North American eateries

Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 24. The scale used to be 0 to 10, so restaurants written about before 2012 may have only had their ratings adjusted by formula and not by hand (hence all the 2s, 5s, 8s, etc.) The scale works as follows:

24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16
15 14 13 12 11 10
9 8 7 6 5 4
3 2 1

An asymmetrical 0 to 24 scale may not be intuitive, I realize. But as a rule of thumb: a double-digit score means I liked it, while a single-digit score... less so. Also, as you might expect, scores from many years ago may not be very reliable, so do check the dates.

Monterey Bay area

Stretching from Salinas to Santa Cruz, this area is renowned both for growing leafy greens and for smoking them.

Click on the column titles to sort the entries!

Name Cuisine Address Last update Score
Tepa-SahuayoMexicanFirst & Main, Watsonville2007-06-015
This rundown restaurant is in a strip mall in a rundown agribusiness town, but has gained a following for its astonishing handwritten menu full of esoteric dishes that it proudly proclaims are "hard to find even in Mexico." I decided to go for the vegetarian sopes, but it turned out that the vegetarian filling was just a pile of lettuce with a few slices of avocado. Disappointing.
Little NapoliItalianDolores btw Ocean/Seventh, Carmel2007-05-1111
I very rarely get pasta at a restaurant because I figure I can generally make it better at home, but I had a coupon for this (expensive) place and there was a mushroom tagliatelle with truffle oil on the menu and I don't have truffle oil at home. The mushrooms were a little plumper than I prefer (I like a cooked-down mushroom) but the truffle oil was delicious. Note to self: buy truffle oil.
Carmel BakeryBakeryOcean btw Lincoln/Dolores, Carmel2007-05-0411
This place has some pretty good stuff! Big pretzels, excellent rugelach, all sorts of cookies and coconut haystacks and things.
MalabarPan-AsianFront btw Soquel/Cathcart, Santa Cruz2007-02-235
This vegetarian restaurant features dishes from all over southern and southeastern Asia, with particular emphasis on Sri Lanka. I gave it a 5 after going there in '06; since then, it has moved across town and down three notches. Service was ludicrously slow — we were stuck there for two hours! — and the food was generally undercooked and tasted primarily of scovilles.
Turtle Bay TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)Tyler & Bonifacio, Monterey2007-02-112
This place just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Since I got a table flag, I initially assumed meals were brought to one's table, but my order sat on a counter for several minutes, so I began to wonder whether I was supposed to come collect it. When I tried, though, one of the guys behind the counter snapped that my order would be coming up soon, so I thought maybe it wasn't mine... but then, sure enough, someone eventually collected it and brought it to my table. Bah. Anyway, weird flavors, too seafood-centric, and just plain old bad vibes.
StokesUpscaleHartnell & Polk, Monterey2007-01-268
Upscale places rarely are big on vegetarian options, and so here I had basically one option: crepes with root vegetables. Fortunately they were pretty good. I had a side of cauliflower gratin that was pretty bland — I need to stop ordering that. I keep thinking it'll be like the cauliflower at Delfina, only with cheese. I also got free dessert!
Peninsula PastriesBakeryAcacia & Park Row, Salinas2006-10-018
Blackberry-cheese danish: very good! Chocolatine: enh. Weird flat moist almond "croissant": awful.
Allegro PizzaPizzaThe Barnyard & Carmel Rancho, Carmel2006-10-015
Huge slabs of cheese and underprepared toppings on an underdone crust. Many pizzas on offer: I tried a weird one at first and didn't like it, so in the name of fairness I came back and tried a more traditional one. Still bad.
India's Clay OvenIndianDel Monte btw Alvarado/Tyler, Monterey2006-09-0214
This place has a lunch buffet, a brunch buffet and a dinner buffet; I showed up at the end of the brunch buffet when things had been sitting out for hours and were fairly picked-over... so I can only imagine how good it must be when it's fresh, because even in this state it was still pretty darn good! Lots more variety than your typical Indian buffet, with roasted Chinese melons and sauteed local eggplant and a sweet saffron rice dish called "zarda" that I could not get enough of.
Central Avenue BakeryBakeryCentral btw David/Dewey, Pacific Grove2006-09-025
The in-store hype said the banana nut bar was not to be missed. For free, I would have nodded politely. For $3.50 I was disappointed.
Giant ArtichokeArtichokesMerritt btw Salinas/Pajaro, Castroville2006-08-282
I'd heard about the deep fried artichokes here, so when I randomly passed the place, I figured I'd stop in and try half an order. There was no real artichoke flavor left; it tasted like the food I ate at the Regal Lanes bowling alley back in junior high.
the Crepe PlaceCrepesSoquel btw Cayuga/Seabright, Santa Cruz2006-08-2611
The crepes here are a much bigger production than those at Crepes a-Go-Go on University in Berkeley, but they're not as good.
PassionfishSeafoodLighthouse & Congress, Pacific Grove2006-08-218
I don't eat seafood, so finding a restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula is basically a matter of finding the best of the lone vegetarian options. Passionfish is purported to be the best restaurant in the area; I had a braised artichoke (which was mostly inedible leaves topped with shredded asiago) and a plate of corn ravioli (which was underdone, with a sauce that was too sharp somehow... too much salt? still pretty good!). Dessert was one of those molten chocolate cakes that are de rigueur at places like this.
Papa Riva'sPizzaMain btw Gabilan/Central, Salinas2006-08-212
This pizza's about as good as Bagel Corner's bagels. That is to say, laughably bad.
Loose CabooseSandwichesAcacia & Park Row, Salinas2006-08-165
Not so much bad sandwiches as "this thing is how much?" sandwiches. But Salinas doesn't have a Togo's, so.
First AwakeningsBreakfastMain & Gabilan, Salinas2006-08-1211
Decent breakfast place. On my first trip I had a crepe with cheese and avocado and mushrooms and whipped eggs and alfalfa sprouts. That was pretty good. On later trips I had alarmingly large pancakes and gringo huevos rancheros.
Bagel CornerBreakfastAcacia & Park Row, Salinas2006-08-072
More like Salty Hamburger Bun Corner.
La FogataMexicanMain btw Gabilan/Alisal, Salinas2006-07-298
A throwback, pretty similar to Taqueria Los Pericos in San Leandro.
Pacific Cookie CompanyDessert (cookies)Pacific btw Lincoln/Walnut, Santa Cruz2006-03-0411
Pretty good cookies. I recommend the "Almond Joe," with chocolate chips, almonds and coconut.
Saturn CafeDinerLaurel & Pacific, Santa Cruz2006-03-048
When I was 17 I came here (at its old location) and got the Chocolate Madness, two brownies topped with dark chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, chocolate mousse, whipped cream and chocolate chips. I tried it again at age 32. It seemed like a much, much better idea when I was 17.

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