With this sunny and laid back destination, come for the wine, stay for the food.
Carmel Valley, a rustic and rural inland retreat just over two hours south of San Francisco, is often confused with its better known neighbor, the European-style, seaside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. But the valley, with its rolling hills lined with grapevines and endless sunshine, is a picturesque destination deserving of its own visit. Best known for its award-winning wineries, Carmel Valley packs in more than 20 tasting rooms in just 11 miles spanning from Highway 1 to Carmel Valley Village.
While the wine will draw you in—especially the world-class cabernet sauvignon and merlot—it's the fresh and surprising dining scene, reflective of the community's warmth and agrarian nature, that will leave you smitten. The area has a deep history rooted in ranches, farms, orchards, and dairies, so it's no surprise it was one of the first regions to embrace the farm-to-table mindset, long before it became the end-all catchphrase it is now. Today, the restaurant scene continues to thrive as area chefs innovate with organic and seasonal produce.
From farm stands to tasting menus, tacos to truffles, classics to newcomers, hit the road and explore the exciting California cuisine being whipped up in Carmel Valley.
Inside are all the smoothies and fresh juices you could hope for.
(Courtesy of Earthbound Farm Organic)
Earthbound Farm Stand
For Earthbound Farm Organic, one best known organic produce companies in the country, it all started in Carmel Valley back in the 1980s. The company has maintained acreage in the area ever since, along with a cute year-round Farm Stand where visitors can stop for a bite to eat at the organic cafe, which offers sandwiches, breakfast items, fresh juices and smoothies, as well as a bountiful salad bar. While you're there, be sure to snag some fresh produce or head into the fields to pick your own herbs. // 7250 Carmel Valley Road, earthboundfarm.com
Kathy's Little Kitchen
Carmel Valley has developed a reputation for its luxurious inns, spas, and restaurants, but it's also managed to maintain its more humble roots, and family-run Kathy's Little Kitchen is a perfect example. Tucked away in the heart of Carmel Valley Village, this tiny spot serves up home-cooked Mexican fare perfect for satisfying your taco craving in the midst of a full day of wine tasting. Our top picks at this locale: the chili verde burrito or the steak tacos (so tender!)—and don't pass up the chips, they're served freshly fried and paired with homemade salsa. // 13 W Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley Farmers Market
For a region with so much locally grown produce, it's not a shocker that the farmers market game is strong. Stop by the weekly market, held Sundays from 10am-3pm, for a one-stop sampling of what makes Carmel Valley so special—its local food vendors. Taste and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, organic coffee, farm-fresh eggs, wine by the glass or bottle, honey and more. Local chefs also offer up food on site, including well-known Chef Fabrice Roux, who whips up a different paella each week. // 77 W Carmel Valley Road, wcfma.org
Baum & Blume and the Carriage House
Every city has its quirky hidden gems, and for Carmel Valley, this is it. This family run establishment—part eclectic gift shop, part restaurant—has an ever-changing menu that never fails to surprise or delight. The fact that it's so unpredictable is part of the fun: will you find empanadas, a seasonal soup, oysters, or (a favorite) blondie sundae on the menu? You never know. No matter what you choose to order, make sure to enjoy it out back in the biergarten if the weather's nice, and chances are, it will be. // 4 El Caminito Road, baumandblume.com