Locals Only Guide to Old Monterey, California

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We were very lucky to have grown up on the beautiful Monterey Bay Peninsula. Raised in Carmel Valley, we spent lots of time in "Old Monterey". These days, we appreciate Old Monterey even more and enjoy the fabulous restaurants and night life it has to offer.

Here are some of our favorite places to eat, drink, stay, and play in Old Monterey. Enjoy!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Eat & Drink:

Jacks Monterey- $$$ Located in the Portola Hotel & Spa this newly renovated restaurant is nothing short of amazing! The Portola Hotel lobby is lined with giant (living) trees which stretch into the restaurant seating area. With lantern like lights hanging from the tree branches, there is a really magical feel to the space. Jack Monterey's menu is full of tasty fresh dishes and creative twists to classics. They also have an excellent selection of local and international wines to enjoy by the glass and/or by the bottle. Their glass selections change frequently so if you are like us and tend to order by the glass (that way you can try several!) you have the opportunity to try something new, or revisit a favorite wine. For starters we recommend the Cast-Iron Skillet Rolls to share with the table. The rolls were SO light and fluffy and paired perfectly with the super creamy artichoke and pecorino sauce they smother the rolls in! You also MUST try the Crab Cakes as well. Probably the best we've had in years! For our entrees, we enjoyed the Diver Scallops Three Ways which was the stand out dish of the night. The scallops are served in a lemon butter sauce (more traditional), salsa verde style (light and fresh), and in a Romenesco sauce (completely decadent). We also tried the Lamb Moussaka - comforting with its mashed potato topping while still tasting fresh with all of the veggies and succulent cubed (not ground) lamb. For dessert we went with the classic Chocolate Lava Cake and coffees to round out the night. Eve had her eyes on their dessert cocktails... so we know we will be back soon!

Overall, we would suggest Jacks Monterey for girls night, dates and other special occasions. We also recommend the lounge and bar as a great place to meet for drinks post-work or just for a date night! It's a 10/10!!!!

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1833- $$$ We love 1833 for it's history and slightly spooky speakeasy vibe. Named after the year John Stokes, (a fake doctor-who ended up killing 40% of Monterey's population one year!) moved to Monterey and into the adobe house that now holds the Restaurant 1833. Their cocktail menu is full of artistically crafted drinks and great wines and beers. With outdoor fire pits and perfectly decorated rooms such as the library room (our favorite) with a cozy fireplace. They also have a great happy hour where you can select a cocktail/beer/wine and a tasty bite for $12. 1833 is a great place to meet friends, share stories, and maybe even see a ghost!

Montrio Bistro- $$ This is a great place for happy hour or a romantic dinner out. With their upbeat and slightly whimsical decor, creative cocktails, and seasonally inspired dishes, everyone is sure to leave Montrio happy, full, and wanting more. They also have two separate rooms for private parties. Eve has planned several parties here in the past and they are always a hit!

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Alvarado Street Brewery- $-$$ This ultra trendy brewery and beer garden is always packed with locals and tourists alike. They make awesome beers in-house (and at their second brewery in Salinas) and serve up great casual dishes created specifically for pairing with beer. We recommend grabbing a brew and ordering their macaroni and cheese, street tacos, and their burgers!

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The Poke Lab- $ A relatively new and popular place for a quick bite to eat. Pick a bowl from the menu or build your own, there's something for any sushi lover here! Very Insta-worthy!

 Yummy! (now in even larger containers!)

Yummy! (now in even larger containers!)

Boardwalk Subs Shop- $ If you are a sandwich person you must go here. They have so many cold and hot East Coast style sandwich options it is nearly impossible to pick just one. We love the Chicken Parm, Meatball, and the Jersey Italian Sub. Order a side of Old Bay fries to share and wash it down with their fresh brewed iced tea or rotating list of local beers and wines!

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Paris Bakery- $ For a truly authentic French feel, come here for a croissant and a mini bottle of bubbly (served in cute little coupes). We recommend trying their princess cakes too! They also serve their lattes and cafe au lait in bowls for the true French experience!

Parker Lusseau- $ For the delicious coffee and delicious pastries. We recommend trying the custard filled brioche and chicken curry sandwich!

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Ocean Sushi Deli- $ A cosy local sushi bar with quick service and friendly staff. Workdays we often grab a quick lunch but also love to order their sushi platters to go - when we are too lazy to cook at home. 

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Scales Seafood & Steaks- $-$$ There are dozens of restaurants along the wharf to end your hunger for seafood. We usually dine at Scales on the Go, which is Scales Restaurant's sister cafe. Here you can enjoy food to-go or sit down and relax in their small cafe and enjoy their seafood spread. We always get clam chowder in a bread bowl. Yes, we recommend splurging on your calories and carbs here because the bread bowl is so delicious!

Stay:

Although we rarely have a need to stay in hotels in our hometown we have visited all of these hotels below and recommend each one.

Portola Hotel & Spa- Home to the Jacks Monterey restaurant mentioned above this hotel is lovely and features a great location to nearly everything in Old Monterey. We also highly recommend making reservations as their spa, the pool has some of the most gorgeous views of the bay around. A massage + wine + a great view = perfection!

The Monterey Hotel- This hotel is perfect for those looking for a boutique hotel with true character. Featuring Victorian style furnishings that are sure to charm you and within walking distance of everything your heart desires while exploring Old Town Monterey.   

Casa Munras Garden and Hotel- This historic hotel has stayed true to its' past life as a Spanish Hacienda. These days rooms feature Spanish style furnishings with modern luxuries. Another great location.  

Hotel Abrego- Eve has stayed here and completely recommends it! While it is a few blocks away from the excitement from Old Monterey (it's on the same block as two gas stations and a Denny's). It is easily walkable to all Old Monterey locations and has free overnight parking which all other hotels we mention do NOT have! The hotel features beautiful rooms with electric fireplaces, a small bar (open pretty late) and breakfast daily. 

Play:

Monterey Museum of Art- Did you know Monterey was one of the earliest West Coast artist colonies? For a dose of art and culture, head to the MMA! Their 6 small galleries are brimming with wonderful California art dating from the 1800s to the present. You will find galleries focused on Early California paintings, Photography (Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were both locals), and contemporary works.

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Golden State Theater- From country music stars, big name comedians, up and coming artists, and old classics- Golden State Theater has something for everyone. Built in 1926, the exotic Moorish style interior makes your visit unforgettable. We recently fulfilled our dreams of seeing the Beach Boys in concert here and it was nothing short of magical!!!

Wale Watching- This is a quintessential Monterey activity!  Monterey Bay is home to some of the most extraordinary wildlife. You will almost always be guaranteed to see dolphins, whales, seals, or otters. Plus, its a great way to see our beautiful coastline from a different perspective. 

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Ghost Tour of Old Monterey- Monterey was California's first capitol city, and that being said there is a LOT of history here. It is so historic that Old Monterey is only second to Williamsburg, VA for having the most historical buildings in America! While on the tour, learn about Old Town Monterey's dark past and spooky secrets!