The 2010 Golden Pine Cone
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The 2011 Golden Pine Cones

PINE CONE readers really know their stuff, and they’ve proved it every year since we started The Golden Pine Cones. Whether you’re looking for a new restaurant for a night out, a great place for a family hike, or the best place to pick up some top-notch women’s accessories, our readers have the quality advice you’re looking for.

The results are from a poll conducted earlier this month of 8,500 subscribers to our email edition (to subscribe, go to www.carmelpinecone.com). Below, not only will you find the best places to eat, shop and play, you’ll learn a lot about your community. To view the section in PDF, click here. And don’t forget: Shop locally!


FOOD and WINE

Best Neighborhood Market
Best Butcher
Best Takeout

Bruno’s Market & Delicatessen (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Junipero and Sixth - 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3821 - www.brunosmarket.com

One of the friendliest markets you’ll ever encounter and a Carmel institution, Bruno’s doesn’t just offer a full-line of groceries and custom-cut meats, it also specializes in tasty deli sandwiches made to order from a wide variety of meats, cheeses and other garnishes, and carries a variety of side dishes and main courses freshly made and ready to enjoy during a picnic, a beach party or at home, with no need to do any of the cooking yourself. Daily offerings include oakwood-barbecued tri-tip, ribs, chicken and sausages, not to mention cold-cases full of take-out options.

Best Supermarket

Crossroads Safeway (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — The Crossroads Shopping Village, Rio Road and Highway 1 - open 24 hours daily - (831) 625-8820 - www.safeway.com

The lavishly renovated and expanded Safeway at the mouth of Carmel Valley has become a locals favorite and created a Renaissance in the entire shopping district around it. Even for people living on the other side of the Peninsula — including some Pine Cone staffers — it’s the go-to place for gourmet goods and basics, alike. Well organized and roomy, the store is complete with an olive bar, huge wine selection, fresh bakery, salad bar, well stocked deli, beautiful produce aisles — and a full-scale Starbucks.

Best Organic Produce

Earthbound Farm — 7250 Carmel Valley Road - 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mon. to Sat. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. - (831) 625-6219 - www.ebfarm.com

With its farm stand along Carmel Valley Road serving as a showcase for its delicious produce, Earthbound Farm has long been recognized as pioneer in organic farming. Founded in Carmel Valley 27 years ago, it was the first company to package fresh, pre-washed salads for retail sale. The idea caught on, and now you can find such bagged salads in nearly every grocery store in the country. The company has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception — it now partners with over 150 farmers and its crops are grown on more than 37,000 acres.

Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 100 The Crossroads - (831) 626-3626; 598 Foam St., Monterey - (831) 646-0547 - hours vary by location - www.seaharvestcarmel.com

Its simple but tasty restaurant and shelves of condiments nicely complement Sea Harvest’s well stocked counter, where patrons can get close enough to see how fresh the fish really is. Of all foods, seafood is the most difficult to purchase and definitely has to be fresh from the water, and owner David Deyerly ensures Sea Harvest brings in the best. “Our promise to you is to provide the freshest seafood available,” he says. “We stand behind our product being 100 percent guaranteed fresh.”

Best Wine Store/Section

Nielsen Bros. Market (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Northeast corner of San Carlos and Seventh - 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, except closing is at 8 p.m. Sunday - (831) 624-6441 - www.nielsenmarket.com

This charming corner market has long had a corner on wine offerings in Carmel. Owned and operated since 2009 by Tigran and Azniv Amirkhanian, the store boasts a cellar housing a collection that spans the globe and has begun offering wine-tasting, too. And in the food department, “We are also concentrating more on local, organic and homemade foods,” said Azniv. The store also offers grassfed California beef.

Best Place to get Fruits and Vegetables

Whole Foods (also winner in 2008) — 800 Del Monte Center, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 333-1600 - www.wholefoodsmarket.com

The market that brings organic fruits and vegetables to the masses in an upscale, contemporary setting — and with knowledgeable, friendly staff and loads of samples to taste — is the place to find whatever pesticide-free, chemical-free fruits and veggies you seek. The parking lot may be a nightmare, and the prices may be a tad high, but devotees swear by Whole Foods’ extensive offerings of artfully displayed produce from near and far.

Best Bakery
Best Desserts

Patisserie Bechler (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — 1225 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Tues. to Sat., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m. to noon - (831) 375-0846 - www.patisseriebechler.com

When party guests realize the cake from Patisserie Bechler, they make extra effort not to miss a piece. After all, a talented and meticulous baker who has created thousands of cakes of all shapes and sizes during the past quarter century — often for repeat customers — must be doing it right. The quality and creativity found in master pastry chef Gérard Bechler’s stellar cakes shine in everything he and his staff bake, from tarts and cookies, to petits fours and cakes.

Best Catering Company

Jeffrey’s — 112 Mid-Valley Center, Carmel Valley - (831) 277-3599 - www.jeffreysgrillandcatering.com/catering.html

Operated by owner Jeffrey Thompson in conjunction with his mid-valley restaurant, Jeffrey’s Catering is much appreciated by its customers for its tasty food, exceptional customer service and reasonable prices. Favorites on the catering menu, which is offered for groups from “two to 700,” according to catering coordinator Paige Burks, include spicy grilled prawn skewers, chicken pastilla with cinnamon spicing, and brown-sugar-cured filey mignon served with hot and sweet mustard. “Also, Jeffrey is vegetarian so we’re always willing to design special menus for people,” Burks said.

Best Kitchen Shop

Sur La Table (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Carmel Plaza, lower level - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 626-6433 - www.surlatable.com

When Sur La Table opened in Carmel Plaza, Peninsula residents who love to cook rejoiced. This well stocked and well organized store, which has its roots in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and now boasts dozens of locations nationwide, carries everything a home cook could want, from full cookware lines, to irresistible kitchen gadgets and a nice collection of condiments from around the world. The friendly and knowledgeable employees — and the fact they will even sharpen knives for you — top off the list of reasons Sur La Table is a local favorite. “And we have a new gift-registry program that is awesome,” said manager Mark DaVee.

Best Monterey County Merlot

Georis Winery (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 4 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 659-1050 - www.georiswine.com

No one in Monterey County makes Merlot like Georis makes Merlot. The winery’s estate bottling of the varietal is always sought after for its robust fruit and the complexity borne of French influences and 18 months in Bordeaux chateau barrels, all in the talented hands, since 2005, of winemaker Damien Georis. Walter Georis — who also brought Casanova restaurant to Carmel — offers his family’s wines for tasting in a lovely room and garden.

Best Monterey County Pinot Noir
Favorite Monterey County Wine

Bernardus (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Tasting Room at 5 West Carmel Valley Road - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. - (831) 659-1900 - www.bernardus.com/winery

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery in Cachagua more than two decades ago, and it has come to be known for producing some of the best wine in Monterey County. Pine Cone readers have selected Bernardus for Best Monterey County Chardonnay and named Bernardus the best winery overall in Monterey County two years in a row. The winery prides itself on purchasing the finest fruit from area growers, while also cultivating its own Bordeaux varietals under the watchful gaze of vineyard manager Matt Shea in Cachagua. Skilled at finessing every varietal to maximize its most desirable characteristics, winemaker Dean DeKorth and his talented team work to produce compelling vintages, year after year.

Best Chinese Restaurant

Tommy’s Wok (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Mission between Ocean and Seventh - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tues. to Sun. - (831) 624-8518

It’s not the easiest place to find in Carmel, but Tommy’s Wok —which is tucked away in Redwood Court — is worth the search. Tommy’s kitchen serves up an irresistible menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties, earning the restaurant the everlasting devotion of many local diners. “The best Chinese food I’ve had in Monterey County,” suggested an online reviewer. “Everything is so fresh and delicious!”

Best Family Restaurant

Rosine’s Restaurant (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — 434 Alvarado St., Monterey - Sun. to Thurs., 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and until 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 375-1400 - www.rosinesmonterey.com

A family-run restaurant for three decades, Rosine’s was a hit from the start, with its extensive menu and towering desserts. The bright and friendly spot on Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey is the perfect venue for families, as it’s casual, lively and a little loud, while it definitely does not compromise on the quality of food or service. The menu has something for everyone, from entree-size salads and hot and cold sandwiches, to fresh fish of the day, steaks and pasta dishes. But leave room for dessert, because Rosine’s is famous for its towering cakes, specialty cream cakes, cheesecakes and other sweets, all baked fresh onsite daily.

Best French Restaurant
Best Restaurant in Monterey

Bistro Moulin — 867 Wave St., Monterey - 5 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 333-1200 - www.bistromoulin.com

Chef Didier Dutertre made a local name for himself as head of the kitchen at Casanova, where he cooked for more than two decades. Just over four years ago, he ventured out to open his own restaurant, showcasing perfectly and carefully prepared French country cuisine and other Mediterranean dishes. While famous for his light-as-air spinach gnocchi, Dutertre also wows with his duck confit, escargot (prepared with hazelnuts) and osso buco Milanese, and the fish special is always worth consideration. Meanwhile, wine director Colleen Manni ensures the list is complete and varied — and offers great values as well as splurges. Service is friendly, and the ambiance is comfortable and European, making it the top restaurant in town.

Best Indian Restaurant

Ambrosia India Bistro (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 565 Abrego St., Monterey - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. - (831) 641-0610 - www.ambrosiaib.com

Conveniently located in downtown Monterey, Ambrosia India Bistro menu offers a delectable mix of vegetarian specialties as well as chicken, lamb and seafood entrees. On weekdays, locals pour into Ambrosia for its irresistible — and bargain-priced — lunch buffet. “I’m in love with this place and I can’t wait to go back for more,” declared one happy customer online.

Best Italian Restaurant

Little Napoli (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Dolores and Seventh - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 626-6335 - www.littlenapoli.com

Restaurateur Rich Pèpe’s restaurant is as lively and personable as he is, offering Italian comfort food in a warm, homey atmosphere. Looking for something rich? Try the Veal “Osso Buco” Ravioli with porcini-cream reduction and roasted mushrooms. Want fish? How about the Cioppino Rosso? Pèpe’s expansive menu also includes several creative pizzas, sandwiches, salads and entrées that speak of his Italian heritage and Jersey roots. And if you eat here, you could be rubbing shoulders with the future mayor of Carmel: Rich Pèpe, who also owns the winner of Best New Restaurant, Vesuvio, recently announced his candidacy. And he owns Little Napoli, which won the Golden Pine Cone for Best Italian Restaurant.

Best Sushi

Sushi Heaven (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Dolores between Seventh and Eighth - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mon. to Sat. - (831) 625-2067

Offering a staggering — and mouth-watering — mix of more than 150 varieties of fresh sushi and rolls, Sushi Heaven is a magnet in downtown Carmel for visitors and locals who love Japanese food. The service, meanwhile, is welcoming and accommodating. “Hands down the best sushi on the Monterey Peninsula,” reports one online reviewer.” “Holy smokes, was this place good!” wrote another. The pint-sized restaurant fills up quickly on weekends, so come early or make a reservation.

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Dametra Cafe (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Ocean and Lincoln - 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily - (831) 622-7766 - www.dametracafe.com

Opened by best friends Faisal Nimri and Bashar Sneeh, Dametra Café features a veritable Mediterranean bounty, with a menu listing Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes. Fans of this always lively, always packed restaurant, swear the owners make them feel just like family. And in the near future, it will be easier for them to do that: Dametra is expanding into the space next door.

Best Mexican Restaurant

Peppers MexiCali Cafe (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mon., Weds. and Thurs. and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. No lunch Sunday, but dinner 4 to 9:30 p.m. - (831) 373-6892 — www.peppersmexicalicafe.com

One of the busiest restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula, Peppers offers an irresistible mix of Latin American favorites. While the downtown Pacific Grove eatery offers traditional Mexican entrees like burritos, tacos, enchiladas and chili rellenos, the restaurant’s emphasis on fresh seafood and fast, efficient and friendly service sets it apart from the competition.

Best Thai Restaurant

Baan Thai Restaurant (also winner in 2010) — 1760 Fremont Blvd. in Seaside - noon to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Mon. to Fri., noon to 9 p.m., Sat. - (831) 394-2996 - www.baanthaiseaside.com

Located in the back of a strip mall along Fremont Boulevard, Baan Thai Restaurant isn’t the easiest place to find, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Noted for its generous use of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, Thai food is one of the healthiest — and most flavorful — styles of cooking on the planet. Baan Thai offers a wide variety of regional Thai specialties. While the menu features no shortage of meat and seafood, vegetarians — and even vegans — will be right at home in Baan Thai.

Best Restaurant for Seafood

Passion Fish (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - dinner nightly from 5 p.m. - (831) 655-3311 - www.passionfish.net

No local restaurant sets a higher standard for its use of sustainable seafood and organic produce than Ted Walter’s understated but exceptional Passion Fish restaurant in downtown Pacific Grove. While the emphasis, of course, is on seafood, vegetarian options are also available. “This place is a gem!” an online reviewer suggested. “Ridiculously good fish,” raved another. “Had the sea bass and it was epic. “Wow!”

Best Restaurant for Steak (tie)

Will’s Fargo — 16 East Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - open for dinner at 4:30 p.m. every day except Wednesday, and for lunch at noon on Friday and Saturday - (831) 659-2774 - www.bernardus.com

For any cut of beef prepared any way you like it, there’s nowhere better to go than Will’s Fargo, a restaurant that’s been around for more than a half-century. Originally built as a tea room in the late 1920s and then serving as a road house on the “milk run” between Monterey and Tassajara, Will’s Fargo Dining House and Saloon became a landmark steakhouse in 1959. Bernardus founder Ben Pon bought the restaurant in 2002, bringing his high-powered fine-dining staff to the kitchen. The place remains comfortable and old fashioned, while its reputation for excellent dining and service has been renewed.

Mission Ranch tied in this category and also won Best Brunch, Best Buffet and Best Piano Bar. See below for details.

Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Tillie Gort’s Cafe (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 111 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. and Sun. - (831) 373-0335 — www.tilliegortscafe.com

Since it was founded in 1969 by Gil Tortellini — the restaurant’s namesake — Tillie Gort’s has been the Monterey Peninsula’s indisputable favorite for vegetarian food. Two fresh soups are offered daily, and the cafe’s menu is filled with vegetarian, vegan and organic options. There’s also plenty on the menu for non-vegetarians, and as an added bonus, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is just steps away. “It’s a great place to have lunch after watching the otters play,” one online reviewer offered.

Best Appetizers

Sardine Factory (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — 701 Wave St., Monterey - open daily at 5 p.m. - (831) 373-3775 - www.sardinefactory.com

When The Sardine Factory opened in October 1968, the sardines had long since disappeared from Monterey Bay, and Cannery Row was nearly abandoned. The Sardine Factory faced long odds for success. “We had no money, we built on the wrong side of the tracks and we were under financed,” co-owner Ted Balestreri recalled. But more than 40 years later, the Sardine Factory has an international reputation and a long list of celebrity clientele. (A critical scene in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 hit, “Play Misty for Me,” was filmed at the bar.) And, while locals love it for its intimate front-of-the-house lounge, extensive menu and vast wine list, Pine Cone readers singled out The Sardine Factory for its small plates.

Best BBQ

Henry’s BBQ (also winner in 2010) — 401 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. - (831) 646-6999 - www.henrysfamousbbq.com

Locals go crazy for Henry’s generous plates of tender, juicy, flavorful meats. While pondering the menu, customers might nibble pork riblets glazed with Henry’s special honey BBQ sauce. Henry’s BBQ meals come with beef and bean chili; your choice of potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, green salad or French fries; and Bert’s Bacon-Cheese Bread or garlic bread, and are offered with one, two or three meats: pork spare ribs, tri-tip, chicken, Hawaiian-style pulled pork or boneless pork loin. The menu includes many other options, as well.

Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Mission between Fifth and Sixth - 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily - (831) 624-0199 - www.katysplacecarmel.com

Katy’s boasts the largest breakfast menu on the West Coast. There are 16 varieties of three-egg Eggs Benedict on the menu, as well as eight waffle plates, including the signature Belgian waffles. Owner Randall Bernett also offers blintzes with fresh berries, Swedish pancakes, corned beef brisket hash and Miss Audrey’s biscuits and gravy, just to name a few. Patrons can eat indoors at tables or at the bar in front of the kitchen where a friendly chat with chef is in order. Or — and this is a big favorite with locals — eat on the deck at the front of the restaurant under a giant redwood tree. Lunch includes seven burgers, 11 sandwiches, eight salads and the favorite huevos rancheros. If Katy’s Place is good enough for the locals, it’s also good enough for the King of Jordan, who dines there from time to time.

Best Clam Chowder

Vivolo’s Chowder House — 127 Central Ave., Pacific Grove - 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 372-5414 - www.vivoloschowderhouse.com

Opened by owners Mark and Julie Vivolo in 1990, Vivolo’s Chowder House is known for having the greatest clam chowder west of the Mississippi, and also offers an extensive seafood menu. A great place for families, Vivolo’s is also a perfect choice for a takeaway meal. The garlic cheese bread is to die for!

Best Coffee

Peet’s (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — 560 Munras Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Thurs., 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun., 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. - (831) 641-9029 - www.peets.com

Cheers were heard throughout the land when Peet’s opened next door to Trader Joe’s in downtown Monterey in 2008. Since it was founded by Alfred Peet, who opened the first store in Berkeley in 1966, Peet’s has been known for its top-quality beans, which are hand-roasted in small batches. And, as is obvious from the votes cast by our readers, the Monterey location is also a great hangout!

Best Coffeehouse

Carmel Coffee House & Roasting Co. (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — South side of Ocean Avenue west of San Carlos Street - 7 a.m. until afternoon/evening daily - (831) 626-2095 - www.carmelcoffee.com

Carmel Coffee House & Roasting Co. is the town’s only onsite roaster, processing beans in small batches to ensure freshness, and the welcoming employees serve up the best espresso drinks, brewed coffee, hot tea and other beverages in town. Add to that a nice selection of baked goods, sandwiches, snacks and gifts — as well as an idyllic courtyard (which is particularly popular with the dog-walking set), indoor seating and free wifi — and it’s no surprise Pine Cone readers named it their favorite coffeehouse.

Best Happy Hour

Il Fornaio (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — Ocean Avenue & Monte Verde Street - Happy Hour: Mon. to Fri., 4:30 to 6 p.m. - (831) 622-5100 - www.ilfornaio.com

Want to hang out with the movers and shakers in Carmel over a glass of bubbly or a creative cocktail? Then head for the expansive, welcoming bar at Il Fornaio after work for a glass of house wine or a special drink. Il Fornaio also offers a $5 Happy Hour menu with bruschetta, calamari and a few pizzas, making it our readers’ favorite. The restaurant is part of an upscale California chain, but local management maintains its hometown feel within the historic Pine Inn. It also includes a bakery and restaurant featuring the cuisine and wines of Italy.

Best Ice Cream

Cold Stone Creamery (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — Del Monte Center, Monterey - Sun. to Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 649-1346 - www.coldstonecreamery.com

Cold Stone fans know the quality of ice cream is top notch, and they love the variety of toppings that can be mixed in with any flavor, made to order on a slab of frozen granite. (They also know to sneak their coins and dollars into the tip jar when the servers aren’t looking, so they can avoid being serenaded.) Founded in 1988 by a Tempe, Ariz., couple, the ice creamery has expanded to more than 1,400 stores — and with good reason: Their ice cream, shakes, smoothies and cakes can’t be beat.

Best Pizza

Gianni’s — 725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Thu., 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 649-1500 - www.giannismonterey.net

For decades, passersby on Lighthouse Avenue have been wooed to this Monterey institution by the tantalizing aromas of pizzas baking in the oven at Gianni’s, which is always bustling. Want a place to get together with the boys for beer and pepperoni? Or a venue to take the baseball team or celebrate a birthday? This is the place for great dough, tantalizingly melty cheese and any number and combination of toppings, as well as pitchers of soda and beer, and other pizza-parlor staples.

Best Fast Food

Chipotle (also winner in 2010) — 500 Del Monte Center, Monterey; 2140 California Ave., Sand City - Mon. to Sun., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (DMC) and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sand City) - (831) 899-1096 (DMC) and (831) 641-9353 (Sand City) - www.chipotle.com

It may be fast food, but it’s good food: fresh, high-quality ingredients, humanely raised meats and abundant portions, all for decent prices. Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle in the site of a former Dolly Madison ice cream shop in Colorado in 1995 and has since expanded the chain promising “food with integrity” throughout the country. Best known for its burritos, which could easily feed two, Chipotle also offers burrito bowls, salads, crispy and soft tacos, and chips and guacamole, all made to order. The famous burrito, for instance, calls for a flour tortilla, choice of cilantro-lime rice, pinto or vegetarian black beans; meat (braised carnitas or barbacoa, adobo-marinated and grilled chicken or steak) or guacamole; salsa, and cheese or sour cream.

Best Buffet
Best Brunch
Best Steak

Mission Ranch (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) – 26270 Dolores St. - Dinner nightly from 5 p.m., Sunday Jazz Brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - (831) 624-6436 - www.missionranchcarmel.com

The restaurant in the hotel owned by former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood, and where he occasionally appears to have a drink by the fire or play the piano, offers a decadent brunch ($27.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids 12 and under, and $5.50 for toddlers) with everything one could want on a relaxing Sunday, including live jazz. Starting with a complimentary glass of bubbly, the brunch includes a salad station, main dishes like Eggs Benedict and whole baked salmon, an omelet station, carving station, classic breakfast dishes and desserts. In the evenings, a great dinner (starting with Mission Ranch’s famous clam chowder, perhaps), is made even better when it can be enjoyed outdoors on the deck. Well equipped with heaters for those chilly Peninsula evenings, the venue offers sweeping views of pastures full of grazing sheep and the craggy coastline.

Mission Ranch also won for Best Piano Bar. See below. Will’s Fargo tied for Best Steak. Please see above.

Best Wine List
Most Romantic Restaurant
Best Restaurant in Carmel

Casanova (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos streets - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 625-0501 - www.casanovarestaurant.com

With so many accolades from Pine Cone readers, Casanova must be really special — and it is! Founded in 1977 by brothers Walter and Gaston Georis, their sister Denise and her friend Michel, Casanova combines old-world elegance and hospitality with culinary innovation, creating a spot well known for romance. Its wine list is deeply varied and a point of pride for the owners, especially considering Walter’s ownership of Georis Winery. The cellar, hand dug 14 feet underneath the restaurant, is home to some 30,000 bottles, all carefully selected to provide Casanova clients with a wide range of options and prices. Casanova is an annual recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award for its wine list. Its eclectic design, intimate rooms with small tables, sensitive service, relaxed atmosphere, delectable food and expansive wine list make Casanova a wonderful spot to take a lover or spouse — or someone you’d like to become your lover or spouse!

Best New Restaurant

Vesuvio — Sixth and Mission - Weds. to Sun., 4 to 11 p.m. - (831) 626-PEPE (7373) - www.vesuviocarmel.com

Restaurateur Rich Pèpe’s, who also owns the winner for Best Italian Restaurant, Little Napoli, has a new culinary venture that features the food of Southern Italy, where he has deep family roots, and since its opening, Vesuvio has been well received for its food, wine, convivial atmosphere and rooftop lounge. The restaurant also offers great Happy Hour specials, with $5 cocktails and half-price appetizers, including baby-back ribs, steamed Manila clams, calamari fritti and mozzarella alla burrata, while the dinner menu focuses on ingredients imported from Italy or made in house. Look for the house specialty, veal Marsala, as well as buffalo, ribeye, cioppino and specialty salads.

Best Outdoor Dining

Forge in the Forest (also winner in 2008) — Junipero and Fifth - Sun. to Thurs., 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri. to Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-2233 - www.forgeintheforest.com

The Forge in the Forest is a longtime locals’ favorites for its character, extensive menu of American dishes that run the gamut, from ribs and burgers, to creative entree salads and seafood dishes. It’s also a great place to hang out at an outdoor table or around one of several fire pits enjoying a meal or a cocktail. Lush landscaping, heat lamps, a brick patio and other touches make it the best alfresco dining spot around, and a separate patio is provided for patrons who like to bring their pups with them, too.

Best Place to Take Clients

Rio Grill (also winner in 2010) — 101 Crossroads Blvd. - Lunch Mon. to Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dinner from 5 until 9 p.m. weeknights and 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. - (831) 625-5436 - www.riogrill.com

Southwestern flair reaches new heights in the hands of creative chef Cy Yontz, who turns out contemporary cuisine with his unique flair. The restaurant underwent an overhaul this year, with a remodeled bar and banquet rooms, and high-tech additions like iPads bearing the wine list, but its booths, nicely spaced tables, clean and bright interior and variety of rooms continue to make it a great spot to take clients. And since you know the food will be fabulous, even if no deals are made, a business lunch or dinner there won’t ever be a waste of time.

Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Cypress Inn (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Lincoln and Seventh - noon to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3871 - www.cypress-inn.com

Whether you’re craving lunch, dinner, cocktails or afternoon tea — all in the company of your faithful furry companion — Terry’s Lounge in the Cypress Inn is ready to welcome you both. Crab cakes served with orange and Grand Marnier cranberry chutney or the Cypress Burger topped with Gruyere cheese makes a great lunch, and dinner is equally delicious, but afternoon tea is particularly pleasant. The complete tea service features a selection of homemade scones and cookies, sandwiches, cakes, jam and thickened cream for scones, and a range of Mighty Leaf teas. And the Cypress Inn is No. 1 among dog lovers for its lovely patio seating, welcoming environment and special afternoon tea just for canines.

Cypress Inn also won for Most Dog Friendly Hotel. Please see below.

Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion

Pacific’s Edge (also winner in 2010) — Hyatt Carmel Highlands, 120 Highlands Drive - dinner 6 to 9 nightly - (831) 622-5445 - www.pacificsedge.com

Living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, means you don’t need to hop a jet or hit the road to find an ideal location for celebrating an anniversary, birthday or other milestone. Instead, head to the spectacular Pacific’s Edge. Perched above the Pacific, the restaurant in the Highlands Inn offers stellar contemporary cuisine at the hands of executive chef Matt Bolton, an extensive wine list and recommendations from the knowledgeable Paul Fried, lovely ambiance and impeccable service. A celebratory evening at Pacific’s Edge often proves unforgettable.

Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Sierra Mar — Post Ranch Inn, Highway 1, Big Sur - 12:15 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 667-2800 - www.postranchinn.com

Situated high on cliffs above the expansive Pacific Ocean, Sierra Mar stands out above the competition for its incredible setting, architecture, food and service. Executive chef Craig von Foerster and his executive sous chef, Matt Millea, constantly impress with their deft and creative use of seasonal, local ingredients, managing to make something as simple as a Reuben Sandwich delicious as well as memorable — not to mention the more elaborate dishes on the menu. And on a sunny summer day, there’s no better place to watch for whales while enjoying a stellar meal. The wine list and full bar are abundant, too, and the service is impeccable.

Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley

Café Rustica (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 10 Delfino Place, Carmel Valley - Tues. to Sun., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. - (831) 659-4444 - www.caferusticacarmel.com

A favorite with locals, Cafe Rustica offers enormous salads full of fresh ingredients, mouthwatering pastas and an extensive menu that melds the best of California and Mediterranean cuisine. The thin-crust, wood-oven-fired pizzas (including one featuring smoked salmon and creme fraiche) make owner Julien Belliard’s restaurant one of the busiest in the valley. Eat indoors or at one of the many patio tables.

Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — The Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach - breakfast, lunch and dinner daily - (831) 647-7423 - www.pebblebeach.com

Celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi is considered “the father of Hawaiian-fusion cuisine,” and his innovation and love of big flavors combine in full force at this Pebble Beach restaurant. Seafood figures prominently, with sushi, sashimi and blackened ahi all popular dishes, but his ginger-scallion encrusted New York Steak and charred garlic honey-mustard beef short ribs won’t disappoint any meat lover. The atmosphere is modern and casual but full of energy, and the views of the shoreline and golf course nicely complement any meal at Roy’s.

Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Fandango (also winner in 2008) — 223 17th St., Pacific Grove - 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. until closing, daily - 831-372-3456 - www.fandangorestaurant.com

Pierre and Marietta Bain’s Fandango restaurant is a longtime favorite for its lovely setting, great food and extensive wine list. With a variety of rooms available, it’s an ideal location for a big party or a date, not to mention company holiday celebrations, and the extensive menu has something for everyone. Particularly popular are the Croque Monsieur (done souffle style), cassoulet, paella and lamb, and the decadent desserts are worth every bite. A testament to the Bains’ conviviality, many of the servers at Fandango have worked there for years, making every repeat customer feel special and every newcomer welcome.

Best Restaurant in Sand City

Papa Chano’s (also winner in 2010) — 915 Playa Ave., Sand City - 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 393-9133

The opening of Chipotle just a short distance away this year has not dampened Papa Chano’s popularity. The taqueria turns out fast and fresh food made to order, from gargantuan burritos with all the trimmings, to half chickens with rice and beans. Fresh fish, a variety of meats, simply good tacos and other offerings make this spot the most popular place to eat in Sand City.

Best Restaurant in Seaside

Fishwife (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — 789 Trinity Ave. at Fremont, Seaside - lunch and dinner daily - (831) 394-2027 - www.fishwife.com

The Fishwife focuses on seafood, offering “California cuisine with a Caribbean accent.” Daily specials highlight local fresh catch and seasonal fish, including Monterey Bay’s beloved sand dabs, salmon, mahi mahi, halibut, swordfish and sea bass. Salinas Valley produce figures prominently, and delicious house-made desserts daily offer the best means of rounding out a great meal. The atmosphere is colorful, friendly and casual, and prices are reasonable, while servers ensure everyone feels at home.

Best Restaurant Service

Marinus (also winner in 2009) — Bernardus Lodge, 415 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - Weds. to Sun., 6 to 9 p.m. - (831) 658-3595 - www.bernardus.com

Executive chef Cal Stamenov’s glorious food, perfectly prepared and plated, and served with whatever wines one might wish, is further accented by the elegant, comfortable dining room and roaring fireplace at Marinus, named for lodge owner Bernardus Pon’s middle name. But the attentive, knowledgeable staff are what make dinner there perfect, from wine director Mark Jensen, whose expert advice and depth of knowledge are delivered without the slightest hint of pretentiousness, to the servers who aptly describe the dishes, those who quietly clear the plates, and the folks who constantly replenish warm bread and chilled water. The service is so good, it’s practically intuitive, and never overbearing or obsequious.

SERVICES and HEALTH CARE

Best Auto Repair

Nystrom Automotive (also winner in 2010) — San Carlos and Fifth - 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. to Friday - (831) 626-4407

Part of the Napa Auto Care program, owner Eric Nystrom says his shop was picked because of its honesty, integrity and quality. Nystrom, a lifelong resident of Carmel, acquired the former Lugo’s Shell in 2004. The shop does general car repairs, including smog inspection and can take care of everything from oil changes to engine exchanges. It also sell tires and batteries and repairs air conditioning. “Pretty much we do everything,” said one of the mechanics.

Best Dry Cleaners

Vapor Cleaners — 1193 10th Street, Monterey - Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday - www.vaporcleaners.net

In a very competitive field, and at an out-of-the-way location, Vapor Cleaners stands out for its excellent service and commitment to environmentally friendly methods. Their motto is, “Using the newest technology while preserving old fashioned standards.”

Best Airline from MRY

United (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Monterey Peninsula Airport and hundreds of destinations around the world - (800) 864-8331 - www.united.com

From Monterey, United flies only to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. But from there, the airline can take you practically anywhere. That includes business destinations such as Chicago, Atlanta and New York, vacation spots like Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas and Orlando, and exotic foreign capitals, including Beijing, London, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Air travel isn’t as easy as it was 10 years ago, or as luxurious as it was 30 years ago, but it’s still a modern-day miracle to have lunch in San Francisco and be in Paris by midnight.

Best Travel Agent

P.G. Travel (also winner 2008 and 2009) — 593 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-0631 - www.pgtravel.com

Despite living in one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations, Monterey Peninsula residents still love to travel. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Pacific Grove, P.G. Travel is a full service travel agency that handles bookings for air travel, cruise lines, guided tours, hotels and car rentals. Featuring a helpful and friendly staff with more than 30 years of experience, the travel agency will take the stress out of planning your next getaway.

Best Spa

Spa at Pebble Beach (also winner 2009 and 2010) — The Lodge at Pebble Beach - 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily - (831) 649-7615 - www.pebblebeach.com

Pebble Beach is not only the world’s most famous golfing destination, but it’s a great place to rest, relax and rejuvenate. The Spa at Pebble Beach offers a tempting array of services, including massages, body scrubs, herbal wraps and a mix of specialty treatments. Casa Palmero, meanwhile, features 25 treatment rooms, a jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam and inhalation room, a salon, a conservatory and an outdoor pool.

Best Hair Salon

March Hare (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Fifth Ave. and Mission - (831) 624-3024 - www.marchhairsalon.com

For more than two decades, MaryAnna Stahl’s March Hare Salon has garnered rave reviews from its many happy clients. The Aveda “concept salon” is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Carmel. “Not only did I love my hair, but I left feeling good about myself,” wrote one satisfied online reviewer. “The atmosphere is peaceful and tranquil, and the whole experience can not be matched,” suggested another. What more could you ask for in a salon?

Best Nail Salon

Nails Spa by the Sea (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Seventh and Monte Verde - Call for appointment - (831) 625-2623 - www.nailsspabythesea.com

The goal of Nails by the Sea and its professional staff is to pamper clients with the highest quality nail care and spa treatments in a relaxing and nurturing atmosphere. Nails by the Sea invites its customers to relax and rejuvenate their minds, bodies and spirit in its full-service nail and skin care salon. And now, they also offer gel nail polish.

Best Skin Care

Jarilyn’s Spa Retreat — San Carlos between Ocean and Seventh - (831) 238-0977 - www.jarilynsparetreat.com

Promising that “your skin will be well pampered and your spirit uplifted,” Jarilyn’s Spa Retreat uses top-quality and organic-based skin care products and offers a wide variety of services, including european hydrating and anti-aging facials, LED photorejuvenation light Therapy, and pick-me-up and wedding packages. Sounds great!

Best Massage Therapist

Stephen Hekhuis — (831) 224-4669 - www.amritaloka.com

In his Monterey studio, or in the comfort of your home or office, Stephen Hekhuis offers massage therapy and energy work. Drawing from his own meditation practice and 25 years of experience as a bodyworker, Hekhuis uses both his strong hands and his intuition to release stress and ease sore muscles. Like the very best of massage therapists, Hekhuis’ work is subtle, yet profound.

Best Place to Volunteer
Best Place to Work

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 23625 Holman Highway, Monterey, and numerous other locations - (831) 624-5311 - www.chomp.org

Everyone knows Community Hospital as the place to go if you need medical services, but according to our readers, the hospital known as CHOMP is also the Monterey Peninsula’s best place to work and its best place to volunteer. The hospital has about 2,000 employees and hundreds of volunteers, mostly from the The Auxiliary, taking care of patients’ families and manning the hospital’s Fountain Court and gift shop, and raising money for projects, such as the Bloodmobile. Also, volunteers make essential contributions at the hospital’s hospice, the Grief Busters program for children who have experienced loss and the therapy dog program, and 40 local ministers help out as chaplains. Recently, volunteers Doris Covell, Carolyn Bitter, Dolores Kaelin and Carol Todd were honored for more than 25 years’ service.

Best Retirement Community

Del Mesa Carmel (also winner in 2009) — 500 Del Mesa Drive, Carmel Valley - (831) 624-1853 -www.delmesacarmel.org

Situated on a peaceful meadow atop a hillside at the mouth of Carmel Valley, Del Mesa Carmel is truly one of California’s most beautiful adult gated communities. Many of Del Mesa’s 289 residences have breathtaking views of sunny Carmel Valley and the north end of stunning Big Sur, with its high mountains, lush valleys and rugged coastline.

Best Place To Get Married

Carmel Mission (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — 3080 Rio Road, Carmel - 9 a.m. to noon; 1:30 to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-1271 - www.carmelmission.org

Cheerful bougainvillea dance in celebration as bells ring for each couple joined in blessed matrimony at the historic Carmel Mission — one of the most important buildings in California from the Spanish era. A popular wedding location, reservations book up quickly at this beautiful structure more than 200 years old. The Mission Basilica seats 450 guests. The Chapel is another option for groups of fewer than 70 guests. The Basilica of San Carlos at the Mission may also provide splendid music for the ceremony. The fee is about $1,800 and includes organist and wedding day coordinator. If you hear wedding bells, you should check where they are ringing ... Carmel Mission!

Best Electrician

Carmel Valley Electric — 3 El Caminto Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 659-2105

Founded in Carmel Valley in 1960, Carmel Valley electric has built its success on “taking real good care of our customers and being very conscientious,” according to general manager Rick Herd, who has worked for the business 40 years. “We like small projects, and we do everything, from new construction to service calls.” Available for jobs everywhere on the Monterey Peninsula, the firm also specializes in LED lighting, which is “really coming on strong,” according to Herd.

Best Plumber

A&R Plumbing, Inc. (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — 1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City - (831) 394-7221 - www.aandrplumbinginc.com

All your plumbing needs, including the kitchen sink, can be handled by A&R Plumbing. Established in 1974, A&R services residential and commercial plumbing needs, including new homes, remodel projects, repairs, replacements, water, sewer and gas lines, sewer video inspections, drain cleaning, sewage ejector and sump pump repair and replacements, to name a few… and, yes, kitchen sinks, too. Family owned and operated, A&R offers superior customer service with a strong work ethic.

Best Architect

Eric Miller (also winner in 2010) — 157 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove - (831) 372-0410 - www.ericmillerarchitects.com

The designer of numerous high-profile projects, including The Carmel Foundation’s Trevvett Court and the proposed Carmel Sands Lodge, not to mention dozens of homes from Pebble Beach to Rancho San Carlos, Eric Miller and his staff have risen to prominence in the Monterey Peninsula by virtue of their outstanding designs and flawless executions. The firm, “balances the vision of clients with site features such as views, to create buildings with character defining appearances which result in extraordinary interior and exterior spaces. These exceptional buildings, both commercial and residential, allow his clients to live a lifestyle that includes convenience, style and beauty,” according to its website. Miller (the architect) is brother to Monterey Fire Chief Andrew Miller.

Best General Contractor

Stocker & Allaire — 21 Mandeville Court, Monterey - (831) 375-1890 - www.stockerallaire.com

Specializing in everything from cozy Victorians to Pebble Beach estates, Stocker & Allaire has been one of the Monterey Peninsula’s most successful contractors since its founding in 1983 by David Stocker and David Allaire. “The common thread in all of our projects is working closely with our clients to identify their needs, and then working with them to see that these needs are met,” said Stocker, who is the company’s president. “Building homes is what we do, because building homes is what we love.”

Best Real Estate Company

Carmel Realty — Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Dolores and two other locations - (831) 622-1000 - www.carmelrealtycompany.com

After transforming itself from a small firm just seven years ago into one of the big players in upscale Monterey Peninsula real estate, Carmel Realty is now also No. 1 with Pine Cone readers. Owned by Dan and Shelly Mitchell, Bill and Vicki Mitchell and Peter and Cara Butler, the firm has also attracted some top local talent, including Mike Canning, who joined the firm in March. “We’re about quality, not volume,” said managing broker Malone Hodges. Carmel Realty was founded in 1913, which makes it ones of Carmel’s oldest business, if not the oldest.

Best Real Estate Lender
Best Business Bank

Wells Fargo (also a winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) - (877) 937-9357 - www.wellsfargo.com

Despite all the turmoil in the real estate and mortgage markets, not to mention bank failures, Wells Fargo has thrived and is now the dominant real-estate lender in California. It’s also our readers’ favorite to do their business and personal banking. Wells Fargo has locations in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Monterey.

Best Personal Bank

Chase — branches in Carmel, Carmel Rancho, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove and Monterey - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. - (831) 625-4200 - www.chase.com

Four years ago there wasn't a Chase bank anywhere in the Monterey Peninsula, but with the acquisition of Washington Mutual in 2008, Chase became a major player in local banking and has now become the favorite. Branches have convenient hours, the ATMs are user-friendly and the online services are very impressive, with a simple bill pay service that almost means you never have to write a check again. The iPhone app is great, too. And the company offers mortgages, home equity loans, car loans, innuities, insurance and retirement planning.

Best Title Company

First American (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — 3855 Via Nona Marie, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 625-5980 - www.firstam.com

Closing escrow can be a nerve-wracking experience. Just signing all the documents is daunting! It takes a very professional company to make sure everything goes right, and Pine Cone readers say First American Title Co. is the best. Drawing on more than a century of experience, First American says it “offers accurate, efficient and cost-effective title and settlement solutions.”

Best Investment Advisor

Integrated Wealth Counsel (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when the firm was called Doolittle & Ganos) — 100 Clock Tower Place, Suite 210 - (831) 624-3317 - www.integratedwealth.com

Founded in 1975 as Doolittle & Ganos, Integrated Wealth Counsel offers professional services in wealth management, investment management and trust administration, and provides sophisticated investment management and financial planning solutions for clients’ complex needs. The firm works with individuals, family businesses, trust and nonprofit organizations with net worths between $2 million and $20 million. Todd C. Ganos is principal and portfolio manager; Jerry Matecun is portfolio manager and senior research analyst.

Best Veterinarian

George Bishop/Animal Hospital at the Crossroads (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — 3 Crossroads Center - Mon. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. (on Sundays, emergencies and boarding only) - (831) 624-0131 - www.carmelvet.com

The royal treatment in health and grooming can be found for four-legged canine and feline friends at The Animal Hospital at the Crossroads. Celebrity dogs and their famous and not-so-famous owners rely on Dr. George Bishop’s expertise in full service care, including diagnostics, treatment, boarding, vaccinations and more. With more than 30 years’ experience, Dr. Bishop serves with concern and compassion for patients and their owners.

Best Yoga Studio

The Yoga Center of Carmel (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — San Carlos and 10th - (831) 624-4949 - www.yogacentercarmel.com

Originating in India over 2,000 years ago, the ancient practice of yoga teaches students — through a series of poses and breathing techniques — how to reduce stress as well as increase strength and flexibility. Located at Sunset Center for more than two decades, the Yoga Center of Carmel presents a wide range of yoga classes for all students, regardless of experience. Director Kathleen Karachale and her staff of certified instructors offer daily classes, weekend workshops and training for teachers. The recently renovated center, meanwhile, is warm, inviting and conveniently located in the heart of Carmel.

Best Martial Arts Studio

American Karate — 623 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey - 3:30 to 9:30 p.m., Mon. to Wed.; 9 to 11 a.m. and 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tues. to Thurs.; 4 to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturday - (831) 372-KICK (5425) - www.americankaratemonterey.com

Owned and operated by Mr. Matt Durney, American Karate specializes in children’s programs. Starting as early as age 3, students can learn the fundamentals of traditional Korean martial arts through fun, dynamic, and challenging training. From integrity and concentration, to self-defense, fitness and respect for others, the American Karate family is dedicated to passing on the building blocks of a fulfilling life. The adult program, while comparatively small, is no less rigorous or rewarding, according to the studio. “Whether you’re looking for a fun way to teach your child discipline and self-respect, or an engaging, full-body workout for yourself, American Karate is the place for you,” one of the instructors, Hannah Miller, said. And they offer your first week free.

Best Dentist

Dr. Steve Austin — 16 Ford Road, Carmel Valley - (831) 659-4944

Most folks consider a trip to the dentist only slightly more enticing than spraining an ankle. But when you step into Dr. Austin’s office in Carmel Valley Village, his warm and friendly staff will make you feel like you’re visiting a spa instead of a dentist. There’s a good reason patients from Pacific Grove to Big Sur are willing to make the lengthy commute to Carmel Valley to see Dr. Austin — he combines a gentle touch and an engaging personality with the latest dental technology, making getting your teeth cleaned something to look forward to.

Best Dermatologist

Dr. James Rheim and Dr. Joseph Rheim (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — 757 Pacific St., Monterey - (831) 373-4404 - www.jamesrheimmd.com

Dr. James Rheim, his son, Dr. Joseph Rheim and their staff work to help clients achieve healthier skin through prevention and treatment. Treatments for conditions such as acne, actinickeratosis, eczema, excessive sweating, psoriasis and rashes are their specialties. Botox, Derma fillers, hair reduction, foto facial, krypton laser and whisper laser are among the cosmetic procedures offered at the Cosmetic Laser Center. Through medical and cosmetic services, the doctors Rheim can diagnose and treat skin to promote its greatest health and beauty. The senior Dr. Rheim been in practice on the Monterey Peninsula for more than 30 years.

Best Ophthalmologist

Dr. Charles Whisler — 966 cass Street, suite 100, Monterey - (831) 373-7733 - www.montereyeyedoc.com

A Monterey native, Dr. Whisler received his bachelor’s degree from University of California at Santa Barbara in Marine Biology and taught Chemistry and Algebra at York School for a semester and was a substitute teacher for MPUSD. While volunteering at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and in a Seaside medical clinic he decided to become a doctor, earning his M.D. in 2001 from the University of Michigan. Board certified, he specializes in specializes in small incision/suture-less cataract extraction; care of Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma patients; evaluation and management of eyelid and tear duct disorders, and provides routine eye exams.

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Douglas Sunde (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 856 Munras Ave., Monterey - (831) 372-0200 - www.plasticsurgery.org/md/drsunde.html

Ask any gorgeous, middle-aged woman reading The Pine Cone at the Beach and Tennis Club or Mission Ranch her secret, and she’ll whisper, “Douglas Sunde.” A Stanford grad who also specializes in reconstructive surgery, Sunde has a gifted touch with your most important parts. The staff is very friendly and professional, and Sunde treats his patients with respect and discretion. Check the website for a list of his specialties.


RETAIL

Best Florist

Twigery — Seventh Avenue between Lincoln and Dolores - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday - (831) 626-8944 - www.twigery.com

Located in the historic Felice Building adjacent to the Cypress Inn in Carmel, Twigery is led by Michael Merritt, “a renowned master in the world of floral art.” Merritt is a floral designer’s designer, as comfortable creating wreaths, baskets and floral designs as he is the decorations for a party of 1,000 Washington DC political guests. Merritt’s unique and engaging style blends knowledge and creativity promising to design works of art for any event, wedding, party, or even weekly arrangements for your home.

Best Furniture Store

Poppleton’s (also winner in 2009) — 299 Lighthouse Avenue, Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. - (831) 649-8303 - www.poppletonshome.com

Once you open the doors at its rather nondescript building on Lighthouse Avenue in New Monterey, you enter a world of exclusive furnishings handcrafted by the best American, French and Italian manufactures, personally selected by owner Mike Poppleton, who says that customers “can’t help but be inspired” when they are in his showroom.

Best Golf Shop

Pebble Beach Pro Shop — 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily - (831) 622-8799 - www.pebblebeach.com

Adjacent to the first tee of the world renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the most famous golf courses in the world, this luxury golf shop offers the best in golf apparel, equipment, accessories and shoes.

Best Hardware Store
Best Housewares Store
Best Garden Shop

Brinton’s Remarkable Home and Garden Store (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 546 Carmel Rancho Shopping Center - Mon. to Fri. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-8541 - www.brintons.com

Located at the mouth of Carmel Valley, Brinton’s has been serving the local community for 47 years and is the go-to place for hardware, housewares, linens, landscaping and furniture. The store offers 38,000 square feet of merchandise, a warm shopping environment, plenty of parking and friendly, knowledgeable staff members committed to giving the personal attention Peninsula residents deserve.

Best Pet Store

Diggidy Dog (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Mission and Ocean - Open daily at 10 a.m. - (831) 625-1585 - www.diggidydogcarmel.com

Diggidy Dog in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which has an eclectic selection of products for cats and dogs, is advertised as a pro shop for pets. The 2,600-square-foot store, opened in 2003 by Napisa and Jeff Pollock, offers distinctive clothing, tasty bakery treats, comfortable pet beds, pet collars, unique toys, travel items, food bowls and bones galore. Diggidy Dog also has a website for online orders. The best part of Diggidy Dog is seeing all the wonderful pets that come into the store, and sharing that love with their owners!

Best Camping/Skiing/ Surfing store

REI (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Imjin Parkway and Second, Marina - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 883-8048 - www.rei.com

Featuring a dazzling array of gear, equipment and clothing for just about every imaginable recreational activity, REI is a one-stop shopping paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors. Whether you re backpacking in Big Sur, running along the beach in Carmel or preparing for a winter ski trip to Lake Tahoe, REI has everything you need to stay warm, dry and stylish.

Best Pharmacy

Carmel Drug Store (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — Ocean and San Carlos - 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (the pharmacy opens at 9 a.m.) - (831) 624-3819

A full-service pharmacy that offers free delivery, Carmel Drug Store has been located in the heart of Carmel for nearly a century. The popular drug store also offers film, cameras, sunglasses, cosmetics, travel items, greeting cards and fine gift items. Longtime locals agree: Ocean Avenue wouldn’t be the same without Carmel Drug Store.

Best Camera/Photo Store

Green’s Carmel Camera Center (Also winner in 2008 and 2010) — Fifth and San Carlos - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-8880 - www.greenscamera.com

Locally owned & operated. Green’s Carmel Camera Center can meet the needs of amateur and professional photographers. Carmel Camera offers film and digital camera equipment and accessories. State of the art digital lab offering scanning and printing while you wait, print sizes up to 24x36; photo restoration and manipulation done on site by highly skilled employees.

Best Toy Store

Thinker Toys (Also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — San Carlos and Seventh - Mon. to Thurs. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 624-0441 - www.thinkertoys.com

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve seen the giant K’NEX Ferris Wheel in the front window, and you’ve probably encountered some of those cute, animated animals on the mat out front. The store’s motto is “Toys for Thinking Kids of All Ages,” and those include games, puzzles, books, novelties, musical instruments and building sets. Thinker Toys also has stores in the Del Monte Shopping Center and in Morgan Hill.

Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Sprout Boutique (Also winner in 2010) — 210 1/2 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove - Thurs. and Fri. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 373-5437 - www.sproutbabyboutique.net

Sprout Boutique, owned by sisters Jaime Shoemaker and Lisa Thomas, features unique yet practical items for infants, toddlers and big kids, with a focus on clothing and accessories that are creative and memorable. Many of the items found at Sprout Boutique are hand-crafted original designs, responsibly made and sustainable. From socks to shoes, hats and clippies, blankies and cuddly friends, Jaime and Lisa have drawn upon their experience as mommies and aunties to carry items that leave a lasting impression. Sprout is not open every day of the week yet, but there are personal and group shopping appointments available.

Best Men’s Clothing Store

J. Lawrence Khaki’s (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 3744 Carmel Plaza - Mon. to Thurs., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 625-8106 - www.khakisofcarmel.com

Opened 16 years ago by Jim and Connie Ockert, Khaki’s has become the local favorite men’s store not only for its wide variety of top-of-the-line merchandise — from tuxedos, to resort wear — but for its community involvement and fantastic customer service. Last year, the store made a move to Carmel Plaza, where it occupies one of the most prominent storefronts. Khaki’s is one of Carmel’s most famous retail stores and features many clothing lines for women, too.

Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Ocean Avenue at Mission Street - Sun. to Thurs., 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. - (831) 624-5580; and 3630 The Barnyard - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 625-2055

Hedi’s specializes in comfortable and stylish shoes from around the world, including Ecco, Alan Edmonds, Clark’s New Balance and many more. Buying shoes from an inexperienced salesman can be a very frustrating experience ... but that has never been a problem at Hedi’s. The store has two locations, one in the Barnyard and the other in downtown Carmel.

Best Women’s Clothing Boutique
Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

GBG (also winner in 2008 and 2009) — Mission at Seventh - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 626-3368

Since it opened more than a decade ago, GBG (Girl Boy Girl) has rightfully established its place as THE place to go for upscale boutique and designer goods in Carmel. Owner Sweet Pea puts her mark of personality on the selection of clothing, which is simultaneously chic, colorful and quintessentially Californian. All the staff treat you like you re the most important person in the room!

Best Women’s Accessories

Carried Away — 612 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 656-9063 - www.carriedawayboutique.com

Carried Away, located in the heart downtown Pacific Grove, carries a wonderful selection of women’s handbags, fashion accessories, candles, spa products, jewelry and more. The store, owned by Rosemary and Bill Valuch, has handbags and accessories by Vera Bradley, Hobo International and spa products by Voluspa.

Best Women’s Shoe Store

Lloyd’s (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Ocean Avenue at Dolores Street - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 625-1382 - www.lloydsshoes.com

A favorite in downtown Carmel since it opened in 1975, Lloyd’s offers a unique and extensive collection of women’s footwear from Italy, Spain, Brazil, Asia and the United States, along with professional (not overbearing) service. Lloyd’s also has handbags, leg-wear and socks.

Best Vintage Clothing Store

Yellow Brick Road (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — 26388 Carmel Rancho Lane - Mon. to Tues., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wed., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thurs. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 626-8480

Widely regarded as the best thrift store around, Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop carries an eclectic assortment of used, vintage and consignment items for sale, and has donated more than $3.5 million to local nonprofits since 1989. Designer threads are donated by the Carmel, Pebble Beach and Big Sur locals, and have usually been well cared for. The volunteer workers and staff are respectful, friendly and polite. An added bonus is that the proceeds benefit other charitable activities. Good work, ladies and gents!

Best Jewelry Store

Hesselbein’s (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 143 The Crossroads - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sun., noon to 4:30 p.m. - (831) 625-2522

Founded by Arthur Hesselbein in 1968 in King City, Hesselbein’s is a local favorite not only for its exclusive and extensive inventory — watches by Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Breguet, Omega and Ebel; pearls by Mikimoto, and jewelry and Faberge and Roberto Coin — but because it does service and repairs for watches and jewelry. In fact, where jewelry is concerned, Hesselbein’s does it all, which is not true of most jewelry stores nowadays.

Best Shopping Center/Area

Del Monte Center (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Munras Avenue at Highway 1, Monterey - (831) 373-2705 - www.delmontecenter.com

So many changes have happened at Del Monte Center in the last five years, it’s definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been there in a while. In addition to anchor tenant Macy’s, DMC has the 13-screen Cinemark Theater (which won a Golden Pine Cone this year for Best Movie Theater), an Apple Store and Williams-Sonoma, plus Whole Foods, Hollister, California Pizza Kitchen and P.F. Chang’s, not to mention Pottery Barn, Lalla Grill and Islands, and now the massive Forever 21. With all the quality shopping in Carmel and at the mouth of the valley, Pine Cone readers once again chose Del Monte Center as their favorite shopping area — which is quite a tribute.

Best Antique Shop

Cannery Row Antique Mall — 471 Wave St., Monterey - Mon. to Fri. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 655-0264 - www.canneryrowantiquemall.com

Boasting the “largest antique mall on the Central Coast,” the Cannery Row Antique Mall has more than 150 dealers in a huge 21,000-square-foot refurbished 1920s canning building on Wave Street. With the thousands and thousands of items for sale, there’s no doubt you’ll find something you’ll want to take home. The mall also has free parking for its customers and offers a complimentary cup of coffee on the second floor!

Best Bookstore

River House Books — 208 Crossroads Blvd. - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. noon to 6 p.m. - (831) 626-2665

Located in the Crossroads, River House Books is a family-owned independent bookseller where every book is hand picked by the proprietor. Browse the store for a selection of new works in the humanities and sciences, best-selling fiction and nonfiction, travel guides, children’s classics, reference materials, foreign and domestic magazines plus collection-worthy architecture, art, cooking, equestrian, fashion, gardening, interior design, photography and wine books.

Best Car Dealer
Best New Car

Lexus (also winner in 2008 and 2010) — sold locally by Lexus Monterey Peninsula, 1721 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (877) 204-2818 - www.lexusmontereypeninsula.com

Since Toyota launched its line of luxury cars in 1990, the Lexus brand has become synonymous with superior technology, outstanding fit and finish, and great value. Among the most popular models are the LX570 SUV, the superior luxurious LS460, and the LFA, the company’s $375,000, 552 hp sports car. More possible reasons for the interest in Lexus among Pine Cone readers: The cars are the official vehicles of the Pebble Beach Resorts.

Best New Truck

Ford (Also winner in 2009) — Cypress Coast Ford - 4 Geary Plaza, Seaside - Mon. to Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 899-8300 - www.cypresscoastfordlm.com

Carmel Pine Cone readers think Ford is the best choice for trucks. From the Ranger, to the F-350, to the Super Duty 450, Ford builds tough trucks. On the Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Coast Ford-Lincoln-Mercury is the place to shop for new or used Fords. “From a new-car-buying perspective, I thought these guys were really nice and cool to work with,” an online reviewer wrote. “I shopped around in Santa Cruz, Salinas, Watsonville and Seaside and felt that these guys were the most interested in working with me.”

Best Gas Station

Carmel Shell (also winner in 2010) — Fifth and San Carlos - (831) 625-3513.
Shell (also winner in 2010) — 7 Carmel Center Place - (831) 622-1591

Carmel motorists have several gas stations to choose from when fueling their vehicles, but the Shell stations in downtown Carmel and at the Mouth of the Valley beat the others for Best Gas Station. The employees at both locations are friendly, and the gas prices are competitive with others in the area.

Best Carwash

El Estero (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 590 Fremont St., Monterey - Mon. to Sat., 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 373-1801 - www.elesterocarwash.com

El Estero Hand Car Wash has been serving the Monterey Peninsula’s motoring public for more than 50 years, and its owners have an equal amount of experience in the carwash business. At El Estero, they like to say that everything begins and ends with the customer. The shop’s website offers coupons for washing and waxing services. Also, El Estero recycles its water and supports the community by donating to local schools, organizations and charities. It’s know for its great selection of greeting cards, too.

Best Computer Store

Apple (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — 240 Del Monte Center, Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 647-4480 - www.apple.com

Whether you’re in the market for the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5, iPad, the new iPod Touch, MacBook Pro laptop, iMac, or just need some advice about running a program on your Apple computer, the Apple Store in Del Monte Center is the place to go. The Apple Store is more than just a retail shop. Its Genius Bar offers super expert advice, insight and hands-on technical support from its resident Geniuses. The store also offers classes for people who are just getting up to speed on email, websites and PDFs. Perhaps even more noteworthy: The Carmel Pine Cone is produced 100 percent with Macintosh computers ... with not a PC in sight!

Best Carpet and Flooring Store

Bereman Carpets (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — 1070 Del Monte Ave., Monterey - Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - (831) 373-7759 - www.beremancarpets.com

Bereman Carpets has been serving the entire Monterey County area with distinction for years, and offers quality products and honest, dependable craftsmanship. Bereman carries a comprehensive selection of brands and products, including area rugs, carpeting, laminate, specialty and wood flooring, and flooring accessories. “I’ve used Bereman Carpets many many times over the years and they are the most honest and dependable on the Monterey Peninsula,” one customer posted on the store’s website. “They have a great selection of carpet and flooring in their showroom and the staff is friendly and helpful.”

Best Place for Brides to Shop

Nest — 229-B Grand Ave, Pacific Grove - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. by appointment - (831) 333-9184

From blue jeans to bridal, Nest in Pacific Grove offers an eclectic selection of “romantically chic clothing” at its charming boutique on Grand Avenue. Along with the quality gowns, dresses and accessories Nest carries, owner Phyllis Davis and her staff provide impeccable service, which is why the store has a legion of loyal customers. In an online review posted earlier this year, Marie from Monterey raved about the shop. “Great customer service and a very personal shopping experience,” Maria wrote. “There is a bridal section and prom dress section ... both are great and unique.”

Best Music Store

DO Re Mi Music & Video — 26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd. Suite B1 - Mon. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-1229

While the big-box music and book stores are folding right and left, DO Re Mi, which has a nice selection of CDs, has been a constant in Carmel for a long time. DO Re Mi is now located in the Carmel Rancho next door to Brinton’s. “I used to go here when I was a kid,” online reviewer Michael wrote. “It’s a really nice and relaxing place with a nice vibe.”

Most Environmentally Friendly Store

Eco Carmel — San Carlos between Seventh and Eighth - Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 624-1222 - www.ecocarmel.com

While everybody wants to “green” these days, Eco Carmel is making it easy for locals to do so ... and in surprisingly diverse ways. You won’t believe the selection! Everything from kitchen gadgets, to bathrooms accessories, to paint.

RECREATION and THE ARTS

Best Local Artist

Steven Whyte (also winner 2009 and 2010) — Su Vecino Court on Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - (831) 620-1917 - www.stevenwhytesculptor.com

One of the highlights of the annual Carmel Art Festival is watching local Steven Whyte create a larger-than-life sculpture of a historical figure in Devendorf Park. If you can’t make it to the festival, be sure to stop by his studio and gallery on Dolores Street, where you can often find the understated yet personable Whyte and his trusty canine companion, Lord Wellington, working on their latest creation.

Best Photo Gallery

Weston Gallery (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — north side of Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tues. to Sun. - (831) 624-4453

There’s no better place than the Weston Gallery to learn about the tremendous impact a handful of local photographers made in the world of fine art. In addition to presenting the work of pioneering image maker Edward Weston and his sons, Cole and Brett, the gallery features the photographs of Ansel Adams, a former Carmel Highlands resident who is perhaps the most famous of all fine art photographers.

Best Sculpture Gallery

Richard MacDonald Sculpture at Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery — Lincoln and Sixth - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun. - (800) 972-5528 - www.dawsoncolefineart.com

One of the most collected of all sculptors, Richard MacDonald creates striking figures that capture the grace, strength and fluidity of athletes in motion. As a result of his exceptional skill, McDonald’s work is not only on display in the NFL and NBA halls of fame, but he has been commissioned to create work for the Royal Ballet, the U.S. Open golf championship and the Olympics Games.

Best Art Gallery

Carmel Art Association (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — West side of Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-6176 - www.carmelart.org

The oldest gallery in a town famous for its art, the nonprofit Carmel Art Association opened in 1927. Since then, it has represented hundreds of mostly local artists and featured a remarkable assembly of creative talent. Showcasing its current roster of about 120 artists, the gallery presents monthly solo and group exhibits. The CAA also hosts films, lectures, concerts, plays and art demonstrations.

Best Concert Venue

Sunset Center (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — San Carlos between Eighth and Ninth - (831) 620-2048 - www.sunsetcenter.org

The heart of Carmel’s bustling performing arts scene, Sunset Center brings to Carmel an impressive array of talent. This season’s offerings, for instance, include appearances by jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, the Temptations, the St. Petersburg String Quartet, Smuin Ballet, the Kingston Trio, Joan Rivers, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal and more. The center underwent an extensive renovation in 2003, which improved the building’s acoustics and transformed the center into a world class facility.

Best Movie Theater

Cinemark at Del Monte Center — 1700 Del Monte Center, Monterey - (831) 373-8051 - www.cinemark.com

The Monterey Peninsula was a pretty dreary place for watching movies before this 13-theater complex opened at Del Monte Center in 2004. Now, movie lovers don’t have to leave town to enjoy stadium seating, high-tech sound and even digital projection. You can also order tickets online and print them at home. But you still have to go to the refreshment stand for your popcorn ....

Best Place to Dance

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road - opens at 11:30 a.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. Sat. and Sun. - (831) 625-2522 - www.bajacantina.com

This legendary Carmel Valley restaurant and bar is owned by Gina and Pat Phinny, who describe it as “a fun, friendly place to dine, catch up with friends, watch sporting events, or hang out and enjoy an award-winning margarita.” But according to Pine Cone readers, it’s the Thursday night and weekend music, including bands such as Cheeky Spanks and The Money Band, that really gets their juices flowing.

Most Dog-Friendly Hotel
Best Place to Relax and Listen to Music

Cypress Inn (also winner in 2010) — Lincoln and Seventh - (831) 624-3871 - www.cypressinn.com

How can you go wrong in a place that feels like your living room, presents top-notch acoustic jazz and welcomes well behaved dogs? Famously co-owned by animal-loving resident Doris Day, the Cypress Inn is the perfect place in town to relax, have a drink with a friend and listen to music. And with 44 recently remodeled rooms, it’s a great place to stay as well. “From the moment we checked in, we were treated like family,” one online reviewer reported.

Cypress Inn also won Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant. Please see above.

Best Piano Bar

Mission Ranch (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 26270 Dolores St. - (831) 624-6436 - www.missionranchcarmel.com

Historic Mission Ranch, owned by former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood, is one of the most spectacular spots on the Monterey Peninsula. Offering unique rooms, an historic 1850s farmhouse, complimentary continental breakfast and use of the tennis courts, Mission Ranch includes several different types of rooms with names such as the Farmhouse Room, the Hay Loft and Meadow View Room. The exquisite views are unrivaled: meadows stretch to the south, joining the wetlands and Carmel River Beach. Point Lobos can be seen in the distance across Carmel Bay. The Ranch consisted originally of 160 acres and was owned by Juan Romero, a Native American who is believed to have lived in the village next to the Carmel Mission. Needless to say, the Mission Ranch restaurant has outstanding casual cuisine, a welcoming fireplace and a great patio for Happy Hour drinks. And in the piano bar, jazz is the preferred genre (for obvious reasons). Don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity or two there.

Mission Ranch also won Best Steak (tie with Will’s Fargo), Best Piano Bar, Best Brunch and Best Buffet. Please see above.

Best Hiking Trail


Point Lobos State Reserve (also winner in 2009 and 2010) — west of Highway 1, about 3 miles south of Carmel Valley Road - (831) 624-4909 - www.pointlobos.org

While Point Lobos actually has many trails, the popular park wins Best Hiking Trail for the third straight year. Called “the greatest meeting of land and sea,” Point Lobos is famous for its dramatic coastline, its ancient groves of pines and cypress and spectacular vistas. If you’re looking for a hike that showcases the best of the park, try exploring the North Shore Trail, which travels about 1.4 miles from Whalers Cove to the Sea Lion Point parking area.

Best Place to Take Visitors

Monterey Bay Aquarium — 886 Cannery Row, Monterey - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily - (831) 648-4800 - www.montereybayaquarium.org

Since it opened in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has transformed not only the entire Cannery Row district — from a decaying neighborhood filled with the wreckage of its sardine-packing past into a thriving tourist destination — but also the entire Monterey Peninsula, which has become a must-see vacation stop for millions of families in the United States and around the world. From its massive deep-ocean tank, to its sea otters, jelly fish and stingrays, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world. But Pine Cone readers love to take visitors there not only for its artful and authentic displays of sea life, but also for the way the aquarium weaves local history and ecology into its many exhibits.

My Favorite Park

Garland Ranch Regional Park — South side of Carmel Valley Road, about 9 miles east of Highway 1 - www.mprpd.org

Garland Ranch Regional Park encompasses more than 4,400 acres and features dozens of miles of hiking trails. A vast network of paths climbs more than 2,000 feet, exploring shady creeks and leading to dazzling, sun-drenched vistas. The park is managed by the local Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, which doesn’t charge visitors a fee for entering the park, but somehow manages to keep the park’s trails in top condition — no small challenge in these challenging economic times.

Best Bicycle Shop

Bay Bikes — located in the Barnyard shopping center and on Cannery Row — (831) 624-RIDE or visit www.baybikes.com

With a new retail and rental shop fronting a recently completed stretch of the Carmel Hill and River Bicycle Trail, Bay Bikes is betting Carmel is primed to become a major destination for bicyclists. The business is also an official showroom for Specialized Bicycles, the Morgan Hill company that created the world’s first mass-produced mountain bike.

Best Beach
Best Place to Walk Your Dog
Best Place to Watch the Sunset

Carmel Beach (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — Foot of Ocean Avenue and west side of Scenic Road - http://ci.carmel.ca.us

Famous for its white sand, its pleasant year-round weather and its proximity to one of the world’s most interesting small towns, Carmel Beach is a magnet for locals and visitors seeking a little fun in the sun. It’s also California’s most dog-friendly beach, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the countless pooches and their beach-loving owners who come here greet the sun or watch it sink into the sea.

Best Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Links (also winner in 2008, 2009 and 2010) — 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Hours vary by season - (800) 654-9300 - www.pebblebeach.com

Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique challenge of Pebble Beach Golf Links have thrilled golfers and spectators alike. The famed course has been the site of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000 and 2010 U.S. Open Championships. Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the course hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide open vistas, cliffside fairways and sloping greens. It is a delightful challenge for all players. Pebble Beach Golf Links also includes chipping and putting greens, the Peter Hay par-3 golf course and a practice range.

Best Local Theater Company

PacRep Theatre (also winner in 2010) — Monte Verde and Eighth - (831) 622-0100 (box office) - www.pacrep.org

The only professional theater on the Monterey Peninsula, PacRep “produces bold and daring interpretations of the great plays from the world stage — plays that engage, excite, educate and inspire, presenting a world-class theatrical experience,” according to the company. “Annie” is playing at the Forest Theater, with “Romeo and Juliet” up next.

Best Fitness/Health Center

In-Shape Fit — 26536 Carmel Rancho Blvd. - Sat. and Sun, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. - Fri., 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 620-7100 - www.inshapeclubs.com/clubs/detail/4731/carmel

After opening this summer, In-Shape Fit’s 10,000-square-foot health club at Carmel Rancho has quickly become a local favorite, with its state-of-the-art cardio equipment, group exercise studio, cycling studio and more. It also offers yoga, pilates, group cycling, Zumba, stretch therapy and classes on the barre.

Best Hotel

La Playa Hotel — Camino Real and Eighth Avenue - (831) 624-6476 - www.laplayahotel.com

With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, its impeccably landscaped grounds, an intimate lobby and professional staff, it comes as no surprise that La Playa Hotel and Cottages-by-the-Sea has been recognized as the Grande Dame of Carmel. A Mediterranean villa in 1905, today La Playa still rests in a picture-perfect setting amidst oceans of flowers and cypress, with the sea itself just a stroll away. Here, design, decor and atmosphere are all in the classic tradition of good taste. The hotel features 73 charming, comfortable guest rooms, two spacious suites with ocean views, five quaint, private cottages, complimentary wireless Internet access, five function rooms for meetings and receptions, al fresco dining at the Terrace Grill, outdoor heated pool, Garden Spa Treatments and complimentary parking.

Best Inn/B&B

Vagabond Inn — 4th and Dolores - (831) 624-7738 - www.vagabondhouseinn.com

Owned by legendary Carmel businessman Denny LeVett and his daughter Amanda, the Vagabond House’s cozy and elegant rooms nestle around a courtyard dominated by an ancient oak and filled with flowers. The Vagabond Inn is environmentally conscious and pet friendly, and offers copious breakfasts and daily wine receptions, plus occasional Artists’ Retreats, which include courses in painting, drawing and even sculpting. Truly a Carmel original.

For previous years' winners, click here: 2010, 2009, 2008