The Best Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The 15 Best Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea By a Local

There’s so much to love about Carmel-by-the-Sea. From its famous storybook cottages to its scenic beaches, there’s a reason why it’s such a top travel destination in California

It was a celebrity hotspot throughout the 20th century, but the days of Carmel’s prominence are far from over. Betty White loved her home there, Clint Eastwood (who was mayor for a time) owns several establishments there, and most recently, Brad Pitt bought a home in town.

I’m lucky enough to live just around the corner from the fairytale-like town, and one of the biggest reasons I find myself making the drive into Carmel is for its incredible dining scene. Whether you want a good burger or an eight-course tasting menu, you can always find what you’re looking for in Carmel.

Planning on visiting this lovely beachside town? I’ve compiled a list of the best Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants to help you eat your way around it. Pick your favorites from this list, and you’re bound to love every meal on your Central Coast getaway.

The 15 Best Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea 

1. Grab a Beer at Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro

Best Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Alvarado Street Brewery and Bistro
Image courtesy of Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro

Many of the best places to eat in Carmel-by-the-Sea are of the fancier variety and can cost a pretty penny, so let’s start by talking about one of the best places to go if you want something a bit more casual: Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro. This restaurant may have gotten its start (and name) in Monterey, but you can find a charming location over in the Carmel Plaza.

If you’re a beer drinker who loves trying out new sips, it’s a perfect spot. Though they do IPAs and sours particularly well here, you’ll find a little bit of everything on the menu, including ciders, wine, and cocktails. All of these different options mean there’s something on the menu that pairs perfectly with anything you get, from their smash-style burgers to their fish and chips.


2. Get Donuts at Dutch Door

Cool Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Dutch Door Donuts
Image courtesy of Dutch Door Donuts

Is it cheating to call this donut shop one of the best restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea? Maybe, but I don’t care. My partner and I come here every single Sunday to get a donut because they are the best donuts we’ve ever had. And I can’t in good conscience write recommendations for places to eat in Carmel-by-the-Sea without mentioning them.

Dutch Door Donuts, also over in the Carmel Plaza, makes made-to-order donuts. That means that you get the freshest donuts you’ve ever had. I’ve never had one I didn’t like, but if I had to make one recommendation, it would be to get the Ground Chocolate Donut.


3. Pick Up a Meal at Rise + Roam

Best Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Sea Rise Roam
 Image courtesy of Rise + Roam

Part coffee shop, part bakery, and part pizzeria, Rise + Roam does a little bit of everything. And they do it all wonderfully. It’s a great place to stop for either breakfast or lunch.

But the pastries are what really keep me coming back here. They make both sweet and savory treats, but the savory ones are where it’s at. You can never go wrong with their warm, crumbly muffin stuffed with bacon and an egg.


4. Dine on French-Italian Fusion at La Bicyclette

La Bicyclette is a quaint restaurant in Carmel that’s a perfect spot if you want an unpretentious evening in a cozy atmosphere. Each dish is made with fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, put together through true handcrafted artistry. 

The result? Mouthwatering dishes that are a fusion of French and Italian classics. It’s a great date night spot, but their weekend breakfast offerings shouldn’t be missed either.


5. Go Greek at Dametra Cafe

Dametra Cafe makes the list of the best Carmel restaurants to go to if you’re hoping for something that’s moderately priced with a lot of flavor and flair. This vibrant restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine that’s bursting with flavorful ingredients. 

Although it’s typically billed as a Greek restaurant, it’s actually much more than that. You’ll find that the menu is packed with dishes from all over the Mediterranean, from Lebanon to France. But you should still absolutely treat yourself to the Greek Combination Platter.


6. Dine Under the Sea at Chez Noir

Unique Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Chez Noir
Image courtesy of Michelle Magdalena, Chez Noir

If you’re looking for a splurge, Chez Noir is easily one of the best Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurants. This restaurant is where you go if you either really, really want to impress someone or if it’s a particularly special occasion. Their four-course menu that comes with an optional wine pairing may come with a hefty price tag, but it’s some of the most delicious dining around.

With a seafood-centric menu that’s built around the ingredients local to the Monterey Peninsula, you may never taste a dish as fresh as the ones concocted by the husband-and-wife owners. Because the menu is created around what’s fresh, you never quite know what you’re going to get. All that you do know is that it’ll be amazing.


7. Celebrate Something Special at Aubergine

Like Chez Noir, Aubergine is one of those places that you want to save for something special because the award-winning restaurant itself is pretty special. The tasting menu highlights the most in-season ingredients in the area throughout a whopping eight courses, not to mention the course-by-course wine pairings that you can add to your meal.

As you might imagine, it’s a rather pricy meal out, but Aubergine is one of the most famous restaurants in Carmel for a reason. In addition to winning multiple awards year after year, it earned a coveted Michelin star in 2019.


8. Have a Romantic Night Out at Anton & Michel

Anton & Michel serves up the romance, making it one of the best date-night restaurants in Carmel. But they’re also serving up some unique takes on classic dishes. The Maple Leaf Duck Breast and the Crispy Skin Salmon are two true standouts, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu at this upscale spot.


9. Discover Delicious Chinese at Tommy’s Wok

Tommy’s Wok is one of the best casual restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s a bit of a hole-in-the-wall spot, but it’s worth the search. It’s our go-to Chinese restaurant in Carmel. 

We’ve found that it’s a great crowd-pleaser, as this menu is filled with all different types of Chinese dishes. Even the pickiest eater is bound to find something they’ll love here.


10. Drink and Dine at Cultura Comida y Bebida

Must-Visit Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Cultura Comida y Bebida

All around Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’ll find quite a few Mexican restaurants, but Cultura Comida y Bebida is in a league of its own. This upscale Oaxacan Carmel restaurant is another cozy date-night spot featuring mood lighting and tons of specialty cocktails.

On the “comida” side of things, the mole is not to be missed. But on the “bebida” side, mezcal lovers will be particularly happy, as there are dozens of mezcals on the menu.


11. Embrace the Rustic Side at La Balena

Featuring handmade pasta and a rustic Italian charm, La Balena is one of the top places to eat in Carmel if you’re looking for simple Italian fare done right. There’s nothing fancy about La Balena, and we like it that way. 

Their short and straightforward menu lets them focus on quality over quantity. The result is a menu packed with classic Italian dishes that they’ve become true experts at creating.


12. Dine on Sushi at Toro

Toro is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Carmel. Their classic rolls are done right, while their specialty rolls are interesting, inventive, and great for people who like to try new things while dining out. 

But while they’re typically considered a sushi restaurant first, their other Japanese dishes, like their chicken katsu, will be great crowd-pleasers for those who don’t like sushi.


13. Take in the View from Treehouse Cafe

What Restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Treehouse Cafe

With its stunning views and globally-inspired dishes, Treehouse Cafe is one of the best rooftop restaurants in Carmel. Whether you’re in the mood for Thai or looking for a Greek dish, you’ll find it here in this warm and inviting Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurant.

Did you know that Carmel-by-the-Sea is considered the most dog-friendly town in the US? While many of the restaurants on this list offer dog-friendly dining, this restaurant is a standout for having its own pet-friendly menu.


14. Visit LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle

If you’re visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea for the first time, we have to suggest that you take a ride over to Monterey to visit LouLou. Located on the Municipal Wharf (not the Old Fisherman’s Wharf), you’ll find a cute little yellow building that’s home to LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle.

My partner and I don’t go a week without eating here. This breakfast joint is a favorite for locals and visitors alike, and once you meet the friendly folks here and dine on their breakfast classics, you’ll see why. From their pancakes the size of hubcaps to their famous clam chowder, you can’t go wrong with anything here. 

But seriously, even if you’re here at 7:30 in the morning, get the chowder. Also, it gets busier as the morning goes on, so try to arrive as close to their opening as you can.


15. Try the Breakfast Bites at Butter House

Okay, just one more recommendation outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Anytime anyone visits us, we take them to Butter House in Seaside. And now my sister, my mother, and my father-in-law all demand that we go every single time they stay with us. It’s just that good.

It’s also a one-of-a-kind spot. It’s the only place I know where I can get lumpia and chocolate banana bread French toast at the same time. This breakfast spot is another place to get to early, at least if you plan on visiting during the weekend. It’s also a very family-friendly location.

There you have it! The 15 best restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea. What’s your favorite place to eat in Carmel? Let us know in the comments!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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