The Carmel Pine Cone


WHETHER IT’S tracking down the best BBQ tri-tip sandwich, a fabulous bottle of cabernet or a great box of chocolates, our wonderful Pine Cone readers know where to find them all. Competition for the winners in every category of the Golden Pine Cones is often fierce and hard-fought, ensuring that only the best of the best food, drink, services and attractions earn our treasured awards.

In these pages, you’ll find a comprehensive list of the finest healthcare providers who can handle everything from acne to zinc deficiency. Need an architecture firm to design your new-but-old-looking cottage that might even breeze through the planning commission on the first try? It’s here.

If you’re shopping for designer togs, a pair of Manolos, or a fancy-shmancy new purse, you can find some ideas. Where do you go for good, old-fashioned Legos and Tinkertoys? Pine Cone readers have it sussed. And if your Phaeton gets dinged in the Plaza garage, you’ll know which body shop to take it to. Did you make a big boo-boo with your sweetie? There’s a top-notch florist ready to help you make it right.

Everybody knows we have some of the best artists, galleries and musical venues around, and of course, since the early days of Carmel, there’s always been the theater. Read on to find out who’s on this year’s list of greatest hits!


• Best Neighborhood Market
• Best Butche
• Best BBQ
• Best Deli

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 a short distance away, the best hot sauce or some gourmet ice cream — 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 for fruit juice for the kids, or to grab 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, and will custom cut meat when needed. The scent of tri-tip on the grill just outside the back door is an exceptional aperitif, and a wide variety of delicious salads in the deli case round out a picnic fit for a Devendorf. It’s an especially busy place during the holidays.

• Best Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers Markets — - - - -

Why even bother shopping for produce at the grocery store, when any one of the main Monterey Peninsula farmers markets has better, fresher goods 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 and outside Whole Foods at Del Monte Center in Monterey on Sunday mornings from May through September. Other small 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 -

Whole Foods may have been purchased by Amazon, but the produce is still as fresh and abundant as ever — 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 blossoms. Adding to the benefit of shopping there, prices are often competitive — and are becoming even more so. The store is full-service, 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. Just don’t look for Diet Coke or anything else with artificial ingredients, because they aren’t offered there.

• Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads, and 598 Foam St., Monterey - daily in Carmel and Monterey - (831) 626-3626 and (831) 646-0547 -

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, locally caught squid, 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 best and freshest choices — and offer tips on how to prepare them.

• Best Bakery

Pavel’s Backerei — 219 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. - (831) 643-2636

For two decades, Pavel’s Backerei has turned out tender-crisp croissants oozing with chocolate, crisp cookies, floury French bread and multigrain loaves, and countless other savory and sweet baked delights. Most mornings, a line forms out the door as fans wait for the chance to pick up their treats for the day. Owners Paul and Johanna bake everything fresh daily.

• Best Catering Company

Aqua Terra Culinary — (831) 657-9790 -

Offering corporate catering — and having just landed the gigantic contract to cater the newly remodeled Monterey Conference Center — Aqua Terra Culinary also provides fresh and creative fare for weddings and other private events. Started by executive chef Dory Ford, Aqua Terra focuses on farm-to-table cuisine that’s innovative as well as accessible. Ford and his team turn out bright and beautiful dishes, and regardless of size and type, the firm “has the staff, equipment and know-how to match.”

• 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, snarky cocktail napkins or a super cute apron, 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, glasses — and everything a chef needs in the kitchen — as well as the people 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 — and then some — 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. Pine Cone readers know this, which is why they have selected it as Best Wine Store every year since the Golden Pine Cones started in 2008. Its wine cellar regularly hosts free tastings, and the resident wine staff (namely, Patrick Schrady) 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 — 5 West Carmel Valley Road - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 659-1900 -

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery in Cachagua 27 years ago, and while he started with the goal of creating a red wine that would rival the best of Bordeaux, the 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 again 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 — NW corner San Carlos and Seventh – noon to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday - (831) 659-2649 -

“Rosé all day,” has become the motto of wine drinkers everywhere, and in Monterey County, more than a dozen wineries produce a version of this still underappreciated, versatile, delicious, dry pink wine. Once again, Dawn’s Dream was named the favorite among local rosés 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. And it’s also socially conscious, as Galante founded her winery with a mission of supporting charities benefitting women and children.

• Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Scheid Vineyards — San Carlos Street, SE of Seventh – noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 626-WINE (9463) –

Monterey County grows more Pinot Noir than any other county in the state, so there’s a lot of competition when it comes to selecting the best. This year, Pine Cone readers voted for Scheid as their favorite Pinot, and the 2014 vintage boasts “loads of bright red fruit aromas, vibrant fresh raspberry and juicy cherry flavors,” along with “accents of delicate rose petal, warm vanilla, soft oak spice, and graceful tannins.” Having grown grapes locally for 45 years, Scheid has a significant legacy here — and a lot of superlative wines to its name.

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

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

Galante Vineyards clearly captured voters’ hearts this year, winning in four significant categories. The tasting room — the first to open in downtown Carmel, in 2004 — is warm and hospitable, while Galante’s red wines seem to always strike the balance of substantial fruit and underlying subtlety. Jack Galante has always focused on growing the finest grapes possible in his Cachagua vineyard and letting the fruit express itself in the 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 of those varietals produced here, but chose it as their favorite tasting room — and their favorite wine overall.

• Best Place for a Beer

Alvarado Street Brewery — 426 Alvarado St., Monterey – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) –

When it opened a few years ago, Alvarado Street Brewery quickly became the go-to place for great beer and fun food. Since then, it’s continued to evolve, with increasingly interesting, sophisticated — and even lighthearted — beers, created and guided by co-owner and head brewer J.C. Hill. The draft lineup always includes a range of offerings to suit anyone’s and everyone’s tastes, and flights are available, so people can try several or taste through to find their new favorites. In the kitchen, chef Brandon Miller keeps things fresh and lively, as well. Last year, Alvarado Street added a beer garden, and also opened a full production facility and taproom in Salinas.

• Best Cocktails
• Best Bartender

Montrio Bistro — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey – Dinner nightly – (831) 648-8880 –

The bar at Montrio is never a bad place to be, especially when executive mixologist Anthony Vitacca is behind it, deftly blending all sorts of interesting cocktails. While a few favorites stand the test of time, the overall cocktail menu is constantly changing and evolving — showing a sophistication and creativity not found at many restaurants. The liquor selections are solid, as well, for those who favor a high-quality Scotch neat or Bourbon on the rocks. The cocktails always have great names, too. Check out Hell Hath No Fury (Absolut pear vodka, Lillet blanc, lavender bitters, pineapple, lemon), Head in the Clouds (Junipero gin, Green Chartreuse, pinapple, celery bitters, egg whites, lime) or the Fractured Fairy Tale (Pig’s Nose scotch, Ardbeg 10 Years Old, Cocchi Americano, Lazzaroni Fernet, and tobacco bitters).

• Best Family Restaurant
• Best Desserts

Rosine’s Restaurant — 434 Alvarado Street, Monterey – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily - (831) 375-1400 -

A lively and kid-friendly atmosphere, menus that cater to fans of more interesting dishes as well as those who favor the tried and true, cheerful service, and large dining room with plenty of space make Rosine’s a consistent top choice for the best place to take the family for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Started in 1980 by the Culcasi family, the restaurant was also featured in an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The mountainous cakes and juicy pies are the stuff of legends, filling the dessert case and giving diners something to contemplate on the way to their tables. Even if you aren’t having a birthday, they’re something to celebrate.

• Best French Restaurant

Fifi’s Café and Bistro — 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – Dinner nightly, lunch Monday and Friday only, and brunch Sunday - (831) 372-5325 -

Owned by Calvin and Michele Wilkes, this authentic and charming French bistro transports guests from Pacific Grove’s busiest street to a quiet village in France as soon as they walk through the door. Since 1985, Fifi’s has consistently served quality French bistro-style cuisine in a quaint, intimate setting that’s elegant, but also informal. Fans go for 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. Wine tastings are regularly offered, too.

• Best Chinese Restaurant

Tommy’s Wok — Mission between Ocean and Seventh – Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 624-8518 -

It’s always busy and bustling, and with good reason: The dishes paraded out of 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, having taken the crown each year since the Golden Pine Cones started in 2008. 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

Aabha — The Barnyard Shopping Village – Lunch, Happy Hour and dinner daily - (831) 250-5940 -

Executive chef and proprietor Bhupender Singh’s food is as warm as he is. Everyone who walks into his new restaurant, which opened about a year ago, feels welcome there, and Singh’s delicious Indian food never disappoints. The lunch buffet is unbeatable for value and quality, and the dinner menu offers a wide range of dishes, including many vegetarian and vegan options. Singh’s passion for cooking came from watching his mother, and helping her. He’s “passionate about creating authentic Indian food and bringing Indian delicacy to the table.” His new restaurant unseated his former, Ambrosia, as the Golden Pine Cone winner this year.

• Best Italian Restaurant  

La Balena — Junipero Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues – Lunch and dinner weekends, dinner Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 250-6295 -

Freshly made pastas, rich sauces, and decadent main courses — including fabulous fried chicken on Tuesdays and Sundays — are staples at La Balena, as is the diverse wine list, heavily weighted with Italian wines. Owned by Emanuele and Anna Bartolini, La Balena is popular with Pine Cone readers, as well as visitors who return every time they’re in town. An intimate dining room and picturesque back garden (where dogs are allowed to accompany their human companions) add to La Balena’s draw.

• Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

Akaoni — Mission Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues – Lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, dinner Monday and Tuesday - (831) 620-1516

A favorite among knowledgeable locals, Akaoni turns out impeccable sushi, sashimi and other Japanese fare — many of it not found at any other similar restaurant on the Peninsula. Live spot prawn, live sea urchin and other delicacies can be had in this tiny Carmel venue, a closely guarded secret among regulars who don’t want to share it. The freshest and finest fish, carefully prepared and presented, make Akaoni a must for any sushi fan. (But if you’re looking for rolls with cream cheese or macadamia nuts, head elsewhere.)

• Best Mediterranean Restaurant

Dametra Cafe — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 622-7766 -

People flock to Dametra for the lively, convivial atmosphere, the delectable 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 to all who enter it. Hence, their Dametra Café, which offers Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes — and always has a line out the door. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, continue to build their following by displaying their inimitable hospitality, which fans can also experience at their newer restaurants, Mediterranean and PortaBella, a block away.

• Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Yafa — NW Junipero and Fifth – Dinner nightly - (831) 624-9232 -

A characteristically warm welcome, a menu filled with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean specialties, and a casual, homey room make Yafa a popular destination for diners seeking grilled octopus, ouzo shrimp, watermelon salad, lamb ravioli and other pastas, and main courses like kebabs, seared salmon and gorgonzola filet mignon. The menu is broad enough to offer something for everyone, the prices are affordable, and the service is friendly and welcoming.

• Best Thai Restaurant

Pacific Thai Cuisine - 663 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 646-8424 (THAI)

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 lovely food at reasonable prices in a bright and casual setting. Chef specials complement mainstays like Pad Thai and an array of green, red, yellow and Panang curries at a restaurant that’s always a sure bet.

• Best Mexican Restaurant  

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – Lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on weekends - (831) 625-2252 -

Some people go just for the margaritas and dancing to the band on the outdoor deck, while others prefer to sip some of the more unusual offerings among an extensive list of tequilas. But most 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. Baja is particularly popular among car guys and gals, since much of Phinny’s abundant collection of automobile and motorcycle memorabilia is on display there, and the restaurant regularly hosts events catering to car fans. 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 Restaurant for Seafood

Flying Fish Grill — Mission Street between Ocean & Seventh – Dinner nightly - (831) 625-1962 -

Unobtrusively tucked away in Carmel Plaza, Flying Fish Grill is the Asian-fusion brainchild of owners Tina and Kenny Fukumoto. When your appetite for seafood is competing with a craving for Far East fare, this place is the precise junction for a peaceful resolution. Start out with the California Tower of Dungeness crab, seaweed and sushi rice, or savory shrimp curry soup, and follow that up with seafood pasta that’s taking a dip in sake-butter sauce with shiso herb. Meat-eaters can enjoy an Asian twist on a New York steak in Madeira sauce with mushrooms and a tempura onion ring. For culinary drama, order a clay pot entrée cooked tableside. Wrap it all up with a warm banana or green tea sundae.

• Best Restaurant for Steak

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

Founded by local legend John Pisto and now run by Kevin Phillips and his son, this spot’s been around for more than 40 years. Classic apps like escargot and oysters Rockefeller whet the appetite for dry-aged Beef Wellington, a petite filet mignon or slow-roasted prime rib. Go all-out with steak and lobster, or just have some buttery, flaky sand dabs. Cioppino? They have that too. And all your favorite steakhouse sides, like creamed spinach (with bacon!), wild mushrooms, and scalloped potatoes, are ready for their close-ups. An extensive listing of fine wines awaits your perusal, or order a special house Manhattan from the bar. Order in the bar for casual fare like burgers and prime rib egg rolls.

• Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Basil Seasonal Dining — San Carlos between Ocean & Seventh - Lunch and Dinner daily - (831) 626-8226 –

Chef/owner Soerke Peters can often be found at the Carmel Farmers Market on Thursdays, choosing from the freshest local produce for his creations. The menu changes regularly, with specials inspired by Peters’ selections. While meat and fish are there for those who want them, there are always great vegetarian choices like grilled peach salad with locally made East of Edam cheese, a vegan plate of roasted farmers market treasures, or Parisian herb gnocchi with green olives and sage brown butter. Peters revels in showcasing the essence of his ingredients. Eating your veggies has never tasted so good.

• Best Ice Cream

Revival Ice Cream – 463 Alvarado St., Monterey - Daily from noon to 9 p.m., open ’til 10 p.m. June through Sept. - (831) 747-2113 -

When pastry chef Ron Mendoza was at Aubergine, you could count on him for breathtaking, original desserts. He turned out all kinds of flavorful pastries and mad-scientist concoctions that played with texture and appearance. Now he’s taken that creativity and started churning out the organic cold stuff at a shop with a location in Monterey, but with the soul of Carmel. Seriously, he’s pasteurizing Clover dairy milk, and making and scooping a flavor called “The Bees Knees,” studded with candy made from honeycomb. Everything that can be locally sourced, is. If you could grow chocolate here, he’d use that, too. Instead it’s luxurious egg- and cream-free Valrhona from France. You’ve got to see this spot to believe it.

• Best Sandwich or Burger

r.g. Burgers — 201 The Crossroads, Carmel, and 570 Munras Ave., Monterey (next to Trader Joe’s) – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 626-8054, (831) 372-4930 -

These burgers are indeed “r.g.” — real good! They’re always juicy, and plenty of choices are waiting for you. Once you’ve gotten rolling with an order of garlic parmesan fries or fried zucchini sticks (because, vegetables), choose from burgers made with 100 percent beef, ground turkey or falafel (because, also vegetables). Try the spicy Firehouse Burger, Cajun Burger or Sriracha edition. Better yet, get one topped with homemade mac and cheese. You could also put a fried egg on it. Add a cup of soup or onion rings on the side. Sip a frosty malted or a Coke float. Or you can have a more adult beverage of the frothy or vintage variety, if you prefer. We hear red wine is good for your heart.

• Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel – Breakfast and lunch daily - (831) 624-0199 -
For the 10th year running, Pine Cone readers have affirmed that fanciful and family-friendly Katy’s lives up to its trademarked 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.” Warm maple syrup on the Belgian waffles may be a close second, however. Among the 20 kinds of Benedicts are an ode to Ireland, with homemade corned beef hash; one from Russia with love, with caviar and smoked salmon; and a Windy City tribute with pulled pork and spicy Hollandaise. And they’re just getting warmed up. You know, like the maple syrup.

• 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

In business since 1994, CVCRC has had only one job: “to 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 Carmel Foglifter — which works as advertised — and 14 other varieties and blends. Owners Dean & 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 made snacks to nosh on. Sip in the shop or take home a bag o’beans — or do both.

• Best Pizza

Allegro Gourmet Pizza – 3770 The Barnyard – Lunch and dinner daily - (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. Fancier seafood combos (with or without cheese), veggie pies and meat combos are also on the menu. There are some combinations that might push a traditionalist to the edge — like a chipotle and tri-tip number or a Thai pizza with peanut sauce and cilantro. Vino flows by the bottle or 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 - Early lunch to late dinner daily -

Not sure how this joint keeps making the list in a town supposedly populated by chain-haters. Is it possible Steve Dallas is disguising himself with a fedora and a faux mustache to sneak a shake? Are city council members renting an unmarked van to load up on the burgers and fries? Whatever the case, this shiny eatery has worked its way into local hearts, with its simple menu and fast, drive-through service. They’re making the shakes with real ice cream, hand-cutting the French fries, and publishing their not-so-secret-menu, that was once the stuff of urban legends.

• Best Buffet

Crazy Horse — 1425 Munras Ave., Monterey, in the Bay Park Hotel – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily - (831) 649-4771 -

The buffet at Crazy Horse in Bay Park Inn hasn’t changed much since at least the mid-1980s, when Pluto was still a planet and the clambake was still the Crosby. And that’s a Great Thing. For a moment, step away from the trendy beet-bearing, vegan mac-and-cheese-pot-wielding, kale-infested salad bars that inhabit some establishments. Instead, inhale the aroma of the crusty three-seed rolls, pile on sliced turkey and a hard-boiled egg, indulge in the shrimp curry salad, and even butter a baked tater or sweet potato. Sure, there’s salad, and plenty of it, but this is a place to make a real meal. Did we mention it comes with an adorable cup of soft-serve frozen yogurt at the end? ’Cause it does.

• Best Wine List
• Best Happy Hour
• Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
• Best Restaurant in Monterey

The Sardine Factory — 701 Wave St., Monterey – Dinner nightly, Lounge Menu nightly, Happy Hours from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. nightly - (831) 373-3775 -

Best wine list? Well, if your sommelier can pop open an 1871 Chateau Laffite Rothschild — valued at between $10,000 and $15,000 — because Leon Panetta rid the world of a terrorist, you might warrant that honor. Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to get a great glass of vino at the Factory, but allow some time to read the extensive list. In the lounge, you can enjoy happy hour not once, but twice every evening, with signature drinks for $7, draft beers for $4, and a few wines by the glass for $5. In addition to the three-course prix fixe lounge dinner menu, there are yummy snack bites for $5 apiece, including white bean hummus with soft, chewy naan bread; truffle sea salt popcorn with pecorino romano butter, and smoked BBQ pork rib tips with crispy fried onions. To have a really special celebration, book a table in the Conservatory or book the whole wine cellar for a private party.

• 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 -

Also known as Clint’s place, this is where you want to be for brunch. You can be virtuous at the oatmeal bar, or pile up your plate with roasted cauliflower or quinoa salad.  You can be slightly less so with some smoked salmon (hey, omega-3s are good for you), or just leap straight into decadence with French toast and Applewood bacon. There are Benedicts, an omelet bar and prime rib, too. Just keep telling yourself you’re going to take that walk along Scenic after brunch, while you slide a piece of Key Lime pie or cheesecake off the dessert bar. You can also come back for dinner, and eat from the great American menu (pork chops, New York strip, filet and tail, Caesar salad), then sing from the Great American Songbook at the piano bar.

• Best Outdoor Dining

The Bench — The Lodge at Pebble Beach – Lunch and dinner daily, with small bites between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. - (831) 625-8533 -

“Spectacular” has come to be a cliché when it comes to the view from the Bench. Except it’s not. If you ever get tired of this vista, it’s time to check in with your favorite shrink. The Bench’s wait staff will make sure you’re comfortable, whatever the day’s weather calls for, by turning on a fire pit or a heater, bundling you in a blankie, and serving you a warming libation, if necessary. They can also arrange umbrellas to keep the October sun from searing your skin. The food is as memorable as the view, and isn’t at all stuffy — the duck fat potatoes with truffle salt and the Portobello mushroom fries with smoked cheddar dip are equally delicious starters. Grab a flatbread with pancetta and broccolini, or with spicy pepperoni. Soups, salads and mains like potato gnocchi and a killer burger round out the menu. So go. Sit. Have fun, already.

• Best New Restaurant

Seventh and Dolores — If you have to ask …. – Lunch and Dinner daily, Bar Menu from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 293-7600 -

The latest endeavor by the folks at Folktale, 7D (as it’s known colloquially) is a steakhouse where Todd Fisher (formerly of Tarpy’s) continues to churn out big flavors and big cuts of meat. Yeah, there’s a raw bar. Who doesn’t love a raw bar? But the restaurant’s website says, “the showstoppers are the all-natural meats from Niman Ranch, included 28-day dry aged steaks that melt in your mouth, and a burger that has been known to induce actual tears of joy.” With 28-day aged steaks that run to a 32-ounce ribeye and favorites like rack of lamb and pork chops snuggling up with mac-and-cheese, marrow mushrooms and brandy peppercorn sauce, it seems a little gluttony may be trending in “things to confess at the Mission.”

• Best Place to Take Clients

Tarpy’s — 2999 Monterey Salinas Hwy, Monterey – Lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch - (831) 647-1444 -

Location, location, location. Tarpy’s home at the intersection of the Monterey-Salinas Highway and 218 into Del Rey Oaks, right by the Monterey Airport, makes it a central spot for a business lunch or dinner. Add to that a selection of tasty non-alcoholic mocktails to keep the head clear for negotiating, as well as nicely-priced wines by the glass and some terrific food to suit all sizes of appetites, and you’ve got yourself a winning proposition. You can share a few apps, like the Castroville artichoke or the deviled eggs. The fussy dieter can delve into the tangy beet and rhubarb salad, and hungry folks can tuck into buttermilk fried chicken, meat loaf, or Portobello with cambozola cheese. Got room? Flip a coin between the Gizdich Ranch Ollalieberry pie ala mode or the chocolate-peanut butter mousse pie. Even if you don’t seal the deal, you’ll rock the meal.

• Most Romantic Restaurant

Casanova — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch - (831) 625-0501 -

Ah, romance. It’s part of the essence of Bohemia, n’est-ce pas? And Casanova — that womanizer, musician and scoundrel — he engineered a prison break involving a spike, hidden in a Bible, further secreted under a giant plate of pasta. (Not sure how one would explain a Bible buried beneath fettucini, but OK.) He probably would have fit right in here. Then, layer on the possession of Vincent van Gogh’s table, available for private parties, and the Georis family has a romance-laden spot in a town that’s hosted the lascivious and the loquacious, but most of all, the lovelorn and love-lost. An amorous feast might include oysters, beef tartare, olives and fat, satisfying pappardelle. There’s quail and sweet desserts and beverages abound — the wine list is dizzying.

• Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Cypress Inn – Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily, Tea Friday and Saturday, Sunday Brunch - (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. The best thing about having drinks with your dog is that he won’t shame you, or post an unflattering photo of you on Facebook later, so go ahead and order your pal a Muttini during Yappy Hour and get yourself a classic cocktail. You can have drinks inspired by Cary Grant, Ronald Reagan and Kirk Douglas, among others. Dinner offerings include exotic, cumin-scented Moroccan chicken, with dried fruit and honey, as well as locals’ favorites like sand dabs and Castroville artichokes.

• Best Restaurant Service
• Best Restaurant in Carmel
• Best Chef

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine/Kurt Grasing — Sixth and Mission - Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday and Sunday - (831) 624-6562 -

Kurt Grasing has created an atmosphere of modest elegance in which diners can still hear conversation while feasting on familiar, yet elevated dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, warm spinach salad or a tender juicy steak with traditional steak house sides, like mac-and-cheese. Guests enjoy stellar service from a knowledgeable and friendly wait staff. The wine list is extensive and includes special bottles from California and farther afield. And Chef Grasing? Well, he’s been at the stove and wielding knives for decades, and believe it or not, almost 20 years have gone by since he opened his namesake place here in town. Need more culinary cred? He’s filmed a cooking show with Julia Child. Bon appetit!

• Best Restaurant in Big Sur
Nepenthe —  48510 Highway 1, Big Sur – Lunch and dinner daily, Breakfast daily at Café Kevah - (831) 667-2345 –

Back in the day, getting to Nepenthe meant hiking 3 miles each way, much of it uphill. Of course, “back in the day” was just a week or two ago, before the new bridge opened, but it’s no surprise that a restaurant that inspires that sort of loyalty would be this year’s winner. The views from the deck or a window seat are downright inspirational, and the Ambrosiaburger has staying power like no other. The menu’s simple and straightforward, not to mention delicious, with roast chicken, steaks and albacore tuna making appearances.

• Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley  

Café Rustica — 10 Del Fino Place – Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with limited afternoon menu - (831) 659-4444 -

This place is usually packed with happy diners, enjoying the Tuscan- and Alsatian-inspired dishes. You can start with escargots or a simple-but-elegant butter lettuce salad, proceed to sweet-and-savory butternut squash ravioli, or split a pizza from the wood-fired oven. Unique offerings include the smoked salmon pizza, the pizza verde with tomatillo sauce, and the “Dynamite” — a meaty tour of Europe combining Italian sausage and pepperoni with Black Forest Ham. Shout-out to singletons — pull up a chair at the counter and enjoy the cooking action, chat with a server, or just read your Pine Cone.

• Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay — 2700 17 Mile Drive – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily – (800) 877-0597 -

Roy Yamaguchi, the celebrity chef and James Beard award winner, constantly brings creativity and freshness to his Hawaiian fusion cuisine. Executed daily by Chef de Cuisine Pablo Mellin, the flavors are clean and satisfying, bite after bite. Breakfast might include the Kalua Pork Scramble, with caramelized onions and tortillas, or a Castroville omelet with artichokes, spinach and cheese. Come back after a round of golf for lunch — try the Lakanilau roll, made with seared waygu beef, crab, and crispy asparagus. Or nibble on the coconut shrimp, served with black garlic sauce. You could jump into the current Asian pasta craze at the noodle bar, too. Gussy up a little for dinner (before or after the bagpiper comes by at sunset) and select from a wide variety of seafood, pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian options. And please, enjoy the views.

• Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Fandango — 223 17th St., Pacific Grove – Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, Brunch and dinner Sunday - (831) 372-3456 -

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. The classics are all here. Traditional apps like a cup of the French onion soup, or the foie gras terrine make a grand beginning. Salads are generous, and the duckling a l’orange is easily worth the 25-minute wait. Other specialties include the couscous and lamb shank, and tortellini maison with cream sauce. 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. For dessert? Dig into the profiteroles — tiny pastry shells filled with ice cream and topped with a warm sauce, or a hot Grand Marnier soufflé.

• Best Restaurant in Seaside

Gusto’s — 1901 Fremont Blvd., Seaside – Lunch and dinner daily - (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 learned to cook from him, making pasta and pizzas from scratch. The wide-ranging menu features about a dozen pizzas, made with San Marzano tomatoes and Italian prosciutto; fresh, creamy burrata cheese; and locally-foraged wild mushrooms. Pastas are made daily at nearby Bigoli, and served up with tasty sauces, seafood or carbonara made tableside. Soups and salads round out your tour of Italy. Mangia!


• Best Local Artist

Will Bullas —

An award-winning illustrator and a past president of the Carmel Art Association. Will Bullas is a master of one-liners. The lighthearted Bullas finds humor in just about everything. His work often shows animals doing people things, like a dog sipping a glass of wine, a gorilla trying on a pair of sunglasses, or a pig dressed in a Roman toga and presiding over the games in the Coliseum.   

• 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 Weston legacy begins with Edward, 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, as well as contemporary photographers who are carrying on the tradition.

• Best Sculpture Gallery

Dawson Cole Fine Art — At Lincoln and Sixth - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday - (800) 972-5528 -

The downtown gallery showcases the work of celebrated bronze sculptor Richard MacDonald, who has long sought to capture the beauty, strength and grace of athletes in motion. McDonald’s distinctive work is on display in the NFL and NBA halls of fame, and he has been commissioned to create noteworthy pieces for the U.S. Open golf championship, the Olympic games, and the Royal Ballet School in London.

• 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 nonprofit galleries in the country, the Carmel Art Association was founded in 1927, and today, it represents more than 100 local artists, including familiar local names like Johnny Apodaca, Melissa Lofton, Albert Paley, Erin Gafill, Warren Chang, Mark Farina and Will Bullas, 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 Playhouse 12 years later. Besides the many plays and musicals it stages at the Golden Bough and the landmark 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, and the recently renovated Golden Bough provides an ideal site for theater company’s many creative ventures.

• 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. It also hosts classical music concerts presented by the Monterey Symphony, Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Carmel Music Society. The center, meanwhile, is home to the Marjorie Evans Gallery, 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 jazz.

• 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 at Sunset Center in Carmel that showcase the orchestra, call attention to world-class guest performers and keep alive the legacy of classical music in Monterey County.

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

The Money Band — (858) 752-3590 -

When word gets out that the Money Band is playing somewhere on the Monterey Peninsula, the site, and its dance floor, fill up quickly. Led by charismatic lead vocalist Zoe Alexander, the hard-working cover band plays just about every style of music 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 sounds fresh again. We’re putting our money on this one. Apparently, so is everyone else.

• 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 Family-Friendly Activity

Monterey Bay Aquarium — 886 Cannery Row in Monterey - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day - (831) 648-4800 -

Short of a trip to Disneyland, it’s difficult to imagine a better family-friendly adventure than a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Located in the heart of historic Cannery Row, the world-class aquarium welcomes nearly two million visitors each year, offering them an awe-inspiring glimpse into the secret and colorful world that exists beneath the waves. One of California’s most popular tourist attractions, the award-winning aquarium is consistently rated as one of the best in the world.

• Best Local Festival

Monterey Jazz Festival —

Recalling jazz’s illustrious past and showcasing some of its brightest contemporary stars, the three-day festival provides a stage for more than 500 musicians and 100 performances each October. One of the world’s longest-running jazz festivals, it’s been held every year since 1958 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Many of the biggest names in jazz have performed there over the past 60 years, from Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, to Herbie Hancock, Chick Correa and Branford Marsalis.

• 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, 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. Replete with traditional Jewish costumes and rituals, music and dance, food and drink, the village harkens congregants to their heritage and the culture that reminds them who they are and what they represent.

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

Carmel Beach — 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 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 Hiking Trail
• My Favorite Park

Garland Ranch Regional Park — 700 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - every day 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. -

Located just west of Carmel Valley Village, Garland Ranch Regional Park spans more than 4,400 acres and features dozens of miles of hiking trails. A vast network of paths climb more than 2,000 feet, exploring shady creeks and leading to dazzling, sun-drenched vistas. The park is managed by the local Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, which doesn’t charge visitors a fee for entering, but somehow manages to keep trails in top condition — no small challenge at a time when many parks are struggling to stay open.

• Best Bicycle Shop

Carmel Bicycle — 26543 Carmel Rancho Blvd. - Tue. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -  (831) 625-2211 -

Owned by folks who are as passionate about bicycles as you are, Carmel Bicycle carries major brands like Trek and Giant, and features an extensive selection of accessories and clothing. Their staff understands everyone’s bike needs a little TLC from time to time, and with 25 years of experience, they can quickly diagnose whatever is ailing your bike so you can get back on the pavement or the trail as quickly as possible.

• 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. and Sun., 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-2737 -

Honoring its heritage as a racquet club with a tennis program, Carmel Valley Athletic Club is a multifaceted fitness facility. Besides cardio, weight and spin-bike rooms, the club offers a fantastic array of workout programs, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba and other classes led by experienced instructors and personal trainers.  The club is also home to a beautiful pool, and a 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 serves as a social hub where members gather for wine tastings and other gatherings.

• Best Martial Arts studio

American Karate — 182 Country Club Gate, Pacific Grove - (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 Golf Course

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

When SFB Morse began developing and preserving the coastal splendor of the Del Monte Forest nearly 100 years ago, surely he understood that golf along that Pacific blue backdrop would be a winning proposition. Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the course hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliff-side fairways and sloping greens. Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique dynamics of the Pebble Beach Golf Links have challenged and thrilled golfers and their spectators. The famed course has been the site of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the upcoming U.S. Open Championship in 2019. Pebble Beach Golf Links also include chipping and putting greens, the Peter Hay par-3 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 –

In its collections and its presence in the community, Monterey Museum of Art conveys the history and the culture of this community. 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. With its eight galleries of American artwork, this leading visual arts organization in Monterey County 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 encourages all visitors to connect with art and to learn about the enduring artistic significance of the Monterey region.

• Best Inn/B&B

Carmel Forest Lodge —  Ocean at Torres and Mt. View – (831) 624-7372 –

On the outside, it looks like a tiny community of quaint cottages with fresh white siding and a lovely garden setting. Yet inside these pet-friendly rooms is an alchemy of the cozy and the contemporary with tasteful, hand-selected furnishings that suit the aesthetic of the space. In these recently “eco-remodeled” cottages, guests will find light ceilings, most with exposed beams; board-and-batten or smooth-coat walls, hardwood floors and sisal rugs, fireplaces and comfortable settings in which to linger or lounge while enjoying fresh fruit, snacks and a sip of cream sherry. Each room is decorated with paintings or drawings by local artists, and other attractive soft furnishings. Television and free wireless internet are available for entertainment. Once the sun slips into the sea, night settles its curtain on the Carmel stage, and the show is over for another day.

• Best Hotel

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

After renovations to the historic property, what is being called “the new” La Playa Hotel is still considered the “The Grande Dame” of luxury hospitality. Designed to harmonize with the 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 property was converted to a boutique hotel, offering 75 guest rooms in its lush garden setting overlooking the sea. Although the property has been upgraded and expanded considerably over the years, its ambience has remained true to its original aesthetic as an intimate inn by the sea.

• Most Dog-Friendly Hotel

Cypress Inn — Lincoln and Eighth – (831) 624-3871 –

Dogs dine from their own tea tray of delectable doggie treats. Humans can enjoy lunch, dinner, cocktails or afternoon tea at Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge, accompanied by a faithful furry friend. Rooms are appointed with Fido in mind, including special blankets, a place to shower your pooch off after a romp on the beach, doggie pickup bags and a list of local pet sitters if you want to visit that rare spot that is for people only. When the inn is located in one of the world’s foremost canine communities, and owned by dog devotee Doris Day, you know there will be room at the inn and a place at the table for your pet.


• Best Florist

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

While his work has been showcased internationally in exhibitions, grand events and periodicals, master floral designer Michael Merritt also delights in creating his floral artistry through Twigery, the floral boutique he and his wife Cheryl have owned and operated since 2009. A visionary artist renowned for his artistic expression and diversity of design, Merritt believes “beauty is not primarily planned; it is the phenomenon that occurs at the moment when all relationships are perceived to be harmonious.” While he enjoys the juxtaposition of various materials, Merritt also appreciates the beauty in a single bloom.

• 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 -

Mum’s Place is an enclave of fine home furnishings, where the showroom is laden — but not overloaded — with a diversity of furniture, accessories and objets d’art staged in vignettes to help guests’ imaginations roam. Wandering in and among the classic, traditional, transitional, country French and contemporary collections, clients can customize their choices more than 80 furniture lines and some 5,000 fabrics. Even if they don’t find what they want, they just might want what they find. Since 1986, Mum’s has been dedicated to bringing in the latest designs on the market, in great variety to please a wide variety of tastes and budgets.

• Best Golf Shop

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

The pro shop is commonly the introduction to a guest’s Pebble Beach golf experience, so the folks here work to ensure it lives up to their dreams and imaginings. The mission of the Pebble Beach Pro Shop is to provide products and services guests are not likely to find elsewhere. For international tourists who have never held a golf club, or avid golfers who own more than their fair shares, Pebble Beach staff balances the new and exciting with proven core brands. Since merchandise is a tangible part of Pebble Beach guests can take with them to remind them of their experiences, the Pro Shop endeavors to provide the best products at the highest quality befitting 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 – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Sunday – (831) 293-8050, (831) 372-3284, (831) 372-646-9144 -

Likely they’re winners — all the local Ace Hardware stores — because they are consistent. At Ace, shoppers have come to expect dedicated staff and hard-working products without frills — except for the seasonal décor — that make folks feel at home. Maybe it’s because each Ace Hardware store is a member of the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the business, giving customers a sense of shopping local 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.” Which is why Ace Hardware employees are trained to say, “Helping you is the most important thing we have to do today.” It’s what they promise on the radio and what they deliver. Consistently.

• Best Housewares Store

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

Maybe their motto is what brought home the award as Best Housewares Store: “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.” Prim’s opened in late 2012, following renovations to the property. The company created a fresh venue, increasing the hardware, housewares and paint sections of the store, developing the patio, home furniture, bedding and gift departments, and bringing in new vendors. What they didn’t change was the customer service.

• Best Craft-Knitting-Quilting Shop

Monarch Knitting — 529 Central Ave., Suite 4, Pacific Grove – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday – (831) 647-9276 –

Its name is a nod to the butterfly sanctuary for which the town is known, but this place has knit together another kind of sanctuary. The shop looks like it will welcome you in, and you’ll find a fresh, well-lit atmosphere with cubbies of colorful skeins of yarn, and a really cool farm-style table, where you’ll feel like you can get right to work, where you’ll feel at home. It evokes a community of craftspeople, like someone will show you what you need and how to work with it. It’s so much more than a store — a place where you can take lessons, participate in projects, buy beautiful yarn, belong. Monarch Knitting creates community.
• Best Pet Store

Pet Food Express — 300 Crossroads Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday – (831) 622-9999 –

There’s a chance they won the Golden Pine Cone award because everyone who works there seems to love animals. Or because they feature adoptable cats from Animal Friends Rescue Project. Or because they host Greyhound Friends for Life, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue and Golden Oldies Cat Rescue adoption events, plus regular dog training, bathing and weekly walks. Or maybe Pet Food Express is popular for its wide range of food products, plus other creature comforts. Likely it comes back to the employees, who seem to know what they’re doing and really, really care.

• Best Garden Shop

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

For 17 years, Griggs Nursery has been thriving in its Carmel Valley location, where customers have been watching the current generation of Griggs kids grow up among the plants. The key to the family-owned business seems to be customer acquaintance and a wide diversity of products, enabling Griggs to give people what they want and need. They hand-select their plants, most of which they grow on a five-acre parcel on Schulte Road, and then bring to the nursery, where their customer service kicks in. “We know what works here, so we can grow the variety and quality we want for our customers,” the Griggs family says. “It’s an investment in our community.”

• Best Camping/Skiing/Surfing Store

REI — 145 General Stilwell Dr., Marina – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 883-8048 –

Once you walk through the dramatic entrance of REI, you’re already on an outdoor adventure. Whether you are a novice or expert outdoor enthusiast, the membership-optional store likely has something for you. Founded in Seattle in 1938, the retail chain carries apparel, footwear and gear for a wide range of outdoor and fitness activities. By now, even the acronym evokes as vivid a sense of the great outdoors as what it stands for, “Recreational Equipment, Inc.” Its mission statement says REI is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Clearly, this space at The Dunes retail center covers a lot of ground.

• Best Place to Buy Athletic Wear

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

Janice and Chris Cleary, and Cathy and Mike Hirst are coming up on six years since they bought The Treadmill and set their sights on selling athletic and athleisure wear. Seeing the store as a reflection of this community where they live, they endeavor to provide what folks need to be active or adventurous on the Peninsula. In 1983, the founders began with a vision, 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 imagined it would become a hub for both weekenders and warriors. Today, the store remains a community center, focused on supporting the Big Sur Land Trust, the Ventana Wilderness and the people who come through the door.

• Best Pharmacy

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

The only thing missing is a soda fountain. Carmel’s classic drug store and family pharmacy has been independently owned and serving the community since 1910. There’s a reason it’s lasted so long. Known for offering quality products and service, this drug store might just be the most convenient stop in town. Located in the heart of Carmel, the narrow storefront is chock-full of everything you just might need or maybe forgot on your way into town. The back of the shop looks like the old-fashioned pharmacy it is, yet it provides state-of-the-art products. The front of the store offers greeting cards and postcards, magazines and books by local authors. It has hair accessories and hygiene products, perfume and makeup, candy and scented candles. And more.

• Best Camera/Photo Store

Green’s Camera World — Fifth and San Carlos, 555 Del Monte Center, Monterey, 350 Main St., Salinas – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily – (831) 624-8880, (831) 655-1234, (831) 424-5247 –

Green’s Camera World is considered the county’s complete camera shop for sales, service and solutions. Prepared to provide products for every project and price, it is known for having the “best selection, best price, and most knowledgeable staff in photography,” at all three locations. Serving Monterey County since 1921, Green’s Camera World features Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Samsung cameras. Whether photography enthusiasts have a brand-name camera in mind, or photographers are seeking a specialty camera for fine-art or professional photography, the experts at Green’s Camera World seem to know what their clients need.

• Best Toy Store

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

Thinker Toys, a local landmark since 1969, prides itself on being an “old-fashioned toy store, featuring classic educational and imaginative toys for children and adults.” Which is why plenty of parents and grandparents have used Thinker Toys as de facto childcare while they “just run an errand up the street.” And plenty of children have hardly noticed. Partly because of the great diversity of toys and games, and also because the little ones are allowed to touch them, to try them out and to play to their heart’s content. Kids of all ages collect cards and costumes, birthday presents and party favors, coloring books and crayons, Barbies and baby dolls, board games and books, Sesame Street figures, Legos and lollipops, K’NEX and Kanoodle, and that’s just in the first five minutes.

• Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

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

It’s like wandering into the custom wardrobe of a privileged child. Heaven beckons customers through double doors into a gracious, well-lit salon appointed with very special, very select children’s apparel. Ash and Monique Vasanji celebrated the grand opening of Heaven in 2001, their European-style children’s boutique designed for the customer who has exquisite taste and wants quality and style — including their young daughter, Alia. Today, Alia runs the store. Located on Lincoln in the site of the legendary Village Straw Shop, now closed, Heaven 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 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday - (831) 625-8106 –

Khaki’s of Carmel is a respected purveyor of contemporary European and American menswear that 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. In every decision, Ockert thinks of his customers.

• Best Men’s Shoe Store

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

When Haydar Movahedi opened his shoe store more than 20 years ago, European comfort shoes was an emerging category. “Hedi,” whose store has always been about comfort, managed to cobble together comfort, quality, convenience and cool, paired with customer service from experienced staff who understand fit, form and function. Consider brands Pikolinos, Ecco, Clarks, SAS, Børn and more. Comfort has never looked — or felt — so good.

• Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

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

Girl Boy Girl has enjoyed 26 years of styling women in fashions considered not trendy but current. 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. Customers seek established designers and a large selection of cashmere, and denim, designed to fit and flatter. GBG’s long-time staff always enjoys styling long-time clients and new guests to GBG.

• Best Women’s Accessories

Augustina’s Designer Boutique — San Carlos and Sixth – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily – (831) 624-9901 –

Established in 1987, Augustina’s invites customers to relax in an elegant setting, customized with clients in mind. Owner Tracy Delaney Odle, whose mother owned the legendary Signatures stores in Carmel, presents an exceptional roster of designers, among them Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Giambattista Valli, Michael Kors, Max Mara Roberto Cavalli, Lela Rose, Prabal Gurung, Herve Leger and more. Odle is proud to introduce her niece, Christine Sukenick, as her new store manager. Sukenick, who spent childhood summers in Carmel, hails from New York, where she ran David Yurmin at Saks Fifth Avenue. Augustina’s stylists offer personalized service, featuring the finest designer fashions and accessories from around the world.

• Best Women’s Shoe Store

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

Tess Calhoon is sitting at her desk adjacent the stockroom of Lloyd’s Shoes, among floor-to-ceiling shelving of shoeboxes, neatly stacked. It’s raining outside, so she has on her favorite weatherproof Aquatalia olive-suede booties. Calhoon works with her father, Jeff Greenberg, to run the popular shoe store, which celebrated its 37th anniversary this year. The Ocean Avenue attraction aims to offer something for every shopper, whether it’s the trendiest style of the season or the absolute best travel shoe, always in the interest of the “highest style, comfort, function and quality.”

• Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

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

Debra Couch, a woman who makes fashion look effortless, says it is — or should be. Particularly if you shop at Debra C, her boutique of European designer apparel for women. Couch started with her exclusive store in Beverly Hills and then, in 2011, opened a second store at The Crossroads, quickly garnering a loyal clientele. What’s important, she says, whether you’re looking at Valentino, Missoni, Bogner or her private label, is it’s all 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 Leather Goods Store

Bottega Veneta — Carmel Plaza, Ocean at Mission – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 622-0518 –

Their leather workshops dwell in a restored villa in Montebello Vicentino, in the Veneto region of Italy. Bottega Veneta’s exquisite line of fine accessories, handbags, shoes and luggage are a tribute to the craftspeople who work from a context of history, of tradition, of devotion, of skill. And it shows. Some people stop along the Ocean Avenue storefront to study the merchandise through the windows, as if it were a museum of art. And then, they go inside, to experience it and, quite often, to have it.

• 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 –

People volunteer at Yellow Brick Road like it’s a calling, creating a sense of community in the benefit shop. Customers shop the place like members of a club. The store’s genesis came from Shirin Snyder, wife of the Rev. John Snyder, pastor of Carmel Presbyterian Church, who sought a way to extend 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 such a place would thrive in an upscale community. But Snyder saw the affluence as an asset, a resource for quality castoffs that would attract a large and loyal following. She was right. 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 –

Sandy and John Bonifas, who purchased Fourtané Jewelers in the 1980s, have maintained the intimate, friendly and personalized atmosphere customers appreciated since its inception in 1950. Today, one of the country’s leading providers of estate jewelry and watches from the modern era to centuries back, Fourtané is particularly renowned as an authorized Rolex retail store, specializing in vintage Rolexes. “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

Carmel Plaza — Ocean  & Mission– 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. (831) 624-0138 -

The Monterey Peninsula’s “premier shopping and dining destination,” Carmel Plaza has more than 35 stores and boutiques, from stores that have been there for decades, such as the esteemed Cheese Shop, to the new Carmel Honey Company. If you’re looking for luxury items, visit Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade, Bottega Veneta, or Khaki’s of Carmel. If you work up an appetite after an afternoon of shopping, try Bistro Beaujolais, which has an outdoor patio with a full bar, or Flying Fish Grill, which offers East/West fusion cuisine.

• 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 — owned by Chip and Kathy Wittpenn, a short stroll from Ocean Avenue, and near Sunset Center — 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, music 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 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 - (888) 306-6825 -

The folks at BMW of Monterey also offer top-notch customer service, which is one of many reasons why Pine Cone readers awarded them another Golden Pine Cone this year. BMW of Monterey thrives on helping its customers find their next BMW, whether it’s the new i8, electric-powered i3, X5 SUV, 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 take appropriate measures 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 – Winter hours, 8 a.m. to 5 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 also be clean. El Estero offers car wash services ranging from bronze to platinum, and a la carte services, 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 -

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. Try out the new iPhone 8, soon-to-be-released iPhone X, iMac Pro or a wearable, such as the Series 3 Apple Watch.

• 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 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, once again. Collezione Fortuna Fashion offers bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses, dresses for junior bridesmaids and flower girls, and bridal accessories by leading designers in the bridal fashion industry. 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. No wonder Carmel Bay Company won a Golden Pine Cone award last year, too.

• Best Music Store

Do Re Mi Music & Video — 26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Suite B1 - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday - (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. In addition to records and CDs, the eclectic shop carries a full line of guitars and other instruments, record players and other music-related gift items.

• Best Candy Shop

Lula’s Chocolates — Court of the Fountains, NW Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh – (831) 624-5852; 244 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel Crossroads – (831) 626-3327. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, both locations –

If you’ve never been to Lula’s Chocolates, it’s likely you’ve heard about their famed — and scrumptious — Sea Salt Caramels, which seriously test the self-control of everyone who tries them. The locally-owned company, founded by chocolatier Scott Lund (who learned the craft from his grandmother), offers a wide variety of assorted chocolates, nut clusters, toffees, butter crèmes, truffles and other sweets, include the Baja Toffee spiked with chili. But seriously, try the Sea Salt Caramels!

• Best Carpet and Flooring Store

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

If you want to compare hardwood to cork or carpeting, look no further than Bereman’s well-organized website, or go into the store to take advantage of their staff’s extensive experience. They’ll guide you through the wiles of the tiles, the lay of the laminates and the piles of carpets. Either way, Bereman — a previous Golden Pine Cone winner — is there from your selection through installation and beyond.


• Best Place to Get Married

Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road, Carmel - 9:30 a.m. to 5 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. Its well-worn walls and air of history, combined with a recent remodeling and restoration, make it a beautiful piece of living history. So, it’s no surprise that readers of The Pine Cone, again, voted the Carmel Mission 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 24-acre property with a rich history of hosting U.S. presidents, dignitaries and movie stars seeking exclusive, private and rustic charm. The idyllic property features majestic oaks and lush meadows that can host myriad events, including weddings. Outfitted with well-appointed changing rooms for the bride and groom, as well as places to burn off nervous energy and luxurious cabins to house the wedding party, 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

Del Mesa Carmel — 500 Del Mesa, Carmel – (831) 624-1853 – Office hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Sunday –

Located just a mile east of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Del Mesa Carmel is “perched high on a plateau graced by stunning views of Point Lobos, the Carmel River Valley and surrounding Santa Lucia mountains.” The adult active community, as it describes itself, offers independent living in 289 condominium homes nestled among trees and gardens. A 24-hour security gate offers privacy and security for its residents. It also features a fitness center with indoor swimming pool and spa, exercise classes, a workshop for arts and crafts, garden plots and a lawn bowling club. 

• Best Electrician

Cate Electric Co. — Dolores and Seventh - 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday, (831) 624-5361

Founded in 1961, this family-owned business owned by Michael Cate and Janine Cate Boone, has been committed to the local community. Cate Electric, which is a multiple Golden Pine Cone winner, specializes in customer service from service calls to home remodels to landscape lighting and more. “We have a qualified crew with certified electricians,” Cate says. The company’s Facebook page is studded with pictures of “don’ts,” gorgeous coastal photos, and pictures of that qualified crew occasionally mugging for the camera.

• Best Plumber

A and 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 and R Plumbing in Sand City will gladly oblige. While other plumbing companies have changed to "flat rate" pricing, A and R feels “the traditional method is a more honest and fair way to charge customers,” according to Sand City-based business. “With a team of 20 employees, A and R Plumbing can accommodate most any plumbing need,” the company proclaims confidently.

• 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 building 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

Stocker & Allaire — 21 Mandeville Court, Monterey – Call for hours - (831) 375-1890 -
From their beautiful eco-friendly homes in the Santa Lucia Preserve to the cutting-edge rammed earth house in San Benito County, Stocker & Allaire refuses to be defined by one single style of home. And that’s just the way each of their unique clients likes it! In addition to the private homes for which they’re known, the company’s been responsible for building exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for more than 20 years, so if you’ve ever spent a peaceful moment lingering in front of the jellyfish display, or checking out the penguins, you’ve been a beneficiary of its work.

• Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

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

For about four decades, Mission Landscaping has brought its expertise to countless projects. Whether you need stone work, 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. “Our landscape and building design staff bring a mosaic of expertise to your project. Our construction staff includes talented carpenters, masons, irrigation specialists and gardeners.” Mission says.

• Best Insurance Agent

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

The family legacy of Matt Little dates back three generations in Carmel. Robert Little opened 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. Today Matt works alongside his daughter, Amy, and son Matt Jr., serving markets in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Hawaii. They take pride in providing outstanding personalized customer service, which, no doubt, is the reason this iconic family business has won the Golden Pine Cone award for the sixth time

• Best Real Estate Company
• Best Place to Work

Carmel Realty — Dolores, south of Seventh, and three other locations – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. to Fri. - (831) 622-1000 -

Pine Cone voters also voted Carmel Realty the best local real estate company. Older than the village that it calls home, Carmel Realty is family owned, just as it was a century ago. Employees have referred to the leadership of the Mitchell family as “inspirational.” Their loyal customers respect their integrity and the fact that they give back to their community. In addition to a long history of great service handling high-end properties in the Monterey Peninsula’s best neighborhoods, the company gives amply to the community, supporting a wide and diverse group of charities.

• Best Real Estate Lender

RPM Mortgage — 3 SW Corner of Fifth and San Carlos – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday - (831) 574-4500 -

Also a Golden Pine Cone winner in 2015, RPM Mortgage triumphs again this year! RPM’s clients celebrate the way the company guides them through the lending process by the “most experienced, ethical and professional mortgage lending teams in town.”

• Best Title Company

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

Chicago Title is a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone thanks to a tradition of customer service resulting in a full page of testimonials applauding the company, and its vice president of sales and marketing, Rene Ayers, for qualities that include patience, helpfulness, knowledge, positive attitude, availability, and making use of the latest technology. Chicago Title has a history of more than 170 years of outstanding customer service, with special attention to making the escrow process smooth and complete. The company's stated goal is to help ensure growth and success for lenders, builders, developers, attorneys and real estate professionals.

• Best Personal Bank

Monterey County Bank — Multiple locations, including 3785 Via Nona Marie, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 625-2345 -

Monterey County Bank is the oldest locally owned, locally managed bank in the county, opening its doors in May 1977. This institution specializes in all aspects of business banking, including being the No. 1 Small Business Administration lender in Monterey County. In addition, the bank offers very competitive commercial lending products, outstanding merchant credit card services, and personal attention to its clients. And, there's also a convenience factor: Monterey County Bank has branches in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Salinas. The company motto might help explain why Monterey County Bank is beloved by readers: "We don't open accounts — we start relationships."

• Best Business Bank

Wells Fargo Bank — Multiple locations, including San Carlos St. and Ocean Avenue in Carmel – Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 624-5302 -

Over a span of more than 20 years, Wells Fargo has become one of the nation's largest financial institutions, serving one in three U.S. households and employing one in 600 working Americans, and serving 70 million customers in more than 130 countries. The winner of this year's award for Best Business Bank prides itself in providing industry expertise, commercial financing, insurance, and real estate, corporate trust services, institutional investing, market risk management, retirement and employee benefits, and numerous other services invaluable to business owners, large and small. "We take the time to understand your business, from your operations to your long-term vision and goals," states the company website. "And we support you with local relationship managers and bankers, who work alongside your team to help keep your business on track and moving forward."

• Best Investment House/Advisor

Monterey Private Wealth Management — 2340 Garden Road, #202, Monterey – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (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. They take pride in providing straightforward answers, without confusing jargon, to questions such as these: Will you have enough? Are your tax strategies sound? How do you stay ahead of inflation? Are your children prepared for handling wealth? Are your finances organized efficiently? 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

Monterey Animal Hospital — 725 Foam St., Monterey - Daily 8-5:30 p.m., with 24-hour emergency services -(831) 373-0711 -

Monterey Animal Hospital won the affection of readers by providing the highest-quality personalized medical care to dogs and cats of the Monterey Peninsula since 1966. This dynamic veterinary hospital offers comprehensive services and boarding in an atmosphere where two-legged clients and four-legged patients are treated with genuine compassion. Services include boarding, grooming, micro-chipping, dental care, laboratory, anesthesia, hospice and euthanasia, and more.

• Best Pet Boarding

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

Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel, a repeat winner, has established a solid reputation for providing quality lodging for dogs and cats on the Monterey Peninsula since 1970, a reputation enhanced by recent upgrades in services, extended hours, and increased staff since Dr. Ben Wilson took the helm several years ago. The stated mission of Casa de Amigos 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

Suds 'N Scissors — 223 Crossroads Blvd. - Daily 9-5 p.m. - (831) 624-4697 -

Owned and operated by Todd Harris, Suds 'N Scissors, has been a Carmel tradition for 45 years and serves as the area's most elegant grooming retreat. No stranger to pet care, Harris is the previous owner of Country Club Kennels, Santa Cruz Animal Care, and Tatoha Trainers, and has been a member of the Del Monte Kennel Club for 20 years, and treasurer for the past 11 years. "We are in full view of the public eye, all grooming is done right up front in plain view," Harris states on his website. "Please, feel free to ask to see any parts of the shop, or bathing area, it’s always open for inspection. It’s our pleasure to make you as comfortable with the grooming process as possible." That philosophy no doubt is a major reason readers chose Suds 'N Scissors as winner of this year's award.

• 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: “Great shop! Eric is the nicest fairest mechanic you can find. 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.”

• Best Auto Body Shop

Gene's Import Auto Body — 531 Shasta St., Sand City – Monday through Friday, 8a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 899-0343 -

This well-established Monterey Peninsula business specializes in both foreign and domestic vehicles, with special certification for both Mercedes and Tesla. Customer reviews give Gene's high ratings for outstanding work at fair prices, expertise, honesty, attention to detail, and top-notch customer service. Gene Lantomo's company was founded in 1973 and maintains a strong reputation for quality service.

• 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

Locally famous for courteous and friendly service, the exceptional staff at Carmel Cleaners handles all types of dry-cleaning requests, large or small. They specialize 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

Pacific Grove Travel — 593 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - (831) 373-0631 or (800) 648-1808 -

For a romantic getaway, a family vacation, a business trip, or any other get-out-of-town occasion, Pacific Grove Travel has been one of the Peninsula's go-to services since 1979. Readers love this company for its professionalism, diligence, knowledge, and friendly customer relations. Pacific Grove Travel is famous for arranging seamless, worry-free excursions to exotic locales such as Alaska and Peru, including cruises and group tours. They take pride in handling all of the details with airlines, rent-a-cars, and lodging. The stated philosophy on their website says it all: "We consider our travelers to be part of the Pacific Grove Travel family, and our agents are here to help you create vacation experiences to match your style and exceed your expectations."

• Best Hair Salon

Oya Salon — 200 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. - (831) 656-0570 -

Founded in 1997, Oya advertises itself as the Central Coast's premiere center for haircutting, styling, color and makeup, as well as "a hub for cultivating creativity in hair artists, makeup artists, models and photographers." The salon's professional hair designers take pride in offering the highest level of customer service, and staying in tune with the latest industry trends and styles. Oya also is known for its philanthropy in the local community, donating to countless local charities, schools, and nonprofits, in addition to participating in fundraising fashion shows and sponsoring local events. No wonder Pine Cone readers chose Oya to receive this year's award.

• Best Skin Care   

Coastal Valley Dermatology — 26366 Carmel Rancho Lane, Suite H – Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - (831) 293-8458 -

This marks the fifth time in six years that Coast Valley Dermatology has been the readers' choice to receive the Golden Pine Cone for "Best Skin Care," a tribute to Dr. Roya Javid's expertise in medical dermatology and skin rejuvenation, and her dedication to providing patients with full attention to patient comfort. A leading dermatologist, Dr. Javid performs all procedures and administers all patient services personally, using the latest, state-of-the-art lasers and treatment technologies, all in an elegant and comfortable environment. All of her medical assistants are fully trained, and her medical aestheticians are trained in dermatology, with extensive knowledge about the procedures in which they assist. She originally hung her shingle in Carmel in 2011.

• Best Nail Salon

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

A Golden Pine Cone winner once again this year,, Nails Spa by the Sea is celebrated by readers for its affection for clients, who are pampered with the highest-quality nail treatments in a nurturing atmosphere. Specialties of the house include a spa manicure using warm citrus oils, an ocean-fresh foot soak, with hot towels, 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 at Nails by the Sea, a traditional destination in Carmel.

• Best Spa

Refuge Day Spa —  27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel - Daily 10 a.m. to10 p.m. - (831) 620-7360 -

The mission at Refuge is to provide an affordable, yet unrivaled relaxation experience in a beautiful, natural setting that includes six hot and warm pools (with cascading waterfalls), four Nordic cool/cold plunge pools, America's largest co-ed cedar sauna overlooking the waterfalls, and a eucalyptus-infused steam bath. The setting is two acres of serene, indoor solariums and outdoor relaxation areas overlooking the Santa Lucia Preserve. This worldwide destination is the ideal place to unwind and recharge. One price includes a robe and access to spotless locker rooms, and allows you to stay as long as you like. Sit around a fire pit and enjoy the sounds of nature in what truly is a quiet place of refuge.

• Best Dentist

Dr. Bradford 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. Carl, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone, has treated patients in Carmel for more than three decades with 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. "Our entire team is dedicated to providing you with the personalized, gentle care that you deserve."

• Best Dermatologist

Dr. Joseph Rheim —  757 Pacific St., Suite A-1, Monterey – Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-4404 (general dermatology) or (831) 373-0441 (Cosmetic Laser Center) -

Dedication to skin care is a family thing for Dr. Rheim, who, after earning his medical degree and doing his residency at Tulane, returned home to Monterey to join his father's practice in 2004. An active staff member at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Dr. Rheim has extensive experience and expertise in cosmetic treatments, using the latest, leading-edge techniques and methodologies in both the dermatological and cosmetic arenas. "Dr. Joe" also is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Medical Association. Services at Rheim Dermatology include the treatment of acne, actinic keratosis, eczema, hyperhidrosis, psoriasis, rashes, skin cancer and sun damage.

• 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 -

An eight-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone, Dr. Rosenblum has been in private practice at Monterey Bay Eye Center since 1994. He has clinical interests in cataract surgery, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy treatment and a variety of other procedures. This 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 Ophthalmology 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) 648-3361

In 1998, the same year he graduated from Texas Tech University Health and Science Center School of Medicine, Dr. Clevenger became a member of the medical staff at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. The veteran physician also holds a 1993 degree from Dartmouth Medical School. This multi-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone award 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 —  Upper Ragsdale Drive, #210, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon - (831) 333-0999 -

A physician doesn't get any more local than Dr. LaMothe. This multi-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone was born at the old Carmel Hospital and graduated from Stevenson School (Class of ’75) before obtaining his advanced education at UCLA, Wayne State, and UC San Francisco. This board-certified pediatrician was recognized in 2011 with a “Patients Choice Award” and “Compassionate Doctor Recognition Award” from Dr. LaMothe, in his 30th year at Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group, says he loves his job because “helping kids is fun.”
His passions include food, gardening, hiking 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 is the readers’ choice for The Golden Pine Cone once again thanks to a passion for his profession and a zeal for maintaining up-to-date techniques. The doctor specializes in plastic surgery and 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 class 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 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 launched his chiropractic practice in Monterey in 2003, the same year he became head coach of the Carmel High water polo team, a post he held through the 2016 season. “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.”

• Best Estate Planning Attorney

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

Talk about local roots! Kyle Krasa’s 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 already had his heart set on a career in estate planning, elder law/Medicaid planning, probate/estate administration, and asset protection. He brings a passion for those specialties to a 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 there's a wrong that needs to be righted in the legal arena, the man to call, according to readers, is Andrew Swartz, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone. Swartz 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. He 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 has competed 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 -

Biegel, a multi-time honoree by readers as winner of the Golden Pine Cone, 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. If you're in a legal mess, our readers recommend Biegel as the attorney to call.

• 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 -

Since 1939, Federico's Drive-In Shoe Service in Old Monterey 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. This outstanding, family run operation takes great pride in its quality work and customer service, earning and maintaining the affection of a community that has made Federico's a multi-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone.

• Best School

Stevenson School — 3152 Forest Lake Road, Pebble Beach - (831) 625-8300 -

Of course, we send our children to school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, but at Stevenson School, which serves pre-kindergarten through high school, the philosophy is a bit broader: "As a California school with a global sensibility, Stevenson is premised on a vision of education as the means by which we discover the world and contribute to its transformation," the website declares. The Lower School (pre-kindergarten through grade four) strives to support a child's innate nature to learn through play, and develop independence, self regulation, sense of belonging, and a lifetime love of learning. The Middle School (grades five through eight) strives to help students build confidence and strong bonds with their peers, trust in their teachers, and explore new interests. The Upper School challenges students, inspires growth, and rewards curiosity — all on a 50-acre campus just minutes from the Pacific Ocean.

n Best Teacher

Mary Carl, All Saints' Episcopal Day School — 8060 Carmel Valley Road - (831) 624-9171 -

Mary Carl, the daughter of a school teacher, sees teaching as "a calling" as opposed to a career, which explains in part why she's been teaching math to middle-schoolers (grades six through eight) at All Saints' for more than 25 years. This year's Golden Pine Cone recipient says she considers it an honor to be around kids every day. "I feel like I learn so much from them. Every day is something new. They inspire me," she said. Likewise, she considers All Saints’ to be "an amazing school, a great place for kids to grow and learn, and become the best they can be. We're challenging, we're nurturing, and we're small enough where we can do that." Ms. Carl, a Southern California native, is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University. She taught previously at Stevenson School.

• Best Principal

Jay Marden, Carmel River School  —  15th Ave. and Monte Verde Sr., Carmel - 624-4609 -

Before he became a teacher and a principal, Jay Marden was a world-class track athlete, ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in the 10,000 meters going into the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. His Olympic dream ended with heat stroke in the 10K, and a sixth-place finish in the 5K (three runners made the team), a hard lesson he sometimes shares with students today: What do you do when you fall short of a goal?
"I love working with this age group because they're so impressionable and they have such a hunger for learning," said Marden, a 21-year educator in the Carmel Union School District, the past 13 as principal at River School. "If we're careful and respectful of that curiosity that kids have, I think we can easily produce lifelong learners. Marden also feels blessed with an outstanding faculty and support staff at River School, as well as supportive parents.

• Best Place to Volunteer
• My Favorite Nonprofit

SPCA for Monterey County — 1002 Monterey Salinas Hwy. – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (office); Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for adoptions - (831) 373-2631 -

The SPCA for Monterey County has served, protected, and loved local animals and people since 1905, sheltering homeless, neglected and abused pets and livestock, and providing humane education and numerous other services. 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. No wonder this outstanding nonprofit organization is a multi-time recipient is a longtime readers’ favorite.