Central California Eateries

Deetjen's Big Sur Inn Restaurant deetjens.com/restaurant.htm

Bella Roma Café, 316 Capitola Ave., Ste. 1, Capitola, CA; 831/464-2608. At this converted house with Tuscan terra-cotta walls, an open view of the kitchen reveals chef/owner Gaetano Balsamo animatedly instructing his staff in Italian, Spanish, and English. (January-February 2002)

Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria, 504 Bay Ave., Capitola, CA; 831/462-1200 or gaylesbakery.com. Locally legendary; Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria makes a great breakfast venue, and can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with a walk along New Brighton State Beach. (January-February 2002)

Margaritaville, 231 Esplanade # 101, Capitola, CA; 831/476-2263 or margaritavillecapitola.com. Serves Mexican food and drink to a younger crowd. (January-February 2002)

Paradise Beach Grille, 215 Esplanade, Capitola, CA; 831/476-4900 or paradisebeachgrille.com. A well-appointed restaurant with a creative menu. (January-February 2002)

Shadowbrook Restaurant, 1750 Wharf Rd., Capitola, CA; 831/475-1511 or shadowbrook-capitola.com. A Capitola landmark for more than 50 years. Star selections include a house salad of spinach with bay shrimp, candied pecans, and a mango vinaigrette, and almond-crusted scallops with crispy onion rings and mashed potatoes. (January-February 2002)

Bouchée Restaurant and Wine Bar, on Mission between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel, CA; 831/626-7880 or boucheecarmel.com. An evening here becomes a work of art; unforgettable fine dining, impeccable service, intimate ambiance, and extraordinary cuisine. (January-February 2004)

Casanova Restaurant, on Fifth between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel, CA; 831/625-0501 or casanovarestaurant.com. (March 2006)

Grasing's Coastal Cuisine, corner of Sixth and Mission, Carmel, CA; 831/624-6562 or grasings.com. Central California grows some of the world's best produce, and award-winning chef Kurt Grasing celebrates fresh local harvest with an elegant touch. (January-February 2004)

Katy's Place, on Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel, CA; 831/624-0199 or katysplacecarmel.com. With relaxed indoor and outdoor seating, Katy's offers a great start to your day. Try one of her 12 varieties of eggs Benedict, in huge portions that you can't help but finish. (January-February 2004)

Porta Bella Restaurant, on Ocean Avenue, Carmel, CA; 831/624-4395 or carmelsbest.com/portabella. Lunch at this stylish and popular establishment. (March 2006)

Pier Café, 55 Cayucos Dr., Cayucos, CA; 805/995-2032. Enjoy the definitive bowl of seafood chowder. (July-August 2002)

Monterey's Fish House, 2114 Del Monte Ave., Monterey, CA; 831/373-4647. If you prefer your mollusks cooked rather than on the half shell, try the heavenly oak-grilled oysters. Sample the excellent bouillabaisse, too; this restaurant fills up fast, so call for a reservation. (November-December 2003)

Montrio Bistro, 414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA; 831/648-8880 or montrio.com. This restored historic downtown firehouse rates high with residents and tourists alike; elegant atmosphere. (October 2004)

Portola Café, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA; 831/648-4870 or montereybayaquarium.com. Guests receive binoculars along with a list of wildlife that may swim or fly by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay. (October 2004)

The Sardine Factory Restaurant, 701 Wave St., Monterey, CA; 831/373-3775 or sardinefactory.com. Features live music most nights and a raw bar open until 11 p.m. on weekends. Clint Eastwood sealed the success of this revamped cannery when he showcased it in his 1971 directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. (October 2004)

Stokes Restaurant & Bar, 500 Hartnell St., Monterey, CA; 831/373-1110 or stokesrestaurant.com. Combines the sustainability concept with this one-time state capital's rich past; cozy dining rooms and eat-in bar exude warmth. (October 2004)

Turtle Bay Taqueria, 431 Tyler Street location, Monterey, CA; 831/333-1500 or fishwife.com/turtlebay.htm. This restaurant's Yucatán-influenced menu strictly offers fish caught locally, in season, or in ways that do not damage the oceans or endanger species. (October 2004)

Harada Restaurant, 630 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442; 805/772-1410. Their lobster onigarayaki-charbroiled lobster tail and shitake mushrooms in miso butter sauce-is off the charts. (April 2007)

Kitty's Kitchen, 890 Main Street, Morro Bay, CA; 805/772-3677. Homemade breakfast favorites are served all day. (April 2007)

Taco de Mexico, 980 Main Street, Morro Bay, CA 93442; 805/772-5796. Come here for fresh carne asada tacos and sweet horchata, a cinnamon-laced rice milk. (April 2007)

Windows on the Water, 699 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442; 805/772-0677 or windowsonthewater.net. Revered for its brothy clam chowder. (April 2007)

Fishwife, 1996 1/2 Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove, CA; 831/375-7107 or fishwife.com. Enjoy a Millionaire Margarita at this Monterey peninsula restaurant. Mellow and smooth, this house specialty and ocean-view sunset will make you feel like, well, a million bucks. Stick around for the award-winning Tilapia Cancun, a flaky white fish spiced with achiote and cilantro-cashew pesto. (September 2005)

Lattitudes at Lovers Point, 631 Ocean View Boulevard, Pacific Grove, CA; 831/658-0880 or lattitudesatloverspoint.com. Offers views of Lovers Point. (January-February 2007)

Passionfish, 701 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA; 831/655-3311 or passionfish.net. Within walking distance of the Seven Gables Inn. (January-February 2007)

Red House Café, 662 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, CA; 831/643-1060 or redhousecafe.com. Within walking distance of the Seven Gables Inn. (September 2005, January-February 2007)

Robert's White House, 649 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, CA; 831/375-9626 or robertswhitehouse.com. Serves an exceptional prix fixe dinner menu in one of Lighthouse Avenue's most austere Victorian mansions. At $37 for three courses of top-quality Californian cuisine, this may be the best deal around. (September 2005)

Toasties Café, 702 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, CA; 831/373-7543. (September 2005)

Wildberries, 212 17th Street, Pacific Grove, CA; 831/644-9836. (September 2005)

Club XIX, at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach, CA; 831/625-8519 or pebblebeach.com. French cuisine with a modern flare; overlooks Stillwater Cove and the famed 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Course; formal. (May-June 2003)

Stillwater Bar & Grill, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach, CA; 831/625-8524 or pebblebeach.com. A contemporary, grill-style setting; Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner overlooking Stillwater Cove and the famed 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Course. (May-June 2003)

The Tap Room, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach, CA; 831/625-8535 or pebblebeach.com. The Tap Room stays lively for a late casual supper. Its menu includes sautéed lemony petrale sole paired with exquisitely light, crispy fries. (May-June 2003)

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