You still have your pick of the best food, cooked up by the best chefs around, even if you must dine al fresco or take your food home (where you can chow down in your jammies, by the way). If you’ve been looking for great outdoor spots to socialize and share some takeout, they’re here for you.
The area’s favorite doctors, lawyers, landscapers and painters of art and houses are on the list, along with cutters of hair and repairers of shoes. If your cat voted for her favorite veterinarian, her choice is also here (and you really need to change your computer’s password). So, before some sidelined local, applause-starved musicians play us off for too lengthy an intro, let’s get to the winners.
Please note: With the vagaries of the epidemic and the shutdown,
opening and closing times are being updated faster than a
politician’s Twitter feed, so it’s best if you call ahead to make
sure your favorites are ready for your visit.
FOOD and WINE AWARDS
• Best Neighborhood Market
• Best Butcher
Bruno’s Market & Delicatessen — NE Junipero and Sixth – 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily – (831) 624-3821, brunosmarket.com
With all the items you might hope to find at a local market — a freshly baked loaf of bread, a head of lettuce grown a short distance away, the best hot sauce or some gourmet ice cream — Fermin and Ryan Sanchez’ Bruno’s Market is everything a (literally) corner store should be. Whether you want locally farmed eggs for breakfast or are short on cleaning supplies, it’s the ideal spot to stop, considering its convenient downtown location and easy parking. Also voted Best Butcher, Bruno’s Market’s meat counter carries top-grade beef, choice cuts of pork and other prime meats, and will custom cut anything when needed. The back counter 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 find exactly what they need at Bruno’s.
• Best Fruits and Vegetables
Farmers Markets — oldmonterey.org - montereybayfarmers.org - everyonesharvest.org - westcoastfarmersmarkets.org - ci.carmel.ca.us/farmers-market
Why even bother going the grocery store for produce in an area that boasts a farmers market almost every day of the week? Pine Cone readers know the best fruits and vegetables (and lots of other great food and ingredients) are found at their local farmers markets — and there are plenty. The largest market takes over Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey on Tuesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. (4 to 7 p.m. in winter), while Del Monte Center now hosts the popular Friday market that had been held at Monterey Peninsula College for decades (hours vary, due to the coronavirus pandemic that required this popular market to relocate). Pacific Grove presents a modest Monday afternoon market on Central Avenue from 4 to 7 p.m. Seasonal markets take place at The Barnyard at the mouth of the valley on Tuesday mornings and at Del Monte Center in Monterey on Sunday mornings from May through September. Other markets are held on Thursdays at Sixth and Mission in downtown Carmel from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Mid Valley Center (relocated from Carmel Valley Village) on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Broadway Avenue in Seaside hosts a market in the 600 block on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while a Sunday market is held at 215 Reservation Road in Marina from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Best Seafood Market
Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100A The Crossroads, and 598 Foam St., Monterey – open daily in Carmel and Monterey – (831) 626-3626 and (831) 646-0547, seaharvestfishmarketandrestaurant.com and seaharvestmonterey.com
A stone’s throw from the Pacific, Sea Harvest market started nearly 40 years ago and added restaurants soon after. The markets in Monterey and at the Crossroads boast the best in fresh seafood every day, from locally famous Dungeness crab and sand dabs, to halibut, sushi-grade tuna, locally caught squid, and a wide range of other sustainably caught bounty from the sea. Sea Harvest’s knowledgeable staff will help you select the best and freshest choices — and offer cooking tips, too. The market cafes are offering takeout and outdoor dining, as well, in case you can’t wait to get home to tuck into your deliciously fresh fish.
• Best Bakery
Pavel’s Backerei — 219 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday – (831) 643-2636
For more than two decades, Pavel’s Backerei has turned out amazing (and generously sized) tender-crisp croissants oozing with chocolate, crisp cookies, floury French bread and multigrain loaves, and countless other savory and sweet baked delights, thanks to the hard work of owners Paul and Johanna Wainscoat. Seasonal goodies are also offered. Most mornings, a line forms out the door as fans wait for the chance to pick up their freshly baked treats for the day, and when the couple take their well-earned breaks and close up shop, the protestations can be heard far and wide.
• Best Catering Company
Jeffrey’s — 112 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley – (831) 624-2029, jeffreysgrillandcatering.com
There isn’t much catering going on these days, with events, parties, weddings and practically everything else that involves more than a dozen or so people on hold. But whether planning a large party or a small one, those who want to put the very important responsibility of providing beautiful food in the hands of a professional often turn to Jeffrey’s. A Mid Valley presence for nearly a quarter-century, Jeffrey’s operates a popular restaurant, sells highly addictive spiced nuts, and is extremely capable of meeting every catering need, from smaller and budget minded, to large and extravagant, with plenty of emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and just the right dishes for the occasion.
• Best Wine Store
The Cheese Shop — Carmel Plaza – 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – (831) 625-2272, thecheeseshopinc.com
Yes, The Cheese Shop is absolutely amazing for cheese, with dozens and dozens — hundreds, even — of different cheeses in every taste, texture, flavor and origin imaginable. But it’s also the go-to place for wine, and longtime owner Kent Torrey knows his stuff. He keeps his store stocked with many hard-to-find bottles, as well as affordable but high-quality options, and knows about every producer represented. Need advice? He’s the one to talk to, and he makes sure everyone who works at The Cheese Shop is extremely knowledgeable, as well. Fledgling sommeliers have flourished in his employ, and his customers benefit from that knowledge and the well curated selection, too.
• Best Tasting Room
• My Favorite Monterey County Wine
Twisted Roots Vineyard — 12 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley – Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. – (831) 594-8282, twistedrootsvineyard.com
Not only are the wines delicious, they’re accessible (as in, they don’t cost triple digits), and while the Twisted Roots tasting room in Carmel Valley Village is beautiful, its staff makes visiting there even more enjoyable. While indoor tasting isn’t allowed right now, Twisted Roots has 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 (as the rules allow). 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, and since the winery wo• My Favorite Monterey County Wine this year, all must be sampled to see which one is best.
• Best Monterey County Chardonnay
• Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc
Bernardus — 5 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (currently closed due to coronavirus) – (831) 298-8021, bernardus.com
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 win the hearts of Pine Cone readers again and again — especially since the sauvignon blanc, which is made with fruit from the highly regarded Griva Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, was one of his favorites. 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 ensure Bernardus always gets the best fruit for its impressive wines. And with a handful of different vineyard-designated chardonnays, as well as its Monterey County chardonnay sourcing grapes from several different vineyards, it’s no wonder Bernardus took that category, too.
• Best Monterey County Rosé
Dawn’s Dream Winery — NW San Carlos and Seventh – 1 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday – (831) 659-2649, dawnsdreamwinery.com
Over the years, consumers have caught on to 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 Pine Cone readers. Owned by Dawn Galante, the winery produces a dry rosé of Pinot Noir that offers bright citrus notes and juicy hints of fresh berries — and goes with just about everything. Adding to the draw of Dawn’s Dream, the winery is socially conscious, as Galante founded it with a mission of supporting charities benefiting women and children.
• Best Monterey County Pinot Noir
Boekenoogen — 24 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – (831) 659-4215, boekenoogenwines.com
The competition for Best Monterey County Pinot Noir is stiff, considering more pinot noir is grown here than practically anywhere, with the area’s long, cool growing season reminiscent of the grape’s roots in the Burgundy region. This year, the award goes to Boekenoogen, which produces well balanced, intense, silky pinot noir from its vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Its 2017 3 Clone and 2018 estate pinot are currently available.
• Best Monterey County Merlot
Scheid Vineyards — SE San Carlos and Seventh – noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 626-WINE (9463), scheidvineyards.com
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 merlot as their favorite. The estate wine is accessibly priced and is aromatic of berries and vanilla — from the barrels it’s aged in — and smooth on the finish, with dark berry and cherry notes. Its acidity is mild, giving it enough structure to stand up to food and to be interesting without being aggressive. Find it at Scheid’s tasting rooms in Carmel and at the winery in Greenfield, as well as online.
• Best Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon
Galante Vineyards — Dolores between Ocean and Seventh – 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and until 7 p.m. on Saturday – (831) 624-3800, galantevineyards.com
Galante Vineyards consistently produces the best local cabernet sauvignon, earning Pine Cone readers’ votes year after year. While he and wife Dawn sold their vineyards and winery to a young couple this year, Jack Galante continues to focus on producing the finest possible wines from the Cachagua vineyard and letting the fruit express itself in the wines — efforts that have been rewarded with praise. He’s been growing cabernet sauvignon since 1983, and his wines unfailingly win favor for their balance, body and fruit. 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
Alvarado Street Brewery — Carmel Plaza, Junipero and Ocean and 426 Alvarado St., Monterey – open daily, check location for hours – (831) 293-8621 and (831) 655-BEER, asbcarmel.com and alvaradostreetbrewery.com
The father-and-son duo that brought immensely successful Alvarado Street Brewery to the Monterey Peninsula now operates Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro in Carmel Plaza, as well, and both locations are ideal places to enjoy a beer (or several), along with some snacks. The Monterey beer garden and the patio in the plaza both offer great spaces for dining and drinking outdoors. With Alvarado Street’s stellar lineup of locally made beers, from perennial favorites Mai Tai IPA and Monterey Beer, to seasonal, sour and other more creative offerings — paired with delicious high-level pub food — it’s really no surprise the brewery won this year’s award as the Best Place for a Beer.
• Best Cocktails
• Best Restaurant in Carmel
Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine — NE corner Mission and Sixth – lunch and dinner daily, with brunch on weekends – (831) 624-6562, grasings.com
With bartender Ira Comello at the helm, and other talented staff stepping in when he’s not there, Grasing’s can always be counted on for top-shelf cocktails. Grasing’s restaurant has long been a favorite of locals not just for the great food offered by owner Kurt Grasing and his team, but for the sophisticated bar. 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. Meanwhile, the kitchen consistently turns out delicious dishes beautifully presented, from Grasing’s signature four-onion tart, to steaks, entrée salads, paella and other popular dishes. Even during the pandemic, with dining limited to outdoors and takeout, the quality and menus have not suffered — and few restaurants in town offer more options for al fresco dining, with its back patio, parklet and rooftop deck. All of this explains why Pine Cone readers chose Grasing’s as Best Restaurant in Carmel again this year.
• Best Happy Hour
Vesuvio — Sixth between Junipero and Mission – nightly from 4 p.m. - (831) 625-1766, chefpepe.com/restaurants
A lively rooftop deck and plenty of outdoor seating elsewhere make Rich Pepe’s Vesuvio a fun spot for dinner, but the Happy Hour is so popular, readers chose it as their favorite this year. While the pandemic has forced restaurant operators to alter their menus and hours, Vesuvio devotedly continues to offer Happy Hour daily from 4 to 6 p.m., with plenty of drink and food specials on offer. The place is popular, so reservations are recommended.
• Best French Restaurant
Bistro Moulin — 867 Wave St., Monterey – dinner nightly from 4 to 8 p.m. – (831) 333-1200, bistromoulin.com
Owned by longtime chef Didier Dutertre and wife Colleen — who runs the front of the house and has extensive wine knowledge — Bistro Moulin can always be relied on for spectacular escargot (Pernod and hazelnuts are key ingredients) and cloud-like spinach gnocchi in bechamel, as well as delicately prepared fresh fish and a handful of beautiful traditional dishes. Open for dining on its “petite patio,” as well as for takeout, Bistro Moulin is Pine Cone readers’ top choice for French cuisine — a very competitive sector here — on the Monterey Peninsula.
• Best Chinese Restaurant
Tommy’s Wok — Mission between Ocean and Seventh – Tuesday through Sunday, call for hours – (831) 624-8518, tommyswokcarmel.com
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, making it a regular winner in its category. The dishes paraded out of its diminutive 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 Wok serves up a menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties, and during the pandemic, is one of the top spots for takeout.
• Best Indian Restaurant
Aabha — The Barnyard Shopping Village – lunch and dinner daily -– (831) 250-5940 and (831) 641-7924, aabhaindian.com
Executive chef and proprietor Bhupender Singh’s food is as warm as he is. Everyone who comes to the hospitable and spacious restaurant in the Barnyard shopping center at the mouth of Carmel Valley feels welcome, and Singh’s delicious Indian food — some spicy, but always just right — never disappoints. Currently offering takeout at lunch and dinner menu due to the pandemic, the menu includes a wide range of dishes, including many 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 delicacies to the table.”
• Best Italian Restaurant
La Balena — Junipero Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues –dinner Wednesday through Sunday – (831) 250-6295, labalenacarmel.com
Delicious antipasti (including the always popular pan-fried cauliflower with currants and pine nuts, and another featuring grilled octopus), freshly made pastas with rich sauces 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 has been popular with Pine Cone readers for years for its reliable and stellar Italian fare, and visitors devotedly return every time they’re in town. The Bartolinis work hard to ensure their restaurant continues to flourish and are offering outdoor dining as well as takeout.
• Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant
Crystal Fish — 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – dinner nightly, takeout only, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. – (831) 649-3474, crystalfishmonterey.com
Chef-owner Tamotsu Suzuki opened Crystal Fish in 2005, and since then, he’s had a talented team serving the freshest sushi and sashimi to many regulars, as well as visitors fortunate enough to discover his restaurant in New Monterey. The sushi is worth waiting for, 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 — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 622-7766, dametracafe.com
For years, people have flocked to Dametra not just for the food, but for the lively atmosphere and the impromptu musical performances that can often be heard a block or two away. These days, Dametra is limited to outdoor dining and takeaway, but the fun can still be found there. 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 of eager diners waiting for their seats at the table. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, continue to build their following by displaying their inimitable hospitality.
• Best Wine List
• Best Restaurant for Seafood
• Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
• Most Romantic Restaurant
• Best Restaurant in Monterey
The Sardine Factory — 701 Wave St., Monterey – lunch (takeout only) 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily, dinner 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. – (831) 373-3775, sardinefactory.com
There was no category for prettiest dining tent, but if there were, the prize would likely have gone to the one the Sardine Factory set up at its location above Cannery Row — complete with chandelier. The pandemic may have diners temporarily locked out of the conservatory and the wine cellar, but dang it, it’s still romantic. Once disregarded as being on “the wrong side of the tracks,” as founders Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino are fond of recounting, the landmark restaurant boasts a tome of a wine list, terrific abalone bisque and a classic menu that harkens back to days of tuxedo-clad waiters and well-heeled patrons. Julia Child and Prince Albert II of Monaco are among the famous guests who have passed through its doors, and Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) memorably parked his Jag at the foot of the place’s awning-covered staircase while having his first meeting with Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter) in “Play Misty for Me.” But you’re there to eat, not gawk, right? Lobster ravioli, surf-and-turf and melt-in-your-mouth sand dabs bring a luxurious taste of the sea, and if you let the staff know it’s a special occasion, they’ll pull out all the stops. After all, they’ve been doing this for more than 50 years, for some pretty momentous events. Thanks to the Covid pandemic, there’s a wine sale on from among the cellar’s 2,000 labels and 20,000 bottles, and you can order three-course meals to go for $39 a person including starter, entrée and dessert.
• Best Thai Restaurant
Pacific Thai — 663 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – takeout only, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday – (831) 646-8424, pacificthaipg.com
The food at this place is so satisfying, with just the right amount of spice. It comes piping hot from the kitchen, redolent of garlic and curry. The rice is always just right — not too sticky, but holding together well enough so you can dunk a forkful into steaming green curry broth without it dissolving into a soupy mess. The pasta in the pad Thai and drunken noodles is toothsome and comforting, never squishy or overcooked. Start with the Thai lettuce wraps or Asian spring rolls, share an order of chicken satay and then dig into the entrees. A bottle of ice cold beer or a hot cup of ginger tea rounds out a lunch or dinner that’s priced right and will probably provide enough food for two meals — who doesn’t like leftovers?
• Best Mexican Restaurant
Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road – 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday – (831) 625-2252, carmelcantina.com
If you’re like some folks, you’re forever having to backtrack after zipping past the little shopping center with this funky, racing-themed spot set back from the road. But it’s worth the extra mile or two. Meals here begin with thick, nicely seasoned tortilla chips and salsa. From there, you have a dizzying array of choices (moreso if you’ve already knocked back a margarita or the good kind of Corona). Build a classic combo from enchiladas, soft or crispy tacos and other Mexican classics, or opt for one of the lunch/dinner selections. Theresa’s tamales with a choice of pork, chicken or vegetable filling are handmade daily, or you can get a three-egg plate of huevos rancheros while enjoying a bloody Mary. If you leave hungry, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.
• Best Restaurant for Steak
Seventh & Dolores Steakhouse — right where it says it is – Social hour 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; takeout and butcher shop 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday – (831) 293-7600, 7Dsteakhouse.com
Winner of the Golden Pine Cone for Best New Restaurant in 2017, 7D has become a locals’ favorite, offering new and intriguing cuisine (charred octopus with pickled chilies and toasted coconut; quail yakitori) without sacrificing the classics. You can still have a traditional meal of prime sirloin or a 32-day dry-aged Kansas City steak with a choice of sauces. Can’t decide? You can opt for a “flight” of five toppings from the restaurant’s list (bordelaise, anchovy butter, brandy peppercorn, creamed horseradish, barrel-aged ponzu, béarnaise, aioli rogue blue cheese, burgundy truffle butter) to avoid picking just one. Vegetarians will be hard-pressed to feel neglected with a plate of black trumpet mushroom risotto made with forbidden black rice, and seafood lovers can revel in salmon with warm cannellini beans and heirloom artichokes. Finish up with a Valrhona bittersweet chocolate tart and a glass of port, and then maybe walk some of it off with a stroll around town.
• Best Restaurant for Vegetarians
The Haute Enchilada — 7902 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing – brunch, lunch and dinner noon to 5 p.m. Wed. through Sunday – (831) 633-5843, hauteenchilada.com
While nearly every restaurant in the state has some sort of vegetarian offering (there’s probably a state law requiring it), those who eschew meat often complain that they’re relegated to unimaginative plates of pasta, and salads that are merely a bit of bagged lettuce dumped on a plate with some lonely cherry tomatoes. Not so at the Haute Enchilada, the quirky, artsy restaurant that sprung up years ago among the antique shops of Moss Landing. Owner Kim Solano has created a menu heavy on flavor and the promise of doing well by doing good. “Winning this award validates my commitment to sustainability!” she said. The restaurant’s Chile Relleno Trotsky is a roasted pasilla pepper stuffed with zucchini, tomato, onion and Oaxacan cheese, and blanketed in rich, house-made mole poblano sauce. There’s a veggie version of the hearty burrito bowl and for the adventurous, huitlacoche (black corn truffle) enchiladas with citrus cilantro cream sauce and squash blossom enchiladas. Wash it all down with a Pisco sour or a Mexican Menjul, which combines bourbon, port, mint, Coca-Cola and fresh lime. If they have the sticky toffee pudding, save room — it’s best eaten warm.
• Best BBQ
The Crossroads Barbeque — 241 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or when sold out) daily, delivery available – (831) 250-7616, thecrossroadsbbq.com
The Ingram family had already brought their love of smoked meats to Salinas, Santa Cruz County and Santa Clara County when they set up shop in the Crossroads in 2018. With traditional St. Louis-style pork ribs, smoked brisket and smoked chicken — to name a few — your inner carnivore can revel in the savory treats here with abandon. Traditional sides — chunky potato salad, sweet-and-tangy baked beans and creamy cole slaw — stand up well to the main event, while slabs of Texas toast with garlicky butter are handy for sopping up sauces. The meat falls off the bone and the long, smoky cooking turns something as lean as chicken into a decidedly decadent dish. The ever-evolving craft beer menu is interesting without being unwieldy, with offerings like Barebottle Coconut Donut stout from San Francisco, a red ale from Altamont Beer Works in Livermore, and North Coast Brewing Company’s Blue Star wheat ale. Ask about dessert — the berry cobbler and bread pudding are from old family recipes and well worth the additional calories.
• Best Ice Cream
Revival Ice Cream — 463 Alvarado St., Monterey – Noon to 9 p.m. daily, open until 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday – (831) 747-2113, revivalicecream.com
Let’s cut to the chase. You’re here for the ice cream. You know, “I scream, you scream,” happy childhood memories — all that sort of stuff. You want to taste the honey in the Bees’ Knees, rejoice in the creamy-crispy play of texture in the Honey Granola Crunch and let frozen dark chocolate bliss melt in your mouth. Heck, you might even get over your hatred of eucalyptus trees (or celebrate your love for them) with eucalyptus mint chip. But what if you’re vegan? Don’t you deserve delicious frozen treats, too? “Yes!” shout the super-scoopers at Revival, as they hand you some salted caramel or chocolate hazelnut sorbet. And if you also happen to be into saving the planet, and agree with the owners that what people eat “matters to our minds, bodies, hearts and our planet,” you’ll be cheered by the shop’s dedication to using local and sustainable ingredients and its many efforts to give back to the community. Among others, Revival donates to Community Partnership for Youth, MEarth, MY Museum, Hospice Giving and Community Human Services.
• Best Sandwich or Burger
RG Burgers — 201 Crossroads Shopping Village – 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily – (831) 626-8054, rgburgers.com
This “real good” place to eat has been turning out all sorts of hamburgers for 30 years. And not just burgers — chili cheese fries, tater tots, onion rings and fried zucchini sticks are there for starters, and you can wet your whistle with around 20 kinds of milkshakes from vanilla to chocolate peanut butter. You can also enjoy a refreshing glass of pink lemonade or a 50/50 float with orange soda and vanilla ice cream. For a great bite between two buns, you can have the classic burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles or graduate to a hickory burger with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and bacon. Those who enjoy a touch of heat can sink their teeth into a sriracha burger, and to really pile on the comfort, try the cheesy mac version with homemade mac-and-cheese up top. Burgers can also be made with ground turkey or chicken breast or a veggie falafel patty. There are more than a dozen other sandwich selections and salads (if you must), as well as chili and a selection of hot dogs. Beer and wine by the glass or bottle are available.
• Best Breakfast
• Best Coffee
• Best Chef — Amalia Scatena
Stationæry — San Carlos between Fifth & Sixth, Carmel – Brunch 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, dinner 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, reservations strongly encouraged – (831) 250-7183, thestationaery.com
While seating at this popular newish spot is at a premium, takeout (and delivery within a 5-mile radius) is available. Kickstart your day with brunch selections that will keep you going well into the early afternoon, like a potato pancake with Monterey Bay salmon; a chive scramble accompanied by bacon, a biscuit, jam and avocado; or blueberry pancakes. If you’re in the mood for something lunchier, shrimp and grits blurs the line between meals, while black cod ceviche or a chopped salad with a Mediterranean flair that includes salami, manchego cheese, olives and pistachios are firmly in the lunch camp. Dinner selections include a beef tenderloin with chanterelle mushrooms and Fogline Farm’s chicken. Round out the meal with a plate of fruit and some Schoch Family cheese, or chocolate chip cookies and milk. Chef Amalia Scatena has been there since 2018 and has obviously developed quite a following hereabouts. A graduate of the Culinary Institute in Florence, Italy, Scatena was acknowledged in 2017 by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top five Charleston, S.C., “rising star chefs to watch.” And since good chefs are usually also fanatical about their coffee, you can bet the brew here is top-notch.
• Best Coffeehouse
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. — Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde, 3720 The Barnyard, and 256 Crossroads Blvd., The Crossroads – carmelcoffeeroasters.com for hours and phone numbers
If your day starts with “lifting fog and breaking waves,” Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. feels you — the phrase is part of their motto, and of course Foglifter is the company’s flagship house French blend. They’ve been roasting their own flavorful beans since 1994 — and those are certified organic beans, roasted in accordance with the California Certified Organic Farmers’ and USDA’s standards right in Carmel Valley, just like the name says. The 1940s Farina Italian coffee roasting machine has a name — Vincenzo — and is sometimes referred to as “Big Vinney,” according to the company’s website. The shops are still welcoming and efficient, with the same friendly, knowledgeable baristas preparing your morning eye-opener. It’s just that if you want to linger over a cup, you’ll have to do it outside. The same food selections — including delicious sweet treats — still await customers, and you can still take a pound of old favorites or newer special blends (Vincenzo Italian roast; Shelter with Taste Viennese) back to your brewing contraption of choice at home.
• Best Family Restaurant
• Best Desserts
Rosine’s Restaurant — 434 Alvarado St., Monterey – 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday – (831) 375-1400, rosinesmonterey.com
The Culcasi family’s labor of love turns 40 this year, with second and third-generation members leading the way to the future. The dessert cases are happily and heavily laden with family recipes for the mile-high layer cakes, cookies and specialty brownies made fresh daily. They’re an unflinching reminder that no matter how much you love the homemade minestrone and lasagna (featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”) or generous Cobb salad, you need to save room for carrot cake, cookie-dough cheesecake or chocolate peanut butter pie. Kids and parents alike will enjoy the casual atmosphere, and the large menu offers more than enough choices to satisfy the pickiest eaters at breakfast, lunch or dinner. No wonder everyone looks so patient while waiting for one of the outdoor tables.
• Best Pizza
Gianni’s — 725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – Takeout and delivery only, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday – (831) 649-1500, or for delivery call (831) 373-3333, giannispizzamonterey.com
The Costa family has been running this popular spot to split a pie, have some lasagna, or chow down on an Italian sub for more than 45 years, and they’re not about to let something like a pandemic stop them. Heck, they’ve soldiered through life’s ills from the Loma Prieta Earthquake to the recession of 2008, keeping fans well-fed and comforted through it all. Their extensive menu is available for takeout. You can start with an order of eight hot wings with a side of ranch for less than $8.50, and the values keep coming with mini 8-inch pizzas priced around $10 for basics. The big 18-inch pies, loaded with toppings, can run upwards of $30, but they’re crowd pleasers. Salads, calzones, pastas and crunchy, creamy chocolate cannolis can be added to the feast as well.
• Best Deli
5th Avenue Deli — Fifth Avenue between San Carlos and Dolores – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday – (831) 625-2688, 5thavedeli.com
If you’re looking for a great source for the fixings of a solo picnic or a socially distanced, government-sanctioned outdoor gathering, look no further. Pine Cone readers’ compasses point to this shop, owned by Elpidia and Carlos Herrera. It’s been around for nearly 30 years. “We cater for bus tours, open houses, gallery exhibition, and any of your special occasions,” boasts the deli’s website. Whether you want a single sandwich of teriyaki salmon, homespun BBQ meatloaf or a Reuben with hot pastrami, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing — or pot roast, samosas or tamales for your insulated bubble of a crowd — give them a call. The menu crosses cultures, borders and probably daily calorie limits, but you (and your friends or office mates) deserve a break by now, don’t you?
• Best Brunch
• Best Piano Bar
Mission Ranch — 26270 Dolores St., Carmel – 7 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 8:45 p.m. daily, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. – (831) 624-6436, missionranchcarmel.com
While there are no bad tables at Mission Ranch, which doesn’t take reservations and is nearly always busy, the outdoor deck is the only spot available to diners these days. Not that anyone’s complaining about sweeping views of pastures with contentedly grazing sheep, as well as the moody blue-green lagoon and brilliant white sand. Enjoy a not-too-spicy bloody Mary while you wait for your crab-cake eggs Benedict, or ranch omelet with sausage, bell peppers, onion and cheese. Mimosas and Ramos fizzes are on the beverage menu, and there are plenty of starters like almond-coated baked goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, watercress and flatbread crackers. Not up for breakfast? Make a meal of salmon seasoned with coriander or a prime rib sandwich. Former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood owns the place and occasionally stops by. While the piano bar stands temporarily silent, when live music can be done safely again, performers like singer and pianist Maddaline Edstrom, pianist Gennady Loktionov and others will resume playing seven nights each week in the restaurant at the ranch, along with brunch Sunday. 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 a hearty mid-morning feast.
• Best Outdoor Dining
• Best Place to Take Clients
Tarpy’s Roadhouse — 2999 Monterey Salinas Hwy, Monterey – 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, Sunday brunch – (831) 647-1444, tarpys.com
Tarpy’s and its sister restaurants, Rio Grill and Montrio, all made this year’s Golden Pine Cones in different catgories. In the case of the familiar roadhouse, we’re sure location is no small part of its win as Best Place to Take Clients. 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 Boulevard. But getting there is only part of the equation. The understated-but-friendly service is another reasons for the place’s popularity. Servers are warm and knowledgeable, but they don’t hover about or rush guests, so there’s plenty of time to close a business deal. Tarpy’s has always had extensive and pleasant outdoor seating so that you can enjoy views of the pond and trees — along with the occasional thrill of an airplane directly overhead — with your meal. The food includes twists on all-American favorites like deviled eggs fancied up with truffle aioli or an American Kobe burger with brie, bacon, lobster, truffle aioli and fries. Your vegan and gluten-free guests will find delicious choices, too. Portions are generous, and if you prefer to dine chez vous, three-course family-style dinners starting at $35 per person are available for order and pick-up. Hide the boxes and tell them you made the meatloaf and bruschetta yourself. We won’t tell.
• Best New Restaurant
The Pocket — Lincoln between Fifth and Sixth Avenue – 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday – (831) 626-8000, thepocketcarmel.com
Business partners Kent Ipsen and chef Federico Rusciano opened their eatery in the former location of Christopher’s restaurant before things shut down, but not by much. Rusciano, also a certified sommelier, comes to the business with eight years’ experience as general manager of Peppoli at Pebble Beach. He’s created a menu that mixes old favorites (eggs Benedict for brunch, day-boat scallops at dinner) with interesting items like an Asian bowl with rice, vegetables, eggs and meat or shrimp add-ins, and a salad of slightly bitter radicchio with green apples, toasted almonds, gorgonzola cheese and bacon. There’s a full bar and a nice wine list.
• Best Bartender
Anthony Vitacca/Montrio — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey – 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, takeout 5 to 9 p.m. nightly – (831) 648-8880, montrio.com
Anthony Vitacca has a cult following whose devotion knows no end — or at least, they know how to vote for their favorite bartender. When a restaurant like Montrio (with a wine list that runs past 14 pages plus ciders and craft beers) offers a cocktail, you know it’s going to be good, and Vitacca doesn’t disappoint. Offerings on the frequently changing cocktail menu have memorable names like Grunge n’Ganja (Plantation Stiggins’ pineapple rum, yellow Chartreuse, passionfruit, bee pollen and lime) or Luck be a Lady (Tito’s vodka, Fruitlab jasmine tea liqueur, cherry bark-vanilla bitters, honey, mint and lemon). You can apparently even save Private Ryan with a blend of brown butter-infused bourbon, walnut liqueur, chicory pecan bitters and house-smoked ice. Yes, smoked ice. The readers nailed it — this guy’s good.
• Best Restaurant Service
Rio Grill — 101 Crossroads Blvd. – 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily – (831) 625-5436, riogrill.com
Good service is tough to define. The effort leaves you asking questions like, “How much attention is enough? Do I need to know that tonight’s seafood special was once a halibut named Dave?” Nevertheless, sophisticated Pine Cone readers know good service when they see it — and this year, they’re seeing it at the Rio Grill. Waiting tables has never been easy, but 2020 leveled up the difficulty faster than a Peloton instructor on espresso. That hasn’t stopped the friendly crew at this Crossroads fixture from continuing to deliver the restaurant’s bold cuisine and tasty cocktails with a side of good cheer. Of course, an order of steak empanadas followed by a healthy slice of pumpkin cheesecake will lift the spirits, too. And to top it all off, everything will be delivered with a smile that goes all the way up to your server’s eyes, where you can see it.
• Best Restaurant in Big Sur
Nepenthe — 48510 Highway 1 (29 miles south of Carmel) – 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. daily – (831) 667-2345, nepenthe.com
Sixty-one years. That’s how long this “little slice of paradise,” this “mecca of poets, artists, travelers and vagabonds” has been serving up good food, according to its website. The name — Nepenthe — comes from Homer’s “Odyssey,” in which it’s mentioned as a magical drug that takes away sorrow. Certainly the picturesque coastal views from more than 800 feet above sea level work just as well as an ancient Greek fantasy medicine. In case it’s not enough — or you’re more hangry than sorrowful — the menu with beloved local classics like the Ambrosiaburger could help, perhaps with a wee nip from the wine list or full bar. Other tempting options include the 10-ounce New York steak with fries, a roasted half-chicken dinner, and a veggie burger on a nine-grain wheat roll. If you’re more of a morning person, Café Kevah — one level down from Nepenthe — opens at 9 a.m. and offers a nice selection of breakfasts and coffee. Once you’ve had a bite to eat, stop into the Phoenix Shop (open at 10:30 a.m. daily) to browse the works of local artists and craftsmen.
• Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley
Café Rustica — 10 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley – 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday – (831) 659-4444, caferusticavillage.com
Outdoor dining is nothing new at Cafe Rustica. They’ve been serving up home-style European specialties — like Hungarian paprika beef goulash — al fresco for years. Other wood oven specialties include baked rigatoni with beef Bolognese sauce, mushrooms and parmesan cheese; and butternut squash ravioli with Parmesan bread crumbs, fresh sage and beurre blanc. Try one of the unusual thin-crust pizzas, like the Flammekueche, with diced prosciutto, onions, fresh thyme and crème fraiche. 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. Sandwich offerings like egg salad with an optional side of smoked salmon and a grilled cheese on brioche can satisfy a growling tummy, or choose from hearty suppers of pork loin or lamb filets. The patio is warm and convivial, or you can get the food to go.
• Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach
Roy’s — 2700 17 Mile Drive (at the Inn at Spanish Bay) – 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily – (800) 877-0597, pebblebeach.com
International celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi designed the eclectic menu at this spot with delightful views of golf and sea from the patio, and in-house executive chef Pablo Mellin supervises a kitchen that prepares everything elegantly and expertly. You could start your day with a classic breakfast of bacon and eggs or indulge in buttermilk pancakes or waffles. By lunchtime, however, the menu starts to venture abroad with sushi — a yellowtail firecracker roll that hits a few hot notes with jalapeno and habanero peppers in the mix — and other Asian-influenced dishes like ginger-sake-marinated crispy calamari. Don’t worry, there’s still a club sandwich and a half-pound burger for those whose palates are more attuned to straight-up American food. Dinner starters like coconut shrimp and slow-roasted pork belly lead the way as sunset — and the inevitable Spanish Bay bagpiper — come into view. Japanese, Thai and Chinese flavors mingle on the plate and the palate in a peanut-crusted filet mignon or blackened ahi, while Hawaiian-style combo plates bring an island flavor to traditional surf-and-turf.
• Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove
Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – 5 to 9 p.m. daily – (831) 655-3311, passionfish.net
Passionfish is well known for its focus on sustainable seafood and accessible, affordable wines, thanks to the longtime efforts of founders Ted and Cindy Walter. The Walters strive to obtain fish, meats and produce from sustainable, local sources whenever possible, and love opportunities to educate people about environmental choices in eating and drinking. But don’t be fooled. The food here is as sophisticated as it is sustainable. Start with a sea scallop served with caper-raisin-walnut relish and an artichoke risotto cake, or the black bean and goat cheese fritters and salsa fresca. Beet-and-gorgonzola salads are becoming passé — unless of course they’re dressed with curry and studded with medjool dates. The flavors continue in a duck confit with honey reduction or a rockfish dressed up with jicama-mint salad and flavorful Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce. “We believe in the simple power of food, wine and company coming together at the table,” the Walters say.
• Best Restaurant in Seaside
Gusto — 1901 Fremont Blvd., Seaside – 11:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 4:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 899-5825, gusto1901.com
Gusto dishes up everything you could want in an Italian eatery.
Don’t let the address give you pause — the restaurant is cozy and
welcoming and parking is refreshingly abundant. The restaurant
boasts that its wood-fired oven “heats to roughly 800 degrees,”
giving its pizzas delicious crusts that can’t be produced any
other way. You can go simple, with housemade tomato sauce and
buffalo mozzarella, or opt for fancier stuff, like layers of
sausage, pepperoni and pancetta (the Carnivora), shrimp in garlic
cream sauce (the Gamberette) or meatballs in garlic sauce
(Polpette di Vodka), and there are more than 20 combinations of
pastas and sauces. Thinking about leaving without dessert? Unh-uh.
As Clemenza told Rocco in “The Godfather,” take the cannoli.
RECREATION and THE ARTS
• Best Local Artist
Will Bullas — Carmel Art Association Gallery, Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, and the Carmel Valley Art Association, 2 Chambers Lane – willbullas.com
As an artist living in a place where creative types are revered, Will Bullas again wins one of the most cherished of Pine Cones. Bullas finds humor in just about everything, and his art is a perfect antidote for anybody who’s taking things too seriously. Using an assortment of puns and one-liners to complement his art, he creates a world where pigs wear togas, dogs sip wine and gorillas look cool in sunglass. He’s a former president of the Carmel Art Association.
• Best Photography Gallery
Weston Gallery — Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln, Carmel – 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday – (831) 624-4453 - westongallery.com
A next generation carries on the family legacy at the downtown gallery. It’s doubtful any family has made such an impact on fine art photography as the Westons since patriarch Edward Weston established himself as one of the medium’s great visionaries. His sons, Cole and Brett Weston, followed in his footsteps, and today, his granddaughter, Cara Weston, does the same. The gallery also showcases 20th century masters of the medium, like Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Imogene Cunningham.
• Best Sculpture Gallery
Bennett Sculpture Carmel — San Carlos and Sixth, Carmel – (831) 626-3054, bennettsculpturecarmel.com
Like the Westons, the Bennetts have made creativity a family business. Late sibling sculptors Bob and Tom Bennett got things started, and today, the gallery is owned and operated by the mother-daughter team of Debi Bennett and painter and jeweler Ashley Bennett-Stoddard. The gallery showcases the sculptures of Tom’s daughter, Terrie Bennett, and carries the work of three other family members, sculptors Kim Bennett, Keith Shannon and MK Shannon.
• Best Art Gallery
Carmel Art Association — Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel - open by appointment – (831) 624-6176, carmelart.org
In a town that’s famous for its art, the Carmel Art Association has no peer in the contest for the town’s creative heartbeat. One of the country’s oldest nonprofit galleries — it was founded in 1927 — it represents more than 100 of the region’s finest painters, printmakers and sculptors. Besides presenting monthly shows, the gallery normally hosts a busy slate of events that includes meet-the-artist receptions, films, lectures and concerts. For now, you can either visit by making an appointment or check out the artists’ works on the gallery website.
• Best Performing Arts Group or Company
Pacific Repertory Theatre — Monte Verde between Eighth and Ninth – (831) 622-0100, pacrep.org
The Monterey Peninsula’s premier theater group, PacRep stages its many productions at three distinctive local sites — the Golden Bough Playhouse, the Forest Theater and the Circle Theatre. Founded in 1982 by Stephen Moorer, who continues to be its creative director, the theater pays tribute annually to the genius of William Shakespeare, and ends each year with a celebration of classic rock ’n’ roll. Its 2020 productions of “The Addams Family Musical” and “Shrek, the Musical,” have been postponed to 2021, but will surely be worth the wait. With its School of Dramatic Arts, PacRep will continue to offer a wealth of stage opportunities for youngsters.
• Best Concert Venue
Sunset Center — San Carlos between Eighth and 10th – (831) 620-2048, sunsetcenter.org
Owned by the city and operated by a nonprofit, Sunset Center attracts world class talent to its main stage. Once the historic Sunset School, it has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility. While its concerts are on hold for now, it has hosted shows by an impressive array of performers in recent years, including Neil Sedaka, Dwight Youkam, Sergio Mendez, The Chieftains, Darlene Love, Emmylou Harris and Burt Bacharach. It also provides a home for the Marjorie Evans Gallery, Yoga Shala by the Sea, the Arts Council for Monterey County, and the Center for Photographic Art.
• Best Local Music Group (classical)
Monterey Symphony — (831) 646-8511, montereysymphony.org
The only professional orchestra based on the Monterey Peninsula, the Monterey Symphony has cleverly responded to the pandemic by staging a concert series from the safety of a balcony that’s attached to its Hampton Court office at San Carlos and Seventh. Also, finding another way to fuel creativity when it can’t present concerts, the symphony chose John Wineglass to be its first-ever composer-in-residence. During the best of times, the symphony brings world class classical music to Sunset Center.
• Best Local Music Group (rock, jazz and pop)
The Money Band — moneyband.org
Live music is hold for now due to the pandemic, but when it returns to Monterey County, the Money Band will likely be headlining the local party celebrating it. Led by charismatic singer Zoe Alexander, the band plays pop and rock hits from the past seven decades — with an emphasis on getting the action going on the dance floor. With a repertoire that includes music by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Oasis and Sublime and many others, there’s something on the set list for everybody.
• Best Place to Take Visitors
Point Lobos State Reserve — Highway 1 south of Carmel – pointlobos.org
Called the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by painter Francis McCormas, Point Lobos State Reserve is a magnet not only for painters and photographers, but for just about anyone who loves the outdoors. Famous for its rugged coastline, windswept cypress groves and ancient forest of Monterey pines, it’s remarkably accessible, and even has trails than can accommodate wheelchairs. It’s also home to one of the richest marine environments anywhere — every weekend, scores of scuba divers explore the mysterious world beneath the waves.
• Best Family Activity
Monterey Bay Aquarium — 886 Cannery Row, Monterey – temporarily closed – (831) 648-4800, montereybayaquarium.org
More than two million people each year visit the world-famous aquarium, and it’s certain that many of them will be ready to buy tickets when the coronavirus shutdown is lifted. The facility has already been gearing up for socially distanced visitors with a reservation system, new traffic patterns and lots of sanitizing stations. Locals are particularly looking forward to seeing the soothing jellyfish tanks, the hypnotic Outer Bay exhibit and the playful otters cavorting in their home. With 34 major galleries and nearly 200 exhibits — which offer a fascinating glimpse into the wonders that lie beneath the waves of Monterey Bay — the aquarium is arguably the region’s most popular single attraction.
• Best Local Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival — montereyjazzfestival.org
Originally set for Sept. 25-27 of this year, but postponed due to the pandemic, the festival would have featured a star-studded lineup that including Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, George Benson, and Buddy Guy. One of the world’s premier jazz festivals, it has drawn world-class talent to the Monterey Fairgrounds since 1958. When it returns, the three-day festival will showcase more than 500 musicians on eight stages.
• Best Church-Sponsored Event
Carmel Mission Fiesta — at the Carmel Mission – carmelmission.org
For more than a half-century, Carmel Mission — one of the most historic places in California — has opened its doors for a daylong party and fundraiser for the Mission’s Junipero Serra school. This year, the twin specters of Covid-19 and the closing of the school shut down the event, which normally includes live music, crafters and artisans, and family activities. Pine Cone readers can’t be blamed for their affection for the party in the beautiful courtyard. Maybe Saint Serra can lend a hand in its resurrection.
• 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 – ci.carmel.ca.us
Is Carmel Beach heaven? With ample white sand, easy access and no leash law, it’s certainly paradise for pooches of every shape and size, who can be seen daily splashing in the waves, socializing with other dogs or engaging in the time-tested thrill of chasing seagulls. For two-legged visitors, it’s just about the best place anywhere for a sunset stroll as the cool fog rolls in and dulls the echo of the churning surf. And like the best things in life, it’s free.
• Best Hiking Trail
Inspiration Point Trail, Palo Corona Regional Park — 4860 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – dawn to dusk daily – mprpd.org
An eminently walkable 2-mile trail (one-way) that leads from the park’s Carmel Valley Road headquarters to a great overlook, the Inspiration Point Trail offers a world-class picnic spot. It also winds its way through groves of majestic oaks before rewarded hikers with views that offer a birds-eye look at Carmel, Point Lobos and Carmel Valley. At a time when more people are getting outside and hitting the trails than ever before, this one is getting lots of activity.
• My Favorite Park
Garland Ranch Regional Park — 700 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – dawn to dusk daily – mprpd.org
The crown jewel of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, 4,400-acre Garland Park has trails for every level of fitness, from easy and shady strolls along Carmel River and Garzas Creek, to steep switchbacks that lead to sweeping views of the valley. Dogs are welcome and enjoy splashing around in the Carmel River, while mountain bikers and horseback riders have places to enjoy themselves, as well. In the spring and early summer, the upper meadows offer spectacular wildflower blooms, with golden poppies and blue lupines splashing color across the landscape.
• Best Fitness/Health Center
Carmel Valley Athletic Club — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley – open to members only during the pandemic; please call for appointments – (831) 624-2737, cvaconline.com
A frequent Golden Pine Cone winner, the Carmel Valley Athletic Club has been around for more than 50 years, so it obviously has a good handle on how to run a fitness center and help people get in shape. During the pandemic shutdown, workouts have moved outdoors and the heated 25-yard lap and recreation pool and tennis courts are open. In normal times, CVAC has state-of-the-art fitness equipment for those who want to pump iron, and it offers a variety of group exercise classes and social events, such as drop-in tennis and poker nights. CVAC also has offered child care for ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. New member perks include a 30-minute private tennis assessment, three Pilates sessions, and three personal training sessions.
• Best Martial Arts Studio
American Karate — 182 Country Club Gate, Pacific Grove – Call for class schedule – (831) 372-5425, americankaratemonterey.com
Operated by Matt Durney, American Karate has offered karate and kickboxing training for a long time, and the business is once again a winner of the Golden Pine Cone for Best Martial Arts Studio. Although it’s been affected by the pandemic just like other fitness studios, American Karate offers outdoor classes at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., depending on age and skill level, outside its Country Club Gate location in Pacific Grove. There is no contact and students and instructors distance themselves. The reviews for American Karate say it all, including this one posted on social media earlier this year: “My daughter just started at American Karate recently, and absolutely loves it. It’s definitely helping her develop discipline, create small goals for herself and work toward them diligently. It also gives her a great outlet for her boundless energy and athleticism! Mr. Durney and Ms. Bell are fantastic teachers, and they were specifically recommended to us by someone who knows my daughter well. I’m so grateful we’ve found this place!”
• Best Yoga Studio
Seaside Yoga Sanctuary — Ocean Avenue and Mission Street, Carmel – Please check website for pandemic-related schedule adjustments, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday – (831) 899-9642, seasideyogasanctuary.com
Seaside Yoga Sanctuary’s philosophy, “yoga is for everyone,” embraces inclusivity. And the business at Ocean and Mission makes a point of advertising that it offers yoga for people of all ages and physical abilities. “Our yoga classes are diverse in styles and levels of yoga, and are for the seasoned practitioner and those new to yoga,” according to Seaside Yoga Sanctuary. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the sanctuary’s brick-and-mortar location is temporarily closed. However, it’s still offering outdoor yoga and streaming classes through Zoom. Seaside Yoga Sanctuary’s website has details.
• Best Golf Course
Pebble Beach Golf Links —1700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach – Hours vary by season – (831) 574-5609. pebblebeach.com
If only these greens could talk. Rated the No. 1 public golf course in the country, Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted dozens of legendary golf tournaments since it opened in 1919, including the U.S. Open in 2019 and the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which draws some of the finest golfers in the world, along with seasoned celebrity amateurs. Future championships scheduled for the iconic course, according to Golf Digest, include a first U.S. Women’s Open in 2023 and a seventh U.S. Open in 2027.
• Best Museum
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History — 165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – currently closed due to Covid-19; normally Thursday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – (831) 648-5716, pgmuseum.org
Very early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the venerable history museum just steps from Lighthouse Avenue figured out how to give virtual lectures to engage kids and their parents, providing welcome distractions on weekend afternoons. One particularly popular program, “Bug out with Bree” has had local entomologist Breanna Machuca taking grownups and kids on virtual field trips to learn about dragonflies, beetles and spiders. Visit the museum’s website to see what she’s up to these days, and what other opportunities still exist for learning from your local natural history museum.
• Best Inn/B&B
The Hideaway — Junipero Street & Eighth Avenue, Carmel – Call to book – (831) 625-5222, hideawaycarmel.com
The Hideaway, with its 24 rooms and suites, some with sitting areas and gas fireplaces, are designed to be “true havens,” according to the inn — this year’s winner of the Golden Pine Cone for the Best Inn/B&B. The Hideaway is dog friendly, and has dedicated rooms for humans who are accompanied by canines. It offers pups their own “comfy bed,” doggie treats, food and water bowls and disposable clean-up bags. The inn is in a prime spot for shopping and dining, just a short stroll away. But if you’d rather not walk, The Hideaway also offers use of its bikes. The inn is ADA compliant, and the lobby, breakfast area and the courtyard are ADA accessible. It wants all its guests to be comfortable, and offers 250 thread-county linens and down comforters and pillows. “We craft an indulgent, yet unfussy, experience,” the inn says.
• Best Hotel
Hofsas House — San Carlos, between Third and Fourth – (831) 624-2745, hofsashouse.com
In 1947, Fred and Donna Hofsas purchased four contiguous cottages in town, with plans to move into one and rent out the others as an inn. Ten years later, business warranted the addition of a four-story, 25-room hotel, strategically built into the hill to create what appeared to be a two-story residence along the main road. They called the hotel Hofsas House and gave it some fittingly Bavarian styling in architecture and appointment. In 1957, the couple commissioned established artist and friend Maxine Albro to step outside her modernist sensibility to paint a Bavarian-themed welcome mural plus window treatments, along with three framed paintings still exhibited in the hotel lobby. “My grandmother, Donna Hofsas, and I were very close,” said Carrie Theis, who manages the spot nowadays. “I knew someday I would be here, that I would continue her legacy of service and hospitality.”
• Most Dog-Friendly Hotel
• Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant
• Best Place to Relax and Listen to Music
Cypress Inn/Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge — Lincoln & Eighth – Reservations only, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. daily, afternoon tea Saturday, noon to 3 p.m., brunch served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-3871, cypress-inn.com; (831) 620-7454, carmelterrys.com
The hotel is elegant, rising up near the center of town with a white, big-city façade. All that’s missing is a doorman. Inside, the elegance continues, with a grand piano by the hearth in the living room, glass doors opening to garden seating, and lunch, dinner, cocktails or afternoon tea from Terry’s Restaurant & Lounge. But what pleases many people most is the canine hospitality, ensured by one of the proprietors, the late Doris Day. Even after the 2019 passing of the legendary singer, actress and dog devotee, guests can rest assured their canine companions will still have a place to sleep and room at the table. Thank goodness they don’t seem to mind eating outside! While humans choose from sand dabs, chicken piccata or short ribs, their besties can dine from a special tea tray of delectable doggie treats. When live music is allowed again, the inn will give you a great place to while away some time watching pups and people while you listen. And at the end of the day, rooms are appointed with canines in mind, including special blankets, a place to rinse pets after a romp on the beach, doggie-doo pickup bags, and a list of local pet sitters for those who want to venture out to places that persist in being for people only.
• Best Florist
Swenson & Silacci Flowers — 432 Alvarado St., Monterey – phone orders taken 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. through Fri. – (831) 375-2725, swensonandsilacciflowers.com
Sending flowers is a wonderful way to connect with loved ones and let them know they’re not alone, particularly during tension-fraught times, and Swenson & Silacci’s makes it simple to arrange and send sweet bouquets without ever leaving the house. Swenson’s Flowers was founded in 1945 by Walter and Bessie Swenson. In 1958, Edward Silacci joined the business as a delivery person, but became a partner in 1966, inspiring the name change to Swenson & Silacci Flowers. After graduating with honors from the MBA program at Santa Clara University in 1993, Mark Silacci joined his father in the business. Today, as president of the company, he knows business, knows flowers, knows customer services. And, it shows.
• Best Furniture Shop
Mum’s Place — 246 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 372-6250, mumsfurniture.com
In just one of many stories that illustrate why Mum’s is a perennial readers’ favorite, one customer enjoyed the furnishings she found at a luxury resort, sourced similar products through Mum’s Place, and duplicated the same sense of elegance and leisure in her home. This purveyor of furniture has always been a place where patrons wander among fine home furnishings as if visiting a beautifully appointed private home. The showroom is filled with a wide range of furniture styles, plus 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 — 1700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach – 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily – (831) 622-8723, pebblebeach.com
The purpose of the Pebble Beach Pro Shop is to provide quality products and services guests aren’t likely to find elsewhere. In addition to the breathtaking beauty of the coastal greens and craggy coastline that attract guests into the resort, the pro shop is another element of a guest’s Pebble Beach golf experience. Since merchandise represents that experience, saying, “It’s Pebble Beach, and I was there,” staff endeavors to provide the best products and the highest quality. For folks who have never held a golf club, or avid golfers who want to add to their collection, the Pebble Beach Pro Shop balances the new and exciting with proven core brands.
• Best Hardware Store
Carmel Ace Hardware,
Carmel Valley Ace Hardware,
Pacific Grove Ace Hardware,
Forest Hill Ace Hardware — 290 Crossroads Blvd., 401 Mid Valley Center, 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 1136 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – hours vary by location – (831) 293-8050, (831) 250-5666, (831) 372-3284, (831) 646-9144, acehardware.com
Although Ace Hardware store is a member of the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the business, individual stores give customers a sense of shopping “small-town local,” where everybody knows your name, with the benefit of big business. In an era when it’s hard to find specialized service or someone to work the register, a company that says, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks” invites confidence. When customers ask for help, employees are trained to say, “Helping you is the most important thing we have to do today.” It’s that kind of service that causes a community to give them a Golden Pine Cone award.
• Best Housewares Store
Prim’s Carmel — 546 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 620-1251, primscarmel.com
It’s been eight years since the family-owned hardware and housewares store created a fresh venue in a landmark location. By now, the company has built its own reputation for service, and the community has responded to it. Their investment includes expansive hardware, housewares, and paint sections, as well as specialty patio, home furniture, bedding, and gift departments. What likely earned the Golden Pine Cone is the customer service. More important than their motto — “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.” — is 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. Mon. through Sat., noon to 4 p.m. Sun. – (831) 647-9276, monarchknitting.com
This shop welcomes you into a fresh, well lighted atmosphere with cubbies of colorful skeins of yarn, among a community of friendly craftspeople. 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, belong. At Monarch Knitting, someone will show you what you need and how to work with it, helping you feel at home.
• Best Pet Store
The Raw Connection — 26200 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday – (831) 626-7555, therawconnection.com
After reading veterinarian Ian Billinghurst’s book, “Give Your Dog a Bone,” Sarah Adams switched her Irish wolfhounds from kibble to a raw food diet. Within weeks, she sayd, her 7-year-old had lost weight, its once-dull coat had a glossy shine, and the happier pooch was back on the beach, running with the energy of a 2-year-old. In 2006, Adams opened The Raw Connection with what she considers the “largest display of raw food in the country.” The store also sells healthy, treats, handmade toys, and an array of safety collars, harnesses and leashes. This, said Adams, is how to pamper a pet.
• Best Garden Shop
Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Road – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. through Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. – (831) 626-0680, griggsnursery.com
If there are blessings in this pandemic, one of them must be that people are getting back to their roots. Digging their hands into the soil has had a centering, nurturing effect as citizens cultivate their gardens. Folks have been flocking to Griggs Nursery to buy houseplants and succulents, seasonal annuals, and perennials, trees and shrubs to upgrade the places where they are now spending our days. For nearly 20 years, Griggs Nursery has been thriving in its Carmel Valley location, helping to 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 said.
• Best Camping/Skiing/Surfing Store
REI — 145 Gen. Stilwell Drive, Marina – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 883-8048, rei.com
The antidote to sheltering in place is getting outside where, at a social distance from everyone else, we can breathe deeply, stretch our limbs, and take in the beauty of this environment. A company whose widely recognized initials stand for Recreational Equipment, Inc., REI is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting people for 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 activities, with salespeople who know how to help you select and use them. Whether you’re a novice or expert outdoor enthusiast, the membership-optional store at The Dunes retail center can help you cover a lot of ground.
• Best Place to Buy Athletic Wear
The Treadmill — 111 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – (831) 624-4112, thetreadmill.com
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 both weekenders and warriors. Nearly 10 years ago, Janice and Chris Cleary, and Cathy and Mike Hirst bought The Treadmill and set their sights on selling athletic and athleisure wear. They also offer a range of accessories to help you get moving. Seeing the store as a reflection of this community where they live, they endeavor to provide what folks need to be active or adventurous on the Peninsula.
• Best Pharmacy
Carmel Drug Store — Ocean between Dolores and San Carlos – pharmacy 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; store 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily – (831) 624-3819, carmeldrugstore.com
Carmel’s classic drug store and family pharmacy has been independently owned and serving the community since 1910. Known for offering quality products and service, this drug store might just be the most convenient stop in town. Located in the heart of Carmel, its 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 — including, most recently, veterinary medicines for your pets. 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. The only thing missing is a soda fountain.
• Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique
Heaven Children’s Wear — Lincoln between Ocean and Seventh – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-6550, heavenincarmel.com
Ash and Monique Vasanji, who hosted a grand opening of “Heaven” in 2001, are anticipating the 20th anniversary of their European-style children’s boutique, designed for the customer who has exquisite taste and wants quality and style. “Throughout the years,” said Monique, “our family has remained committed to bringing in really special clothing, shoes, and gifts for the children of our community and beyond. We are so grateful for the support and recognition.” Located on Lincoln in the site of the legendary “Village Straw Shop,” now just a memory, “Heaven” beckons customers through double doors into a gracious, well-lit salon appointed with very special, very select children’s apparel. It’s as if you’ve wandered into the custom wardrobe of a privileged child. Perhaps yours.
• Best Men’s Clothing Store
Khakis of Carmel — Carmel Plaza on Ocean – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday – (831) 625-8106, khakisofcarmel.com
This shop’s success seems to be rooted in providing the ultimate in customer service. Khakis of Carmel is the award-winning pursuit and passion of Jim and Connie Ockert, whose combined creative and entrepreneurial talents have created a haberdashery that’s stood the test of time and taste. The store is a respected purveyor of contemporary European and American menswear that sells clothing up-close and personal. The essence of Khakis lies in trying, to see if it becomes you before it becomes yours; touching — some of the world’s finest fabrics; tailoring — including custom fits and made-to-measure apparel; and tradition.
• Best Men’s Shoe Store
Hedi’s Shoes — Ocean & Mission (additional locations in the Barnyard, on Alvarado in Monterey and in Del Monte Center) – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – (831) 624-5580, hedi.com
When Haydar Movahedi opened his first Carmel shoe store nearly 30 years ago, “European comfort shoes” were experiencing an emerging market. Through his carefully chosen offerings, “Hedi” has cobbled together comfort, quality, convenience and cool, matched by 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, New Balance, Pikolinos and Mephisto, plus a complement of clothing and accessories. Comfort truly can look and feel good.
• Best Women’s Clothing Boutique
• Best Women’s Accessories
• Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes
• Best Place for Brides to Shop
Foxy Couture — San Carlos & Seventh – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday – (831) 625-9995, foxycouturecarmel.com
Since 1991, Susan Gavin has recycled vintage and contemporary clothing into a business which, nearly 10 years ago, 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.” In addition to fashionistas seeking sustainable and affordable old/new looks, the shop has been attracting brides in search of unique versions of “something old,” either for themselves or their wedding parties. Gavin takes pride in the special things she sleuths out all over the world. “We are honored to receive these awards from The Carmel Pine Cone, the cornerstone — along with the Carmel Library — of our community,” she said.
• Best Women’s Shoe Store
Lloyd’s Shoes — Ocean & Dolores – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily – (831) 625-1382 – lloydsshoes.com
Tess Calhoon set the tone for her workday at Lloyd’s Shoes by pulling on her brand-new rainbow prism booties by Ron White. These waterproof boots, crafted in Italy, look like a rainbow, she said, and are so comfortable that they can be worn all day — even all weekend. With a focus on high style, comfort, function and quality, the award-winning women’s shoe store aims to offer something for every shopper. The fitness shoe of the season is by Swiss brand “On Running,” based on the “radical idea of soft landings followed by explosive takeoffs.” Or a nice walk around town. Lloyd’s sold 22 pairs on a single Saturday. “People are starting to shelter out of place, and need a great, lightweight shoe to take them there,” said Calhoon, who has been acknowledging the store’s 40th anniversary with subtle, shutdown-compliant celebrations.
• Best Leather Goods Store
Augustina’s — Ocean Avenue between Mission and San Carlos – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 624-2403 – augustinaleathers.com
Established in 1987, this family-owned, family-run business endeavors to create a Carmel experience clients and guests will remember and return to. The store is named for a beloved tiny terrier, which makes sense since few canines are more couture than those of Carmel. Augustina’s is an exclusive leather goods boutique, known for representing the largest selection of Remy leathers in California. “We also offer Augustina’s 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 hornback.”
• Best Vintage Clothing Store
SPCA Benefit Shop — 26364 Carmel Rancho Lane – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon – 4 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-4211, spcamc.org
Imagine finding a pair of barely worn boots, a gently worn jacket, and just-your-size jeans for less than the cost of a tank of gas, and knowing your purchase prices will support the compassionate treatment of animals through rescue, rehabilitation, protection and education from the SPCA for Monterey County. One of the best things about shopping there — besides helping animals — is finding vintage treasures among the quality clothing and jewelry donated for sale. Recalling the hundreds of animals the agency placed during the pandemic and rescued during the wildfires, it seems the SPCA Benefit Shop has won a Golden Pine Cone for service to community and for cool clothes.
• Best Jewelry Store
Fourtané Jewelers — Ocean & Lincoln – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday – (831) 624-4684, fourtane.com
Every piece has a story, and anyone who wears this estate jewelry will write the next chapter. 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. It’s one of the country’s leading providers of estate jewelry and watches, but more important than the pieces themselves, said John, “are our dedicated, long-term employees and the relationships we build with our customers from all over the world. Especially in what has become such an impersonal business environment.” People buy these pieces not because they need them, he said, but because of the moments and memories they create.
• Best Shopping Center
The Crossroads Carmel — 243 Crossroads Blvd. – (831) 625-4106 – thecrossroadscarmel.com
The Crossroads Carmel was developed in phases in the 1970s, with the boulevard of specialty shops to follow during the 1980s. “With confidence, I can say we are the best destination for all of the finest locally owned and operated boutiques, services and restaurants,” said General Manager Cynthia Buhl, who has worked with this company for 17 years. “We are a lifestyle center that focuses on local retailers and supporting our local community.” Of the 55 businesses in the center, Safeway and CVS are the only ones that aren’t locally owned and/or operated. The Crossroads Carmel houses new tenants and those who have been there since the beginning, among them Spencer’s Stationery and the animal hospital. “Our community is so loyal and supportive,” said Buhl, “particularly during this pandemic and the wildfires. It’s who these retailers are.”
• Best Antique Shop
Cannery Row Antique Mall — 471 Wave St., Monterey – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 655-0264, canneryrowantiquemall.com
One of the few remaining authentic and unchanged Cannery Row structures from the Steinbeck era, the Carmel Canning Company warehouse No. 2 has housed the award-winning Cannery Row Antique Mall for nearly 20 years. Home to the largest antiques and collectibles mall around, this historic building houses more than 100 antique dealers in a setting that pairs the bones of the old structure with rare vintage finds. It’s a great place to get lost in the past for a while, revisiting furnishings and accessories you might remember from your youth.
• Best Bookstore
River House Books — 208 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 626-2665, riverhousebookscarmel.com
Even in the Electronic Age, we can still wander the shelves and browse a book, rubbing the smooth paper between our fingers as we turn the pages, smelling the ink and feeling a volume’s heft. There’s something encouraging about holding a brand-new book and anticipating what the writer has presented inside. Anyone who reads likely voted for River House Books, with its 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
Victory Toyota — 5 Heitzinger Plaza, Seaside – 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday – (831) 393-3020, victorytoyota.com
If you’ve lived on the Monterey Peninsula for any time at all, you’ve undoubtedly seen license plate frames with the Victory Toyota logo on them. They’re ubiquitous. Voted the Best Car Dealer this year by Pine Cone readers, Victory Toyota is clear that it wants to retain the people who buy cars from them. And it’s likely the business will do that, given that Toyota owners are a loyal bunch. “The goal at Victory Toyota is to keep a customer for life,” the business says on its website. “We do that by providing a comfortable, pleasant shopping experience with no hassle. Once you drive away in your Toyota, you can come back anytime for the best in service.”
• Best Gas Station
Lemos 76 — 544 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-2925, lemos76.com
Need the oil changed on your Mercedes, a new air filter for your Lexus or a smog check for your vintage Jaguar? Look no farther than Lemos 76, the gas station at the mouth of Carmel Valley that’s served Carmel-area residents for six decades. Lemos 76 does what few gas stations do these days — it offers full service gas service, if needed. Late-night fill-up? There’s a 24-hour pay-at-the-pump option. Its technicians can also replace batteries, install new shocks/struts, flush radiators and a perform host of other services. But wait, there’s more. Lemos 76 has a well stocked snack shop serving sandwiches from Bruno’s and donuts from Red’s in Seaside. Yum.
• Best Car Wash
El Estero Car Wash — 590 Fremont St., Monterey – Winter hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 373-180, elesterocarwash.com
Again the winner of the Golden Pine Cone for the Best Carwash, El Estero Car Wash for 27 years has served automobile owners on the Monterey Peninsula and elsewhere. The business offers full-service car washes from its least expensive bronze package, which is a basic wash, to its platinum service, which includes a wash and add-ons such as clear-coat conditioners, tire dressing and fragrance. A headlight renewal service offers to make your scratched-up beacons shine clear and bright once more. Everything, El Estero proclaims, begins and ends with the customer. “Our friendly, experienced staff is totally focused on customer satisfaction. The owners and management actively participate in operations and are readily available to assist you.”
• Best Gift Shop
Carmel Bay Company — Lincoln at Ocean Ave – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – (831) 624-3868, carmelbaycompany.com
Founded in 1972 by Barney and Patty Scollan, Carmel Bay Company has an eclectic collection of home furnishings, furniture, clothing, accessories and art — in price ranges suitable for almost any budget. You can find gifts to delight the fussiest home cook or the most relentless workaholic, or pick up a set of grammatically correct dishes for the English language maven in your life. More than just a gift shop, Carmel Bay Company’s furniture is handcrafted from recycled materials, including industrial flooring and reclaimed hand-forged metal. “Each piece is a one-of-a-kind work of functional art crafted by a small team of local artisans,” the store says on its website. The furniture collection includes sideboards, tables, wine cabinets, and mirrors all fashioned from reclaimed woods and distressed copper, zinc and steel. The store also sells works by well-known local artists, including Erin Lee Gafill, Miguel Dominguez, Peggy Olsen and Will Bullas.
• Best Candy Shop
Lula’s Chocolates — 115 Mission Street, Carmel – (831) 624-5852; 244 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel Crossroads – (831) 626-3327. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; Carmel location, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Crossroads location – lulas.com
Lula’s Chocolates owner Scott Lund moved to Carmel in 2004 to open Lula’s after he provided chocolates for several opening and closing ceremony events during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. The chocolates, as Lund tells the story, were a huge hit, and many people encouraged him to sell the confections. After realizing he could actually make a living creating chocolates and other candy, he moved his family to Carmel, which has year-round “chocolate weather.” The name of the business, though, was dedicated to his grandmother, who taught him the demanding and exacting art of candy making.
• Best Carpet and Flooring Store
Bereman Carpets — 1070 Del Monte Ave., Monterey –9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday – (831) 373-7759, beremancarpets.com
You need look no further than the online reviews to find out about the customer service that Bereman Carpets provides its clients. “What a pleasure it is to work with professionals who respond quickly, do the work in a timely manner, and follow-up if anything is needed,” according to Amber Russell. “I’m a local realtor and need carpet or flooring installed often. I am also asked for flooring referrals from clients. Bereman is always at the top of my list!” The Monterey shop, a frequent Golden Pine Cone winner, offers hardwood, tile and stone, carpet and other flooring for homes and businesses.
• Best New Business
Chef’s Stash — Order online – Food pickup location on Mission Street between 5th and 6th –thechefsstash.com
The Chef’s Stash is the winner of the new Golden Pine Cone
category, Best New Business. Every week, Pescadero owner Gabe
Georis and chef Brandon Miller prepare and sell vegetarian,
pescatarian and “Original All Things Stash” boxes containing
fruits and vegetables, fish and meats, eggs, milk, fresh pasta and
legumes, and gourmet goods like olive oil, honey, jam, pickles,
cheese and specialty sauces. Georis also includes foods from local
producers, such as PigWizard for sausages and the Cheese Shop in
Carmel Plaza for assorted cheeses. The boxes cost $125 to $285 and
are designed to feed two or four people for a week. Miller is also
working on offering items such as pickles and canned tomatoes, and
he and Georis are exploring more options, including preparing
meals that can be reheated at home. Order on the Chef’s Stash
website by 5 p.m. Tuesdays and pick up goods from 3 to 7 p.m.
Fridays at Mission Street between Fifth Sixth 6th.
SERVICES and HEALTH CARE
• Best Place to Work
• Best Real Estate Company
Carmel Realty — Dolores, south of Seventh – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 622-1000, carmelrealtycompany.com
Founded more than 100 years ago — before the incorporation of the city — Carmel Realty Company specializes in luxury real estate, from oceanfront homes to estates with sweeping views of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Carmel Realty has been operated by the Mitchell family for four generations. Bill Mitchell, his wife, Vicki, and daughter, Shelly Mitchell Lynch, all work for the business, as do dozens of others, who voted Carmel Realty the Best Place to Work. Carmel Realty’s recent sales include a $7.75 million, 7800-square-foot estate in Pebble Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and a $5.8 million, 2,550-square-foot home on Carmel Point.
• Best Place to Volunteer
SPCA for Monterey County — 1002 Monterey Salinas Hwy. – Adoptions by appointment only – (831) 373-2631, spcamc.org
The SPCA for Monterey County has been serving pets and their owners in Monterey County since 1905. The SPCA usually has dozens of adorable kitties and dogs to choose at its adoption center across from Laguna Seca on Highway 68, but right now you have to make an appointment to find your new best friend. The nonprofit’s services are very broad, and SPCA staff and volunteers also perform animal rescues and rehabilitate injured wildlife at its Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, the only one of its kind in the county. Not affiliated with any other organization, including the ASPCA, the completely independent SPCA for Monterey County depends on donations to keep it going. “Everything we do is only made possible by donors like you,” the nonprofit tells its supporters.
• Best Place to Get Married
Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday for the Mission Store and to visit the grounds, and 8:30 and 11 a.m. for Sunday Mass in the central courtyard – (831) 624-1271, carmelmission.org
The most recognizable church on the Monterey Peninsula, and one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the United States, the Carmel Mission is also a very desirable place to tie the knot. Saint Junipero Serra arrived here in June 1770 and founded the Mission San Carlos Borromeo a year later. The Mission Basilica seats around 450 guests, while its Blessed Sacrament Chapel has about 70 seats (call for current Covid rules and restrictions). Rehearsals and weddings are hectic, and the Mission has a wedding day coordinator to help. “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,” its website says.
• Best Place to Get Married (non-church)
Lovers Point Park — 631 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove – (831) 648-3134 (Recreation administrative office), cityofpacificgrove.org/visiting/weddings
With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, commanding cypress trees, lush green grass and one of the quaintest beaches in all of California, Lovers Point Park is an obvious choice for couples to get married. Drawing countless tourists and locals each year, Lovers Point Park remains one of the Monterey Peninsula’s most visited spots. Unlike getting married in a church, it’s not uncommon to hear a barking seal or crowing seabird as the bride and groom recite their vows at Lovers Point Park. It’s all part of the atmosphere.
• Best Retirement Community
Del Mesa Carmel — 500 Del Mesa, Carmel – Office hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday – (831) 624-1853, delmesacarmel.org
Located just a mile east of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Del Mesa Carmel is an independent living community for those 55 and older, with 289 condominium units “clustered in a parklike setting of specimen trees, shrubs, and perennial gardens,” its website says. Offering stunning views of the Carmel Valley, the Santa Lucia mountains, and Point Lobos, Del Mesa also has onsite dining, a fitness center with indoor swimming pool and spa, exercise classes, workshop for arts and crafts, garden plots and a lawn bowling club. Del Mesa also offers a variety of resident committees and clubs host educational speakers, first-rate movies, art exhibits and films, as well as casual gatherings and community-wide parties. While some activities have been temporarily curtailed by coronavirus worries, the residents and management maintain a strong sense of community through virtual or socially distanced time together.
• Best Electrician
Cate Electric Co. — Dolores and Seventh – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through – Friday (831) 624-5361, cateelectrical.com
Michael Cate and Janine Cate Boone steer Cate Electric Co., which has been in business for an astonishing 60 years. Pine Cone readers have consistently voted Cate Electric for the category of Best Electrician, and there is a reason for that: Excellent customer service. “Cate’s crew of certified electricians specializes in everything from service calls, to home remodels, to landscape lighting, both residential and commercial,” the Carmel business says. With this year’s win, Cate has won Golden Pine Cones a dozen times.
• Best Plumber
A&R Plumbing — 1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. through Fri., 24-hour emergency service – (831) 394-7221, aandrplumbinginc.com
A full-service plumbing company, A&R Plumbing has been in business since 1974, when friends Greg Aeschliman and Kelly Roper started the business. Since then, the business has grown to a team of about 20 employees, which can accommodate almost any plumbing needs. Though Greg and Kelly have retired, the A&R’s team of technicians, management and office staff still provide the “work ethic, attention to quality and superior customer service.” A secret until now, Pine Cone employees have been known to call A&R for plumbing services.
• Best Architect
Adam Jeselnick — Junipero & Fourth, Suite 3 – (831) 620-5164, adamjeselnick.com
The uniquely creative contemporary designs seen in Adam Jeselnick’s architecture have been inspired by his world travels, as well as his studies of classical architecture and traditional urbanism as a student at the University of Notre Dame. Jeselnick gained experience with Pearlman Architects in Scottsdale, Ariz., contributing to projects including public works, community master plans, recreation centers, multi-family residences, and custom homes. He served for several years as senior project manager for Troon Golf, representing the interests of private clubs and golf resorts around the world. In the past year, his portfolio expanded to include the mixed-use development on Lincoln Street, now home to luxury apartments, Talbott’s wine tasting room, and The Pocket restaurant, along with a modern estate in Pebble Beach, and contemporary homes around town. His firm opened in 2013 with a focus on residential design, local and small business growth, sustainability and adaptive reuse.
• Best General Contractor
Douglas Campbell Construction – Carmel Valley – (831) 747-1839
This winner has his hands so full, he couldn’t even get time to call us back — but congratulations are still in order, so way to go!
• Best Painting Company
Jon Stuefloten Restoration Painting — 148 W. Carmel Valley Road – (831) 320-3252, jonstueflotenrestorationpainting.com
A Carmel High product (Class of ’58), Jon Stuefloten opened his restoration painting company more than 27 years ago to serve Carmel, Carmel Valley and Monterey, expertly revitalizing historic properties and beautifying homes and commercial buildings to increase value and protect them from the elements. Stuefloten’s crown-jewel projects include restorations of Crespi Hall at Carmel Mission, Point Sur Lighthouse and Point Pinos Lighthouse, to name a few. Services include interior and exterior painting, restoration painting, and historical painting.
• Best Landscape Company
INCA Landscape Management — 2210 Del Monte Ave., Monterey – (831) 649-1096, incalandscape.com
This family-owned and operated company has been serving the Monterey Peninsula since 1981, providing unique types of landscape services using premium materials and outstanding craftsmanship. Inca takes pride in designing the right environment to satisfy the personality of the client, with services ranging from landscape design and installation, yard maintenance and cleanup, tree trimming, pruning, installing and upgrading irrigation systems, installing walkways and driveways, and installing and maintaining lawns.
• Best Real Estate Lender
Blue Adobe Mortgage — 26625 Carmel Center Place, , Carmel – (831) 626-2112, blueadobemortgage.com
Blue Adobe Mortgage repeats as Golden Pine Cone winner in this category by combining the personal attention of a local office with the power of a national mortgage lender, offering outstanding customer service from a team of professionals highly trained to offer individual solutions to unique financial circumstances. Blue Adobe was founded in 2002 and became a division of Summit Funding Inc. in 2011, offering some of the best loan programs around.
• Best Title Company
Chicago Title — 26609 Carmel Center Pl. – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. through Fri. – (831) 625-5676, chicagotitlerene.com
Chicago Title, another repeat winner, has served Carmel, Monterey, Salinas and cities nationwide, building a reputation for integrity, strength, service and expertise. 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 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 Rancho, Country Club Gate Center, Pacific Grove; 27845 Berwick Drive, Carmel Valley – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday – chase.com
Chase Bank proudly serves nearly half of America’s households with a broad range of financial services, including personal banking, credit cards, mortgages, auto financing, investment advice, small business loans, and payment processing. With a history dating back more than 200 years, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is one of the oldest and most respected financial institutions in the United States, with 4,900 branches — including two convenient locations in Carmel and one in Carmel Valley.
• Best Business Bank
Monterey County Bank — Four locations, including 3785 Via Nona Marie – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday – (831) 625-4300, montereycountybank.com
The oldest locally owned and locally managed bank in Monterey County opened its doors more than 43 years ago to begin serving the community in all aspects of business banking. Monterey County Bank is proud to be the No. 1 Small Business Administration lender in the county, and offers competitive commercial lending products, outstanding merchant credit card services, and exceptional customer service and personal attention to clients. Its company motto is, “At Monterey County Bank, we believe in personal banking relations. We don’t open accounts, we start relationships.”
• Best Investment House/Advisor
Monterey Private Wealth Management — 2340 Garden Road, Suite 202, Monterey – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 372-3426, montereyprivatewealth.com
This multi-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone specializes in helping its clients invest wisely to preserve and grow wealth, plan a financial roadmap for the future, and create business retirement plans to ensure peace of mind and financial security. Monterey Private Wealth Management’s six-step planning process highlights the issues most important to the client, with no hidden fees, ensuring optimum value for your money. This firm understands that you’d prefer to spend your time focused on your family, your business and your life, and uses its vast expertise to help you accomplish that.
• Best Accountant
Finn & Cohen, CPAs — 425 Pacific St., Suite 302, Monterey – (831) 375-5166, fc-cpa.com
A longtime favorite of Peninsula locals for tax management and accounting expertise, Finn & Cohen also offers more in-depth services such as financial statements and financial planning. The mission statement of this respected company is to help clients maintain financial viability in the present, while taking a proactive approach to achieve future goals, utilizing open communication to reach an understanding of the client’s needs, thorough research, and sound analysis.
• Best Veterinarian
Monterey Animal Hospital — 725 Foam St., Monterey – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 373-0711, montereyanimalhospital.com
A fixture on the Monterey Peninsula since 1966, Monterey Animal Hospital offers comprehensive veterinary services and boarding in an atmosphere where all clients — two- and four-legged — are treated with genuine compassion. Ben Wilson, the owner, joined the team in 1999, two years after completing his degree in veterinary medicine at UC Davis, one of the premier veterinary universities in America. He is one of four doctors on a staff that also includes two registered veterinary technicians and seven veterinary assistants. Since 2018, the hospital also has been partners with Max’s Helping Paws Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to reduce euthanasia, surrender and suffering of severely ill pets by providing responsible Monterey County pet owners facing financial hardship assistance with necessary medical care and access to additional resources for their besties.
• Best Pet Boarding
Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel — 715 Foam St., Monterey – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily – (831) 373-0482, casadeamigosanimalhotel.com
Located right next door to Monterey Animal Hospital, Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel has provided safe and loving lodging for dogs and cats of the Monterey Peninsula since 1970. The lodging is owned and overseen by Ben Wilson (owner and lead veterinarian at Monterey Animal Hospital), providing overnight boarding, doggy daycare, and full-service grooming with a large staff of kennel attendants and receptionists. Casa de Amigos 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. – Contact for hours – (831) 624-4697, sudsandscissorsinc.com
Carmel’s most elegant grooming retreat for four-legged locals and visitors has been a community fixture for more than 65 years, and today is under the direction of owner Todd Harris, whose experience includes ownership of Country Club Kennels, Santa Cruz Animal Care, and Tatoha Trainers. Harris also has been a professional dog show handler since age 16, and a member of the Del Monte Kennel Club for 30 years. Among diverse services offered are various shampoos, nail buffing, flea baths, teeth brushing, and mobile grooming. Book an appointment in advance, and check with the spa for business hours during the pandemic.
• Best Car Repair
Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair — 870 Abrego St., Monterey – 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 372-5854, tomsauto.biz.
Outstanding customer service and honest, quality auto care at competitive prices have made Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair has become a go-to shop for locals. Services are comprehensive, including quick lubes (with 14 items inspected) to full lube, oil and filter services (more than 100 items inspected, with tire rotation and brake inspection), full brake repairs, full suspension and steering repair (including four-wheel alignment), standard and automatic transmission servicing, air conditioning and heater problems, cooling system analysis and repairs, smog inspection with problem analysis, and analysis on difficult operational concerns, including electrical, fuel injection, ignition, and noises.
• Best Auto Body Repair
Gene’s Import Auto Body — 531 Shasta St., Sand City – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday – 831-899-0343, genesimportautobody.com
The Peninsula’s most trusted auto body shop since 1979, this family-owned business prides itself on outstanding customer service, quality repairs, and reasonable prices. More than 85 percent of Gene’s business comes through word of mouth from loyal customers. Gene’s strives to service each vehicle in a timely manner, always adhering to factory standards, never sacrificing quality for a quick repair. The company has a reputation for maintaining a well-trained, professional staff in a clean, organized work environment, always using factory-certified equipment and technology, with continuing education and training. Gene’s is highly experienced in Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, BMW, Porsche, Lexus, Bentley, Ferrari and Audi.
• Best Dry Cleaner
Carmel Cleaners — Junipero and Third – 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 624-3616
“Good clothes deserve good care” is the longtime mantra of Deok Chong, owner of multi-time Golden Pine Cone winner Carmel Cleaners, a favorite of locals thanks to courteous, efficient, and high-quality service that includes skilled alterations and garment repairs. Specialties include the preservation of wedding gowns, prom dresses and other treasured garments.
• Best Travel Agent
Pacific Grove Travel — 593 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 373-0631 or (800) 648-1808, pgtravel.com
During the 41 years this iconic Peninsula business has been around, it’s overcome a lot of obstacles. Nobody wanted to fly after 9/11. The recession of 2008 set a lot of travel plans back, too. And for a while, it looked as if the internet might make the whole idea of travel agents into a curiosity from days past. But it hasn’t happened yet and it won’t anytime soon — not if founder and owner Joe Shammas and expert travel advisors Laura Lockett and Mary Potter have anything to say about it. They plan to be around when you’re ready for your next big trip, building on a legacy of providing clients with service and expertise to ensure the most positive travel experience possible. P.G. Travel is a full-service agency that handles vacations, tours and luxury excursions. A knowledgeable and experienced staff is familiar with current travel rules and regulations to help clients plan vacations others can only imagine — so drop by, say hi, and start dreaming again. Tomorrow will be here sooner than you think.
• Best Hair Salon
La Coiffure Carmel — Ocean and Monte Verde – 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; Monday and weekend appointments available – (831) 624-9187, lacoiffurecarmel.com
Owner Jim Nault brings extensive training from Vidal Sassoon in London to create fabulous hairstyles for clients of all ages, male and female. La Coiffure is a top choice for Carmel locals, as well as guests at hotels and resorts, thanks to customer service that promises, “You’ll never feel like just another client.” Products are thoughtfully chosen, and stylists use Rene Furterer of Paris, an organic line of hair care products that can treat many hair problems. Services include manicures, European pedicures, and makeup.
• Best Skin Care
Cinq Mondes Spa Carmel — 118 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 625-4410, cinqmondesspacarmel.com
The flagship Cinq Mondes Spa in the United States offers a modern design and restful atmosphere that invites its clients to relax and recharge with complete peace of mind about the authenticity and quality of the treatments they will receive. For now, that bliss is but a fond memory, but spa management says they’ll be ready to welcome everyone back as soon it’s deemed safe. The super-clean 3,600-square-foot spa’s menu includes unique treatments, like a Turkish hammam steam bath and a Japanese bath with rose petals. Every Cinq Mondes beauty ritual — facials, massages and body treatments — embodies the expertise of creator Monsieur Poiroux.
• Best Nail Salon
Magic Nails — 930 Del Monte Center, Monterey – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 372-6467
This is the second year that Magic Nails at the Del Monte Shopping Center has walked off with 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. They are very thankful for their loyal clientele.
• Best Spa
Spa at Pebble Beach — 1518 Cypress Drive, Pebble Beach – (831) 649-7615, pebblebeach.com/the-spa-at-pebble-beach.
A winner yet again, the Spa at Pebble Beach is rated five stars by Forbes’ Travel Guide and is a multi-year Golden Pine Cone winner. Locals are waiting for it to reopen, so they can get back to the spa’s 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. Golfers and brides-to-be alike have found their bliss here. Quite simply, The Spa at Pebble Beach is the place to go.
• Best Dentist
Eric Brown —108 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, and 2 Via Joaquin, Monterey, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday – (831) 574-8252, (831) 375-2322, ericbrowndds.com
A multi-year winner of the Golden Pine Cone, Dr. Brown, originally from Southern California, has been practicing in the area since 2011. His practice deals with a broad range of dental services including all the basics — exams, x-rays, cleanings and fillings — and more complicated issues like TMJ, dentures and gum disease. If going to the dentist makes you white-knuckled and weak-kneed, Brown’s office provides many options for sedation dentistry, so you don’t have to be afraid to just stride right in and take care of business.
• 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, rheimderm.com
Rheim Dermatology Cosmetic Laser Center has been around in one form or another for decades. It started with James, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. Joseph, his son, joined him in 2004 after finishing medical school at Tulane in New Orleans, La. — just like his dad. According to the practice’s website, “Dr. Joe” has “garnered extensive experience in cosmetic treatments.” Whether it’s a medical issue like skin cancer or psoriasis or simply the desire to put your best face forward, they have you covered.
• Best Ophthalmologist
Leland Rosenblum, Monterey Bay Eye Center — 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 200, Monterey – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 375-2020, montereybayeyecenter.com
A 12-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, along with a variety of other procedures. Rosenblum is a third-generation physician, and was the first ophthalmologist in Monterey County to implant the ReSTOR intraocular lens. He’s 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
Chris Meckel, Monterey Spine & Joint — 12 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite A Monterey – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 648-7200, msjhealth.com
Dr. Meckel is the co-founder of Monterey Spine and Joint and a hip and knee replacement specialist. He grew up here and graduated from Carmel High in 1984. Meckel’s expertise in arthroscopic surgery (the ones with the tiny incisions) and minimally invasive, computer assisted knee replacements are just some of the things our readers found to like about the good doctor. He said he is very happy to be back and to help care for those in the community in which he was raised.
• Best Pediatrician
Jill Airola, Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group — 2 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Ste. B210, Monterey – (831) 333-0999, mppmg.com
Dr. Airola grew up in Oklahoma and completed her undergraduate studies at Rice University in Texas, going on to the University of Texas for medical school. After working as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Airola opened a private practice in Salinas from 2001 to 2005 before moving to Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Group, where she’s been ever since. For reasons that are unclear, the practice’s website says her nicknames include “Dr. Fruit Roll-up,” so by all means, ask her about that when you see her. When not caring for children and their families, she enjoys knitting, hiking and hitting the beach with her dog, Jake.
• Best Primary Care Physician
Gregory Tapson — 26607 Carmel Center Place, Suite 104 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday – (831) 624-3077
A longtime Carmel physician, Dr. Tapson’s online reviews make clear the reasons readers awarded him a Golden Pine Cone. With adjectives like “amazing” and “compassionate,” he’s built a solid reputation as someone who cares for his patients as human beings. One satisfied patient wrote, “The most impressive part of the visit is that he took the time to get to know me and my health, something a lot of physicians don’t do anymore. Really great office, I look forward to future visits.”
• Best Plastic Surgeon
Douglas Sunde — 856 Munras Ave., Monterey – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday - (831) 372-0200, drsunde.com
Dr. Sunde is the readers’ choice for The Golden Pine Cone once again, thanks to a passion for his profession and a zeal for maintaining up-to-date techniques. He specializes in plastic surgery and provides individualized, state-of-the-art cosmetic and reconstructive treatments. 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 UC San Francisco Medical School, where he was part of the medical honor society for leadership and academic excellence in medical scholarship. He has been practicing in Monterey since 1994.
• Best Physical Therapist
Balance Physical Therapy — 2260 N. Fremont St., Monterey – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday – (831) 372-4782, balancept.com
Balance Physical Therapy & Human Performance Center in Monterey (and Salinas) was founded in 2002 by John Farahmand, who still serves at the practice’s CEO. Farahmand, like the therapists he hires, holds a doctorate in physical therapy. The office reflects his personal warmth and caring attitude toward his patients, as well as empathy he gained through his own experience with a back injury when he was in college. According to the group’s website, “John promisesthat you will not find a more patient-focused, result-oriented group of rehabilitation professionals anywhere, and he looks forward to seeing you in the clinic!”
• Best Chiropractor
Aaron Gaily, The Back and Neck Pain Center of Monterey — 1299 Pacific St., Monterey – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday – (831) 657-0191, chiropractormontereyca.com
Born on the Monterey Peninsula and raised in Carmel Valley, Dr. Gaily was a 1995 graduate of Carmel High, where he was a bit of a sports star. He launched his chiropractic practice in Monterey in 2003, the same year he became head coach of Carmel High’s water polo team, a post he held through the 2016 season. “Being a chiropractor is one of the most rewarding things,” he said. “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 Drive, Suite 201, Monterey – (831) 655-6868, cavassaoconnell.com
Sarah Cavassa is a Family Law specialist certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. She represents clients in a wide array of family law issues, including divorce, custody and support. She’s a graduate of the University of Washington and Monterey College of Law — where she also teaches — and has been practicing since 2008. She lectures in community property and helps out with the Heisler Moot Court program. When not working, Cavassa enjoys spending time with her family, running and being outdoors.
• Best Estate Planning Attorney
Kyle Krasa — 704-D Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – (831) 920-0205, krasalaw.com
Talk about local roots! Kyle Krasa’s website writeup is a mini-lesson in local history. His grandfather, Karel A. Krasa, taught Czech at the Defense Language Institute while his grandmother, Zdena, worked at a Monterey cannery. His mother, Joan, taught at Bay View Elementary in Monterey, and his father, Peter, was an elementary school administrator and principal. Wife Amanda is a Water Quality Specialist with the Monterey County Health Department. As a student at UC Davis School of Law, Krasa already had his heart set on a career in estate planning. Outside the office, his contributions to the community have included service to Meals on Wheels, the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove and the P.G. Chamber, to name a few.
• Best Lawyer if You Need to Sue Somebody
Andy Swartz — 550 Hartnell, Suite A-1, Monterey – (831) 373-3235 or (800) 624-9911, ssklaw.com
If there’s a wrong that needs to be righted legally, 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 (magna cum laude) where he was on the staff of the law review. He said, “Much thanks to my two partners as well as the other members of our local bar association who make the practice of law enjoyable for me.”
• Best Defense Attorney
Larry Biegel — 2801 Monterey Salinas Hwy, Suite A – (831) 373-3700, biegellaw.com
Larry has been in Monterey County since 1975. He started as a public defender and later moved into private practice. He likes to be a problem solver. He and his team tell their clients that they “want to be their last attorney, not their next attorney.” Larry grew up in Los Angeles and is a “double Bruin,” having attended UCLA for both undergraduate and his law degrees. He is married to one of his law partners, Christina Biegel, whose expertise is dealing with the psychological fallout that clients experience — a definite plus in difficult situations.
• Best Public Relations Company
Chatterbox PR, Marci Bracco — (831) 747-7455, chatterboxpublicrelations.com
Marci Bracco, owner of Chatterbox PR, is a tireless advocate for her clients. Her relentlessly energetic days start long before the sun comes up, as she and some of her staff head out for an early morning constitutional near her home office in Salinas. Handsome Hugo, an advocate for restaurants and chefs, sometimes strolls beside charismatic Koko, the poster child for Goodwill Industries around here. People sometimes underestimate them since they’re French bulldogs, but they and the rest of their four- and two-legged pack are at the heart of Chatterbox’s operations. Besides turning out volumes of pithy press releases and taking and making endless phone calls while providing support for businesses from coast to coast, Bracco and her team give away significant amounts of time and energy in support of local nonprofits. “It’s fun,” she said. “I couldn’t work a job doing the same thing from 8 to 5 every day. I meet so many cool people and love finding different ways to help them promote their dreams.”
• Best Insurance Agent
Matt Little Jr., Carmel Insurance — San Carlos between Seventh and Eighth – 8:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 624-1234
Another repeat winner, Matt Little’s family legacy dates back three generations in Carmel. Robert Little opened Carmel Insurance Agency, Inc. in 1948, when he began delivering quality solutions in the areas of commercial, personal, health and life insurance. Today, Matt Little Jr. works alongside his sister, Amy, serving markets in the Western United States. Many clients count their time working with the firm not in years, but in decades, and that kind of knowledge is tough to beat.
• Best Shoe Repair
Federico’s Drive-In Shoe Service — 542 Abrego St., Monterey – 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday – (831) 649-3322, federicoshoes.com
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. They also repair luggage, handbags, furniture, and more…custom work is also available. This outstanding, family-run operation takes great pride in its quality work and customer service, earning and maintaining the affection of a community that has made Federico’s a multi-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone.
• Best School
Stevenson School — Lower and Middle Divisions, 24800 Dolores St., Carmel – (831) 574-4600 and Upper Division, 3152 Forest Lake Road, Pebble Beach, (831) 625-8300 – stevensonschool.org
According to the school’s mission, “Stevenson is a day and boarding community in which students learn to students learn to read, write, observe, calculate, research, analyze, innovate, speak, listen, imagine, laugh, collaborate, and dare and, in the process, prepare for the challenges they will encounter in college and the world.” That’s a lot to say and a lot to do, but if you flip through the online alumni magazines, you’ll see plenty of evidence that’s it’s been “mission accomplished” for many of the school’s graduates.
• Best Teacher
Forbes Keaton, All Saints Day School – 8060 Carmel Valley Road – 831-624-9171, asds.org
Ms. Keaton is the associate head of All Saints Day School and a middle school teacher in the subjects of world history, art history, and Latin. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and is respected and admired by the community and students.
• Best Principal
Scott Fujita, All Saints Day School — 8060 Carmel Valley Rd. – (831) 624-9171, asds.org
Fujita has been involved with ASDS for 8 years, first as a parent, then as board member and now as head of school. He established the school’s first cross-country team, as well as the track and field team, and re-established the flag football team (not surprising considering Scott is a former NFL linebacker). He was a producer and the director of development on the feature-length, award-winning documentary, “Gleason,” about a friend and former teammate living with ALS. The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and appeared in theaters across the country that summer. Scott “wants the school community to feel part of something bigger that matters,” and clearly he is succeeding because he’s loved by you all!
• My Favorite Nonprofit
Max’s Helping Paws — 26388 Carmel Rancho Lane, Suite D – (831)704-6473, maxshelpingpaws.org
Max’s Helping Paws Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization founded by people who believe that veterinary expenses shouldn’t be a reason to give a beloved pet away or end an animal’s life. The group’s goal is to reduce economic euthanasia, surrender, and suffering of severely ill or injured pets by providing pet owners assistance with the costs of urgent medical care. It’s been providing financial relief to pet owners in need since 2016, and have recently added Chestnut’s Crisis Fund to help families who suffered financial losses because of Covid or wildfires. They also offer a downloadable PDF (available on the website), “The Ultimate Cat and Dog Resource Guide for Monterey County” to help locals and visitors navigate all the pet-friendly places and services in Monterey County.