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Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Birmingham, Al.
Level Contributor
125 posts
35 reviews
Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Hello, we'll be driving down from SF as far as Carmel then heading over toward Yosemite. I'm trying to decide on the most iconic lunch spot either waterfront or if there is a "not to be missed" place in the whole area of Monterrey & Carmel. We are driving down just to see the area and a piece of Big Sur while close by. Could possibly go a little further beyond Carmel if recommended but have reservations about 2 hours inland going toward Yosemite that night. Cuisine doesn't matter as we are open to most everything. Wanted something unique or representative of the area.

12 replies to this topic
Corona del Mar...
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
Level Contributor
59,601 posts
435 reviews
1. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

If you are driving down the coast I'd stop at the Moss Beach Distillery. It is my favorite spot on the coast. My next favorite is the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay at the The Conservatory.

Carmel, California
Level Contributor
4,773 posts
11 reviews
2. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Big Sur starts south of Carmel. If you don't want to drive too far south of Carmel, Rocky Point or California Market at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands are two view restaurants on the northern end of Big Sur. Rocky Point has the more dramatic view but I haven't been there lately. If you don't plan to drive any farther south than Carmel, then maybe The Bench in Pebble Beach. I'm assuming you want lunch down here, not on the way.

Edited: 25 September 2018, 13:43
Los Angeles...
Destination Expert
for Big Sur
Level Contributor
648 posts
77 reviews
3. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Nepenthe in Big Sur for sure!

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
59,273 posts
149 reviews
4. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

May I ask why reservations 2 hours inland. You are visiting two iconic places -- Monterey Peninsula and Yosemite. Please stay in either of those places -- not somewhere in the middle to get the most of both places -- And given the current plan, I would not focus on food (coming from me that is strange ;-)) I would just grab something and focus on seeing as much as I can given this rushed plan

Marina, California
Destination Expert
for Tucson
Level Contributor
7,292 posts
106 reviews
5. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Staying inland at least allows you to see why no one wants to stay inland. Are you talking about Los Banos? I guess if you need a place to crash, but the hotels typically aren't even that cheap there.

I should provide the warning about traffic: there's a lot of traffic leaving Monterey in the afternoon, starting around 3pm heading north, then it will back up again in Castroville starting around 4pm, then along 156 coming into Hollister starting around 5pm. So choose your departure time wisely.

Edited: 26 September 2018, 11:04
Los Angeles...
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
14,019 posts
120 reviews
6. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

A picnic at Point Lobos.

Or a picnic at Carmel Beach.

The café inside the Monterey Aquarium.

Santa Cruz...
Level Contributor
86 posts
4 reviews
7. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Are you driving the coast highway 1 from SFO? You can stop at the Santa Cruz Wharf for views of the boardwalk and bay. Moss Landing has Pacific Grill which will have sea lions and otters in the slough. Down in Monterey there are so many choices. We always go to Louie Linguini's, mostly for the chowder and we have kids. Lalla's is good too!

Level Contributor
39,292 posts
1,019 reviews
8. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Sierra Mar @ The Post Ranch In in Big Sur is totally awesome. Ragged Point and Nepenthe are both good with gorgeous views but not on the same level as Sierra Mar. :)

Birmingham, Al.
Level Contributor
125 posts
35 reviews
9. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

Thanks for the wonderful input. This is our 1st week of a month long vacation. Need to be in Vegas for a trade show starting 10/9. Originally had reservations at the Intercontinental Monterrey but swapped cities to make the drive the next day not so bad. Horribly regretting that now!! Insert sad face.We have a ridiculous plan and will be exhausted by the time we reach Vegas but then we'll have 2 relaxing weeks in Nuevo Vallarta to make up for the first 2 weeks, plus we will really have seen a nice portion of Cali. No better way to really get a feel for an area than driving it. Starting with 2 nights in SF, 3rd day drive down to Monterrey, Carmel and a tiny portion of Big Sur overnight at Turlock. 4th & 5th days Yosemite , 6th & 7th Sequoia. Fly to Vegas evening of 7th. While in Vegas we'll visit Death Valley. Hoping we're still alive and married when we're through! We did a similar vacation last year working in Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, Winslow then driving down to Puerto Penasco, Mx for 2 weeks. This year is much more ambitious so we'll see if that works for us and adjust planning next year. Tripadvisor is always a lifesaver with help planning. All the input is greatly appreciated.

San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
21,575 posts
79 reviews
10. Re: Driving through from SF to Carmel, best lunch spot?

>>No better way to really get a feel for an area than driving it. <<

I would agree with this if you were doing something other than driving THROUGH some of the most beautiful parts of the state. You're going to primarily see roads and the clock. But, this will give you an idea of what you want to see next time you come!

>>but swapped cities to make the drive the next day not so bad. Horribly regretting that now!!<<

Can't you rebook something in Monterey?

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