-year client. “I feel my dog gets the very best treatment offered.”

• Best Pet Boarding

Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel — 715 Foam, Monterey - Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 373-0482 -

Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel has a longstanding local reputation for providing quality lodging for dogs and cats on the Monterey Peninsula since 1970, a legacy enhanced by recent upgrades in services, extended hours, and increased staff since Dr. Ben Wilson took the helm several years ago. The mission statement of this business is to make every animal’s stay as comfortable and fun as possible. Services include overnight boarding, doggie daycare, and full-service grooming. “The staff treats my little dogs like royalty,” raves one client, praise typical of several testimonials on the hotel’s website.

• Best Pet Care

Purrfurably Cats — 481 Cortes St., Monterey - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. - (831) 655-2287 -

Dr. Kathleen Marcus oversees Monterey County’s only feline-exclusive veterinary hospital, but Purrfured clients also receive TLC from a cat-loving staff that will groom your feline diva, clean her teeth, and provide preventive care. High-quality veterinary care in a state-of-the-art facility ensures your cat’s health and safety, and recognizes the special needs of felines. Their deluxe boarding facility has a sunny playroom for daily workouts while pet owners are away, making Purrfurably Cats a preferred resort for kitties since 1995.

• Best Car Repair Shop

Nystrom Automotive — San Carlos and Fifth - Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 626-4407

Eric Nystrom’s reputation for integrity and quality work dates back to 2004, when he opened his business as a Shell station and began establishing its current five-star rating on Yelp, which features multiple rave reviews from satisfied customers, including this one: “Very talented on all makes and models, from vintage Jags to late model Beemers. Good work at a fair price, along with respectful customer service. It doesn’t get any better than that.” Nystrom, a lifetime Carmel resident, has established himself within the tight-knit community as a friendly, professional and honest.

• Best Auto Body Shop

Marina Collision Repair — 228 Reindollar Ave., Suite C, Marina - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 883-1014

When things go bump in the night — or day — and leave a dent or blemish in your beloved vehicle, readers agree that this is the place to take your baby for healing. Marina Collision Repair has a well-deserved legacy of top-drawer body work on virtually any make or model, and maintains a spotless reputation among its customers. Its perfect five-star rating on Yelp includes more than a dozen reviewers who rave about stellar customer service, quick repairs, outstanding integrity, reasonable prices, and a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff. From cosmetic touch-ups to infrastructure repairs, this is a hospital for body damage.

• Best Dry Cleaners

Carmel Cleaners — Junipero and Third - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-3616

Well-known for courteous and friendly service, the highly-trained staff at Carmel Cleaners handles any type of dry-cleaning task, large or small. This business specializes in the preservation of wedding gowns, prom dresses, and other treasured garments. Technicians there are skilled at alterations and garment repairs, making Carmel Cleaners a one-stop shop. Owner Deok Chong’s mantra for more than 30 years of exquisite service has been “Good clothes deserve good care.”

• Best Travel Agent

Carmel Monterey Travel — 601 Abrego, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m to 5 p.m. - (831) 649-4292 -

Travel always brings surprise — that’s often the whole point — but the trick is to ensure that most surprises are pleasant.  A knowledgeable, diligent staff takes care of virtually every detail in your travel needs, whether you’re driving down the coast, booking a cruise to Alaska, or journeying to distant and exotic locales like Kenya, Tanzania, Bora Bora, or Egypt. Carmel Monterey Travel is famous for offering exceptional, often hard-to-find travel deals and equipping clients with expert advice, enhancing the probability that every surprise will be a pleasant one.

• Best Hair Salon

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

There’s plenty to be said for a barbershop with a striped pole out front, or that noisy corner beauty parlor, but there’s a heavenly alternative. March Hare offers a peaceful, comfortable, spa-like setting that creates an idyllic atmosphere for both men and women to relax and be pampered. MaryAnna Stahl’s skilled, friendly and creative staff renders great haircuts, flattering styles, and just the right highlights and coloring to enhance your look. The trademark scents of the Aveda product line heighten an always-pleasurable experience. For a reliable everyday style or a spectacular new look for a special occasion, March Hare awaits.

• Best Skin Care
• Best Dermatologist

Coastal Valley Dermatology/Dr. Roya Javid — 26366 Carmel Rancho Lane, Suite H - Call for appointment, Monday to Friday - (831) 293-8458 -

The body’s most aesthetic organ — your skin — deserves the utmost care by the best medical professionals you can find, which, luckily, is just a few minutes away. Coastal Valley Dermatology, led by Dr. Roya Javid, offers the best care in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, using state-of-the-art technology and the latest world-class techniques. The Johns Hopkins-educated dermatologist is renowned for her expertise and quality care, whether she’s performing microsurgery to remove skin cancer or cosmetic procedures designed to keep her patients looking young. Aesthetician services include medical-grade facials, and skin-care consultations. Among the available cosmetic procedures are neck, eye and hand rejuvenation, laser hair removal, and scar-reduction therapy. Medical dermatology treatments are available for acne, nails, psoriasis, sun protection and other conditions. Javid and her staff have a reputation as medical professionals who love their work. “I firmly believe that the skin is an indicator of what’s happening inside the body, and truly enjoy educating my patients about their skin care and health,” she said.

• Best Nail Salon

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

A Golden Pine Cone winner for the eighth consecutive year, Nails By the Sea is celebrated by readers for its consistency in pampering clients with the highest-quality nail treatments in a relaxing and nurturing atmosphere. Enjoy a spa manicure using warm citrus oils, or an ocean-fresh foot soak, with hot towels. Lose your stress with an hour-long Swedish massage, Shiatsu, a deep-tissue rub, hot stone therapy, or aromatherapy. Discover how enjoyable an hour of your day can be.

• Best Massage Therapist

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

Donna Ferguson believes that “massage was never meant to be a luxury … it’s a basic human need.” Donna and her husband, Randy, both Certified Massage Therapists, offer more than 18 years of training and practice and results-based massage therapy custom-tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. A 2000 graduate of Chico Therapy Wellness Center & Institute for the Healing Arts, Donna has a natural ability to look at or feel a client’s body and tell exactly what needs to be done to get results. She offers multiple types of massage, including Himalayan, deep tissue, Swedish, reflexology, trigger point, Thai, hot stone, sports, and medical. She also works closely with local physical therapists and chiropractors.

• Best Spa

Spa at Pebble Beach — 1518 Cypress Drive, Pebble Beach - Call for reservations - (831) 574-5574 -

Forbes Travel Guide bestowed its five-star rating upon the 22,000-square-foot Spa at Pebble Beach for a third consecutive year, a rare distinction. “These properties wow you with extraordinary design and facilities, and uncompromising service,” raves Forbes. The Spa offers a variety of world-class services designed to reduce stress and enhance balance, including signature massages, body scrubs and wraps, water treatments and aesthetics, as well as nail care and hair styling. Its signature services incorporate the healing properties of plants, herbs and minerals indigenous to the Monterey Peninsula.

• Best Dentist

Dr. Bradford Carl and Dr. David Hatton (tie) — Dr. Carl: 26485 Carmel Rancho Lane - Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. - (831) 624-2111 -; Dr. Hatton: 26365 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Suite A - Call for appointment - (831) 624-7950

Dr. Hatton gets high marks from patients for outstanding service, painless procedures, and successful results at moderate prices in comfortable facilities. He practices general dentistry, including teeth whitening, and is trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases of the gums, teeth, and jaw.
Dr. Carl, who has treated patients in Carmel for more than 30 years, promises personalized, gentle care from a team that takes pride in providing patients with the information they need to make decisions about their oral health needs. His office offers cleanings and prevention, cosmetic dentistry, treatment of periodontal diseases, and restorations. “When you visit our office, your smile is our top priority,” the doctor says.

• Best Ophthalmologist

Dr. Leland Rosenblum, Monterey Bay Eye Center — 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 200, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 375-2020 -

The multiple Golden Pine Cone recipient, in private practice at Monterey Bay Eye Center since 1994, has clinical interests in cataract surgery, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy treatment and a variety of other procedures. Dr. Rosenblum, a third-generation physician, was the first ophthalmologist in Monterey County to implant the ReSTOR® intraocular lens. Dr. Rosenblum is a Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology, a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthamology and serves on the Board of Directors for the California Academy of Ophthalmology. He’s an avid cyclist, and although his dreams of winning the Tour de France have long since faded, he is a proud sponsor of the Monterey Bay Racing Team.

• Best Orthopedist

Dr. Christopher E. Clevenger — 980 Cass St., Monterey - Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 622-2760

Dr. Clevenger became a member of the medical staff at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in 1998, the same year he graduated from Texas Tech University Health and Science Center School of Medicine. The veteran physician also holds a 1993 degree from Dartmouth Medical School, Dr. Clevenger is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. Clevenger says he takes pride in giving his complete attention to every patient who comes through his office. “I’m not trying to see somebody every five minutes,” he said “I listen to them and give them more time.”

• Best Pediatrician

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

He was born at Peninsula Community Hospital in Carmel, and after obtaining his education at UCLA, Wayne State, and UC San Francisco, Pierre LaMothe came home to practice medicine as a board-certified pediatrician. In 2011 he was recognized with a “Patients Choice Award” and “Compassionate Doctor Recognition Award” from Dr. LaMothe loves his job, he says, because “helping kids is fun.” Also fun for the doctor are surfing, cooking, gardening and golf — a sport in which he carries a 2 handicap.

• Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Douglas Sunde — 856 Munras Ave., Monterey - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-0200 -

Dr. Sunde was the readers’ choice for The Golden Pine Cone for the ninth consecutive year thanks to an evergreen zeal for his profession and a penchant for maintaining up-to-date techniques. Specializing in plastic surgery, the doctor provides individualized, state-of-the-art cosmetic and reconstructive treatments, with personal attention to the needs of each patient. A native of suburban Chicago, Dr. Sunde was an Eagle Scout, a National Merit Scholar, and valedictorian of his high school before pursuing higher education at Stanford, where he graduated with distinction, and UC San Francisco Medical School, where he was part of the medical honor society for leadership and academic excellence in medical scholarship. He’s been practicing in Monterey since 1994.

• Best Physical Therapist

Chuck Krpata, Krpata Sports Therapy — 26617 Carmel Center Pl. - Call for appointment - (831) 622-0599

The veteran physical therapist, who recently retired, took great pride in a sports medicine approach to identifying problems and constructing a program to achieve the desired results — an approach he leaves to the talented staff that will continue his business in Carmel. Services at Krpata Sports Therapy are performed by highly skilled professional physical therapists in a caring and professional setting. “We utilize progressive treatment programs, which are tailored to each individual patient’s recovery,” said Krpata. “Whatever your expectations are, we try to exceed them.”

• Best Chiropractor

Dr. Aaron Gaily — 1299 Pacific, Monterey - Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. - (831) 657-0191 -

Born on the Monterey Peninsula and raised in Carmel Valley, Dr. Gaily was a 1995 graduate of Carmel High, where he was a standout in water sports. He’s been head coach of the Padres’ water polo team since 2003, the same year he opened the doors of his chiropractic practice in Monterey. “Being a chiropractor is one of the most rewarding things,” he says. “We get to watch people reduce or eliminate their pain, and get back to healthy living, day in and day out. It’s a lot of fun coming to work every day and watching people’s lives change.” This year’s Golden Pine Cone Award is Gaily’s fourth in the last five years.

• Best Divorce Lawyer

Barbara J. May —  409 Washington, Suite 202A, Monterey - Call for an appointment - (831) 649-1253 -

Breaking up is so very hard to do, but a skilled lawyer like Barbara J. May can streamline the process, which is why readers honored her as Best Divorce Lawyer. A family law specialist, May is committed to providing personalized, compassionate, and cost-effective legal representation, and has a gift for communicating clearly, to ensure that clients are equipped to make well-informed legal decisions. A graduate of Monterey High School and Monterey College of Law, May established her own firm in 2005 after working at two different law offices as an associate attorney and partner. Her specialties include family law, divorce, custody and visitation, child support, property division, adoption, domestic violence, conservatorships and guardianships.

• Best Estate Planning Attorney

Kyle Krasa — 704-D Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Call for an appointment - 831-920-0205 -

Kyle Krasa’s family has been part of the Monterey Peninsula for more than six decades. His grandfather, Karel A. Krasa, taught Czech at the Defense Language Institute while his grandmother, Zdena, worked at a Monterey cannery. His mother, Joan, taught for nearly 30 years at Bay View Elementary in Monterey, and his father, Peter, was an elementary school administrator and principal. As a student at UC Davis School of Law, Kyle Krasa already knew he wanted to focus on  estate planning, elder law/Medicaid planning, probate/estate administration, and asset protection, and he brings a passion for those specialties to his practice that clearly is appreciated by his clientele. Outside the office, Krasa leads an active life that includes playing ice hockey, hiking, cycling, swimming, golf, classic cars, and rooting for the Green Bay Packers, of whom he is a proud shareholder.

• Best Lawyer If You Need To Sue Somebody

Andrew Swartz — 550 Hartnell, Suite A-1, Monterey - Call for an appointment - (831) 373-3235 or (800) 624-9911 -

If somebody is wearing a pair of pants that quite clearly need to be sued off, the best attorney to hire is a member of The Million Dollar Advocates Forum, The Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and an honoree among The Top Trial Lawyers in America —distinctions on the resume of Andrew H. Swartz. Swartz has practiced law in Monterey since 1973, specializing in a broad spectrum of civil litigation for plaintiffs and defendants, ranging from personal injury to defamation, and has won multiple high-profile cases. Swartz holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, the Santa Clara Law Review (magna cum laude), and the University of Santa Clara School of Law. Besides law, his other passions include swimming, cycling and running. He’s run in the New York, Boston, San Francisco and Big Sur marathons.

• Best Defense Attorney

Larry Biegel — 2801 Monterey-Salinas Highway, Suite A, Monterey - Call for an appointment or free consultation - 831-373-3700 -

For veteran attorney Larry Biegel, The Golden Pine Cone is somewhat of a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his exceptional record as one of California’s most skilled and respected trial attorneys. Biegel has successfully tried criminal cases involving major felonies (including a death penalty case), civil actions involving complex business issues, and personal injury cases. He’s a past president of the Monterey County Bar Association, and was the 2006 winner of the Lewis L. Fenton Award, which recognized his outstanding jury trial skills. His wife, Cristina, is a partner in the firm.

• Best Insurance Agent

Matt Little, Carmel Insurance — San Carlos and Eighth - Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 624-1234

Matt Little is part of a family legacy that dates back three generations in Carmel, during which the Littles and their colleagues have remained dedicated to providing locals with the best possible service and advice on insurance. Robert Little established Carmel Insurance Agency, Inc. way back in 1948, when he began delivering quality solutions in the areas of commercial, personal health and life insurance. In 1968 the agency became a corporation, with son Matt Little taking the reins as president. Nowadays Matt works alongside his daughter, Amy, and son Matt Jr., serving markets in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Hawaii. Their focus on providing personalized attention and top-drawer customer service is the reason this iconic family business continues to thrive. Something’s obviously working: This is the fifth year readers have honored Matt Little with a Golden Pine Cone as Best Insurance Agent.

• Best Shoe Repair

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

A lot has happened since Federico’s Drive-In Shoe Service first opened its doors in Old Monterey. The Allies defeated Adolf Hitler. Elvis Presley and the Beatles changed the way kids listened to music. Somebody invented a phone that does everything but sweep your floor. Since 1939, Federico’s has brought old world craftsmanship and the art of shoe repair to the Monterey Peninsula, instilling new life into all kinds of footwear with repairs, polishes, shining, dyeing and more. You just don’t find businesses like this one anymore, but, thankfully, Federico’s continues to thrive.

• Best School

Carmel High School — 3600 Ocean Ave. - 831-624-1821 - Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. -

When it opened its doors in the fall of 1940, Carmel High was almost revered as a college prep school, an ideal place for parents to send their children for a top-drawer high school education in an idyllic setting. Decades later, that reputation remains intact. The home of the Padres remains a standard bearer for outstanding teachers, innovative programs, and high achievers who go on to do great things with their lives. Areas of study at modern-day Carmel High range from traditional English, history, math and science courses, to visual and performing arts, languages, computer and technology, industrial technology, and electives like student leadership, culinary arts and health occupations. Carmel High also boasts one of the most successful athletic departments in recent California high school history. During the 2015-16 school year, the Padres won boys’ league championships in football, soccer, tennis, baseball, volleyball, and swimming and diving, and girls’ titles in golf, basketball, softball and swimming and diving.

• Best Principal

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

Educators used to have polished apples on their desks, but students and parents keep bringing Golden Pine Cones to Ryan Peterson. The principal at Tularcitos Elementary was chosen by readers as the repeat winner of the honor thanks to his energetic passion for education and an uncommon dedication to the job. Peterson came to Tularcitos in 2011 from Carmel Middle School, where, as assistant principal, he was lauded for his supervision of the mathematics, social studies, physical education, world language, technology, music and arts departments. (Did we mention he’s energetic•) He also was active on the CUSD Drug and Alcohol Prevention Committee there, and showed a penchant for using high-tech classroom tools. On Peterson’s watch at Tularcitos, the school recently received a Great Schools rating of 81 percent in English Proficiency (the state average is 44 percent) and 68 percent in Math Proficiency (state average: 33 percent), plus a perfect five-star Community Rating from parents and former students asked to rate their experience with the school.

• My Favorite Nonprofit

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

What’s not to love about a nonprofit that’s all about love? The SPCA for Monterey County has been serving local animals and people since 1905, sheltering homeless, neglected and abused pets and livestock, and providing humane education and numerous other services. In 1945, a local newspaper wrote, “The list of animals handled at the shelter reads like Noah’s checklist for sailing day on the Ark.” Reportedly lodged there at the time were 833 dogs, 1,050 cats, a horse, five cows, a bull, four goats, 13 rabbits, 23 chickens, three ducks, five deer, a pigeon, a coyote, two raccoons, an opossum, three white rats, a pheasant, a pelican, two seagulls, a parrot, a canary, a squirrel and a snake. Today’s SPCA offers low-cost spay and neutering, vaccination and microchips, engraved pet tags, pet-friendly listings, puppy and dog training, humane trap rentals, wildlife rescue and free expert advice.