Carmel-by-the-Sea is a great place to visit, but be forewarned temptation is great here. For a city that’s just one square mile, you’ll have to plan many trips to really get a good taste of what it has to offer. From splurge dinners to pizza to grab and go sandwiches, it’s best to just think calories don’t count in Carmel.
You have to pack accordingly for dinner at Zagat rated Aubergine. Dressing up is just part of the fun that comes with being pampered as you lose count of the plates on the chef’s tasting menu. Flavors are fabulous, but the presentations make the meal, so have your cell phone handy to snap some pictures.
Cozy courtyard dining at Casanova.
Once an old house, rustic and romantic Casanova offers indoor and outdoor seating, tucking tables into nooks and crannies throughout. A room was added about ten years ago to make space for "Van Gogh's Table;" the table at which Vincent Van Gogh ate during the final months of his life in France. Special menus are available for interested guests. Using many local ingredients, the décor and main menu is inspired by the small inns of France and Italy. Pasta, seafood and house-crafted bread are a few of the highlights.
Just over six months old, Yafa is quickly earning a reputation for fabulous food in a space where everyone is made to feel like family. Owner and host Benjamin grabs a drum and breaks into song every hour or so, providing fun while you feast on Mediterranean dishes like watermelon and feta salad with basil and pine nuts. The fresh Mezza plate is loaded with humus, tabouli, a baked artichoke layered with olive oil, lemon, and garlic and housemade feta and sun dried tomato dip. Served with warm pita bread, it’s an appetizer that can easily double as a meal. Sharing an entrée afterward is common and Yafa has no hesitation serving its dishes family style.
Wood fired thin-crust pizza from La Bicyclette.
Brought to diners by the same family that created Casanova, La Bicyclette makes it feel as though you’re dining in a corner café in Paris. The thin-crust pizza with toppings like prawns, spicy coppa and butternut squash will make you east until your stomach just can’t hold anymore. The wood fired pizza oven is in the center of the restaurant, so even if you order something else, you can still get a close-up look at the possibilities for next time.
Lunch from Salumeria Luca
Salumeria Luca Italian Deli & Bakery
Grab and go can still be gourmet in Carmel at Salumeria Luca Italian Deli & Bakery. Grilled panini, cold sandwiches and salumi plates are perfect for picnics at the beach.
If you have a sweet tooth, it’s not a far walk from anywhere in Carmel-by-the-Sea to Lula’s Chocolates. Think all sorts of goodies like truffles, toffee and caramels dipped in chocolate topped with your choice of nine different sea salts from around the world.
Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann
Dana’s trips were organized by the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.