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25 Best carmel by the sea restaurants you have to try

Carmel, California

by Coco Tran On September 28, 2023

Coco Tran — Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran

25 Best Carmel by the Sea Restaurants You Have to Try

If you are planning to visit Carmel by the Sea and are looking for where to in Carmel CA, you’ve come to the right place because I have a list of 25 best Carmel by the Sea restaurants for you to check out!

Nestled along California’s stunning Central Coast, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming village known for its storybook cottages, dramatic coastline, and fantastic dining scene. With over 60 restaurants packed into just one square mile, Carmel offers an incredible variety of cuisines to satisfy any palate.

From upscale fine dining to casual cafes and bakeries, these are the 25 best restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea that you absolutely have to try on your next visit.

The best 25 Carmel by the Sea restaurants to try

1. La Bicyclette

one of the best restaurants in Carmel by the sea  among locals and visitors alike. For delicious wood-fired pizzas and French-Italian comfort food, La Bicyclette is a must-visit. Their cozy European bistro vibe, complete with hanging copper pots and chalkboard menus, provides the perfect setting for a romantic date night or casual lunch.

Start off by sharing a few hors d’oeuvres like the spinach ricotta gnocchi or the escargots in parsley garlic butter. Then dive into one of their incredible wood-fired pizzas, like the fig, arugula and prosciutto. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Best carmel by the sea restaurants
  • Location: Dolores St & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Lunch, dinner, date night
  • Website

2. The Cottage Restaurant in carmel ca 

Housed in a literal storybook cottage, The Cottage Restaurant charms guests with its intimate setting and seasonal California cuisine. The Carmel restaurant sources top-notch local ingredients to create some of the best brakfast and egg benedicts in the area.

Definately a great place for a quantessential american breakfast to start your day in Carmel by the sea!

  • Location: Lincoln St between Ocean Ave & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Special occasions, romantic dinners
  • Website

carmel-by-the-sea restaurants

3. Basil

As the name implies, Basil offers farm-fresh California cuisine bursting with bright, aromatic flavors. this restaurant in carmel ca seasonal menus take advantage of the region’s incredible bounty, from just-caught seafood to organic produce.

Best carmel by the sea restaurants
photo by Basil

Try starting with a colorful beet and burrata salad or creamy duck liver pâté. For your main, seared salmon with spring vegetables or a grass-fed steak with marrow butter are always excellent choices. And their lemon ricotta pancakes make for a delightful weekend brunch.

  • Location: Lincoln St between Ocean Ave & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Seasonal ingredients, brunch
  • Website

4. Cultura Comida y Bebida

For incredible Oaxacan cuisine and mezcal cocktails, Cultura Comida y Bebida is a can’t-miss dinner spot. Their dimly lit industrial space provides a hip setting to enjoy favorites like tlayudas loaded with Oaxacan cheese, complex mole negro with chicken, and crispy grasshoppers. Psst– Ciultura is also recocnized by the Michelin Guide .

Pair your meal with a smoky mezcal cocktail or try their extensive collection of small-batch mezcals, which is one of the largest in California. With its vibrant flavors and energetic ambiance, Cultura is perfect for a fun night out.

Best carmel by the sea restaurants
  • Location: Dolores St between 5th & 6th Ave
  • Good for: Cocktails, adventurous eaters
  • Website

restaurants in carmel ca not to miss 

5. Aubergine

One of the best restaurants in carmel located within the ultra-luxe L’Auberge Carmel resort, Aubergine offers an unforgettable fine dining experience marked by superb execution and presentation. rated as one of best places to eat in carmel by visitors.

Their 8-10 course tasting menu changes daily to highlight the seasons best ingredients.

Best carmel by the sea restaurants
photo by Aubergine

Dishes like Hokkaido scallop with truffle pearls, duck with huckleberries, and strawberry vacherin demonstrate Chef Justin Cogley’s incredible precision and artistry. With prices starting at $275 per person, it’s a special occasion splurge, but one that’s worth every penny for the exquisite meal.

  • Location: Monte Verde St at 7th Ave
  • Good for: Special occasions, tasting menus
  • Website

6. Seventh & Dolores Steakhouse best restaurant carmel ca​​​​​​​

for a special dinner in carmel by the sea of expertly prepared steaks in an upscale yet hip setting, look no further than Seventh & Dolores. Their airy, modern dining room sets the stage for enjoying incredible cuts of beef alongside top-notch sides and starters.

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photo by Seventh & Dolores

Opt for steakhouse classics like the bone-in ribeye or filet mignon, or go for more unique options like the dry-aged tomahawk rib chop. Don’t skip sides like the truffle mac and cheese or creamed corn with bacon. Their craft cocktails and extensive wine list perfectly complement the cuisine.

  • Location: San Carlos St & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Steaks, cocktails
  • Website

7. Dametra Cafe

For a lively taste of the Mediterranean, Dametra Cafe’s festive atmosphere and Greek-inspired cuisine make it a longtime local favorite. Belly up to their blue-tiled bar, or join the crowds waiting for a table to enjoy Greek wines and small plates.

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photo by Damatra

Standouts include spicy lamb meatballs, spinach pies, moussaka, and juicy chicken souvlaki loaded with crisp veggies. Live music and dancing on weekend nights complete the celebratory vibe. Dametra is a great option for large groups and a guaranteed good time.

  • Location: Ocean Ave between San Carlos & Dolores
  • Good for: Greek food, big groups, fun night out
  • Website

best carmel ca restaurants

8. Vesuvio

Tucked away on a charming patio, Vesuvio transports you to the Italian countryside with its rustic ambiance and seasonal, ingredient-driven cuisine. Their frequently changing menu celebrates what’s fresh, from handmade pastas to roasted meats and seafood.

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Start with their duck liver pâté or creamy burrata before digging into wood-oven pizzas, bucatini with spicy sausage, or pan-roasted local rockfish. Everything pairs perfectly with their Italian-focused wine list. It’s an intimate spot ideal for date night.

  • Location: 6th Ave between Junipero & Mission St
  • Good for: Rustic Italian, date night
  • Website

9. Café Rustica

For delicious European comfort food in a cozy setting, Café Rustica hits the spot. Their menu features regional Italian favorites like house-made gnocchi, pizzette Roman-style pizzas, and tiramisu alongside French classics like onion soup, cassoulet, and profiteroles.

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by cafe rustica

The quaint restaurant oozes charm, making you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a small French or Italian trattoria. It’s a great pick for a long lunch or casual weekday dinner.

  • Location: Mission St between 5th & 6th Ave
  • Good for: Classic French and Italian dishes
  • Website

10. Anton & Michel

Loved for over 30 years one of the best carmel ca restaurants is Anton & Michel. they offers an upscale take on continental cuisine in an elegant yet relaxed setting. Their menu focuses on meat and seafood preparations like rack of lamb with mint chimichurri, Maine lobster ravioli, and duck breast with lingonberry sauce.

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by anton michel

Complement your meal with a wine from their extensive cellar boasting over 15,000 bottles. With white tablecloths, dark wood accents, and fine service, it makes for a refined yet comfortable date night.

  • Location: Mission St & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Continental cuisine, special occasions
  • Website

11. l Tegamino

another great best restaurant carmel ca For homemade pastas and wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas in an intimate trattoria, Il Tegamino charms guests with its cozy charm and authentic Southern Italian fare. Tucked away in a courtyard, their small space fills up fast so reservations are a must.

Feast on burrata, fried calamari, gnocchi sorrentina, and perfect thin-crust pizzas from their wood-burning oven. Run by a husband-wife duo from Southern Italy, Il Tegamino offers an escape to the Old Country right here on the California coast.

  • Location: Court of the Golden Bough
  • Good for: Authentic Italian, cozy spot
  • Website

12. Folktale Winery & Vineyards

An actual fairytale castle in the Carmel Valley, Folktale Winery couples a jaw-dropping setting with vineyard-focused cuisine. Sip their sustainably produced wines on the expansive stone patio overlooking the estate vineyard before sitting down to a wine-paired dinner in the elegant restaurant.

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by folktale

Using locally sourced ingredients, their dishes showcase everything from lush Belon oysters and market salads to pappardelle bolognese and Niman Ranch flat iron steaks. It feels a world away yet is just a short drive from downtown Carmel.

  • Location: Carmel Valley
  • Good for: Wine pairing dinners, stunning scenery
  • Website

13. Cantinetta Luca

Cantinetta Luca brings a taste of Italy to Carmel with fantastic house-made pastas, wood-fired thin crust pizzas, and Italian wines. Run by a husband-wife team from Italy, the cozy trattoria crafts each dish from family recipes using authentic ingredients.

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by luca

For a satisfying Italian feast, order up starters like burrata and meatballs before tucking into their spinach ricotta ravioli or famed lasagna Bolognese. Save room for tiramisu or panna cotta for dessert. It fills up fast so come early and prepare to wait if you don’t have a reservation.

  • Location: Dolores St & Ocean Ave
  • Good for: House-made pastas and pizza
  • Website

14. Jeffrey’s

For special occasion dining with gorgeous ocean views, book a table at Jeffrey’s. Their seasonally inspired Californian cuisine paired with an extensive wine cellar makes it one of the top fine dining spots on the Central Coast since the 1970s.

Grilled ahi tuna with miso, Moroccan spiced Niman Ranch lamb, and cinnamon sugar beignets with crème anglais are just a few menu highlights. Request a window table to fully soak in the breathtaking vistas over the bluff beside their cliffside location.

  • Location: Carmel Point
  • Good for: Special occasions, ocean views
  • Website

15. Casanova

At this cozy bistro, Chef Walter Georis turns out refined yet approachable renditions of French and Italian classics. Their seasonally inspired dishes burst with flavor, from a colorful beet and arugula salad to duck confit cassoulet and olive oil poached salmon.

Housemade pasta including squid ink linguine and creamy mac n’ cheese provide comfort, while molten chocolate cake offers a sweet finish. The intimate space fills up fast so reservations are recommended if you don’t want to wait.

  • Location: 5th Ave between San Carlos & Dolores
  • Good for: French and Italian cuisine
  • Website

16. Yafa

For fresh, vegetable-focused Mediterranean fare, Yafa’s menu spans tahini salads, grilled kebabs, hummus, falafel pitas, and more. Their bright, casual space features colorful stained glass and tilework to match the vibrant flavors.

Highlights like the lamb toum (garlic sauce), Yemeni hot sauce chicken, and their take on shakshuka with baked eggs make this a fun spot for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner. Yafa also offers gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.

  • Location: Flanders Dr off Dolores St
  • Good for: Mediterranean cuisine, lunch
  • Website

restaurants in carmel by the sea

17. Rio Grill

Overlooking the golf course of the Carmel Valley Ranch resort, Rio Grill wows with its spacious patio and California cuisine focused on seasonal ingredients. Their frequently changing menu highlights Monterey Bay seafood, prime steaks, and produce from their on-site garden.

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by carmel

Some perennial favorites include the iceberg wedge with Pt. Reyes blue cheese, herb marinated tri tip sirloin, and spice rub salmon with ancient grains. It’s worth the 15-minute drive from downtown Carmel for the scenery and top-notch dining.

  • Location: Carmel Valley Ranch
  • Good for: Seasonal Californian
  • Website

18. Etats-Unis

With elegant French preparations in a sophisticated but relaxed bistro, Etats-Unis consistently delights. Dishes like duck confit, coq au vin, steak frites, and bouillabaisse pay homage to French classics while incorporating California flair.

An all-French wine list provides the perfect pairing for their cuisine. With both a cozy interior dining room and patio seating, Etats-Unis offers fine dining without the fuss.

  • Location: Dolores St between Ocean & 6th Ave
  • Good for: French cuisine and wine
  • Website

19. Caffe Trieste

For excellent coffee, housemade pastries, and a cozy European cafe vibe, Caffe Trieste is a local favorite. Their pastry case overflows with buttery croissants, fruit tarts, and tempting cakes, while espresso drinks made from premium roasted beans fuel patrons.

It’s a wonderful spot to linger over breakfast, grab a light lunch like a prosciutto sandwich, or take a coffee break in between boutique shopping. The quintessential Carmel cafe experience.

  • Location: Ocean Ave & Lincoln St
  • Good for: Coffee, pastries, breakfast
  • Website

20. Vesuvio restaurant in carmel ca

Vesuvio’s intimate garden patio sets the stage for a romantic Tuscan escape right in Carmel’s center. Their frequently changing menu celebrates the seasons through colorful salads, handmade pasta, and wood-oven pizzas with creative topping combinations.

Housemade limoncello and biscotti offer the perfect finish to your meal. Draped lights and olive trees create a magical atmosphere for date night or a special family dinner. It’s one of the most charming restaurant patios around.

  • Location: 6th Ave between Junipero & Mission St
  • Good for: Romantic Tuscan patio
  • Website

21. Frankie’s

From meatballs and cioppino to linguine carbonara, Frankie’s does casual Italian comfort food right. Their menu spans hearty pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, and mains like chicken parm and lasagna.

With checkered tablecloths and comfy wooden booths, it feels like dining in an Italian family’s home. Frankie’s is perfect for unwinding with a bottle of Chianti and heaping plates of pasta after a day at the beach. No reservations, so come ready to wait.

  • Location: San Carlos St north of 5th Ave
  • Good for: Comfort Italian
  • Website

22. Basil

Sunny and abundant with natural light, Basil celebrates farm-fresh California cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their seasonal menus burst with colorful salads, fresh-caught seafood, and prime meats cooked over an oak fire grill.

Kick off your meal with beets and creamy burrata or a Dungeness crab cake before moving on to grilled salmon or spice-rubbed tri tip steak. And their blueberry ricotta pancakes make weekends extra sweet. The ingredients shine here.

  • Location: Lincoln St between Ocean Ave & 7th Ave
  • Good for: Seasonal, locally-sourced
  • Website

23. Stationæry

Tucked away in an adorable courtyard, Stationæry hits the spot for a casual yet flavorful brunch or lunch. Their concise menu skews savory with highlights like steak and eggs, chilaquiles with chorizo, and their Dutch baby baked pancake.

Housemade breads, preserves, and flaky pastries also entice from their bakery counter. Squeeze into their cozy interior space or relax on the petite brick patio. It fills up fast so come early.

  • Location: San Carlos St west of 6th Ave
  • Good for: Brunch, light lunches
  • Website

24. IL Fornaio

Step inside IL Fornaio and you’ll immediately be transported to Italy, from the moody interior reminiscent of a Tuscan trattoria to the aromas wafting from their wood-burning pizza oven. Their menu spans Neapolitan-style pizzas, pastas, antipasti, and traditional secondi plates.

Housemade pastas and sauces are always a solid bet

as are their thin-crust pizzas and fresh salads. Tiramisu and panna cotta provide sweet finishes. The downtown Carmel location has plenty of patio seating to soak in the charming village atmosphere with your Aperol spritz.

  • Location: Dolores St between Ocean & 6th Ave
  • Good for: Pizza, pasta, Italian wine
  • Website

25. Katy’s Place

No Carmel restaurant list would be complete without Katy’s Place, a breakfast institution since 1999. Locals and visitors alike queue up on weekends for their huge pancakes, creations like the Snickercakes, and specialty scramble bowls piled high with veggies, meats and cheeses.

While you wait in line, peruse their whimsical “weekly rant” newsletter covering everything from politics to family life. The plates are massive so come hungry and prepare to walk it off afterwards.

  • Location: Mission St between 5th & 6th Ave
  • Good for: Breakfast, pancakes
  • Website

Time for a Foodie Adventure in Carmel

With its prime coastal location and abundant culinary talent, Carmel offers diners an incredible variety from upscale experiences to relaxed neighborhood joints. Hopefully, this list of the 25 best restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea gives you plenty of delicious options to work through on your next visit!

The idyllic village setting coupled with superb eating makes Carmel a world-class foodie destination right on California’s coast. Whether it’s an intimate Italian dinner or celebratory steak with ocean views, Carmel dining covers it all.

So start planning your next culinary vacation in Carmel. Your tastebuds will thank you!

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