The Carmel Pine Cone


SAVVY PINE Cone readers have been telling us where to go for the best of everything around here since 2008. About 400 of you responded to this year’s poll, offering opinions on restaurants, wines, hardware stores and high school principals — and that’s just for starters.

Looking for a good yarn? Whether it’s one to read or one to knit with, here’s where to find it. The list includes fishy things to look at and seafood to eat, jazzy music and jazzy duds, places to take your pooch that they’ll like, and ones they need but may not like so much (oh c’mon, you don’t like getting your shots, either).

Keep the list handy or bookmark it online — you may not need a pediatrician now, but who knows where you’ll be by July 2020? And besides, you’ll want to know the places to go to soothe next year’s pre-election headaches with a massage or a cocktail until then.

Think of this year’s Golden Pine Cones as a virtual Magic 8 Ball that never, ever says “Reply hazy, try again.” Instead, you ask, “Who makes the best chardonnay?” and we say, “Why ….”

Read on to find out.


• Best Neighborhood Market
• Best Butcher
• Best Deli

Bruno’s Market & Delicatessen — Junipero, NE of Sixth, Carmel – 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily – (831) 624-3821,

With all the items you might need from the market — 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 — Fermin Sanchez’ 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 stop in for prime steaks to cook for a special occasion, fruit juice for the kids, or a sandwich made exactly as you like it. Also voted best butcher, Bruno’s Market’s back counter carries top-grade beef, choice cuts of pork and other prime meats, and will custom cut anything when needed. The market can be counted on to be busy with customers ordering their generously sized sandwiches and salads for lunch on the go or a picnic in the park, too.
Carmelites, as well as the city’s many visitors, always appreciate being able to walk a few blocks to Bruno’s and find exactly what they need.

• Best Fruits and Vegetables

Safeway — The Crossroads, Carmel – open 24 hours daily – (831) 625-8820 –

After years of voting farmers markets as the best providers of fruits and veggies, Pine Cone readers this year chose the beautiful and spacious Safeway grocery store at the Crossroads as their favorite place to pick up their fresh corn, apples, avocados, leafy greens and peppers. Artfully arranged and reasonably priced, the organic and conventional produce at the Crossroads Safeway can always be relied on to be top quality. The department also offers packaged lettuces and veggies prepped for cooking or serving, as well as freshly squeezed juices.

• Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads, Carmel and 598 Foam St., Monterey – open daily – (831) 626-3626 and (831) 646-0547
A stone’s throw from the Pacific, Sea Harvest market started in 1982 and added restaurants soon after. The markets in Monterey and at the Crossroads boast the best in fresh seafood every day, from 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 cafés or take your fish to prepare at home, Sea Harvest’s knowledgeable staff is there to help you select the best and freshest choices — and offer cooking tips, too.

• Best Bakery

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

For more than two decades, Pavel’s Backerei has turned out generously sized tender-crisp croissants oozing with chocolate, rich cookies, floury French bread and multigrain loaves, and countless other savory and sweet baked delights, thanks to the hard work of owner Paul Wainscoat. Most mornings, a line forms out the door as fans wait for the chance to pick up their freshly baked, yummy treats for the day.

• Best Caterer

Aqua Terra Culinary — 529 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – (831) 657-9790 -

Offering corporate catering, as well as preparing seasonal and sustainable dishes for private events for all occasions, Aqua Terra Culinary was started by executive chef Dory Ford and focuses on farm-to-table cuisine that’s innovative as well as accessible. Ford and his team turn out bright and beautiful dishes, and regardless of size and type, the firm “has the experience, locations, staff and acumen to professionally cater for events of any size and scope.” Pine Cone readers have enjoyed Aqua Terra Culinary’s inventive cuisine and lovely staff at events throughout the Peninsula and have chosen the caterer as a winner again this year.

• Best Wine Store

Nielsen Bros. Market — Seventh NE of San Carlos, Carmel – 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and to 8 p.m. Sundays – (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. The shop’s wine cellar regularly hosts tastings featuring special offerings from company reps who provide useful information, and the resident wine staff is knowledgeable and helpful, whether you’re looking for a splurge-worthy Champagne to celebrate a milestone, a bottle that will impress your friends without breaking the bank, or something delicious and esoteric enough to intrigue the sommelier in your life.

• Best Tasting Room

Twisted Roots Vineyard — 12 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley – Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. – (831) 594-8282 -

Following a recent remodel and expansion, the Twisted Roots tasting room in Carmel Valley Village welcomes visitors into a beautiful, airy space with friendly bar staff, a special room for groups in the back, comfortable furniture, and a beautiful outdoor patio with fountains, plants and flowers that’s perfect for relaxing alone or with a couple of friends, or booking for a larger group. Founded by third-generation wine growers based in Lodi, Twisted Roots was incorporated nearly a decade ago, and is now owned by charming and affable couple Josh and Julie Ruiz and their friends. Twisted Roots produces chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, zinfandel from the family’s century-old vines, sparkling rosé and dry apple cider

• Best Monterey County Chardonnay
• Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc

Bernardus — 5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 298-8021 -

The late Bernardus Pon, who launched his namesake winery in Cachagua in 1989 with the goal of creating a red wine that would rival the best of Bordeaux, would be gratified to know his winemaking team’s chardonnays and sauvignon blancs have won the hearts of Pine Cone readers 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 hard to produce the wines that keep fans coming back. Long-running relationships with grape growers throughout Monterey County, including Michael Griva, who cultivates sauvignon blanc in Arroyo Seco, ensure Bernardus always gets the best fruit for its impressive wines.

• Best Monterey County Rosé

Dawn’s Dream Winery — NW corner of San Carlos and Seventh, Carmel – noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday - (831) 659-2649 -

“Rosé all day,” “Yes way, rosé” and other similar slogans have entered the lingo of wine drinkers everywhere as they celebrate the refreshing versatility of the dry, fruity pink wines that were once considered appropriate only in spring and summer, but are now ubiquitous year round. In Monterey County, more than a dozen wineries produce rosés, and once again, Dawn’s Dream has emerged as the favorite among locals. 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. Adding to the draw of Dawn’s Dream, the winery is socially conscious, too, as Galante founded it with a mission of supporting charities benefitting women and children.

• Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

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

Having grown grapes locally for nearly five decades, Scheid has a significant legacy here — and a lot of superlative wines to the family’s name. This year, Pine Cone readers selected its pinot noir as the best in the county, and the winery offers several, from the current 2017 estate-grown pinot noir retailing for $36 per bottle, to the 2015 Clone POM Reserve for $72. Across the board, Scheid’s pinots vary but are generally well balanced, with soft, round fruit and mild tannins.

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

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

Galante Vineyards clearly captured voters’ hearts this year, winning not just for producing the best local cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but for making locals’ favorite wine overall. Celebrating a quarter-century in business, 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 for the winery’s merlot, currently the 2017 vintage, and its 20177 cabernet sauvignon, made with fruit from the winery’s Red Rose Hill vineyard. Fans can also explore Galante’s deep library, with several vintages of both varietals from different estate vineyards going back many years.

• Best Place for a Beer
• Best Burger
• Best New Restaurant

Yeast of Eden — Carmel Plaza, Junipero and Ocean, Carmel – 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 293-8621 -

The father-and-son duo that brought immensely successful Alvarado Street Brewery to the Monterey Peninsula opened Yeast of Eden, a microbrewery specializing in “mixed-fermentation” sour beers, in the Plaza less than a year ago, adding an upbeat, contemporary vibe to the shopping center in downtown Carmel. Accompanying Yeast of Eden’s beers is an interesting and compelling menu marked by vibrant flavors, and the space is inviting and comfortable, with rustic wood and metal accents, while still being modern. And since a beer loves a burger, this spot has diners covered. In addition to a juicy Kobe beef “Publican Burger,” there’s pork chili verde, carnitas, or an “impossible” patty with no meat at all. Yeast of Eden also has an outdoor patio that’s dog-friendly and especially nice in warm weather, contributing to Pine Cone readers’ choosing it as the best place in town for a beer. Overall, Yeast of Eden has introduced a new energy and vitality to dining downtown, prompting readers to choose it as the Best New Restaurant, too.

• Best Cocktails
• Best Restaurant in Carmel

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine — NE corner of Mission and Sixth, Carmel – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 624-6562 -

With longtime bartender Ira Comello (see Best Bartender) mixing things up, Grasing’s has long been a favorite of locals not just for the great food offered by owner Kurt Grasing and his team, but for the comfortable, sophisticated bar, with cocktails to match. Meanwhile, the kitchen consistently turns out delicious dishes beautifully presented, from Grasing’s signature, savory four-onion tart with lightly fried leeks, to steaks, entrée salads, paella and other popular dishes. The décor is attractive but understated, and diners never feel rushed but are always well tended to.  The restaurant hosts impressive wine dinners, too. All of the attention to detail and quality led to Pine Cone readers’ choice of Grasing’s as Best Restaurant in Carmel this year.

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

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 -

It’s been more than 50 years since Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino opened this iconic spot just a short walk from Cannery Row. It was on “the wrong side of the tracks,” as they like to say, and had only 72 seats and one dining room in its 1968 incarnation, but has since grown to 250 seats. Elegant rooms like the Conservatory and the Wine Cellar have been added and provide superb atmosphere for memorable special occasions. The famed restaurant’s celebrity cred includes the filming of portions of Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me” and visits from Julia Child and Prince Albert II of Monaco. Among its many local, regional and national awards is one from Restaurant Hospitality Magazine for “Best Wine List in America.” That’s understandable with more than 1,800 labels and more than 12,000 bottles on hand for your sipping pleasure. The professional staff will be delighted to make recommendations, or you can browse through the tome that is the wine list. It’s also easy to love a place with 14 happy hours a week, including affordable drinks and small bites such as parmesan-truffle tater tots, fresh tomato bruschetta or a cup of the signature artichoke bisque. If that’s not enough to get you there, bear in mind that Ted and Bert have been immortalized in a statue on Cannery Row, right there alongside John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts.

• Best Family Restaurant

Edgar’s — Quail Lodge Golf Clubhouse, 8000 Valley Greens Drive, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 620-8910 -

Maybe it’s the recently offered golf cart drive-in movies on the driving range next door, maybe it’s the inviting restaurant and patio that absorb happy sounds well, maybe it’s the comfort-food-oriented menu, or maybe it’s all of the above, but whatever the reason, or reasons, Pine Cone readers voted Edgar’s, the restaurant named after late Quail Lodge founder Ed Haber, Best Family Restaurant this year. With more than a half-dozen items just for kids, as well as lunch and dinner menus that run the gamut, from a classic Cobb salad and fried calamari, to duck, sand dabs, and Angus rib-eye, and plenty of drinks and wines by the glass, Edgar’s is the perfect place to take the family, no matter how old they are. The restaurant also offers specials, like prime rib night on Thursdays and cioppino on Fridays.

• Best French Restaurant

L’Escargot — West side of Mission south of Fourth, Carmel - dinner nightly from 5 p.m. - (831) 620-1942 -

Founded more than 60 years ago by Yvan Nopert and his mother and uncle, L’Escargot is Carmel’s longest-running restaurant, and more than two decades ago, the family sold it to chef/owner Kerry Loutas, who carries on its traditional French cuisine while adding his own creative touches. The restaurant’s caramelized onion and goat cheese tart appetizer and Monterey Bay sand dabs are longtime favorites, and it’s one of the few places where frog legs and sweetbreads can be found on the menu. Loutas, who finds inspiration in the cuisine commonly served in the small villages of France, creates a few specials for the evening, as well. L’Escargot’s $40 three-course prix fixe is a great deal, as are Wino Wednesdays, when every bottle on the list is half-price. Tucked back off the street, it’s a favorite of locals, and with its long history here, some wish its walls could talk, while others are glad they can’t!

• Best Chinese Restaurant

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

Always busy, tiny Tommy’s Wok is the only place to find Chinese food in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but its reputation for delicious, fresh food draws people from all over the Peninsula. 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 it’s 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 as popular for takeout as it is for dining in, with regulars often lining up outside the back door of the kitchen to pick up their lunches and evening meals.

• Best Indian Restaurant

Aabha — The Barnyard Shopping Village, and 414 Alvarado St., Monterey – lunch and dinner daily - (831) 250-5940 and (831) 641-7924 -

Executive chef and proprietor Bhupender Singh’s food is as warm as he is. Everyone who walks into his restaurants, which opened in the Barnyard shopping center at the mouth of Carmel Valley a few years ago and more recently in downtown Monterey, feels welcome, and Singh’s delicious Indian food never disappoints. The lunch buffet is unbeatable for value and quality, and the a la carte lunch and dinner menus offer a wide range of dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options. Singh’s passion for cooking came from observing his mother and helping her in the kitchen when he was a child, and he says he’s “passionate about creating authentic Indian food and bringing Indian delicacy to the table.” Aabha’s website also allows for online orders to go, making it a good choice for dining in and takeout, alike.

• Best Italian Restaurant

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

Delicious antipasti (including a fabulous dish of pan-fried cauliflower with currants and pine nuts, and another featuring grilled octopus), freshly made pastas with rich sauces, like pappardelle with wild boar sugo, and decadent main courses — the fried chicken is a must, at least once — 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 devotedly return every time they’re in town. An intimate dining room and dog-friendly al fresco dining in front and in the picturesque back garden patio add to La Balena’s draw, and the Bartolinis work hard to ensure it continues to flourish.

• Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

Crystal Fish — 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – lunch and dinner daily, from 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on weekends - (831) 649-3474 -

Chef-owner Tamotsu Suzuki opened Crystal Fish in 2005, and since then, he’s had a talented team serving the freshest sushi and sashimi at the always-busy restaurant, which often has crowds waiting at the door. The sushi is worth the time, as Suzuki, a Tokyo native, was trained as a chef in Japan and ensures all of his sushi chefs are well schooled in the same traditions. Specials often feature live scallop and other delicacies not found at many Japanese restaurants, and the fish is always fresh, sourced from local fishermen and markets. For those who don’t care for sushi, the menu has plenty of interesting fusion dishes and vegetarian options, too, and takeout is always an option.

• Best Mediterranean Restaurant

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

For years, people have flocked to Dametra not just for great food, but for the lively atmosphere and the impromptu musical performances that can often be heard a block or two away. 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 restaurants that feel like home to all who walk through the door, strangers and friends alike. Hence, their Dametra Café — which offers Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes — always has a line out the door and is a perennial favorite of Pine Cone readers. 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, and at their fast-food version, Dametra Fresh Mediterranean, in Monterey and Marina.

• Best Thai Restaurant

Baan Thai — 1760 Fremont Blvd. in University Plaza, Seaside – lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. - (831) 394-2996 -

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

• Best Mexican Restaurant

Pepper’s Mexicali Café — 170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – Lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday and Monday, dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday, closed Tuesdays - (831) 373-6892 -

Owners Lisa and Sean Weiman tapped into a goldmine when they purchased Pepper’s more than a decade ago to offer fresh Mexican food and drinks. One of the few restaurants in Pacific Grove — which was a dry town — with a full bar, Pepper’s turns out excellent margaritas and lots of great dishes capitalizing on local fish, produce and other key ingredients. Often packed, the restaurant enjoys repeat business from a lot of locals who keep it on their short lists for eating out, and the expansive menu and daily specials ensure they will always find appetizing and interesting dishes.

• Best Restaurant for Seafood

Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – 5 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 655-3311 -

Founded by Ted and Cindy Walter, Passionfish is well known for its focus on sustainable seafood and accessible, affordable wines. The Walters strive to get their fish, meats and produce from sustainable, local sources whenever possible, and seek out opportunities to educate people about environmental choices in eating and drinking. “We believe there is an art to food, and an art to life, and that behind both is passion. That’s why we created Passionfish,” they say. “We believe in the vivid flavors of fresh, local ingredients. We select daily from small farms and farmers market’, and from sustainable farms and fisheries… And we believe in the simple power of pleasure; in food, wine and company, coming together at the table.” Expect to find intriguing and creative flavors combined with the freshest seafood at Passionfish, a frequent favorite of locals and visitors alike.

• Best Restaurant for Steak

Seventh & Dolores Steakhouse — SE Seventh and Dolores, Carmel - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 293-7600 -

When Seventh & Dolores — called 7D for short — opened in Carmel, it filled a niche, offering a lively, modern, sophisticated ambiance and a creative, abundant menu. Winner of Best New Restaurant in the Golden Pine Cones in 2017, 7D went on to take the most awards last year, and is now under the guidance of new executive chef Tom Snyder, a local talent who cooked for several years at a Spanish restaurant in Monterey. The folks at 7D pride themselves on serving choice steaks, including several dry-aged selections available in traditional steakhouse style with a choice of sauces, and the tartare is one of the best around. From the start, 7D quickly earned the right to call itself a steakhouse, which Pine Cone readers affirmed again this year.

• Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Julia’s — 1180 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 656-9533 -

Vegetarian restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula are few and far between, and while many eateries offer options for those who eschew animal products, at Julia’s, they have so many more dishes from which to choose. Menus are frequently updated, based on which local and seasonal ingredients are available, and current options include creative preparations of oyster and other wild mushrooms, cauliflower, winter and summer squashes, and other items. The restaurant boasts an ethic, too, regarding water quality, energy efficiency, wage equality and other issues. “We are a bunch of fun, loving, festival-going, home-cookin’ folk here to provide you with quality vegetarian food with flare,” they say.

• Best BBQ

The Crossroads Barbeque — 241 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 250-7616 -

The Ingram family’s love of smoked meats runs deep. They already had outlets in Salinas, Santa Cruz County and Santa Clara County when they set up shop in Café Stravaganza’s old spot last winter. Local artists fill the air with music nightly, but the food is the main event. With melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork and its “hogwash sauce” — a Carolina-style vinegar-based condiment — and slow-cooked brisket, tri-tip and chicken, your inner carnivore can relish a savory treat here. Traditional sides — hearty potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw — stand up well to the main event. Meanwhile, the berry cobbler and bread pudding are from old family recipes and beg for attention, even if you have to take them to go. And you will.

• Best Ice Cream

Revival Ice Cream – 463 Alvarado St., Monterey – Weekdays from noon to 9 p.m., open ’til 10 p.m.weekends; summer hours (May through September) are weekdays from noon to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. weekends - (831) 747-2113 -

Sure, it’s a bit of a drive to Monterey. And no, you can’t use cash. But even though getting some Revival Ice Cream requires dealing with a few quirks, picky dessert lovers still scream for the goodies there. The signature apple pie concoction, for example, plays all the right flavor and texture notes with candied apples, toasted cinnamon stick and a granola crumble. Revival is proud to use local ingredients when possible, like those apples, or the honey in a big fat scoop of Bees’ Knees. Non-dairy lovers can tempt their taste buds with chocolate praline or banana coconut sorbets. If you want a dash of creativity, try the Revival Bouquet sorbet with fresh herbs, or the Golden Milk version featuring coconut milk and the ever-popular turmeric-and-ginger spice combo. Twenty percent of sales from their reusable pint container program benefit local charities like MEarth and Hospice Giving Foundation, so you can feel good about eating dessert first.

• Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel – Breakfast and lunch daily, closes at noon on Wednesdays - (831) 624-0199 -

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and according to Pine Cone readers, Katy’s has been giving morning sustenance the dignity, respect and gravitas that it deserves for a mighty long time. You know you’re at a serious breakfast joint — or at least its website — when waffles, pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedict, omelets, eggs (that aren’t in Benedicts or omelets), and cereals and pastries each get separate pages. And that’s in addition to one dedicated only to specialties like Swedish pancakes (served cold, mind you), blintzes, corned beef hash, and biscuits and gravy. If you skimped at or skipped breakfast, however, the seven salads, five burgers and dozen or so sandwiches on the lunch menu are a most excellent backup plan.

• 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, Mid Valley Shopping Center, The Barnyard, The Crossroads, Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, Broadway in Seaside, and on Washington in downtown Monterey - Hours vary by location, but generally open starting at 6 or 7 a.m. - See for locations, hours and contact phone numbers

“Lifting fog and breaking waves since 1994” is longtime staple Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co.’s motto. Certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers, they’ve been in business for 25 years, with one mission: “to provide serious handcrafted coffee, using the finest Arabica beans, delivered very fresh to discerning customers.” Roast master Tina Muia and her crew slow-roast beans daily in two 25-pound-capacity machines, churning out numerous varieties and blends including the perennially popular Foglifter (which also comes in decaf), organic Papua New Guinea and Cone Peak espresso. Owners Dean and Janet McAthie “get” coffeehouse culture, too, with spaces that lend themselves to slow sipping and deep conversation about the issues of the day. The baristas have ready smiles and the food cases provide options like breakfast sandwiches, bagels and sweets to round out your daily caffeine stop. Why not get a bag of beans to go?

• Best Desserts

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

Ever since the Culcasi family opened their restaurant doors at Del Monte Center in 1980, Rosine’s has consistently been a top destination for anyone seeking a decadent dessert. A growing, loyal customer base prompted the business’ move to Alvarado Street in 1986, where it’s has been a downtown Monterey institution ever since. Even if you aren’t thinking about dessert on arrival, Rosine Culcasi’s family recipes for mile-high layer cakes and juicy pies are prepared daily and displayed in cases surrounding the hostess station. It’s a none-too-subtle hint that no matter how much you love the place’s lasagna or salmon Florentine, you need to save room for the German chocolate fudge cake, cookie dough cheesecake or coconut mango Key lime pie. Traditionalists can have a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream on a healthy slice of double-crust apple pie.

• Best Pizza

Gianni’s – 725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – Dinner nightly, lunch and dinner Friday through Sunday - (831) 649-1500, or for delivery call (831) 373-3333 -

For 45 years, the Costa family has been running this popular spot to split a pie, have some lasagna, or chow down on an Italian sub. Locals know the drill — get in line, place an order (or order ahead online) and wait for a hot, mouthwatering pie to show up at your table. Yeah, you can get really good linguini and clams or an Italian sub, but pizza is the star of the show. If the dozens of topping choices are overwhelming, try one of the house specials. Siciliana Oreganitti lives up to its name with anchovies, olive oil, garlic cheese and a touch of tomato sauce and Pesto di Mare pairs spinach pesto with shrimp. Even families who war over whether pineapple and jalapeños belong on a pizza can share a peaceable table. There’s beer, wine and a full bar to help you wash things down, and for dessert, try the cannoli or one of 24 varieties of gelato. It’s a great place to bring the kids, too.

• Best Buffet

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

Some people unknowingly refer to the all-you-can-eat spread at Crazy Horse as a “salad bar.” That’s a little like equating the links at Spanish Bay to a course with a windmill. There’s lettuce and its colorful cousin, spring mix, along with peppers, onions, tomatoes and the like, including bacon bits, croutons and more than a dozen dressing options. But there are also hard-boiled eggs, tender and juicy roast chicken strips served piping hot, baked potatoes (sometimes sweet potatoes, too), cornbread with whipped honey butter and white and whole-wheat rolls. You could even use one of those rolls to make yourself a cute little sandwich from the selection of cold cuts. Housemade shrimp curry rice salad, macaroni salad and that classic standby, Waldorf salad with apples and celery in a creamy dressing round out the options. Your choice of beverage is extra, but the adorable dish of Heath Bar or mint chocolate chip ice cream is included, meaning you can have a full meal with tax and tip for about $20.

• Best Brunch

Stationæry — San Carlos Square on San Carlos between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday - (831) 250-7183 -

Unseating longtime winner Mission Ranch for Best Brunch, Stationæry, recently opened by Anthony and Alissa Carnazzo, is an intimate spot that offers the mid-morning meal daily. Focusing on local produce, eggs and dairy sourced from small farms, chef Amalia Scatena combines ingredients in creative ways that keep locals coming back. Often busy with customers enjoying their premium coffees and teas over dishes like potato pancake with poached egg and mushrooms, or French cast iron pancake with crème fraiche and fresh fruit, the restaurant is a bit cosmopolitan while also being a warm spot catering to locals.

• Best Outdoor Dining
• Best Piano Bar

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

Mission Ranch restaurant, with its reliably top-rate, conventional cuisine, full bar and popular patio in the twilight hours and during brunch, is also well known for the piano bar, with local favorites tickling the ivories. Former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood owns the place and occasionally stops by, as well. While there are no bad tables at Mission Ranch, which doesn’t take reservations and is nearly always busy, the outdoor deck is especially popular, offering sweeping views of pastures with grazing sheep — keep an eye out for the black one — the lagoon and an arc of white sand. And, considering Mission Ranch’s proximity to the beach and scenic Carmel, a postprandial walk is always an option, if not a recommendation, especially after tucking into the delectable prime rib available with fresh horseradish.

• Best Place to Take Clients

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

If you want to impress out-of-towners — or show locals your dining chops — Tarpy’s is the go-to, meet-me-in-the-middle restaurant that combines convenience with good food and drink. It’s next door to the airport and easily reached from Salinas or anywhere on the Peninsula, near the southeast end of Highway 218, aka Canyon del Rey Blvd. Besides location, it’s got ample spots for everything from a semi-private tête-à-tête to a full-on presentation accompanied by lunch or dinner in a private dining room. Prices are expense-account friendly, including half-price wines all day on Wednesdays. The food includes twists on all-American favorites like steak and eggs — in this case, deviled eggs and a piece of prime steak for $10 to share. There’s buttermilk fried chicken, truffle grilled cheese and of course, Tarpy’s classic meat loaf. Portions are generous and service is pleasant.

• Most Romantic Restaurant

Casanova — Fifth between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel – Dinner nightly, Saturday and Sunday brunch - (831) 625-0501 -

For more than 20 years, Casanova has been a great spot for lovers (and those who’d like to be) to have a relaxed dinner in rustic surroundings. Chef Matt Zimney serves up starters both expected — spiced olives or charcuterie — and slightly exotic, like peach and fennel with lavender and white balsamic dressing. Fans of classic French cuisine can order escargot and vol-au-vent chicken, with a half-bottle of Sancerre from the Loire Valley to wash it all down. If snails aren’t your thing, try the fettucine with lobster or smoked ribeye instead. Use the online wine list to peruse the restaurant’s extensive offerings in advance, or let your server help with pairings. Really special occasions may call for a meal at Van Gogh’s table, where the famously romantic artist once dined in France. As you linger over a rose-water meringue with pistachio and strawberry, or a vanilla crème brûlée and a glass of port, consider a stroll around the village, hand-in-hand, before retiring for the evening.

• Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant
• Most Dog-Friendly Hotel

Cypress Inn – NE corner of Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily, tea Saturday (reservations “essential”), Sunday brunch - (831) 624-3871 - or

“He knows we are going long before the suitcase has come out, and he paces and worries and whines and goes into a state of mild hysteria,” wrote John Steinbeck of his beloved poodle, Charley. Another late, famous local — Doris Day — would not have abided such a scene, so the hotel and restaurant she owned with Denny LeVett starting in the mid-1980s isn’t just pet-tolerant, it’s downright hospitable. They don’t ask much — just good critter and owner manners — and they have a list of pet sitters, a small area for rinsing off your best pal after a romp on the beach, and a blanket just for him in your room. Leashed dogs are also welcome to join their owners for happy (or “yappy”) hour in Terry’s restaurant and lounge, named for Day’s late son, musician Terry Melcher. On the menu: cocktails inspired by the likes of Ronald Reagan (one of Day’s many co-stars) and the Rat Pack, plates small and large, and enough Doris Day memorabilia and music to satisfy the most ardent of fans.

• Best Chef

Brandon Miller/Il Grillo — east side of Mission north of Fifth, Carmel – dinner Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. - (831) 238-9608 -

With culinary skills honed at some of the finest restaurants in Napa and San Francisco, followed by a lengthy stint as chef and partner in the former Stokes Adobe (the Monterey restaurant he put on the map), chef Brandon Miller was the moving force behind the top-notch Spanish food at Mundaka, since closed, and now runs the kitchen at tiny Il Grillo, the sister restaurant of La Balena (this year’s winner of Best Italian). Endowed with an acute palate, a love of food and enthusiasm for cooking, and a seemingly endless flow of creativity further encouraged by his world travels, Miller has over the years amassed a dedicated following of locals who flock to whichever restaurant he has charge of. And with his penchant for frequently introducing new and interesting dishes — most recently informed by a trip to Sicily — they never tire of the menu, either.

• Best Bartender

Ira Comello, Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine  — At Sixth and Mission, Carmel - Open daily for lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sunday - (831) 624-6562 -

Once again, Pine Cone readers have selected Ira Comello as Best Bartender. A self-proclaimed “social chemist,” Comello combines product knowledge and the ability to craft a good cocktail with an attention to customer service. He also makes everyone feel right at home. “I like to anticipate what our guests need,” he explains. Comello’s house-made spiced bourbon is the foundation for Grasing’s Spiced Manhattan and The “New” Fashioned, in which it’s accompanied by just a touch of Fever Tree ginger ale. While the cocktail menu is not extensive, it certainly offers something for everyone, from fans of fruity and tropical concoctions and those craving dessert-style drinks, to those in search of a clean, dry, simple cocktail expertly mixed with high-quality ingredients or a spirit-forward creation.

• Best Restaurant Service

Lucia at Bernardus Lodge — 415 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday - (831) 658-3595 -

What is good service? The trick seems to be a matter of degree — friendly, but not gushing; informed, but not brimming with ridiculous detail (“the chef burns jasmine incense and meditates before placing each cherry to-mah-to on your plate”); and helpful, but not obsequious. You’ll find all that and more (or less) at Bernardus’ restaurant and bar. Every server can tell you what’s in your dish, help you time your meal (soup before or with the entrée?), and will notice if anything’s amiss — probably before you do. They seem to magically disappear while you’re chatting up friends, but reappear just when you need a bit more chardonnay or have questions about dessert. While you’re enjoying Chef Cal Stamenov’s acclaimed cuisine, these are the professionals who turn a meal into a dining experience.

• Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn — Highway 1, 27 miles south of Carmel - Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 667-2800 -

With expansive views of the Big Sur coastline that will leave you speechless, Sierra Mar has an almost unfair advantage over other restaurants. But it’s far more than just another pretty place, with food that dazzles the senses. With Jonny Black as executive chef, Sierra Mar offers a three-course, prix-fixe lunch, and a four-course, prix-fixe dinner. The menu changes daily, with dinner entrees like Monterey abalone and Western grasslands beef. The restaurant is also famous for its wine cellar, which includes more than 2,600 selections.

• Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley

Café Rustica — 10 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley – Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 659-4444 -

There’s something for every taste at Cafe Rustica, the Carmel Valley gem that brings home-style European specialties like Hungarian paprika beef goulash or pizza Flammekueche, with diced prosciutto, onions, fresh thyme and crème fraiche to the table. Other wood oven specialties include baked rigatoni with mushrooms, beef bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese, and butternut squash ravioli with Parmesan bread crumbs, fresh sage and beurre blanc. Come back to North America with Jose’s Pizza Verde, which includes tomatillo sauce, chicken, corn, feta cheese, Monterey jack cheese, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and cilantro; or the BBQ Chicken, which features hickory-smoked BBQ sauce, Monterey jack cheese, thinly sliced red onions, fresh cilantro and roasted peanuts.

• Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay — 2700 17 Mile Drive – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, Saturday and Sunday brunch  - (831) 647-7423 -

This spot, where celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi’s crew, headed by the incomparable chef de cuisine Pablo Mellin, serves up eclectic Hawaiian-style dishes, is the perfect place for a bite or refreshment after a round of golf, and as an added bonus, you can hear a bagpiper play at sunset. The menu is filled with mouth-watering entrees like tiger shrimp & beef spring roll with a sweet-and-spicy mandarin chili sauce; a Lakanilau roll that makes an excellent case for surf-and-turf sushi, with seared domestic wagyu, dynamite crab, panko asparagus and avocado; or a dinner menu that starts out by launching you and your companions with an outrigger canoe-full of appetizers. But leave room for the slow-roasted pork belly, OK?

• Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Fandango — 223 17th St., Pacific Grove – Lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch - (831) 372-3456 -

Owners Pierre and Marietta Bain have been welcoming locals to this cozy farmhouse in the middle of P.G. for more than 30 years, and Pierre comes from a hospitality family that’s been making people feel welcome to its digs in France for centuries. That same comfortable elegance suffuses Fandango whether you’re sitting in front of a roaring fire on a chilly day, or celebrating with friends in one of the private rooms. Complement your paella, osso buco, or duck a l’orange with a selection from the extensive and interesting wine list, then order a piping hot double espresso to enjoy with a Soufflé Grand Marnier or the profiteroles. Can’t leave without the profiteroles. No, really.

• Best Restaurant in Monterey

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

Located inside a historic firehouse, Montrio has won numerous national and regional awards for its food and wine since opening its doors in 1995. Embracing sustainable and environmentally sensitive practices, and emphasizing organic food, the restaurant offers a creative mix of European- and American-influenced comfort food. With classic favorites like the Ultimate American Burger, and inventive entrees like organic mushroom-truffle ravioli, Montrio lives up to its laurels.

• Best Restaurant in Seaside

Gusto— 1901 Fremont Blvd., Seaside – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 899-5825 -

Owner and general manager Denis Boaro learned to cook from his grandfather, who owned a restaurant in a small town called San Zenone degli Ezzelini in northern Italy. Today, he serves pizza and pasta in his own restaurant, which has earned a devoted following for its delicious flavors and upbeat atmosphere. With an emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients, Boaro and his staff offer a generous variety of classic Italian favorites.


• Best Local Artist

Will Bullas — Carmel Art Association Gallery, Dolores between Fifth and Sixth -

Art and humor live side by side in perfect harmony in the witty world of Will Bullas, where a dog sips from a glass of wine, a gorilla tries on a pair of sunglasses, and a pig looks sharp-dressed in a Roman toga. The award-winning illustrator uses animals to poke fun at humans, and he’s a master of one-liners who can’t resist a good pun. A past president of the Carmel Art Association, he’s been a member of the nonprofit art group for nearly four decades.

• Best Photo Gallery

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

There’s likely no family on earth that has made a bigger contribution to fine art photography than the Westons, who have made this area their home since patriarch Edward Weston established himself as one of the medium’s great visionaries in the early 20th century. His sons, Cole and Brett Weston, followed in his footsteps, as other family members have done more recently. Today, their creations — and those by masters like Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Imogene Cunningham —  adorn the walls at Weston Gallery.

• Best Sculpture Gallery 

Bennett Sculpture Carmel — San Carlos and Sixth, Carmel - (831) 626-3054 -

Besides carrying on the legacy of the late sibling sculptors Bob and Tom Bennett, the downtown gallery shines a spotlight on the work of Bob’s daughter, Ashley Bennett-Stoddard, and Tom’s daughter, Terrie Bennett. Although Bob passed away in 2003, his wife, Debi, carries on the family business, which just last month hosted a dance-themed art show that raised thousands of dollars for the local nonprofit Dance Kids of Monterey County.

• Best Art Gallery

Carmel Art Association — Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel - open daily - (831) 624-6176 -

Long the heart of the town’s rich and vibrant art scene, the Carmel Art Association was established in 1927, making it one of America’s oldest nonprofit art galleries. It represents more than 100 of the region’s finest painters, printmakers and sculptors, showcasing the creative talent that exists here on the Monterey Peninsula. The gallery is also the site of a busy slate of events that includes meet-the-artist receptions, films, lectures and concerts.

• Best Local Theater Company

Pacific Repertory Theatre — Monte Verde between Eighth and Ninth, Carmel - (831) 622-0100 -

Employing the stages at the Golden Bough Playhouse, the Forest Theater and the Circle Theatre, PacRep Theatre presents an array of plays and musicals each year that offers something for just about anybody. Founded by its current executive director Stephen Moorer in 1982 as Grovemont Theatre, the company produces an annual tribute to the genius of William Shakespeare and a rousing end-the-year celebration of classic rock ’n’ roll, and provides a wealth of opportunities for youngsters.

• Best Concert Venue

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

A performing arts center that attracts world-class talent, Sunset Center is owned by the city and operated by a nonprofit. Once a school, it has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility that provides a stage for a wide array of events. The 2019-2020 lineup includes performances by luminaries like Sergio Mendez, Take 6 (Ray Charles tribute), The Chieftains, and many others. It also provides a home for the Marjorie Evans Gallery, the Carmel Yoga Center, the Arts Council for Monterey County, and the Center for Photographic Art.

• Best Place to Relax and Listen to Music

Folktale Winery — 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 293-7500 -

Located on the same 5-acre site where Chateau Julien Wine Estate once operated, Folktale Winery and Vineyards not only features an organic vineyard and a state-of-the-art winemaking operation, but provides a stage for an eclectic assortment of musical events. Local singer-songwriters like Ace de la Vergne, Razzvio and Austin Metreyeon are showcased, as are out-of-town acts, particularly those with an affection for country music.

• Best Local Music Group (classical)

Monterey Symphony — (831) 646-8511 -

The only professional orchestra based on the Monterey Peninsula, the  Monterey Symphony enters its final season under the leadership of longtime conductor and music director Max Bragado-Darman. The symphony will play six concerts this season at Sunset Center between October and May, celebrating classical music’s greatest composers and calling attention to talented instrumentalists like pianist Kun Woo Paik and violinist Judith Ingolfsson.

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

The Bubba Pickens Band -

The Bubba Pickens Band might not be the busiest or the best known local musical act, but their fans turned out in full force to earn them a Golden Pine Cone. With a lineup that includes four teachers and an ag professional, the quintet serves up a mix of “toe-tappin’ bluegrass and heartfelt folk standards” with three-part harmonies.

• Best Place to Take Visitors
• My Favorite Park

Point Lobos State Reserve — Highway 1 south of Carmel -

Photographers from all over the world descend on Point Lobos State Reserve, which is famous for its rugged coastline, windswept cypress groves and ancient forest of Monterey pines. It’s also home to one of the richest marine environments on earth — every weekend, scuba divers explore the mysterious world beneath the waves offshore. For those who prefer land to sea, the park’s many trails offer easy access to spectacular vistas and perfect picnic spots.

• Best Family-Friendly Activity

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

More than 2 million people each year visit the world-famous aquarium, which is not only home to thousands of fascinating sea creatures, but is the hub of Monterey’s historic Cannery Row. Its nearly 200 exhibits — which fill 34 major galleries — offer a window into the wonders that lie beneath the waves of Monterey Bay. Besides being one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions, the aquarium is a leader in ocean conservation and education.

• Best Local Festival

Monterey Jazz Festival — Sept. 25-27, 2020 -

Since it was founded in 1958, the jazz festival has brought the biggest names to the Monterey Fairgrounds. Today, the three-day festival is an institution, showcasing the talents of more than 500 musicians on eight stages. It not only provides a stage for numerous student-musicians, but its many educational programs reach more than 3,000 students each year in Monterey County.

Best Church-Sponsored Event

Jewish Food Festival — 5716 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – (831) 624-2015 –

Hosted by Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel Valley, the Jewish Food Festival has delighted attendees with great food, beautiful crafts and amazing music for more than three decades. The menu its filled with “Jewish Soul Food” favorites like hot pastrami, brisket, latkes, blintzes, matzah ball soup and egg creams — and so much more.

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

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

There’s isn’t a more enticing stretch of California coastline than Carmel Beach, with its white sand, beautiful vistas and many resident dogs (which, in contrast to most places, aren’t required to wear leashes). For many locals, a stroll along the sand at sunset is part of the daily routine and a reward for a life well lived.

• Best Hiking Trail

Garland Ranch Regional Park — 700 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - dawn to dusk daily -

The crown jewel among a number of popular local recreational sites established by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, 4,400-acre Garland Park has dozens of miles of trails that take hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians through rolling grassy hillsides with dense oak groves and big views. The paths are varied in steepness and length, offering something for just about everybody.

• Best Fitness/Health Center

Carmel Valley Athletic Club — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley - Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-2737 -

For more than five decades, Carmel Valley Athletic Club — originally called Carmel Valley Racquet Club — has offered state-of-the-art fitness equipment, group exercise classes and social events. Besides cardio, weight and spin-bike rooms, the club has 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 relaxation spa called 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 -

Offering martial arts and fitness for all ages, American Karate in Pacific Grove says it strives to develop the body, mind and spirit through rigorous training. The karate studio, which has classes for budding martial artists as young as 3 years old, offers kinder karate, beginning, intermediate and advanced programs and cardio kickboxing. “My daughter trained at American Karate,” one reviewer said. “Mr. Durney was a great partner in teaching my daughter so many life lessons ... setting goals, working through setbacks, emotional control, teamwork, handling physical and emotional pain. He definitely was critical in giving her the tools to handle studying a hard science at a major university.”

• Best Yoga Studio

Seaside Yoga Sanctuary — 300 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove and Carmel Plaza, Carmel – Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 899-9642 –

Offering yoga instruction for various levels and styles, Seaside Yoga Sanctuary holds more than 60 yoga classes every week in a clean, open and bright environment led by its experienced, knowledgeable and friendly teachers. “We are rich in heart, and our team includes over 30 experienced and skillful instructors that will support you in your practice,” Seaside Yoga Sanctuary says on its website. There is easy parking at both studios, which offer heated floors for those chilly Peninsula days.

• Best Golf Course

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

Created by famed designers Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, Pebble Beach Golf Links hugs the rugged coastline, offering wide-open vistas, cliffside fairways and sloping greens. Since 1919, the beauty and unique dynamics of the Pebble Beach Golf Links have challenged and thrilled golfers and their spectators. Besides the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am — which comes to the course every year — the links this year hosted the U.S. Open Championship. The course also offers chipping and putting greens, the Peter Hay par-3 course (currently under renovation) and a practice range.

• Best Museum

Monterey Museum of Art — 559 Pacific St., Monterey – Thursday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – (831) 372-5477 –

Founded in 1959 in Carmel as a chapter of the American Federation of Arts, the Monterey Museum of Art — now in that city — conveys the history and the culture of this community. 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, the 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 visitors to connect with art and to learn about the enduring artistic significance of the Monterey region.

• Best Inn/B&B

Carmel Garden Inn — Fourth and Torres, Carmel - (831) 624-6926 -

A winner for the Best Inn/B&B last year, Carmel Garden Inn again triumphs in the category in 2019. Located a nice stroll from Carmel’s myriad shops and restaurants, the inn, built in 1949, retains the charm of its original design. Its Rosita room offers peeks of the Pacific Ocean, while its three Torres Street rooms are “cozy” and have wood-burning fireplaces. For breakfast, the inn’s staff serves homemade scones, tea and coffee and its “secret recipe” granola. “In the evening, relax in front of the fire in the dining room,” Carmel Garden Inn says on its website. “Enjoy the wines we pour, the special cheeses and treats we serve. We also keep the cookie jars filled with homemade treats.”

• Best Hotel

Bernardus Lodge & Spa — 415 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – (831) 658-3400 -

Originally built by the late winery owner Bernardus Pon in 1999, Bernardus Lodge underwent a major renovation after being sold five years ago, with significant updates to its rooms, restaurant and bar, lobby and spa. Retaining its luxurious yet relaxed feel, the lodge is highly praised for its top-notch service, comfortable and spacious rooms, stellar cuisine under the guidance of longtime executive chef Cal Stamenov and his team, and beautiful spa, where guests can take advantage of a wide range of services in a relaxing and sublime setting. There’s plenty to do, too, including picking up a game of bocce or croquet in the grassy courtyard, or just enjoying the richly gardened grounds. Pine Cone readers know that if they want a staycation, or their favorite friends or family members are coming to town and need somewhere to stay, Bernardus Lodge is the best choice.


• Best Florist

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

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

• Best Furniture Store

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

This award-winning furniture store is an enclave of fine home furnishings, where the showroom is filled with a diversity of furniture, accessories and objets d’art, staged in vignettes to help shoppers feel at home. Wandering in and among the classic, traditional, transitional, country French and contemporary collections at Mum’s Place, clients can customize their choices with more than 80 furniture lines and some 5,000 fabrics. Since 1986, Mum’s has been dedicated to bringing in a diversity of designs to satisfy a wide variety of needs, tastes and budgets.

• Best Golf Shop

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

In addition to the coastal greens that usher guests into the resort, the Pebble Beach Pro Shop is often the introduction to a guest’s Pebble Beach golf experience. Since merchandise represents that experience, the pro shop carries the best products at the highest quality, befitting the Pebble Beach brand. The purpose of the Pebble Beach Pro Shop is to provide products and services guests are not likely to find elsewhere. And the staff works to ensure it lives up to their sense of the sophistication of the legendary resort. For folks who have never held a golf club, or avid golfers who want to add to their collections, shop balances the new and exciting with proven core brands.

• Best Hardware Store

Ace Hardware — 290 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel; 1146 Forest Ave. and 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove; 401 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley – call or go online for days and hours –

In an era when it’s hard to find specialized service or even someone to work the register, a company that says, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks” is going to be a winner. In addition, each 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. Perhaps it is because Ace Hardware employees are trained to say, “Helping you is the most important thing we have to do today” that the community voted to give them a Golden Pine Cone. It’s what they promise and what they deliver.

• Best Housewares Store

Prim’s Carmel — 546 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 620-1251 –

Prim’s had a hard act to follow. In 2012, the family-owned hardware and housewares store created a fresh venue in a landmark location. Their investment included 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. Maybe it wasn’t so much their motto that 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.” — but the fact that they mean it.

• 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. So much more than a yarn store, it’s a place where you can take lessons, participate in projects, buy beautiful yarn, and feel at home. The shop welcomes you into 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, among a community of craftspeople. At Monarch Knitting, someone will show you what you need and how to work with it.

• 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 –

Even more important than the racks of healthy snacks, the shelving of good food for Fido, and the array of plush pals for your pet is the staff at Pet Food Express. Likely 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. Or maybe it’s because of the mango-scented shampoo and tepid water that soothes sandy dogs into submission to their bath. Surely it comes back to staff, who seem to know what they’re doing, and really, really care.

• Best Garden Shop

Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley – 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 -

At Griggs Nursery, staff hand-selects plants, most of which they grow on a 5-acre parcel on Schulte Road and then bring to the nursery, where their customer service kicks in. For nearly 20 years, Griggs Nursery has been thriving in its Carmel Valley location, where they help improve the local landscape, one plant at a time. “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.” The key to success for this family-owned business seems to be customer acquaintance and a wide diversity of products, enabling Griggs Nursery to give customers what they truly want and need.

• 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 and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 883-8048 –

A company whose widely recognized initials stand for Recreational Equipment, Inc., REI is dedicated to inspiring, educating, and outfitting a lifestyle of outdoor adventure and stewardship.
Founded in Seattle in 1938, the retail chain carries apparel, footwear, and gear for a wide range of outdoor and fitness activities. Once you walk through the dramatic entrance of REI, you’re already on an outdoor adventure.
Whether you’re a novice or expert outdoor enthusiast, the membership-optional store likely has something for you. Clearly, this space at The Dunes retail center covers a lot of ground.

• Best Place to Buy Athletic Wear

The Treadmill — 111 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel – 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 eight years since they bought The Treadmill and set their sights on selling athletic and athleisure wear. Seeing the store as a reflection of the community, they endeavor to provide what folks need to be active or adventurous on the Peninsula. It all started in 1983, with a vision to develop a store that would anchor the running community like a starting line. Founders named it The Treadmill but featured a wider array of fitness products, both high-tech and low-maintenance, and imagined it would become a hub for weekenders and warriors. Today, the store remains a community center, focused on supporting the Big Sur Land Trust, the Ventana Wilderness, and everyone who comes through the door.

• Best Pharmacy

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

Located in the heart of Carmel, this narrow storefront is chock-full of everything folks might need or maybe forgot on their 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. 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. The only thing missing is a soda fountain.

• Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Zearly Carmel — 161 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 250-7933 -

This award-winning children’s boutique offers heirloom-quality toys and gifts, classically styled clothing with a modern twist, and a welcoming atmosphere for shoppers and their little inspirations. “We seek local craftsmen, who create wonderful products for children,” said owner Heather Aldi. “There is always something enticing and fun at Zearly.” In establishing the store in 2013, architect and parent Aldi sought to create a space that would support and encourage the local community of mothers, children, and the people who cherish them. “Moms need a moment of grace,” she said. “Parenting is not easy, so we need the chance to come to a fun place where parents and children can find special things.” A not-so-secret source of success is Aldi’s “Metronome,” a ballet and dance resource that shares the space with Zearly.

• Best Men’s Store

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

Khakis of Carmel is the award-winning pursuit and passion of Jim and Connie Ockert, whose combined creative and entrepreneurial talents created a haberdashery that’s stood the test of time and taste. The store is a respected purveyor of contemporary European and American menswear, selling clothing, up-close and personal. The essence of Khakis 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. Most importantly, their success seems to be rooted in providing the ultimate in customer service.

• Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s Shoes — Ocean between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel – 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. Through his carefully curated offerings, “Hedi” has cobbled together comfort, quality, convenience and cool, paired with customer service from experienced staff who understand fit, form and function. Featured among various brands offering dressy, casual or rough-wear shoes, are Ecco, Cole Haan, Clarks and New Balance, plus a complement of clothing and accessories. Comfort has never looked or felt so good.

• Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

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

Girl Boy Girl, established in 1991, is known for its large yet carefully chosen selection of more than 80 contemporary brands. With its sister store, Paloosh, GBG endeavors to present something for everyone seeking fun, festive fashion. Guests have come to expect excellent customer service by stylists uniquely qualified to outfit women from head to toe, while honoring the unique characteristics of each client.

• Best Women’s Accessories
• Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

Foxy Couture — San Carlos between Ocean Seventh, Carmel – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 625-9995 –

Although finance was her profession, fashion was her passion. Susan Gavin’s love of clothing led her to design school at night, and the launch of her own clothing line by day. But she quickly realized she was more enchanted by design than the business of it. So, in 1991, she started recycling vintage and contemporary clothing in a small office space, which eventually became Foxy Couture, a sustainable, luxury, designer, vintage and consignment store. “We are sustainable because everything in our store is pre-owned,” she said. “We recycle and repurpose older products from design houses that typically don’t change that much. These luxury fabrics and designs have been gently worn or not at all.” Gavin sleuths out pieces for her store from all over the world. “It’s a very special, constantly changing collection,” she said. “I take special care of these things until I sell them. It’s important to be fair and honest and kind. At the end of the day, I feel good about it.”

• Best Women’s Shoe Store

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

Tess Calhoon tucks into her desk adjacent the stockroom, among floor-to-ceiling shelving of shoeboxes, neatly stacked. The day is decidedly fall, so she has on her favorite her leopard booties by Peter Kaiser, handmade in Germany. “I don’t know of any other store in the country that carries them,” she said. The award-winning Lloyd’s Shoes, a longtime 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. Calhoon, who runs the popular shoe store, still checks in with her father, Jeff Greenberg, when placing orders for the store, which celebrates its 44th anniversary and another Golden Pine Cone this year. 

• Best Leather Goods Store

Augustina’s — Ocean between Mission and San Carlos, Sixth and San Carlos, Carmel – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-2403 –

Augustina’s is an exclusive leather goods boutique, known for representing the largest selection of Remy leathers in California. “We offer custom leathers, crafted in the United States, for men and women,” said owner Tracy Delaney Odle, “in any size, any color. We specialize in jackets, vests, coats, pants and skirts, as well as beautiful handmade leather belts in exotic skins — gator, lizard, ostrich and horn back.” Established in 1987, this family-owned, family-run business endeavors to create a Carmel experience clients and guests will remember and return to. 

• Best Vintage Clothing Store

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

Thirty years ago, Shirin Snyder, wife of the Rev. John Snyder, pastor of Carmel Presbyterian Church, had a dream. She wanted her church fellowship to become more closely connected to the wider community. She sought meaningful, productive ways to offer some people a chance to give, others a chance to buy bargains, and those in need, a chance to receive. Some people come in every day the shop is open, Monday through Saturday, just to see what’s new, who else is shopping, and to see which volunteer is running the cash register. More often than not, they buy something. Yellow Brick Road has generated almost $6.5 million, which has been given back to the community through grants to nonprofit organizations, including $369,500 in scholarships to college-bound, high-school graduates.

• Best Jewelry Store

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

What do you get for the woman who has everything? Unusual, one-of-a-kind jewelry with a story that just needs the chapter she will write with each wearing. Sandy and John Bonifas, who purchased Fourtané Jewelers in the 1980s, have maintained the intimate, friendly and personalized atmosphere customers have appreciated since its inception in 1950. One of the country’s leading providers of estate jewelry and watches from the modern era to centuries back, Fourtané Jewelers is 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 and Mission, Carmel - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. (831) 624-0138 -

With so much to offer, it’s no wonder Carmel Plaza reached a wide diversity of voters. In addition to landmarks like the Cheese Shop and teen Jake Reisdorf’s Carmel Honey Company, the Plaza has become a haven for wine tasting and the new Yeast of Eden brewery, also a Golden Pine Cone winner this year. Those who enjoy a luxury lifestyle can visit Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade, Bottega Veneta, and Khakis of Carmel. If you work up an appetite after an afternoon of shopping, tide yourself over with a sip of something from Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar, or dine at Flying Fish Grill, which offers East/West fusion cuisine. The property once housed a neighborhood movie theater and soda fountain. Yet, in 1959, architect Olaf Dahlstrand was hired to design the Carmel Plaza shopping center in keeping with the character of Carmel. Today, a recent remodel complements the lifestyle offerings of the Monterey Peninsula’s “premier shopping and dining destination.”

• Best Antique Shop

Wittpenn’s Antiques — San Carlos between Seventh and Eighth, Carmel - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Closed Wednesdays - (831) 624-1336 -

Owned by Chip and Kathy Wittpenn, this treasure trove is a short stroll from Ocean Avenue, near Sunset Center. Just the windows of this little gem feature enough eye-catching collectibles to keep shoppers engaged. This place warrants wandering. And patience. And attention to detail. At Wittpenn’s Antiques, there is so much to see and something for everyone to discover. Browse a wide selection of antiques and specialty items, including sterling silver, Victorian furniture, books, globes, clocks, music instruments, desks, Quimper pottery, China, porcelain; Early American, Renaissance Revival, and Louis Phillipe items, and much more.

• Best Bookstore

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

The legend is real. At River House Books, you can wander the shelving and browse a book, feeling the smooth paper between your fingers as you turn the pages, smell the ink. There’s something encouraging about holding a brand-new book and anticipating what you’ll find inside. Anyone who reads likely voted for River House Books, a carefully curated offering of classic and contemporary works. Choose from a wide selection in the humanities and sciences, bestselling fiction and nonfiction, children’s favorites, young-adult literature, travel, foreign and domestic magazines and newspapers, plus art, architecture, cooking, gardening, and books by local authors.

• Best Car Dealer

BMW Monterey — 1 Geary Plaza, Seaside – Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 920-0743 -

Perhaps you’ve been eyeing the 2020 BMW X5 SUV, the two-seater Z4 roadster, or are just interested in seeing what BMW — a company with a long history of making vehicles known for reliability and performance — has to offer. In any case, the good folks at BMW Monterey have a reputation for excellent customer service, so you’ll be in good hands, whether shopping new or used.

• Best Gas Station

Lemos 76 — 544 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel – Monday to Friday. 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (with 24-hour fuel service) - (831) 624-2925 –

For about 60 years, Lemos 76 has offered a place for Carmel drivers to fill up their tanks, get their vehicles serviced or just buy a snack from the shop. Not only does it have a convenient location at the Rancho, Lemos 76 offers full service — meaning a Lemos 76 employee will pump your gas, if you so wish. How rare is that nowadays? Oh, and they do smog checks and can fill those propane tanks for the barbecue, too.

• Best Car Wash

El Estero Car Wash —  590 Fremont St., Monterey – Winter hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 373-1801 -

A very familiar name in the Golden Pine Cones, El Estero Car Wash has won many “Best Car Wash” titles in its five decades on the Peninsula. Owned by John Fleige and John Logan, El Estero offers a wide range of vehicle-cleaning services, from a basic wash to professional detailing services. You’ll be interested to know that 70 percent of its wash water is recycled, too.

• Best Place for Brides to Shop

Epiphany Boutique — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 626-7700 -

Epiphany Boutique is well aware that a dress is not just a dress; what you wear makes a difference in how you feel. “It’s an expression of who you are and how you present yourself to the world,” Epiphany says. In business for more than 10 years, the Carmel store has hundreds of dresses to choose from, as well as accessories, lingerie, and gifts for bride and groom. “These are dresses that you will wear to the most important events in your life. Never underestimate how wearing the right dress will make you feel — beautiful, empowered, confident,” Epiphany goes on to say.

• Best Gift Shop

Carmel Bay Company —  NW corner of Lincoln and Ocean, Carmel - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3868 –

Founded in 1972, Carmel Bay Company offers hand-crafted furniture made from recycled materials, tasteful and attractive kitchen and bath items, original artwork from local artists such as Erin Lee Gafill and Will Bullas, jewelry and clothing and just “fun stuff.” “We don’t take ourselves too seriously at Carmel Bay Company,” the store says. “Most of our customers are on vacation and having fun. We try to help with items like yodeling pickles, squirrel underpants, pop guns, games, and lots of weird stuff.”

• Best Candy Shop

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

Though Lula’s Chocolates is famous for its sea salt caramels (The Pine Cone knows this because we’ve had lots of them), there’s also a dazzling selection of other delicious chocolates and candies, including truffles, cremes, toffees and nut clusters. Made at its factory in Ryan Ranch, Lula’s Chocolates has two stores to do your shopping — for yourself or others. Yum!

• Best Carpet and Flooring Store

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

From high-performance carpet, to hardwood and laminate flooring and tile and stone, Bereman Carpets in Monterey has it all. And Bereman’s expert staff will guide you through the decision-making process and help you choose what’s best for your house, apartment or office. The shop is also no stranger to the Golden Pine Cones: it’s been “Best Carpet and Flooring Store” several times before.


• Best Place to Work
• Best Real Estate Company

Carmel Realty – Dolores between Seventh and Eighth, and three other locations – Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – (831) 622-1000 –

Founded in 1913, before the incorporation of the city, Carmel Realty features some of the finest real estate listings on the Peninsula. The firm has been owned and operated for four generations by the Mitchell family, which traces its longevity to principles of integrity, work ethic, teamwork, collaboration, communication and customer service. Over the past eight years, the company has brought in new leadership, updated processes, and selected an experienced network of trusted and accomplished professionals. In June 2019, the 106-year-old company acquired Alain Pinel Realtors, solidifying Carmel Realty’s leadership position in the Monterey County luxury real estate market. The company gives amply to the community, supporting a wide and diverse group of charities. It’s that sort of generosity that makes it a swell place to hang a work-a-day hat, too.

• 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 -

Who doesn’t like the SPCA for Monterey County? With adorable cats and dogs and a caring staff that provides services for more than 12,000 animals per year, the SPCA is also a great place to volunteer, Pine Cone readers say. The backbone of the operation, the hundreds of volunteers at the SPCA provide essential support to its programs and services for the nonprofit organization, which relies solely on donations to do its good work. The organization isn’t just a shelter for lost or homeless pets. The Monterey County group has a fully outfitted wildlife rescue center and works with cows, horses and other large animals. Talk about full service for feathers and fur! (Oh, and scales. Don’t want to leave out our reptilian friends.)

• Best Place to Get Married

Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road, Carmel – Monday to Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visitors, in addition to scheduled Masses - (831) 624-1271 -

The Carmel Mission’s history alone makes its church one of the most special places to get married, and Pine Cone readers agree. Saint Junipero Serra arrived here by ship in June 1770 and founded the Mission San Carlos Borromeo a year later. It’s one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the United States and a popular wedding spot. “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,” the Mission’s website says.

• Best Place to Get Married (non-church)

Carmel Valley Ranch — One Old Ranch Road, Carmel Valley - various locations around the resort and openings daily; call or check the website - (831) 620-6468 -

With the rolling hills of Carmel Valley as a backdrop, it’s no wonder Pine Cone readers selected Carmel Valley Ranch as the best place — as an alternative to a church — to get married. Whether you choose the resort’s Valley Lawn or the vineyard to say your vows, you can’t go wrong. Carmel Valley Ranch offers luxury accommodations and award-winning cuisine, and many places to play and relax before and after the big day, such as the Pete Dye golf course, the full-service spa and its saltwater pools.

• 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 –

“Perched high on a plateau graced by stunning views of Point Lobos, the Carmel River Valley and surrounding Santa Lucia mountains,” Del Mesa Carmel, which describes itself as an “adult active community,” offers independent living in 289 condominium homes. With onsite dining, a fitness center with an indoor swimming pool and spa, exercise classes, arts and crafts workshop and even a lawn bowling club, Del Mesa Carmel residents barely have to leave the property to enjoy themselves. It also offers a guarded 24-hour security gate for privacy and safety for residents.

• Best Electrician

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

In business since 1960, Cate Electric Co., owned by Michael Cate and Janine Cate Boone, says it specializes in “customer service from service calls to home remodels to landscape lighting and more.” A Golden Pine Cone veteran, Cate Electric Co. has won 10 times, 11 with this year’s victory. It’s obvious that the company’s hard-wired to make customers happy.

• Best Plumber

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

A&R Plumbing had humble beginnings. In 1974, friends Greg Aeschliman and Kelly Roper wanted to start a plumbing business, so they did just that. Though Aeschliman and Roper are now retired, their work ethic, attention to quality and superior customer service lives on through their capable and dedicated management team, office staff and technicians, the plumbing business says. 

• Best Architect

Adam Jeselnick – Junipero and Fourth, Suite 3, Carmel – (831)-620-5164 –

Adam Jeselnick’s eye for classical architecture and traditional urbanism, as well as contemporary inspiration, can largely be traced to globetrotting that began when he studied in Rome as a student at the University of Notre Dame. After graduation, he worked in Scottsdale, Ariz., contributing to projects that included public works, community master plans, recreation centers, multi-family residential, custom homes, and private golf clubs and resorts — expertise he brought with him when he and his wife, Laura, moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Adam Jeselnick Architect was founded in 2013 with a focus on residential design, local and small-business growth, sustainability and adaptive reuse.

• Best General Contractor

Stocker & Allaire — 21 Mandeville Court, Monterey – Call for hours – (831) 375-1890 –

After 36 years in business on the Monterey Peninsula, Stocker & Allaire Inc. has established a peerless reputation that adheres to the company’s motto: “Construction of homes is not just what we do … it’s what we love to do.” The resume of this trusted builder includes restoration of wonderful old Pebble Beach estates, construction of homes on difficult sites, and fabrication of exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Projects range from construction of simple new homes to restoration of some of the most important homes on the Central Coast.

• Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

Town & Country Gardens and Landscaping – 26485 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Ste. 2, Carmel – (831) 625-3105

Robert Luster started gardening in 1977 and christened his family business as Town & Country Gardens in 1986. It has bloomed today into a company with close to 80 employees, many of whom have worked there for decades. Luster and his highly skilled crew specialize in design, stonework, sprinklers, landscaping, masonry, decks, fountains, and fences. “Half of my company has been with me for more than 20 years, and my longest employee has worked here for 38,” said Luster, whose sons, Robert III and Sean, are part of the crew. If Town & Country has a company philosophy, here it is: “We never say no … don’t ever say no,” Luster tells his employees. “If a client asks for something, just say yes, then call me. We’ll find a way to make it happen.”

• Best Real Estate Lender

Blue Adobe Mortgage – 26625 Carmel Center Place, Suite 100, Carmel – (831) 626-2112 –

A division of Summit Funding, Inc., Blue Adobe offers “the strength of a national mortgage lender with the flexibility to meet the lending needs of our local communities.” This trusted company was founded in 2002, bringing some of the best loan programs to market over the past 17 years to reign as one of the top five lenders on the Central Coast in closed circuit loan volume. Blue Adobe says 99 percent of its business comes from referrals from past borrowers, realtors, and other professionals in the industry.

• Best Title Company

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

With more than 170 years of underwriting experience, Chicago Title’s centralized team of industry experts provides commercial and industrial developers, builders, lenders, attorneys, and other real estate professionals with reliable, integrated, high-liability services nationwide. “Chicago Title can assist you with every phase of your transaction and development,” said Rene Ayers, vice president of sales and marketing for Monterey County. “Dedication to serving the needs and alleviating the concerns of our customers has made us the nation’s foremost name in title insurance.”

• Best Personal Bank

Chase Bank — San Carlos and Sixth, Carmel - (831) 625-2400 - and 26378 Carmel Rancho Lane – (831) 624-8224 - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday –

With a history dating back more than 200 years, JP Morgan Chase & Company is one of the oldest and most respected financial institutions in the United States, with two convenient locations in Carmel. Chase has a presence in more than 100 markets, employing more than 250,000 employees at a corporation with assets exceeding $2.6 trillion, serving millions of customers as a global leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management.

• Best Business Bank

Monterey County Bank — Multiple locations, including 3785 Via Nona Marie, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 625-4300 – Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. -

Monterey County Bank opened its doors in May 1977, offering a wide range of business banking services, and ranks as the No. 1 National Business Administration lender in Monterey County. Among other offerings are commercial lending products, merchant credit card services, and personal attention to its clients. Another attribute is convenience, with branches in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Salinas. The company philosophy is, “We don’t open accounts, we start relationships.”

• Best Investment House/Adviser

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

This well-established firm offers investment management, financial planning, and business retirement plans, bringing peace of mind to investors in Monterey County, the Central Coast, and the San Francisco Bay area. The firm’s six-step planning process highlights the issues most important to the client, with no hidden fees, ensuring optimum value for your money. They understand that you’d prefer to spend your time focused on your family, your business, and your life, and use their vast expertise to help you accomplish that.

• Best Veterinarian

Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital — 13738 Center St., Carmel Valley – 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday – (831) 659-2286 –

Bedside manner is as important to our four-legged friends as it is to the rest of us, and Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital treats everybody who walks through its door as family. All treatment plans are adjusted to fit you, your pet and your budget, using technologically advanced equipment and a well-trained staff. The hospital is headed by owner James Holt, DVM, who has cared for animals there since 1975.

• Best Pet Boarding

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

Owned and overseen by veterinarian Dr. Ben Wilson, Casa de Amigos Animal Hotek is conveniently located next door to its sister company, the highly regarded Monterey Animal Hospital. Casa de Amigos was established in 1970 and has undergone extensive updates in recent years, with the addition of many services, extended hours, and increased staff — all without losing sight of its original mission to make each animal’s stay as fun and comfortable as possible.

• Best Pet Care

Suds ’N Scissors — 223 Crossroads Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – (831) 624-4697 –

This iconic Carmel pet spa pampers your animal with dozens of services, including baths, nail buffing, tooth care, and mobile grooming, all under the direction of a caring and experienced staff. Suds ’N Scissors has a 65-year tradition in town, during which it has established a reputation as the area’s most elegant grooming retreat. Proprietor Todd Harris previously owned Country Club Kennels, Santa Cruz Animal Care, and Tatoha Trainers, and has also been a professional all-breed dog show handler since the age of 16.

• Best Car Repair Shop

Nystrom Automotive —  NE corner of Junipero and Fourth, Carmel – Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 626-4407.

Customers of Eric Nystrom tell the story of his success in full Technicolor, offering online reviews like “nicest, most honest mechanic I know,” “the best mechanic around,” “reputation for doing excellent automotive repair,” “great hometown service, great attitude,” “honest and so accommodating,” “a wizard and totally trustworthy” and “good work at a fair price.” Nystrom’s reputation for integrity and quality work dates back to 2004, when he opened his business as a Shell station. Besides domestic makes, he works on Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota and Kia.

• Best Auto Body Shop

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

Marina Collision Repair, specializing in body work and windshields, prides itself on reliable, qualified and convenient auto repair, performed by experienced technicians equipped with the tools and attitude to fix virtually any problem your car might encounter. This business strives to be affordable, and has a reputation for treating customers with kindness and integrity.

• Best Dry Cleaners

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

A perennial champion in Golden Pine Cone competitions, Carmel Cleaners is locally famous for courteous, efficient, and competent service that includes skilled alterations and garment repairs. Owner Deok Chong’s mantra for more than three decades has been “Good clothes deserve good care.” His specialties include the preservation of wedding gowns, prom dresses and other treasured garments.

• 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 –

Travel has changed and evolved during the four decades that Pacific Grove Travel has been serving people on the Monterey Peninsula, and Joe Shammas’ beloved agency has changed with the times. This iconic local business is celebrating its 40th anniversary of serving the Monterey Peninsula. Pacific Grove Travel prides itself in providing personal service in this age of automated responses and self-service travel, specializing in booking cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, hotels and car rentals to create vacation experiences that match your style and exceed your expectations.

• Best Hair Salon

La Coiffure Carmel — NW corner of Ocean and Monte Verde, Carmel - (831) 624-9187 –

Owner Jim Nault’s full-service hair and nail salon, a favorite of locals and recommended by surrounding hotels, is all about you. Specialties include stylish haircuts, blow-drying, perms, cellophane, hair-care products by Rene Furterer Paris, spa manicures and pedicures, makeup, and wedding party makeovers.

• Best Skin Care

Cinq Mondes Spa Paris — 118 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 625-4410,

Cinq Mondes’ only flagship location in the United States is owned by Chantal and Philippe Tourtin, who bring more than 20 years of expertise in the skincare industry to Carmel. This luxury salon offers state-of-the-art cosmetology, using organic and natural ingredients. Facilities are immaculate, clients are greeted by name and offered a cup of tea when they enter, service is personalized and prices are comparable to, or less than, other spas in the area. Don’t miss the steam room, waterfall shower, and Japanese-style bath with floating rose petals.

• Best Nail Salon

Magic Nails — 930 Del Monte Center, Monterey – Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – (831) 372-6467

Magic Nails at the Del Monte Shopping Center is a first-time winner of  a Golden Pine Cone.  They have been serving the community for more than 20 years under the same ownership. They offer pedicures, manicures, and waxing with spectacular customer service and are thankful for their loyal clientele. 

• Best Spa

Spa at Pebble Beach — 1518 Cypress Dr., Pebble Beach - Daily 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (facilities) and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (services) - (866) 877-0597 -

A winner again, the Spa at Pebble Beach is one of 60 spas in the world to receive Forbes’ Five-Star Award and now a Golden Pine Cone, too! The Spa at Pebble Beach offers 15 massage rooms, five facial rooms, a full-service salon, a flotation wrap suite, an outdoor pool, a conservatory and a sanctuary with a warming fire pit. Whether you’re enjoying a signature treatment, a day package, or just a facial, you are bound to leave feeling more balanced and refreshed. There are specialized treatments for golfers which may be why this is a local favorite!

• Best Dentist

Bradford Carl — 26485 Carmel Rancho Blvd. No. 3, Carmel - Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. - (831) 624-2111 -

Dr. Carl, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone, has practiced 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

James and Joseph Rheim, Rheim Dermatology Cosmetic Laser Center – 757 Pacific St. Suite A-1, Monterey – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – (831) 373-4404 -

Rheim Dermatology Cosmetic Laser Center has been in practice for more than 40 years, first with father, James, and then his son, Joseph, joined him. They offer the latest cosmetic procedures and are often picked by patients because of their reputation for safety and effectiveness and providing maximum impact with minimal downtime. Services provided include botox, dermal fillers and LimeLight Facial.

• Best Ophthalmologist

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 11-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. Rosenblum is a third-generation physician was the first ophthalmologist in Monterey County to implant the ReSTOR intraocular lens. He 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.

• Best Orthopedist

Richard Ravalin, Pacific Coast Orthopedics — 101 Wilson Rd., Monterey - Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 648-8600

Dr. Ravalin’s interest in orthopedics grew out of his experience in college as a competitive wrestler. He tore his ACL (a key ligament that stabilizes the knee joint and connects the shin to the thigh), and that led to what has become a 19-year career ’round these parts. Ravalin said he “considers it a privilege” to care for his patients.

• Best Pediatrician

Pierre LaMothe, Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group — 2 Upper Ragsdale Drive, #210, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. closed 12:30-2 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon - (831) 333-0999 -

Dr. LaMothe was born in Carmel and is a Robert Louis Stevenson graduate. He has been practicing pediatrics for 31 years at Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group, where his care for locals’ kids now spans the generations. After working all day with kids — which he clearly loves —  he likes to relax by golfing, hiking, gardening and cooking.

• Best Plastic Surgeon

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

Dr. Sunde is our readers’ choice once again, thanks to his passion for making sure his patients look and feel their best. He 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, 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 the UC San Francisco Medical School, where he was part of the medical honor society for leadership and academic excellence in medical scholarship. He’s been practicing in Monterey since 1994.

• Best Physical Therapists

Balance Physical Therapy — 2260 N. Fremont St., Monterey - Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. - (831) 372-4782,

Physical therapy is one of those things you don’t want to deal with until you need it — but when you do, it’s reassuring to know that there are places like this around. Balance Physical Therapy & Human Performance Center in Monterey is dedicated to being an exceptional patient-focused, result-oriented rehabilitation facility. Through the application of highly skilled manual therapy, prescribed therapeutic exercise, and patient education, they form a team with their patients and are committed to returning them to an active and healthy lifestyle.

• Best Chiropractor

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 water-sports star. 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 Divorce Lawyer

Sarah Cavassa —50 Ragsdale Dr. Suite 201, Monterey – Call for an appointment – (831) 655-6868 -

A certified specialist in family law and certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Sarah Cavassa represents clients in a wide array of family law issues, including divorce, custody and support. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Monterey College of Law and has been practicing since 2008. She is a professor at Monterey College of Law, teaching community property and working with the Heisler Moot Court program. When not working, Cavassa says she enjoys her family, running and the outdoors.

• 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 which he is a proud shareholder.

• Best Lawyer if You Need to Sue Somebody

Andy 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 legally — and we hope that’s not too often — then the man to call is Andrew Swartz, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone. 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 and the University of Santa Clara School of Law.

• Best Insurance Agent

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

The family legacy of Matt Little Jr. dates back three generations in Carmel. Robert Little opened Carmel Insurance Agency 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 sister, Amy Little-Figge, 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 family business has won the Golden Pine Cone again and again.

• 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 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

Carmel High School — 3600 Ocean Ave., Carmel - (831) 624-1821 -

Padres for the win! Carmel High School is loved by parents and students alike and is a place where students have access to a rigorous curriculum, including the option to take more than 19 advanced placement classes. Padres athletes compete in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s prestigious Gabilan Division in a wide variety of sports — from water polo and golf to football — often making it to regional championships. Off the playing field, they take on Mathletics, Model United Nations Bowl, and a multitude of other competitions. Graduates often come back to work for their alma mater, making it a hometown high school with big-city cred.

• Best Teacher

Steven Russell, Carmel High School—3600 Ocean Ave., Carmel - (831) 624-1821 -

Russell, a popular art teacher at CHS, considers the Peninsula home.  His father was in the military and the family ended up at Fort Ord in time for Russell to graduate from Seaside High School. He is a fourth-generation teacher and has been on the job for 17 years. “I love teaching kids how to create visually. I love seeing the reaction of kids when they create something from nothing,” he said. Some of his students’ murals liven up the décor at the entrance to the Lucky grocery store in Carmel Rancho.

• Best Principal

Scott Fujita, All Saints Day School—8060 Carmel Valley Rd. Carmel Valley - 831-624-9171 -

Fujita has been involved with ASDS for eight years, first as a parent, then as board member and now as the Head of School.
At All Saints, he established the first cross-country and track-and-field teams and re-established the flag football team (not surprising, considering Scott is a former NFL linebacker). He was also was a producer of the film, “Gleason.”
Scott “wants the school community to feel part of something bigger that matters,” and clearly he is succeeding because he’s loved by everyone, the school said.