The Carmel Pine Cone


SINCE 2008, we’ve been asking you — our readers — for your opinions on the best of everything Carmel-by-the-Sea and its surroundings have to offer, and you’ve responded. This year was no exception. About 1,200 of you gave us your thoughts about who does a swell job of fixing everything from a tire that’s gone flat to a Rolex with a scratched crystal.

Not only that, but you recommended the finest of sips and bites and the most beautiful place to walk off all the calories.

You also told us where the best place to get your hair done, a facial or a mani-pedi, and what music and events are most worth attending to show off your new look. In all, you shared your collective wisdom and refined tastes across more than 150 categories, offering a bit of love to local doctors, lawyers, plumbers and educators along the way.

So now, please pour yourself a glass of wine (plenty of recommendations await), settle in and read all about this year’s Golden Pine Cone recipients. We promise there will be no long speeches, and are relatively certain the Russians haven’t hacked the voting.


• Best Neighborhood Market
Best Butcher
Best Deli

Bruno’s Market & Delicatessen — NE Junipero and Sixth – 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3821

With all the items you might need from the market — a loaf of bread from a local bakery, a head of lettuce grown a short distance away, the best hot sauce or some gourmet ice cream — Bruno’s Market is everything a corner store should be, and more, with name brands and basics, house-made and made-to-order. It’s the ideal spot to stop in for prime steaks to cook for a special occasion, fruit juice for the kids, or a sandwich made exactly as you like it. Also voted best butcher, Bruno’s Market’s meat counter carries top-grade beef, choice cuts of pork and other prime meats, and will custom cut meat when needed. The back counter is always busy with customers ordering their generously sized sandwiches and salads for lunch on the go or a picnic in the park, too. Carmelites always appreciate being able to walk a few blocks to Bruno’s and find exactly what they need.

Best Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers Markets — - - - -

Why even bother shopping for produce at the grocery store, when any one of the main Monterey Peninsula farmers markets has better, fresher goods practically every day of the week? Pine Cone readers know the best fruits and vegetables are found at their local farmers markets — and there are plenty. The largest market takes over Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey on Tuesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. (4 to 7 p.m. in winter), while Monterey Peninsula College hosts a popular market on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Monterey Fairgrounds opens Gate 8 on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Grove presents a modest Monday afternoon market on Central Avenue from 4 to 7 p.m. Seasonal markets take place at The Barnyard at the mouth of the valley on Tuesday mornings and at Del Monte Center in Monterey on Sunday mornings from May through September. Other small markets are held on Thursdays on Sixth Avenue in downtown Carmel from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and in Carmel Valley Village on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The newest addition takes place on recently revamped Broadway Avenue in Seaside, where a market is held in the 600 block on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Best Seafood Market

Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant — 100 The Crossroads, and 598 Foam St., Monterey - open daily - (831) 626-3626 and (831) 646-0547

A stone’s throw from the Pacific, Sea Harvest market started in 1982 and added restaurants soon after. The markets in Monterey and at the Crossroads boast the best in fresh seafood daily, from locally famous Dungeness crab and sand dabs, to halibut, sushi-grade tuna, locally caught squid, and a wide range of other shellfish and bounty from the sea. Whether you are served at one of the market restaurants or take your fish home to prepare yourself, Sea Harvest’s knowledgeable staff is there to help you select the best and freshest choices — and offer tips on how to prepare them.

Best Bakery

Lafayette — The Barnyard Shopping Village – 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday - (831) 915-6286

For five years, customers at Lafayette have been treated to the delicious breads, delicate pastries, beautiful petit fours, flaky croissants, savory quiches and other baked delights prepared daily by the Vial family and their staff, who seek to bring a bit of Paris to Carmel. Lafayette offers espresso drinks, coffee and sandwiches, as well, and many fans describe it as the best French bakery and café outside of Paris.

Best Catering Company

Aqua Terra Culinary — (831) 657-9790 -

Offering corporate catering, as well as preparing seasonal and sustainable dishes for private events for all occasions, Aqua Terra Culinary was started by executive chef Dory Ford and focuses on farm-to-table cuisine that’s innovative as well as accessible. Ford and his team turn out bright and beautiful dishes, and regardless of size and type, the firm “has the experience, locations, staff and acumen to professionally cater for events of any size and scope.” Pine Cone readers have enjoyed Aqua Terra Culinary’s inventive cuisine and lovely staff at events throughout the Peninsula and have chosen the caterer as a winner again this year.

Best Wine Store

Surf N Sand — NE Junipero and Sixth - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 624-1805 -

Store owner Ryan Sanchez has worked tirelessly and built a lot of solid relationships with producers and distributors to transform his family’s general store from a spot for picking up chewing gum and sunblock to the very well-stocked and reasonably priced liquor store it is today. Its shelves and walls are filled with a wide range of wines, some hard to find, many produced right here in Monterey County, and Sanchez takes care to stock a good selection of half-bottles, too — perfect for a beach picnic or a hike. All that work helped Sanchez and Surf N Sand unseat longtime Best Wine Store winner Nielsen Bros. Market this year.

Best Monterey County Chardonnay
Best Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc
My Favorite Monterey County Wine

Bernardus — 5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 298-8021 -

Bernardus Pon launched his namesake winery in Cachagua in 1989, and while he started with the goal of creating a red wine that would rival the best of Bordeaux, the Chardonnays, Pinots and other wines Bernardus produces have also garnered praise from near and far. Nearest of all, Pine Cone readers selected its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as their favorites of those varietals again this year. Vineyard manager Matt Shea cultivates Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes at the winery’s estate vineyards in Cachagua and Carmel Valley, and winemaker Dean DeKorth and his team work hard to produce the wines that keep fans coming back. This year, Bernardus — a generous supporter of local charitable events and which has a Carmel Valley Village tasting room that’s always busy — also adds My Favorite Monterey County Wine to the feathers in its cap.

Best Monterey County Rosé
Best Monterey County Pinot Noir

Dawn’s Dream Winery — NW San Carlos and Seventh – noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday - (831) 659-2649 -

“Rosé all day,” “Yes way, rosé” and other pink-hued phrases have entered the lingo of wine drinkers everywhere. In Monterey County, more than a dozen wineries produce a version of this still underappreciated, versatile, delicious, dry pink wine, and once again, Dawn’s Dream has emerged as the favorite among local rosés this year. Owned by Dawn Galante, the winery produces a rosé of Pinot Noir that offers bright citrus notes and juicy hints of fresh berries. It’s dry and crisp, while still being layered with flavor, making it ideal for any occasion. Winemaker Greg Vita also crafts four different highly regarded pinots for Dawn’s Dream, and this year, Pine Cone readers decided his were the best of all — a huge accolade in a county that grows and produces more pinot noir than anywhere else in the state. Adding to the draw of Dawn’s Dream, the winery is socially conscious, too, as Galante founded it with a mission of supporting charities.

Best Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon

Scheid Vineyards — SE San Carlos and Seventh – noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday – (831) 626-WINE (9463) –

Having grown grapes locally for more than 45 years, Scheid has a significant legacy here — and a lot of superlative wines to the family’s name. This year, Pine Cone readers selected its cabernet sauvignons (the winery produces three) as the best. The 2015 Scheid cab is “intense and focused, with aromas of dark berries and plum,” and is drinkable now but could age another five to 10 years, while the 2015 Kurt’s Vineyard estate wine is more opulent. The 2014 Appassimento is crafted in a northern Italian styles reflective of that country’s Amarone, and “displays a lavish richness that is almost port-like.”

Best Monterey County Merlot

Galante Vineyards — Dolores between Ocean and Seventh – noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday - (831) 624-3800 –

Galante Vineyards clearly captured voters’ hearts again this year. The tasting room — the first to open in downtown Carmel, in 2004 — is warm and hospitable, while Galante’s red wines seem to always strike the balance of substantial fruit and underlying subtlety. Jack Galante has always focused on growing the finest grapes possible in his Cachagua vineyard and letting the fruit express itself in the wines — efforts that have been rewarded with praise and support from Pine Cone readers, who the love winery’s Double M blend of half Malbec and half merlot. Galante also offers several straight merlots from its library, including a 1996 vintage that’s amazingly intact after 22 years and sells for $150 per bottle, given its scarcity. Merlots from 2002, 2003 and 2005 are also available in very limited numbers, too, and are sure to please any fan of this particular Bordeaux varietal.

Best Tasting Room

Folktale Winery — 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday - (831) 293-7500 –

Founded by Greg Ahn in 2015, Folktale Winery took over the vineyards and winery of Chateau Julien and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and fun places to taste wine. Guests are often greeted with a glass of Folktale’s sparkling wine and can select their flights, or buy wine by the glass or bottle, while sipping in any of the winery’s comfortable rooms or outside in the valley sunshine. The winery also has a full kitchen that turns out great food to share with friends while tasting, and as the only winery in Carmel Valley with a tasting room on site, visitors can take a full tour, too. Folktale hosts concerts on its grounds and stages events in its large barrel room, giving locals even more reason to visit, and to name it their favorite tasting room this year.

Best Place for a Beer

Alvarado Street Brewery — 426 Alvarado St., Monterey – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 655-2337 -

When it opened in a former movie theater that had been shuttered for years, Alvarado Street Brewery quickly became the go-to place for great beer and fun food. Since then, it’s continued to evolve, with increasingly interesting, sophisticated — and even lighthearted — beers, created and guided by co-owner and head brewer J.C. Hill. The draft lineup always includes a range to suit every taste, and flights are available for those who’d like to explore what Alvarado Street has to offer. The kitchen, meanwhile, turns out sophisticated and tasty pub food to enjoy in the restaurant or out back in the beer garden. Alvarado Street also opened a full production facility and taproom in Salinas a couple of years ago, and its owners are working on a new restaurant and brewery, Yeast of Eden, set to open in Carmel Plaza later this year.

Best Cocktails

Montrio Bistro — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey – Dinner nightly from 4:30 p.m. – (831) 648-8880 –

The bar at Montrio is never a bad place to be, considering the ever-changing selection of compelling cocktails concocted there. Executive mixologist Anthony Vitacca is always coming up with new drinks, allowing Montrio to offer cocktails with a level of sophistication and creativity not found at many restaurants. The liquor selections are solid, as well, for those who favor a high-quality Scotch neat or Bourbon on the rocks. The cocktails always have great names, too, like the gin-based and savory In Spain in the Membrane, Fairies Wear Boots featuring Redemption rye, the If You’re Not Into Yoga rum cocktail, and Lipstick & Leather, with strawberry- and rhubarb-infused gin.

Best Family Restaurant

Rosine’s Restaurant — 434 Alvarado St., Monterey – 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday - (831) 375-1400 -

Rosine’s has a fun and lively, family-friendly atmosphere with cheerful service and a menu that caters to fans of unique dishes as well as those who favor the tried and true. Since the Culcasi family opened their restaurant doors at the Del Monte Center in 1980, Rosine’s has consistently been the top destination for anyone seeking a quality meal. A growing, loyal customer base prompted their move to Alvarado Street in 1986, where Rosine’s has been a downtown Monterey institution ever since, feeding locals and visitors alike. Featured on the Food Network, this third generation operated restaurant also boasts their famous award-winning towering cakes and decadent pies that fill a large dessert case by the door, allowing customers to plan their feasting accordingly.

Best French Restaurant

L’Escargot — Mission south of Fourth – Dinner nightly from 5 p.m. - (831) 620-1942 -

Founded 60 years ago by Yvan Nopert and his mother and uncle, L’Escargot is Carmel’s longest-running restaurant. Two decades ago, the family sold it to chef/owner Kerry Loutas, who carries on its traditional French cuisine while adding his own creative touches. The restaurant’s caramelized onion and goat cheese tart appetizer and Monterey Bay sand dabs are longtime favorites, and it’s one of the few places where frog legs and sweetbreads can be found on the menu. Loutas creates a few specials for the evening, as well. L’Escargot’s $39 three-course prix fixe is a great deal, as are Wino Wednesdays, when every bottle on the list is half-price. Tucked back off the street, it’s a favorite of locals, and with its long history here, some wish its walls could talk, while others are glad they can’t!

Best Chinese Restaurant

Tommy’s Wok — Mission between Ocean and Seventh – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 624-8518 -

Bustling Tommy’s Wok is the only place to find Chinese food in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but its reputation and delicious, fresh food draw people from all over the Peninsula to town. The dishes paraded out of its tiny kitchen are bright, fresh, aromatic and satisfying in the ways that only really good Chinese food can be, and it’s a perennial favorite among Pine Cone readers, having taken the crown each year since the Golden Pine Cones started in 2008. Tommy’s serves up a menu of Szechuan, Hunan and Mandarin specialties, and is as popular for takeout as it is for dining in.

Best Indian Restaurant

Aabha — The Barnyard Shopping Village, and 414 Alvarado St., Monterey – 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 250-5940 and (831) 641-7924 -

Executive chef and proprietor Bhupender Singh’s food is as warm as he is. Everyone who walks into his new restaurants, which opened in the Barnyard shopping center at the mouth of Carmel Valley almost two years ago and more recently in downtown Monterey, feels welcome, and Singh’s delicious Indian food never disappoints. The lunch buffet is unbeatable for value and quality, and the dinner menu offers a wide range of dishes, including many vegetarian and vegan options. Singh’s passion for cooking came from watching his mother and helping her in the kitchen. He’s “passionate about creating authentic Indian food and bringing Indian delicacy to the table.” Aabha’s website also allows for online orders to go, making it a good choice for dining in or takeout.

Best Italian Restaurant

La Balena — Junipero Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues – noon to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 250-6295 -

Delicious antipasti (including a fabulous dish of pan-friend cauliflower with currants and pine nuts, and another featuring grilled octopus), freshly made pastas with rich sauces, and decadent main courses — the fried chicken is a must, at least once — are staples at La Balena, as is the diverse wine list, heavily weighted with Italian wines. Owned by Emanuele and Anna Bartolini, La Balena is popular with Pine Cone readers, as well as visitors who return every time they’re in town. An intimate dining room, dog-friendly al fresco dining in front and in the picturesque back garden patio add to La Balena’s draw, and the Bartolinis work hard to ensure it continues to flourish.

Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

Crystal Fish — 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays - (831) 649-3474 –

A longtime favorite of locals, Crystal Fish Sushi was started by chef-owner Tamotsu Suzuki in 2005, and since then, he’s had a talented team serving the freshest sushi and sashimi at the always busy restaurant, which often has crowds waiting at the door. The sushi is worth the wait, as Suzuki, a Tokyo native, was trained as a chef in Japan and ensures all of his sushi chefs are trained in the same traditions. Specials often feature live scallops and other delicacies not found at many Japanese restaurants, and the fish is always fresh, sourced from local fishermen and markets. For those who don’t care for sushi, the menu has plenty of interesting fusion dishes, too.

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

Dametra Cafe — Ocean and Lincoln, Carmel – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily - (831) 622-7766 -

People flock to Dametra not just for great food, but for the lively atmosphere and the impromptu musical performances that can often be heard a block or two away. Friends Faisal Nimri and Bashar Sneeh were brought together by their love of music — both play the traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument, the oud — and their desire to create restaurants that feel like home to all who walk through the door, strangers and friends alike. Hence, their Dametra Café, which offers Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, French, Israeli and Lebanese dishes — always has a line out the door. Nimri, from Jordan, and Sneeh, from Syria, continue to build their following by displaying their inimitable hospitality, which fans can also experience at their newer restaurants, Mediterranean and PortaBella, a block away, and at their fast-food version, Dametra Fresh Mediterranean, at Del Monte Center in Monterey.

Best Thai Restaurant

Zab Zab Thai — 401 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 747-2225 -

“Zab” means “delicious, spicy and hot” in northeast Thailand, and chef/owner Prapaporn Sujun, who goes by Pui, spent more than a decade learning how to create the best Thai, Chinese, Japanese, seafood and fusion dishes for her customers. Several years ago, she achieved her dream of opening a restaurant of her own with the help of her aunt, Ratana Voranoot, who has nearly 40 years of experience in the business herself. Look for delicious and satisfying noodle dishes and soups, curries, appetizers, and lunch specials at ZabZab.

Best Mexican Restaurant

Baja Cantina — 7166 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday - (831) 625-2252 -

Some people go just for the margaritas and the band on the outdoor deck, while others prefer to explore some of the unusual offerings on the extensive list of tequilas. But most who flock to Pat and Gina Phinny’s cantina appreciate the broad and unexpected menu of fresh Mexican fare served with flair. Fresh fish tacos, organic garden tamales and mole enchiladas are just a few of the many favorites. Baja Cantina is more than a Mexican restaurant — it’s a place where friends meet and strangers become friends, especially at its always busy bar. Baja is particularly popular among car buffs, since much of the proprietor’s extensive collection of memorabilia is proudly on display there. The restaurant regularly hosts events catering to car fans, including its Hot Chili Nights on Thursdays in the summertime. With its U-shaped bar, lounge furniture by the fireplace and several televisions, Baja is also a great spot to grab a beer and watch the game or a Formula 1 race.

Best Restaurant for Seafood

Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – 5 to 9 p.m. daily - (831) 655-3311 -

Founded by Ted and Cindy Walter, Passionfish is well known for its focus on sustainable seafood and its accessible, affordable wine list. The Walters strive to get their fish, meats and produce from sustainable sources whenever possible, and seek out opportunities to educate people about environmental choices in eating and drinking. “And we believe in the simple power of pleasure; in food, wine and company, coming together at the table,” they say. Expect to find intriguing and creative flavors combined with the freshest seafood at Passionfish, a frequent favorite of locals and visitors, alike.

Best Restaurant for Vegetarians

Basil Seasonal Dining — San Carlos between Ocean and Seventh – 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday - (831) 626-8226 -

Carmel’s first certified green restaurant, Basil offers a menu based on locally grown and seasonal produce — which is why it’s such a great spot for vegetarians. Now owned solely by Denis Boaro, who also owns Gusto’s in Seaside, Basil has a new chef and recently introduced weekend brunch. Fresh salads, vegetarian lasagna, roasted vegetables, numerous vegetarian side dishes and other creations make it a good spot for those who abstain from seafood, poultry and meats. Omnivores like it, too, for its fresh seafood dishes and other meats. Because Basil’s dining room is so tiny, reservations are recommended for customers who prefer to eat indoors, but the restaurant has charming, heated outdoor seating, too, tucked back in the courtyard off of San Carlos Street.

Best Chef
Best Place to Take Clients
Best Outdoor Dining
Best Restaurant for Steaks
Best Desserts

Seventh & Dolores Steakhouse/Todd Fisher — SE Seventh and Dolores – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily - (831) 293-7600 -

When Seventh & Dolores — called 7D for short — opened in Carmel, it filled a niche, offering a lively, modern, cosmopolitan ambiance and a creative, abundant menu. Winner of Best New Restaurant in the Golden Pine Cones last year, 7D went on to take the most awards this year, noted for executive chef Todd Fisher, whose over-the-top culinary style is well known on the Peninsula, its sophisticated air, and its brand-new outdoor seating area, comfortable with fire pits and spacious chairs that are perfect for a date or a gathering of friends. Since its opening, the folk at 7D have prided themselves on serving choice steaks, including several dry-aged selections available in traditional steakhouse style with a variety of sauces, and the tartare is one of the best around. Adding to all of that, the desserts are lovely to look at and delicious to eat, ensuring a spectacular experience from beginning to end.

Best BBQ

Little Chicken House — 1193 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove – Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. – (831) 655-1704

The small spot on Forest Ave. smells deliciously of smoked meats and poultry, and provides the convenience of a drive-through window, as well (a good thing, as indoor seating is limited). In addition to the main event — tender brisket, succulent ribs and rotisserie chickens speared in neat rows — there are sauces and homemade sides. Mashed potatoes, potato salad, mac-and-cheese and cole slaw are just some of the offerings you can find there. Who needs a colonel when you can get a full bird right here?

Best Ice Cream

Revival Ice Cream – 463 Alvarado St., Monterey – Weekdays from noon to 9 p.m., open ’til 10 p.m.weekends; May through Sept. Weekdays from noon to 10 p.m. and open ’til 11 p.m. weekends - (831) 747-2113 -

Pine Cone readers are still sweet on this spot, and agree it’s worth the drive to Monterey. Maybe it’s the locally sourced and organic ingredients, like the honey and honeycomb in “The Bees Knees,” or fresh eucalyptus leaves in the signature mint, eucalyptus and fudge. Dairy-free sorbets await the lactose-averse and they’ve got cakes that will put a pleasant chill into any special occasion. And, the place sweetens the deal by donating 20 percent of sales of its spiffy reusable pint containers of ice cream to local charities, including Hospice Giving Foundation and MEarth.

Best Sandwich or Burger

r.g. Burgers — 201 The Crossroads, Carmel, and 570 Munras Ave., Monterey (next to Trader Joe’s) – Lunch and dinner daily - (831) 626-8054, (831) 372-4930 -

These “real good” burgers are always juicy, and there are so many choices, you might need a few minutes with the menu — or multiple visits. Start with a grown-up beer or relive childhood with a Tootsie Pop float of chocolate ice cream and orange soda. If your cardiologist is looking, order a veggie burger with steamed broccoli and a fresh side salad (or not — what’s the cardiologist doing there anyway?). Otherwise, try the Cheesy Mac burger, a burger with bacon, or one with pastrami. A side of fries or some chili round out a deliciously decadent indulgence. There are plenty of other sandwiches and wings to choose from, too. Luckily, the Monterey location is within walking distance of the Sports Center.

Best Breakfast

Katy’s Place — Mission between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel – Breakfast and lunch daily, closes at noon on Wednesdays - (831) 624-0199 -

“The most precious ingredient that goes into every meal at Katy’s Place is ... Love.” That’s what the website says, and Carmelites agree, year after year. Twenty kinds of Benedicts include an ode to Ireland, with homemade corned beef hash; one from Russia with love, with caviar and smoked salmon; and a Windy City tribute with pulled pork and spicy Hollandaise. You can also choose between Belgian waffles or Grandma Amanda’s Peanut Butter Pancakes. There are blintzes rolled up with fresh berries and gluten-free specialties for those who prefer them. If you’ve got a big day ahead, house specials include traditional biscuits and gravy, and huevos rancheros to spice up your morning. And they’re just getting warmed up. You know, like the maple syrup.

Best Coffee

Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. — Roasting facility at 212 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley, with retail locations on Ocean Avenue in Carmel, Mid Valley Shopping Center, The Barnyard, The Crossroads, Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove, and on Washington in downtown Monterey - Hours vary by location, but generally open starting at 6 and 7 a.m. – See for locations, hours and contact phone numbers

The certified organic roaster by California Certified Organic Farmers has been in business since 1994, with one mission: “to provide serious handcrafted coffee, using the finest Arabica beans, delivered very fresh to discerning customers.” Roast Master Tina Muia and her staff slow-roast organic coffee beans daily, churning out Carmel Foglifter — which works as advertised — and 14 other varieties and blends including Fair Trade Ethiopian, organic Guatemala and organic Sumatra. Owners Dean & Janet McAthie “get” coffee culture, too. Every location is designed for relaxation and convivial pleasure. Baristas are friendly and knowledgeable, and there are plenty of locally made snacks to nosh on. Sip in the shop or take home a bag o’beans — or do both.

Best Coffeehouse

Carmel Coffee House and Roasting Co. — South side of Ocean, between San Carlos and Dolores, in the Las Tiendas building – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily; call for winter hours (831) 626-2095 –

Late local cartoonist Gus Arriola created Carmel Coffee House’s logo, a caffeinated beatnik sea otter (also named Gus) in 2008. The furry little guy’s been sipping happily ever since, and why not? The airy Las Tiendas location with its pet-friendly patio is a great place to start the day, perhaps with a copy of the police log and some friendly conversation. Linger over a cup of Ocean Avenue blend or get a jump start with some espresso. All the beans are roasted on-site, in small batches, and are available by the pound to take home. No word on whether that patio is also otter-friendly, but one never knows.

Best Pizza

Gianni’s – 725 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey – Dinner Monday through Wednesday, Lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday - (831) 626-5454 –

Since 1974, the Costa family has been running this popular spot to split a pie, have some lasagna, or chow down on an Italian sub. With 28 possible toppings, there’s sure to be a combination that suits your mood. Or, order one of the house specials, like BBQ Chicken pizza with red onion and fresh cilantro; the Super Veggie, or Gianni’s special with cheese, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms black olives, bell peppers and fresh Italian sausage. There’s beer, wine and a full bar to help you wash things down, and for dessert, have a cannoli or one of 24 different varieties of gelato. It’s been more than 40 years — they must be doing something right.

Best Buffet

Crazy Horse — 1425 Munras Ave., Monterey, in the Red Lion Hotel (formerly Bay Park) – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily - (831) 649-4771 -

For a moment, step away from the trendy Brussels sprout-laden, kale-infested salad bars that inhabit some establishments. The buffet at Crazy Horse in the Red Lion Hotel hasn’t changed much, at least since Pluto was still a planet and the clambake was still the Crosby. And that’s wonderful. Sure, there’s salad, and plenty of it — greens, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and more than a dozen dressing choices — but this is a place to make a real meal. Pile on warm chicken breast and a bit of cheese, indulge in the tuna macaroni salad, and even put a dollop of whipped honey butter on your sweet potato. Did we mention it comes with an adorable little cup of ice cream or sorbet at the end? ’Cause it does.

Best Wine List
Best Happy Hour
Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion

The Sardine Factory — 701 Wave St., Monterey – Dinner nightly, Lounge Menu nightly, Happy Hours from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. nightly - (831) 373-3775 -

Happy 50th birthday to this Monterey landmark, which even out-of-town movie buffs may recognize from its moment in “Play Misty for Me,” Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut. Allow yourself plenty of time to peruse the wine list — with more than 1,600 labels and 12,000 bottles, you can get anything from a $9 glass of French rosé to a bottle of one of the wine cellar’s “treasures,” which can set you back almost $1,000. Not aiming that high? Try the lounge, where you can enjoy happy hour not once, but twice every evening, with signature drinks for $7, draft beers for $5.75 and up, and a few wines by the glass for $5. There are yummy snacks for $6 apiece, including a basket of house-made French fries or sweet potato fries; truffle sea salt popcorn with pecorino romano butter, and fresh tomato bruschetta. And although the whole restaurant is a great place to celebrate, for optimum effect you’ll want to reserve a table in the Conservatory or book the whole wine cellar for your private party.

Best Brunch
Best Piano Bar

Mission Ranch — 26270 Dolores St., Carmel - Piano bar Monday through Saturday, Dinner nightly from 5 p.m., Sunday jazz brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., - (831) 625-9040 -

It’s Sunday morning and you want someone else to make your brunch. Who better than the Mission Ranch, (aka Clint’s place)? The spread here offers an amazing variety of choices. Start with a salad. Or go straight for a beef burrito with mole sauce, classic eggs Benedict or put something healthy-ish together at the hot oatmeal bar. At the chef’s table you’ll find ham baked with pineapple and roast prime rib of beef. Round out the meal and prepare for your power nap with a slice of pie, a few cookies or some chocolate mousse. On other nights of the week, drop into the piano bar to listen to great local performers from 5 to 8 p.m., and join in the fun by singing along, starting at 9 p.m.

Best New Restaurant

Stationæry — San Carlos Square, on San Carlos and between Fifth and Sixth – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, afternoon snacks from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. –,

Stationæry opened in the spot formerly occupied by Club Jalapeno at the end of August, and immediately caught our readers’ attention — and palates. Charming, sleek and modern, the restaurant encourages Carmelites to start the day with a very important meal of things like avocado and egg toast on country bread, a bowl of sausage and gravy, or a ham-and-egg sandwich with Dijon béchamel. Later in the day, you can get your quinoa fix (puffed quinoa, no less) in a salad, pass the pasta with spaghetti with pork sausage and broccoli rabe, or have a thoroughly modern patty melt with crispy shallots and cheddar on brioche.

Most Romantic Restaurant

Casanova — Fifth Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch - (831) 625-0501 -

Ah, romance. It’s part of the essence of Bohemia, n’est-ce pas? Just think of sitting around Vincent van Gogh’s table (no, really — it was the artist’s table), available for private parties, and the Georis family has a romance-laden spot in a town that’s hosted the lascivious and the loquacious, but most of all, the lovelorn and love-lost. And Casanova, that famous womanizer, once engineered a prison break involving a spike, hidden in a Bible, further secreted under a giant plate of pasta. (Not sure how one would explain fettuccini a la scripture, but OK.) He probably would have fit right in here. An amorous feast might include oysters, beef tartare, olives and fat, satisfying pappardelle. Sweet desserts and beverages abound — the wine list is dizzying.

Most Dog-Friendly Restaurant
Most Dog-Friendly Hotel

Cypress Inn – Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel – Lunch and dinner daily, tea Saturday (reservations required), Sunday brunch - (831) 620-7454 - or

The best thing about having drinks with your dog is that he won’t shame you, or post an unflattering photo of you on Facebook later, so go ahead and order your pal a Muttini during Yappy Hour and get yourself a classic cocktail. Doris Day’s inn is a natural watering hole for the four-legged set, and in addition to drinks inspired by Cary Grant, Ronald Reagan and Kirk Douglas, among others, you can have a delicious meal. Offerings at Terry’s Restaurant and Lounge (named for Day’s late son, Terry Melchior) include rich, truffle-scented ravioli, as well as locals’ favorites like sand dabs and Castroville artichokes. After dinner, your pal gets his own blankets to enjoy a warm evening in the room. Enjoy!

Best Restaurant in Carmel
Best Bartender

Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine, Ira Comello  — At Sixth and Mission - Open daily for lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sunday - (831) 624-6562 -

After working in some of the world’s finest restaurants, chef Kurt Grasing founded one of his own in 1998 when he opened Grasing’s. Using fresh local ingredients and boasting an atmosphere of modest elegance, the restaurant serves food that is simple but stylish, and bursting with texture and flavors. The menu includes favorites like pepper-seared ahi tuna, herb-crusted sea bass and grilled Portobello mushroom, while the wine list showcases some of California’s wineries, as well as those from distant places around the world. And just as they did in 2016, our readers chose Ira Comello as Best Bartender. A self-proclaimed “social chemist,” Comello combines product knowledge and the ability to craft a good cocktail with an attention to customer service. He also makes everyone feel right at home. “I like to anticipate what our guests need,” he explains.

Best Restaurant Service

Lucia at Bernardus Lodge — 415 W. Carmel Valley Road - Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday - (831) 658-3595 -,

Infused with the “beauty and artistry” of Carmel Valley, Lucia at Bernardus Lodge offers a French-inspired menu that changes with the seasons. With chef Cal Stamenov at the helm, the restaurant’s menu features distinctive entrees like hand-cut tagliatelle, grilled jidori chicken, Portobello Wellington and Sonoma duck breast. While the food draws raves, so does the restaurant’s staff, which adds a warm and personal touch, and makes everybody feel right at home from the moment they’re seated to when they step back out into the beautifully landscaped grounds.

Best Restaurant in Big Sur

Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn — On Highway 1, 27 miles south of Carmel - Open daily for lunch and dinner - (831) 667-2800 -

With expansive views of the Big Sur coastline that will leave you speechless, Sierra Mar has an almost unfair advantage over other restaurants. But it’s far more than just another pretty place, with food that dazzles the senses. With Elizabeth Murray as executive chef, Sierra Mar offers a three-course, prix-fixe lunch, and a four-course, prix-fixe dinner. The menu changes daily, with dinner entrees like carrot cavatelli, seared king salmon and roasted duck breast. The restaurant is also famous for its wine cellar, which includes more than 2,600 selections.

Best Restaurant in Carmel Valley

Cafe Rustica — 10 Del Fino Place – Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, with a limited afternoon menu - (831) 659-4444 -

While there’s something for every taste at Cafe Rustica, the Carmel Valley gem truly excels when it comes to pasta and pizza. The menu includes enticing options like butternut squash ravioli, wood oven baked rigatoni and capellini with grilled shrimp, along with thin-crust pizzas that stray from the conventional, like the Flammekueche, which comes with diced prosciutto, onions, fresh thyme and crème fraîche; Jose’s Pizza Verde, which includes tomatillo sauce, chicken, corn, feta cheese, Monterey jack cheese, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and cilantro; and the BBQ Chicken, which features hickory-smoked BBQ sauce, Monterey jack cheese, thinly sliced red onions, fresh cilantro and roasted peanuts.

Best Restaurant in Monterey

Montrio Bistro — 414 Calle Principal, Monterey – Dinner nightly – (831) 648-8880 –

Located inside a historic firehouse, Montrio has won numerous national and regional awards for its food and wine since opening its doors in 1995. Embracing sustainable and environmentally sensitive practices, and emphasizing organic food, the restaurant offers a creative mix of European- and American-influenced comfort food. With classic favorites like the Ultimate American Burger, and inventive entrees like Organic Sweet Potato-Pecan Ravioli, Montrio lives up to its laurels.

Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach

Roy’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay — 2700 17 Mile Drive – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily – (800) 877-0597 -

Serving up a wonderfully eclectic menu of Hawaiian-inspired cuisine, celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi has made this restaurant a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It’s also the perfect place for a bite or refreshment after a round of golf, and as an added bonus, you can hear a bagpiper play at sunset. The menu is filled with mouth-watering entrees like North Shore-style pork chops with kimchi mashed potatoes; a roasted island-style Jidori half chicken with coconut mashed potato and red curry sauce; and Roy’s teriyaki-grilled swordfish, which comes with truffle cauliflower and lemongrass mango sauce.

Best Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Passionfish — 701 Lighthouse Ave. - Open daily for dinner - (831) 655-3311 -

Passionfish is widely recognized for its impressive and ever-changing menu of sustainable seafood. Located in the heart of downtown Pacific Grove, the restaurant serves up an irresistible array of appetizers and entrees from the sea, including smoked trout ceviche tostaditas with cashew pesto and spicy salsa brava; Dungeness crab salad with avocado and a spicy ginger vinaigrette; local rockfish with a jicama-mint salad; and sea scallops with tomato-truffle butter and savory rice custard.

Best Restaurant in Seaside

Gusto’s — 1901 Fremont Blvd., Seaside – Open daily for lunch and dinner - (831) 899-5825 -

Owner and general manager Denis Boaro learned to cook from his grandfather, who owned a restaurant in a small town called San Zenone degli Ezzelini in northern Italy. Today, he serves pizza and pasta in his own restaurant, which has earned a devoted following for its delicious flavors and upbeat atmosphere. With an emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients, Boaro and his staff offer a generous variety of classic Italian favorites.


Best Local Artist

Will Bullas —

The president of the nonprofit Carmel Art Association and a gifted illustrator with an impressive resume, Will Bullas finds humor just about everywhere. The Carmel Valley resident seeks creative inspiration in every witty play on words, and he’s a master at using animals to poke fun at humans. Some of his more memorable subjects include a dog sipping a glass of wine, a gorilla trying on a pair of sunglasses, a pig dressed in a Roman toga.

Best Photo Gallery

Weston Gallery — On Sixth between Dolores and Lincoln - 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - (831) 624-4453 -

It’s hard to imagine there’s a more famous family in fine art photography than the Westons, whose patriarch, Edward Weston, is considered one of its pioneers. Two of his sons, Cole and Brett Weston, followed in his footsteps, and established themselves as world class artists. Today, their works — and those by masters like Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Imogene Cunningham —  can be found at Weston Gallery, along with images by a new generation of photographers who are pushing the limits of their art form.

Best Sculpture Gallery 

Steven Whyte — Su Vecino Court on Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - (831) 620-1917

Widely recognized for his larger-then-life bronze sculptures that adorn many public spaces in England and the United States, Steven Whyte is an institution in town, where each year he creates a mystery sculpture of a famous figure in Devendorf Park during the annual Carmel Art Festival. He can also be found throughout the year in his studio/gallery on Dolores, greeting the public and working on his next piece.

Best Art Gallery

Carmel Art Association — West side of Dolores between Fifth and Sixth - open daily - (831) 624-6176 -

Founded in 1927, the Carmel Art Association is one of America’s oldest nonprofit art galleries. Representing more than 100 contemporary artists, the downtown gallery presents monthly shows that call attention to the rich creative talent that exists here on the Monterey Peninsula.  Located in the heart of downtown, the gallery also hosts meet-the-artist receptions, films, lectures and concerts.

Best Local Theater Company

PacRep Theatre — Monte Verde and Eighth - (831) 622-0100 -

Founded by Stephen Moorer as GroveMont Theatre in 1982, PacRep Theatre presents an array of theatrical productions and events throughout the year, including the annual Carmel Shakespeare Festival. With the Golden Bough Playhouse and Forest Theater providing stages for plays and musicals “that engage, excite, educate and inspire,” PacRep celebrates “the transforming power of the creative spirit.” The theater company is also known for its ever-changing rock ’n’ roll tribute concerts and its School of Dramatic Arts, which introduces kids to the joys of live theater.

Best Concert Venue

Sunset Center — San Carlos between Eighth and Ninth - (831) 620-2048 -

Beginning its life as a school in 1926, Sunset Center is a is now a state-of-the-art performing arts center that attracts world-class talent. Owned by the city and operated by a nonprofit group, Sunset offering a dynamic and diverse schedule of entertainment. The 2018-19 lineup includes shows by Burt Bacharach, Emmylou Harris, Pilobolus, Second City and many others. The center also provides a home for the Marjorie Evans Gallery, the Carmel Yoga Center, the Arts Council for Monterey County, and the Center for Photographic Art.

Best Place to Relax and Listen to Music

Folktale Winery — 8940 Carmel Valley Road - (831) 293-7500 -

Founded as Chateau Julien Wine Estate in 1982, Folktale Winery & Vineyards not only features a 5-acre organic vineyard and a state -of-the-art winemaking operation, but showcases musicians from near and far. The winery provide a stage for up-and-coming local singer-songwriters like Taylor Rae, Razzvio and Austin Metreyeon, and hosts concerts for out-of-town acts — particularly those with an affection for country music.

Best Local Music Group (classical)

Monterey Symphony — (831) 646-8511 -

Led by conductor and music director Max Bragado-Darman, the Monterey Symphony is the only all-professional orchestra based on the Monterey Peninsula. Committed to preserving the legacy of classical music through performances and education, the symphony will play six concerts this season between October and May, celebrating the music of the genre’s greatest composers and calling attention to some of its most exciting contemporary performers.

Best Local Music Group (rock, jazz and pop)

The Money Band —

Led by singer Zoe Alexander, the Money Band serves up a high-energy mix of dance-oriented pop and rock favorites that will turn any gathering into a party. From Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock,” to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” the group’s massive set list specializes in No. 1 hits, spanning the genres and the decades.

Best Place to Take Visitors

Point Lobos State Reserve —

Considered by many to be the crown jewel of California’s state parks, Point Lobos State Reserve is famous for its rugged coastline, windswept cypress groves and its ancient forest of Monterey pines. It’s also home to one of the richest marine environments on earth — every weekend, scuba divers descend on the reserve and nearby Monastery Beach to explore the mysterious world that lives beneath the waves. For those who prefer land to sea, the park’s many trails offer easy access to scenic vistas and idyllic picnic spots along the coast.

Best Family-Friendly Activity

Monterey Bay Aquarium — 886 Cannery Row in Monterey - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day - (831) 648-4800 -

If you’ve ever been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s easy to understand why the world-class attraction, in the heart of historic Cannery Row, is this year’s winner of the Best Family Friendly Activity. More than 35,000 creatures representing more than 550 species are contained in 34 galleries. With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the aquarium calls itself “a window to the wonders of the ocean.”

Best Local Festival

Carmel Bach Festival — NW Corner of 10th and Mission - (831) 624-1521 -

Celebrating classical music for more than 80 years, the Carmel Bach Festival began in 1935 as a four-day series of concerts at the Sunset School Auditorium and Carmel Mission Basilica. But the festival over the years grew to two weeks of concerts, recitals, master classes, lectures and rehearsals, and now, under the leadership of Music Director and Conductor Paul Goodwin and Executive Director Steve Friedlander, the organization offers “innovative artistic programming.”

Best Church-Sponsored Festival

Jewish Food Festival — 5716 Carmel Valley Road – (831) 624-2015 –

For 30 years, the Annual Jewish Food Festival has been put on by Congregation Beth Israel Carmel’s entire congregation. The festival, which features traditional Jewish food, music and crafts, is a must-attend event. Contemplate this: an egg cream has neither eggs or nor cream. Discuss, at least until the 2019 event on Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Best Place to Watch a Sunset
Best Place to Walk a Dog
Best Beach

Carmel Beach — Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road - free parking along Scenic is permitted from 6 a.m. to midnight -

The water isn’t as warm as Maui, but the scenery on Carmel Beach is arguably as pretty, and you won’t have to fight droves of other sun seekers for a space to throw your towel down. Whether it’s dipping your toes in the water, watching a sunset or playing fetch with Spot, Carmel Beach is hard to beat, and it’s the winner of three Golden Pine Cone categories this year.

Best Hiking Trail
My Favorite Park

Garland Ranch Regional Park — 700 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley - 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily -

The Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, the government agency that maintains Garland Ranch Regional Park calls it the “granddaddy” of its properties, and it was the first of the district’s parkland acquisitions. Garland Park, as locals call it, was purchased in 1975 from William Garland II, who generously gifted a portion of the cost by reducing the purchase price to below fair market value. With its myriad hiking trails and breathtaking natural scenery, Garland is this year’s winners for Best Hiking Trail and My Favorite Spot.

Best Fitness/Health Center

Carmel Valley Athletic Club — 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel Valley - Mon. to Fri., 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sat. and Sun., 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. - (831) 624-2737 -

Called Carmel Valley Racquet Club 50 years ago, the Carmel Valley Athletic Club prides itself on its active community of members. Apart from tennis, weightlifting, cardio, CVAC offers numerous classes ranging from Pilates to aqua aerobics to hot yoga. It also offers a youth program that includes swimming and a junior tennis academy. “CVAC is not just an athletic club, it is a community,” it celebrates.

Best Martial Arts Studio

American Karate — 182 Country Club Gate, Pacific Grove - (831) 372-5425 -

American Karate in Pacific Grove said it strives to develop the body, mind and spirit through rigorous training. The karate studio, which has classes for budding martial artists as young as 3-1/2 years old, offers kinder karate, beginning, intermediate and advanced programs and cardio kickboxing. It’s also open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. for Community Yoga, a class led by Hannah, one of American Karate’s teachers.

Best Yoga Studio

Seaside Yoga Sanctuary — 300 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove; Ocean Avenue and Mission Street, Carmel – Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. - (831) 899-9642 –

Offering classes for all levels of yoga enthusiasts, Seaside Yoga Sanctuary — which recently relocated — has an experienced and well-trained team of instructors. The sanctuary says that yoga postures are taught in a safe, supportive manner, incorporating basic principles of alignment. “Through the practice of yoga we can gain flexibility, strength, breath and body awareness. From that awareness, a new healthy lifestyle can be achieved,” according to Seaside Yoga Sanctuary. Namaste.

Best Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Links —1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach - Hours vary by season - (831) 622-8723 -

Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliff-side fairways and sloping greens.
Since 1919, the exquisite beauty and unique dynamics of the famed course have challenged and thrilled golfers and spectators. The course has also been the site of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the U.S. Open Championship next year.

Best Museum

Monterey Museum of Art — 559 Pacific St., Monterey – Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed Wednesday - (831) 372-5477 -

Located across from Monterey’s historic Colton Hall in Monterey, the Monterey Museum of Art features galleries devoted to exhibitions of American and early Californian painting, photography and contemporary art. Its current exhibitions include “The New Domestics: Finding Beauty in the Mundane,” “Salon Jane: The Ethereal Zone,” and “Into the Light: California Women Painters.” The Museum store includes creative and unusual cards, jewelry, and gifts by local artists, in addition to a selection of books of regional interest.

Best Inn/B&B

Carmel Garden Inn — Fourth Avenue and Torres Street – (831) 624-6926 -

Only a few blocks from some of the best shopping and dining spots on the Monterey Peninsula, management of the Carmel Garden Inn like to say that each of its rooms is special and has a different personality. Whether you decide to stay in The Patio Suites, The Rosita or the Torres Rooms, they’re all “designed to complement the serenity and charm of Carmel while affording a feeling of privacy and intimacy not usually found at other properties.” Originally built in 1949 as apartments called the Rosita Lodge, the Carmel Garden Inn retains the charm of its original design.

Best Hotel

Bernardus Lodge & Spa — 415 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley – (831) 658-3400 -

Originally built by winery owner Bernardus Pon in 1999, Bernardus Lodge underwent a major renovation after being sold five years ago, with significant updates to its rooms, restaurant and bar, lobby and spa. Retaining its luxurious yet relaxed feel, the lodge is highly praised for its top-notch service, comfortable and spacious rooms, stellar cuisine under the guidance of longtime executive chef Cal Stamenov and his team, and beautiful spa, where guests can take advantage of a wide range of services in a relaxing and sublime setting. There’s plenty to do, too, including picking up a game of bocce or croquet in the grassy courtyard, or just enjoying the richly gardened grounds. Pine Cone readers know that if they want a staycation, or their favorite friends or family members are coming to town and need somewhere to stay, Bernardus Lodge is the best choice.


Best Florist

Twigery — Seventh, between Lincoln and Dolores – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 626-8944 –

Considered a visionary artist renowned for his artistic expression and diversity of design, master floral designer Michael Merritt believes “beauty is not primarily planned; it is the phenomenon that occurs at the moment when all relationships are perceived to be harmonious.” While he employs a wide variety of various materials, Merritt also appreciates the beauty in a single bloom. His work has been showcased internationally in exhibitions, grand events and periodicals, yet Merritt also enjoys creating his floral artistry through Twigery, the frequently award-winning floral boutique he and his wife Cheryl have owned and operated since 2009.

Best Furniture Shop

Mum’s Place — 246 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 372-6250 -

Wandering among the classic, traditional, transitional, country French and contemporary collections at Mum’s Place, clients can customize their choices with more than 80 furniture lines and some 5,000 fabrics. The award-winning furniture store is an enclave of fine home furnishings, where the showroom is laden — but not overloaded — with a diversity of furniture, accessories and objets d’art staged in vignettes to inspire imagination. Even if clients don’t find what they want, they just might want what they find. Since 1986, Mum’s has been dedicated to bringing in the latest designs on the market, in great variety to please a wide variety of tastes and budgets.

Best Golf Shop

Pebble Beach Pro Shop — 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach – 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily – (831) 622-8723 –

Since merchandise is a tangible part of the Pebble Beach experience guests can take home, the Pro Shop endeavors to provide the best products at the highest quality befitting the Pebble Beach brand. Since the Pro Shop is often the introduction to a guest’s Pebble Beach golf experience, its staff works to ensure it lives up to everyone’s dreams and imaginings. The mission of the Pebble Beach Pro Shop is to provide products and services guests are not likely to find elsewhere. For tourists who have never held a golf club, or avid golfers who want to add to their collection, the Pebble Beach Pro Shop balances the new and exciting with proven brands.

Best Hardware Store

Carmel Ace Hardware, Forest Hill Ace Hardware, Pacific Grove Hardware — 290 Crossroads Blvd., 1146 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 401 Mid Valley Center, Carmel Valley – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Sunday – (831) 293-8050, (831) 372-3284, (831) 372-646-9144 -

Surely it is the specialized service of independently owned stores that reminds customers, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.” Maybe it’s because each Ace Hardware store is a member of the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the business, giving customers a sense of shopping local with the backing of big business. Perhaps it is that Ace Hardware employees are trained to say, “Helping you is the most important thing we have to do today” that won them a Golden Pine Cone. It’s what they promise and what they deliver.

Best Housewares Store

Prim’s Carmel — 546 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 620-1251 –

Prim’s opened in late 2012, creating a fresh venue in a landmark location, increasing the hardware, housewares and paint sections of the store, developing the patio, home furniture, bedding and gift departments, and bringing in new vendors. What they didn’t change was the customer service. Maybe it wasn’t their motto that brought home the award as Best Housewares Store — “We stand out from the competition because we deliver the products you can’t get anywhere else. We not only offer the best products but the best value for you” — but the fact that they mean it.

Best Craft-Knitting-Quilting Shop

Monarch Knitting — 529 Central Ave., Suite 4, Pacific Grove – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday – (831) 647-9276 –

Monarch Knitting creates community. The shop welcomes you in to a fresh, well-lit atmosphere with cubbies of colorful skeins of yarn, and a really cool farm-style table, where you’ll feel like you can get right to work and where you’ll feel right at home. It evokes a community of craftspeople, where someone will show you what you need and how to work with it. Its name is a nod to the butterfly sanctuary for which the town is known, but this place has knit together another kind of sanctuary. So much more than a yarn store; it’s a place where you can take lessons, participate in projects, buy beautiful yarn and belong.

Best Pet Store

The Raw Connection — 26200 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday – (831) 626-7555 –

Sarah Adams sees a raw-food diet as a healthy way to indulge a pet. Her focus is to help people transition their dog or cat to eat raw food as they were intended, as opposed to dry grains from a bag. In 2006, she opened The Raw Connection with what she considers the “largest display of raw food in the country.” The store sells healthy, tasty treats; handmade, carefully created toys, and an array of collars, harnesses and leashes designed to protect the neck and spine. The facility also has three treatment rooms for chiropractic care, reiki energy healing, and acupuncture, plus training and agility classes. Talk about pampered pets.

Best Garden Shop

Griggs Nursery — 9220 Carmel Valley Rd. – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 626-0680 -

The key to success for this family-owned business seems to be customer service and a wide diversity of products, enabling Griggs Nursery to give people what they want and need. They hand-select their plants, most of which they grow on a 5-acre parcel on Schulte Road, and then bring to the nursery. For 18 years, Griggs Nursery has been thriving in its Carmel Valley location, where customers have been watching the current generation of Griggs kids grow up among the plants. “We know what works here, so we can grow the variety and quality we want for our customers,” the family says. “It’s an investment in our community.”

Best Camping/Skiing/Surfing Store

REI — 145 General Stilwell Drive, Marina – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. – (831) 883-8048 –

Its mission statement says REI is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Founded in Seattle in 1938, the retail chain carries apparel, footwear and gear for a wide range of outdoor and fitness activities. By now, even the acronym evokes as vivid a sense of the great outdoors as what it stands for, “Recreational Equipment, Inc.” Once you walk through the store’s dramatic entrance, you’re already on an outdoor adventure. Whether you are a novice or expert outdoor enthusiast, the membership-optional store likely has something for you.

Best Place to Buy Athletic Wear

The Treadmill — 111 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday – (831) 624-4112 –

In 1983, the founders began with a vision to develop a store that would anchor the running community like a starting line. They named it The Treadmill, but featured a wider array of fitness products, both high-tech and low-maintenance, and imagined it would become a hub for both weekenders and warriors. Janice and Chris Cleary, and Cathy and Mike Hirst are coming up on seven years since they bought The Treadmill and set their sights on selling athletic and athleisure wear. Seeing the store as a reflection of this community where they live, they endeavor to provide what folks need to be active or adventurous on the Peninsula. Today, the store remains a community center, focused on supporting the Big Sur Land Trust, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance and the people who come through the door.

Best Pharmacy

Carmel Drug Store — Ocean between Dolores and San Carlos – Pharmacy 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; Store 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily – (831) 624-3819 –

Known for offering quality products and service, this drugstore might just be the most convenient stop in town. Carmel’s classic family pharmacy has been independently owned and serving the community since 1910. There’s a reason it’s lasted so long. Located in the heart of Carmel, the narrow storefront is chock-full of everything you might need or maybe forgot on your way into town. The back of the shop looks like the old-fashioned pharmacy it is, yet it provides state-of-the-art products. The front of the store offers greeting cards and postcards, magazines and books by local authors. It has hair accessories and hygiene products, perfume and makeup, candy and scented candles. The only thing missing is a soda fountain.

Best Children’s Clothing Store/Boutique

Zearly Carmel — 161 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily – (831) 250-7933

In establishing Zearly in 2013, architect Heather Aldi sought to create a space that would support and encourage the local community of mothers, children and the people who cherish them. “Moms need a moment of grace,” she said. “Parenting is not easy, so we need the chance to come to a fun place with special things.” Aldi’s inspiration for the name Zearly came from a favorite family phrase. When her own small children awoke before dawn, she would exclaim, “Z’early — It’s early — Go back to bed.” Two years ago, Aldi moved the children’s clothing boutique from its original Carmel location into The Crossroads, where the store has thrived. The award-winning boutique offers heirloom-quality toys and gifts, classically styled clothing with a modern twist and a welcoming atmosphere for shoppers and their little inspirations. “We seek local craftsmen,” said Aldi, “who create wonderful products for children — beautiful clothing, gorgeous stuffed animals, dream catchers from Big Sur, and knitted apparel by local artists. There is always something fun at Zearly.”

Best Men’s Store

Khaki’s of Carmel — Carmel Plaza on Ocean – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday - (831) 625-8106 –

Khaki’s of Carmel is the award-winning pursuit and passion of Jim and Connie Ockert, who met in high school, later married, and combined creative and entrepreneurial talents to raise a family and grow a business. Both continue to thrive. The store is a respected purveyor of contemporary European and American menswear that sells clothing the old-fashioned way; up close and personal.
The essence of Khaki’s lies in the touching — some of the finest fabrics in the world; the trying — to see if it becomes you before it becomes yours; the tailoring — including custom fits and made-to-measure apparel; and the tradition — of providing the ultimate in customer service.
Best Men’s Shoe Store

Hedi’s Shoes — Ocean and Mission; additional locations in the Barnyard, Del Monte Center and 330 Alvarado St., Monterey – (831) 583-8000–

Comfort has never looked — or felt — so good. When Haydar Movahedi opened his shoe store more than 20 years ago, European comfort shoes was an emerging category. “Hedi,” whose stores have always been about comfort, managed to cobble together comfort, quality, convenience, and cool, paired with customer service from experienced staff who understand fit, form and function. Consider brands Pikolinos, Ecco, Clarks, Børn, Mephisto and more.

Best Women’s Clothing Boutique

GBG — Mission and Seventh – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily – (831) 626-3368

Girl Boy Girl has enjoyed more than 27 years of styling women in fashions that are considered not trendy, but current. Drawing from more than 60 contemporary designers, all thoughtfully selected for the store, GBG specializes in comfortable clothing for women of all sizes and shapes, ages and aesthetics. Customers seek established designers and a large selection of cashmere, and denim, designed to fit and flatter. GBG’s seasoned staff always enjoys styling long-time clients and new guests.

Best Women’s Accessories

Augustina’s Designer Boutique — San Carlos and Sixth – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily – (831) 624-9901 –

Two years ago, after 25 years in business, owner Tracy Delaney Odle redesigned her store to introduce an “elevated luxury goods boutique” to Carmel. Established in 1987, Augustina’s invites customers to relax in an elegant setting, customized with clients in mind. Odle, whose mother owned the legendary Signatures stores in Carmel, presents an exceptional roster of designers, among them Jimmy Choo, Aquazzura, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Giambattista Valli, Michael Kors, Max Mara, Roberto Cavalli, Lela Rose, and Nancy Gonzalez.
Augustina’s stylists offer personalized service, featuring the finest in designer fashions and accessories from around the world.

Best Women’s Shoe Store

Lloyd’s Shoes — Ocean and Dolores – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily – (831) 625-1382 –

Lloyd’s Shoes, a long-time Ocean Avenue attraction, aims to offer something for every shopper, whether it’s the trendiest style of the season or the absolute best travel shoe, always in the interest of style, comfort, function and quality. Tess Calhoon tucks into her desk adjacent the stockroom, among floor-to-ceiling shelving of shoeboxes, neatly stacked. When it’s raining, you’ll find her in her favorite weatherproof Aquatalia olive-suede booties. Calhoon works with her father, Jeff Greenberg, to run the popular shoe store, which celebrates its 38th anniversary and another Golden Pine Cone this year. 

Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

Debra C — 129 Crossroads Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-9400 –

Debra Couch established her exclusive store in Beverly Hills and then, in 2011, opened a second store at The Crossroads, quickly garnering a loyal clientele and a collection of awards. Couch, a woman who makes fashion look effortless, says it is — or should be. Particularly if you shop at her boutique of European designer apparel for women. Whether you’re looking at Valentino, Missoni, Bogner or her private label, she says, it’s all about the way it’s put together. “We’re high end, so the apparel endures. You can do the same look next year, or add a new piece and mix it up.”

Best Leather Goods Store

Augustina’s — Ocean at Mission & San Carlos – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-2403 –

Augustina’s is an exclusive leather goods boutique, known for representing the largest selection of Remy leathers in California. “We offer custom leathers, crafted in the United States, for men and women,” said owner Tracy Delaney Odle, “in any size, any color. We specialize in jackets, vests, coats, pants and skirts, as well as beautiful handmade leather belts in exotic skins — gator, lizard, ostrich and horn back.” Established in 1987, this family-owned, family-run business endeavors to create a Carmel experience clients and guests will remember and return to.

Best Vintage Clothing Store

Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop — 26388 Carmel Rancho Blvd. – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday – (831) 626-8480 –

Not everyone believed a place called Yellow Brick Road, reselling retired goods, would thrive in an upscale community. But Shirin Snyder saw the affluence as an asset, a resource for quality castoffs that would attract a large and loyal following. She was right. Wife of the Rev. John Snyder, pastor of Carmel Presbyterian Church, Shirin sought a way to extend a wider outreach in the community. Her plan was to create a benefit shop that would give some people a chance to give, others a chance to buy bargains, and those in need, a chance to receive. There is no place like home to start giving. People volunteer at Yellow Brick Road like it’s a calling, creating a sense of community in the benefit shop. Customers shop the place like members of a club.

Best Jewelry Store

Fourtané Jewelers — Ocean and Lincoln – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – (831) 624-4684 –

One of the country’s leading providers of estate jewelry and watches from the modern era to centuries back, Fourtané Jewelers is particularly renowned as an authorized Rolex retail store, specializing in vintage Rolexes. Sandy and John Bonifas, who purchased Fourtané Jewelers in the 1980s, have maintained the intimate, friendly and personalized atmosphere customers appreciated since its inception in 1950. “Our parameters for buying any piece are that it has to be pretty, be well made, and offer good value,” John Bonifas has said. “Integrity in any business is important.”

Best Shopping Center

Carmel Plaza — Ocean & Mission– 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. (831) 624-0138 -

The property once housed a neighborhood movie theater and soda fountain. But in 1959, architect Olaf Dahlstrand was hired to design the Carmel Plaza shopping center in keeping with the character of Carmel. Today, the Aspen-meets-Bavarian architecture complements the lifestyle offerings of the Monterey Peninsula’s “premier shopping and dining destination.” In addition to landmarks like the Cheese Shop and the newer Carmel Honey Company, the Plaza has become a haven for wine tasting and soon the new Yeast of Eden brewery. Those who enjoy a luxury lifestyle can visit Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade, Bottega Veneta, and Khaki’s of Carmel. If you work up an appetite after an afternoon of shopping, tide yourself over with a sip of something from Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar, or dine at Flying Fish Grill, which offers East/West fusion cuisine.

Best Antique Shop

Wittpenn’s Antiques — San Carlos Ave. between Seventh and Eighth streets - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Closed Wednesdays - (831) 624-1336 -

This place warrants wandering. And patience. And attention to detail. At Wittpenn’s Antiques, there is so much to see and something for everyone to discover. Owned by Chip and Kathy Wittpenn, this treasure trove is a short stroll from Ocean Avenue, near Sunset Center. Just the windows of this little gem feature enough eye-catching collectibles to keep shoppers occupied for a while. Browse a wide selection of antiques and specialty items, including sterling silver, Victorian furniture, books, globes, clocks, music instruments, desks, Quimper, China, porcelain, Early American, Renaissance Revival, Louis Phillipe items and much more.

Best Bookstore

River House Books — 208 Crossroads Blvd. - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - (831) 626-2665 -

Yes, Virginia, there is still a bookstore in town. At River House Books, you can wander the shelves and browse the books, feeling the smooth paper between your fingers as you turn the pages and smell the ink. There’s something encouraging about holding a brand-new book and anticipating what you’ll find inside. Choose from a wide selection of new and classic works in the humanities and sciences, bestselling fiction and nonfiction, children’s favorites, young-adult literature, travel, foreign and domestic magazines and newspapers, plus gift-worthy art, architecture, cooking, gardening and much more.

Best Car Dealer

Lexus Monterey Peninsula — 1721 Del Monte Blvd., Seaside – Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 393-3030 -

If you use Google reviews to gauge a business, you’ll notice Lexus Monterey Peninsula’s outstanding marks. With a local reputation for personalized customer service, the Seaside dealership offers a fleet of preowned and new vehicles, such as the 2018 Lexus RX 450h, and full service for your existing vehicle. Lexus is so well regarded as a brand that at Car Week this year, it celebrated its 21st year as a sponsor of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Best Gas Station

Lemos 76 — 544 Carmel Rancho Blvd. - (831) 624-2925 –

Need a smog check, propane or just a tank of gas? Lemos 76 — a regular Golden Pine Cone recipient — can help you with that and more. For nearly 60 years, the service station has been a trusted stop for fuel and vehicle maintainence in Carmel. In fact, you can pump gas 24/7 at Lemos 76. Family owned and operated, the service station also offers free wifi while you’re waiting for your vehicle, and touts its “dog friendly policy.” What more could you want?

Best Car Wash

El Estero Car Wash —  590 Fremont St., Monterey – Winter hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 373-1801 -

For more than 6 decades, El Estero Car Wash has been soaping, scrubbing, rinsing and waxing Monterey Peninsula residents’ vehicles. Locally owned and operated, El Estero believes that everything begins and ends with its customers, and its friendly and experienced staff are focused on ensuring that all their needs are met. And guess what, El Estero Car Wash recycles 70 percent of the water it uses. How cool is that?

Best Place for Brides to Shop

Epiphany Boutique — Mission between Fifth and Sixth - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 626-7700 -

About to celebrate its 10th anniversary, bridal shop Epiphany Boutique’s goal “is to make women feel beautiful,” says Epiphany owner Christine Dilullo, who opened her first boutique in Illinois at only 22 years old. Lots of moving around led Dilullo and her husband to Carmel more than a decade ago. “I have always loved the idea of having my own little boutique — that’s how it all started, after all,” she explained. “It is magical. It is like having your own little world where you can create anything you want.”

Best Gift Shop

Carmel Bay Company —  Lincoln at Ocean Ave - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily - (831) 624-3868 –

With an eclectic assortment of home furnishings, clothing, art and other items, Carmel Bay Company not only makes it fun to shop for the father-in-law who has everything, it’s a great place to browse. The shop, which opened in 1972, also offers a collection of hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, including sideboards, tables and wine cabinets.

Best Candy Shop

Lula’s Chocolates — Court of the Fountains, NW Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh – (831) 624-5852; 244 Crossroads Blvd., – (831) 626-3327. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, both locations –

Several employees of The Carmel Pine Cone — for research purposes only, of course — regularly consume Lula’s Chocolates’ Sea Salt Caramels. They’re glad to report that they’re delicious every time. Besides what is probably Lula’s signature chocolate, its stores in two locations in Carmel also offer many other premium candies, such as truffles, butter crèmes and toffees.


Best Real Estate Company
Best Place to Work

Carmel Realty — Dolores, south of Seventh, and three other locations - Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 622-1000 —

Carmel’s oldest real estate company was founded in 1913 — before the incorporation of the city — and has been owned and operated for four generations by the Mitchell family, which traces its longevity to principles of integrity, work ethic, teamwork, collaboration, communication and customer service. In addition to a long history of great service handling high-end properties in the Monterey Peninsula’s best neighborhoods, the company gives amply to the community, supporting a wide and diverse group of charities. Carmel Realty is a dual winner of Golden Pine Cones for the second year in a row. Readers also chose this iconic company as Best Real Estate Company and Best Place to Work in 2017.

Best Place to Volunteer

SPCA for Monterey County — 1002 Monterey-Salinas Hwy - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (office); Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for adoptions - (831) 373-2631 —

What could be more rewarding than volunteering time to a beloved nonprofit organization dedicated to serving, protecting and loving animals? SPCA for Monterey County, founded in 1905, offers multiple, low-cost services to the public, including spay and neutering, vaccination and microchips, engraved pet tags, pet-friendly listings, puppy and dog training, humane trap rentals, wildlife rescue, and free, expert advice. Approximately 300 volunteers donate thousands of hours each year, providing essential support to animals in need. Volunteer opportunities include administrative support, animal care, community outreach, foster friends, hug a pet, Pet Meals on Wheels, veterinary clinic, and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, among many others.

Best Place to Get Married

Carmel Mission — 3080 Rio Road - 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday for visitors, in addition to scheduled Masses - (831) 624-1271 –

Nothing elevates a blessed day quite like saying your vows at a venue known as the home of a bona fide Catholic saint. Father Junipero Serra, the “Apostle of California,” founded and oversaw the construction of the Mission, was interred there after his death in 1784, and was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015, adding a special significance to the famous edifice, which in recent years has been aesthetically restored. “The church seeks to help you prepare you for the great day of your wedding as well as helping you with spiritual, psychological and practical things that will make your wedding day a Sacrament that will last a lifetime!” according to the Mission’s website.

Best Place to Get Married (non-church)

Lovers Point Park — 631 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove - (831) 648-3130 (P.G. Recreation Dept.) –

For sheer natural beauty, few places in the world can rival Lovers Point as a romantic backdrop for a wedding, with sparkling waves rushing into magenta-draped cliffs, barking seals, playful otters, soaring seabirds, all adjacent to a cove cuddling one of California’s coziest beaches. Pacific Grove was a Methodist retreat in the early 19th century, when the location originally was called Lovers of Jesus Point. Today this spectacular location remains a must-see attraction for world travelers, particularly when Pacific Grove’s famous ice plant is in brilliant purple-and pink-bloom along Ocean View Blvd., typically around Mother’s Day.

Best Retirement Community

Del Mesa Carmel — 500 Del Mesa — (831) 624-1853 – Front desk hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily -

This vibrant community is well known on the Monterey Peninsula for safe, comfortable living in one of the most picturesque locales in California. A 24-hour security gate protects Del Mesa, which sits high on a plateau in the Santa Lucia Mountains and provides breathtaking views of Point Lobos and the Carmel River Valley for independent residents in 289 condominium homes. But an equally appealing attribute is the social component of Del Mesa, which offers a fitness center with and indoor pool and spa, a workshop for arts and crafts, garden plots, and a lively lawn bowling club, among many other activities.

Best Electrician

Cate Electrical Co. — Dolores and Seventh - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday - (831) 624-5361 - Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily -

What a shock — Cate Electric is the winner once again of the Golden Pine Cone as “Best Electrician,” an accolade the company also earned in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Michael Cate and Janine Cate Boone are at the helm of this family business that was founded in 1960 and has been committed to serving the community ever since. Cate’s crew of certified electricians specializes in everything from service calls, to home remodels, to landscape lighting, both residential and commercial.

Best Plumber

A & R Plumbing — 1720 Contra Costa St., Sand City - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 24-hour emergency service - (831) 394-7221 -

This small-town plumbing business was christened in 1974 by close friends Greg Aeschliman and Kelly Roper, who say they constructed their dream from a foundation that included enthusiasm and dedication, along with a mutual respect for one another and their families. Over the years, A & R evolved from its modest beginnings into the large, full-service plumbing business it is today — without sacrificing that small-town, family-oriented philosophy of customer service. Services include new homes and remodel projects, repairs and replacement of water, sewer, and gas lines, high-pressure water jet drain cleaning, water heater repair and replacements, appliance installations, replacement of sinks, bathtubs and showers, and many others.

Best Architect

Adam Jeselnick — Junipero and Fourth, Suite 3 - (831) 620-5164 -

As a student at the University of Notre Dame, Adam Jeselnick studied classical architecture and traditional urbanism in Rome, then gained contemporary inspiration from travels around the world. He worked for Perlman Architects in Scottsdale, Ariz., contributing to a broad spectrum of projects, then spent several years as the senior project manager for Troon Golf before relocating to the Monterey Peninsula. Jeselnick and his wife, Laura, say they discovered their “inevitable place” — Carmel-by-the-Sea — in pursuit of their shared love for the arts and sustainability. In Carmel, he joined Carver and Schicketanz Architects, where he managed custom rental projects until 2013, when he started his own firm, Adam Jeselnick Architect, with a focus on residential design, local and small business growth, sustainability  and adaptive reuse.

Best General Contractor

Stocker and Allaire — 21 Mandeville Court, Monterey – Call for hours - (831) 375-1890 -

Trusted on the Monterey Peninsula since 1983, Stocker and Allaire’s projects have included restorations of some of the wonderful old Pebble Beach estates, construction of custom homes on some very difficult and interesting sites, and fabrication of the exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The common thread in all of this company’s projects is working closely with clients to identify their needs, and then seeing that those needs are met. “Our clients are our business, and our work comes from their referrals,” the company assures on its website. “With that in mind, good client relations and satisfaction is a goal we strive for.”

Best Landscaper-Gardening Service

Mission Landscaping — Pacific Grove – (831) 373-8293 -

This trusted company has serviced the Monterey and San Francisco Bay areas for four decades with a dedication to providing custom design and quality installations to enhance our unique area and satisfy the most discriminating client.
Mission Landscaping’s expert staff includes talented carpenters, masons, irrigation specialists and gardeners.
Specialties include masonry, fire pits, water features, driveways, railings, tile work, and other diverse projects, making the company a perennial favorite of our readers.

Best Real Estate Lender

Blue Adobe Mortgage — 26625 Carmel Center Place, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 626-2112 -

The staff at Blue Adobe guarantees commitment to enriching your life by providing the financial resources you need for home ownership, whether you are a first-time homebuyer, a real estate investor, refinancing for improvements, or purchasing your dream home. Blue Adobe’s mortgage bankers and experienced loan consultants live, work and participate in the communities they serve to help its residents and business people make sense of their mortgage plans. “Purchasing a home should be exciting and joyful, not scary and confusing, and that’s where our team comes in,” the website states. “Call us dream makers, call us loan officers, call us at 4 a.m. when you’re in a panic. We’re here to help fulfill your dream of home ownership and keep you smiling the whole way.”

Best Title Company

Chicago Title — 26609 Carmel Center Place – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 625-5676 -

This national company boasts 170 years of underwriting experience, and features a centralized team of industry experts that provides commercial and industrial developers, builders, lenders, attorneys, and other real estate professionals with reliable, integrated, high-liability services. Chicago Title has built a reputation for efficiency in processing the most complex real estate transactions, and can assist you with every phase of your transaction or development. Visit the website for a menagerie of resources.

Best Personal Bank

Chase Bank — San Carlos and 6th - (831) 625-2400 - 26378 Carmel Rancho Lane - (831-624-8224 - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, ATM open 24 hours -

Carmel has two convenient locations for one of the oldest financial institutions in the United States, with a history that dates back more than 200 years. JPMorgan Chase & Co. boasts assets of $2.6 trillion, with a presence in more than100 markets, and over 250,000 employees. The company, which serves millions of consumers, is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. Chase also has left a footprint with global philanthropy with a stated mission to enable more people to contribute and share in the rewards of a growing economy.
Best Business Bank

Monterey County Bank — Multiple locations, including 3785 Via Nona Marie, Suite 100, Carmel - (831) 625-2345 -

The oldest locally owned and locally managed bank in Monterey County opened its doors in May 1977, specializing in all aspects of business banking, including being the No. 1 Small Business Administration lender in Monterey County. The bank also offers very competitive commercial lending products, outstanding merchant credit card services, and personal attention to its clients. And, there’s also a convenience factor: Monterey County Bank has branches in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Salinas. The company motto might help explain why Monterey County Bank is beloved by readers, who have made this company a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone: “We don’t open accounts — we start relationships.”

Best Investment House/Adviser

Monterey Private Wealth Management — 2340 Garden Road, #202, Monterey – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-3426 -

Partners Steve Merrell, Ken Petersen, Gary Alt and Cristofer Cabanillas together have more than 70 years of combined experience in helping clients gauge risk, stay ahead of inflation, and protect their assets for the next generation. The stated mission of this company includes operating with complete transparency, avoiding conflicts of interest, and disclosing all details, fees and expenses. Clients’ interests always come first at Monterey Private Wealth Management, which might explain why this dynamic company has become a perennial winner of the coveted Golden Pine Cone.

Best Veterinarian

Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital — 13738 Center St, Carmel Valley - Open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday - (831) 659-2286 -

At this full-service veterinary practice, the stated focus is to provide your pet with the best possible care from professionals who will love your pet the same way you do. “At Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital, you’ll find caring and compassionate people who prioritize your pet’s health and wellbeing,” the website promises. Under the supervision of veterinarians James Holt and Lisa Boczar, services include diagnostics, surgical, vaccinations and wellness, integrative medicine, and emergency care.

Best Pet Boarding

Casa de Amigos Animal Hotel — 715 Foam, Monterey - Daily 7-7 p.m. - (831) 373-0482 -

If you need a getaway — or if one of your furry, four-legged friends needs one — the Peninsula’s five-star destination is Casa de Amigos, a multi-time champion of the Golden Pine Cone competition. Owned and overseen by Dr. Ben Wilson, it’s no coincidence that this pet hotel is next door to its sister company, the highly regarded Monterey Animal Hospital.
Casa de Amigos has undergone extensive changes in recent years, with facility upgrades, new services, increased staffing, and extended hours, all to support the original mission: to make every animal’s stay as comfortable and fun as possible.

Best Pet Care

Suds ’N Scissors — 223 Crossroads Blvd. - Daily 9-5 p.m. - (831) 624-4697 -

This iconic business has been a Carmel tradition for over 65 years, providing your beloved family member with TLC and elegant grooming in a spa-like environment.
Suds ‘N Scissors is owned and operated by Todd Harris, who previously owned Country Club Kennels, Santa Cruz Animal care, and Tatoha Trainers. He also has been a professional all-breed dog show handler since the age of 16, and a member of Del Monte Kennel Club for 30 years, serving as treasurer for that organization for the past 15.
Services include multiple types of shampoos, nail buffing, flea medications, tooth brushing, and baths, among many others. Mobile grooming services also are available.

Best Car Repair Shop

Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair — 870 Abrego, Monterey - 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday - (831) 372-5854 -

Is your car sputtering, stalling, steering as if it has a mind of its own? Maybe it does. Listen to your vehicle’s cry for help and make it healthy again at Tom’s Monterey Auto Repair, which offers a full spectrum of service. Tom’s handles all types of maintenance and service, from quick lube (with 14 items inspected) to full lubes, oil and filter services (over 100 items inspected), brake, suspension, and steering repair (including 4-wheel alignment), transmission servicing (both standard and automatic), air conditioning and heater repairs, cooling system repairs, smog inspection, electrical problems, and much more. Find out why that pesky “check engine” light is trying to get your attention at the shop recommended by our readers as the best place around to have your car checked out.

Best Auto Body Shop

Gene’s Import Auto Body — 531 Shasta St., Sand City – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 899-0343 -

Customer satisfaction is the acid test for any small business, and Gene’s Import Auto Body reports that more than 85 percent of its business comes from word-of-mouth advertising from people who have trusted their vehicles to this iconic Sand City company in the past. This family-owned business was founded in 1979 — nearly four decades ago — providing the Monterey Peninsula with the highest level of professional service and quality repairs at a reasonable price, always upholding factory standards and never sacrificing quality for a quick repair. Gene’s highly trained staff is experienced in Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, BMW, Porsche, Lexus, Bentley, Ferrari and Audi, among other foreign-made cars, as well as domestic vehicles.

Best Dry Cleaners

Carmel Cleaners — Junipero and Third – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. - (831) 624-3616

This multiple-time winner of the Golden Pine Cone award is revered for its courteous and competent service for virtually every kind of dry cleaning need, including skilled alterations and garment repais. Owner Deok Chong’s mantra for more than 30 years has been “Good clothes deserve good care.” Specialties include the preservation of wedding gowns, prom dresses, and other treasured garments — just one of many characteristics that have made Carmel Cleaners one of the most-trusted establishments in town.

Best Travel Agent

Pacific Grove Travel — 593 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove – Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - (831) 373-0631 or (800) 648-1808 -

Travel has changed and evolved during the four decades that Pacific Grove Travel has been serving people on the Monterey Peninsula, and Joe Shammas’ beloved agency has changed with the times. Since opening its doors in 1979, Shammas and his staff have built a solid reputation for good service at fair prices, provided by a friendly, helpful, highly trained staff. This full-service travel agency handles bookings for all major cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and car rentals. Group tours are a specialty for this company, a perennial champion among our readers.

Best Hair Salon

March Hare — Mission and 5th, Carmel-by-the-Sea - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday - (831) 624-3024 -

MaryAnna Wagner Stahl, founder of March Hare, brings nearly five decades of salon experience to this legendary Carmel business as an entrepreneur, pioneer AVEDA educator, certified aromatherapist, hairstylist, and make-up artist. Celebrating its 33rd year of providing the artistry and science of hair to Carmel, March Hare specializes in cut and style (including an aromatic AVEDA scalp massage to enhance your experience and scalp health), coloring, highlighting, and make-up, among other services. The highly trained, client-oriented staff also is happy to provide consultation for your wedding or event, ensuring that your special day is filled with pampering and creative expertise.

Best Nail Salon

Nails Spa by the Sea — Seventh and Monte Verde - Call for appointment - (831) 625-2623 -

A Golden Pine Cone winner yet again, Nails Spa by the Sea is celebrated by readers for its affection for clients, who are pampered with the highest-quality nail treatments in a nurturing atmosphere. In addition to the salon classics — manicures and pedicures — Nails Spa by the Sea offers massage and waxing. Discover how enjoyable an hour of your day can be at Nails by the Sea, a traditional destination in Carmel. Or a gift card may be the perfect “special something” for a lady in your life.

Best Spa

Spa at Pebble Beach — 1518 Cypress Dr., Pebble Beach - Daily 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (facilities) & 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (services) - 1-866-993-6947 -

The Spa at Pebble Beach is one of 60 spas in the world to receive Forbes’s Five-Star Award — and now a Golden Pine Cone, too. The Spa at Pebble Beach offers 15 massage rooms, 5 facial rooms, a full-service salon, a flotation wrap suite, an outdoor pool, a conservatory and a sanctuary with a warming fire pit. Whether you’re enjoying a signature treatment, a day package, or just a facial, you are bound to leave feeling more balanced and refreshed. There are specialized treatments for golfers which may be why this is a local favorite. And there’s a juice bar for a healthy drink while you enjoy your treatment.

Best Dentist

Bradford Carl — 26485 Carmel Rancho Blvd. #3 - Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. - (831) 624-2111 -

Dr. Carl, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone, has treated patients here for more than three decades with a team that takes pride in providing patients with the information they need to make decisions about their oral health needs. His office offers cleanings and prevention, cosmetic dentistry, treatment of periodontal diseases, and restorations. “When you visit our office, your smile is our top priority,” the doctor says. “Our entire team is dedicated to providing you with the personalized, gentle care that you deserve.”

Best Dermatologist
Best Skin Care

Roya Javid — 757 Pacific Street, Suite C3, Monterey – Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - 831-293-8458 -

“We strive for excellence in patient care.” Dr. Javid is a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone and this year for both best dermatologist and best skin care. Dr. Javid’s practice, Coastal Valley Dermatology, offers both medical and cosmetic dermatology. They offer micrographic Mohs surgery, a specialized microscopically controlled surgery used to treat common types of skin cancer. Dr. Javid is particularly pleased with the number of referrals she receives from existing patients.

Best Ophthalmologist

Leland Rosenblum — Monterey Bay Eye Center, 21 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 200, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 375-2020 -

A multi-year winner of the Golden Pine Cone, Dr. Rosenblum has been in private practice at Monterey Bay Eye Center since 1994. He has clinical interests in cataract surgery, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy treatment and a variety of other procedures. This third-generation physician was the first ophthalmologist in Monterey County to implant the ReSTOR® intraocular lens. Dr. Rosenblum is a Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology, a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and serves on the Board of Directors for the California Academy of Ophthalmology. Just for fun, Dr. Rosenblum is also an avid cyclist.

Best Orthopedist

Christopher E. Clevenger — 980 Cass St., Monterey – Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 648-3361

In lieu of our normal writeup, Dr. Clevenger asked if we would use this personal note to his patients: Thank you for trusting me with your health care over the past 20 years. It has been a pleasure to have been able to help so many of you. I carry only fond memories with me as I leave to start the next chapter in my career in Santa Rosa.

Best Pediatrician

Pierre LaMothe — Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group, 2 Upper Ragsdale Drive, #210, Monterey - Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. closed 12:30-2:00 pm; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon - (831) 333-0999 -

Dr. LaMothe was born in Carmel, and is a Robert Louis Stevenson graduate. He has been practicing pediatrics for 31 years at Monterey Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group. His hobbies are golfing, hiking, gardening and cooking.

Best Plastic Surgeon

Douglas Sunde — 856 Munras Ave., Monterey – Mon. through Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - (831) 372-0200 -

Dr. Sunde is our readers’ choice once again, thanks to a passion for his profession and a zeal for maintaining up-to-date techniques. The doctor specializes in plastic surgery and provides individualized, state-of-the-art cosmetic and reconstructive treatments, with personal attention to the needs of each patient. A native of suburban Chicago, Dr. Sunde was an Eagle Scout, a National Merit Scholar, and valedictorian of his high school class before pursuing higher education at Stanford, where he graduated with distinction, and UC San Francisco Medical School, where he was part of the medical honor society for leadership and academic excellence in medical scholarship. He’s been practicing in Monterey since 1994. “Superb patient care is my specialty.”

Best Chiropractor

Aaron Gaily — 1299 Pacific, Monterey - Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. - (831) 657-0191 -

Born on the Monterey Peninsula and raised in Carmel Valley, Dr. Gaily was a 1995 graduate of Carmel High, where he was a standout in water sports.
He launched his chiropractic practice in Monterey in 2003, the same year he became head coach of the Carmel High water polo team, a post he held through the 2016 season. “Being a chiropractor is one of the most rewarding things,” he says. “We get to watch people reduce or eliminate their pain, and get back to healthy living, day in and day out. It’s a lot of fun coming to work every day and watching people’s lives change.”

Best Estate Planning Attorney

Kyle Krasa — 704-D Forest Ave., Pacific Grove - Call for an appointment - (831) 920-0205 –

Talk about local roots! Kyle Krasa’s grandfather, Karel A. Krasa, taught Czech at the Defense Language Institute while his grandmother, Zdena, worked at a Monterey cannery. His mother, Joan, taught for nearly 30 years at Bay View Elementary in Monterey, and his father, Peter, was an elementary school administrator and principal. As a student at UC Davis School of Law, Kyle already had his heart set on a career in estate planning, elder law/Medicaid planning, probate/estate administration, and asset protection. He brings a passion for those specialties to a practice that clearly is appreciated by his clientele. Outside the office, Krasa leads an active life that includes playing ice hockey, hiking, cycling, swimming, golf, classic cars, and rooting for the Green Bay Packers, of which he is a proud shareholder.

Best Lawyer if You Need to Sue Somebody

Andy Swartz — 550 Hartnell, Suite A-1, Monterey - Call for an appointment - (831) 373-3235 or (800) 624-9911 -

If there’s a wrong that needs to be righted in the legal arena, the man to call, according to readers, is Andrew Swartz, a repeat winner of the Golden Pine Cone. He has practiced law in Monterey since 1973, specializing in a broad spectrum of civil litigation for plaintiffs and defendants, ranging from personal injury to defamation, and has won multiple high-profile cases. Swartz holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Santa Clara School of Law. He says, “Much thanks to my two partners as well as the other members of our local bar association who make the practice of law enjoyable for me. I also want to thank the incredible staff at Spiering, Swartz & Kennedy.”

Best Defense Attorney

Larry Biegel — 2801 Monterey-Salinas Highway, Suite A, Monterey - (831) 525-4080 -

Biegel, a multi-time honoree by readers as winner of the Golden Pine Cone, has successfully tried criminal cases involving major felonies (including a death penalty case), civil actions involving complex business issues, and personal injury cases. He’s a past president of the Monterey County Bar Association, and was the 2006 winner of the Lewis L. Fenton Award, which recognized his outstanding jury trial skills. His wife, Cristina, is a partner in the firm. If you’re in a legal mess, our readers recommend Biegel as the attorney to call.

Best Insurance Agent

Matt Little Jr., Carmel Insurance — San Carlos and Eighth - Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30 p.m. - (831) 624-1234

The family legacy of Matt Little dates back three generations in Carmel. Robert Little opened Carmel Insurance Agency, Inc. in 1948, when he began delivering quality solutions in the areas of commercial, personal health and life insurance. In 1968 the agency became a corporation, with son Matt Little taking the reins as president. Today Matt works alongside his daughter, Amy, and son Matt Jr., serving markets in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Hawaii. They take pride in providing outstanding personalized customer service, which, no doubt, is the reason this family business has won the Golden Pine Cone award again and again.

Best Shoe Repair

Federico’s Drive-In Shoe Service — 542 Abrego St., Monterey – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - (831) 649-3322 –

Since 1939, Federico’s Drive-In Shoe Service in Old Monterey has brought old world craftsmanship and the art of shoe repair to the Monterey Peninsula, instilling new life into all kinds of footwear with repairs, polishes, shining, dyeing and more. You just don’t find businesses like this one anymore, but, thankfully, Federico’s continues to thrive. This outstanding, family-run operation takes great pride in its quality work and customer service, earning and maintaining the affection of a community that has made Federico’s a multi-time winner of a Golden Pine Cone.

Best School

All Saints’ Day School — 8060 Carmel Valley Road - (831) 624-9171 -

All Saints’ Day School is an Episcopal school in Carmel Valley for students pre-school to eighth grade, founded in 1961. According to the California Association of Independent Schools, “An All Saints’ education has always been distinguished by the excellence of the academic program, the focus on service to the community, and the emphasis on the education of the whole child, as shown by the strong curricular and co-curricular offerings, including music, visual and performing arts, physical education, technology and character education.”

Best Teacher

Bill Schrier, Carmel High School — 3600 Ocean Ave. — 831-624-1821 -

Schrier was previously a pilot, Naval officer, and a lawyer, and now he’s a high school teacher with a Golden Pine Cone. “I became a teacher at 45 after having a career as a lawyer and this is far and away the most rewarding job I have had. I look forward to going to work every day and I just love being around the students and my colleagues.” He teaches AP Government and Politics, AP Human Geography, and coaches the mock trial team, which won a world title in 2016.

Best Principal

Ryan Peterson, Tularcitos & River schools — 33 Ford Rd., Carmel Valley – (831) 620-8195 -

Mr. Peterson was a math teacher and assistant principal in the Palo Alto Unified School District for nine years before he joined the Carmel Unified School District in the 2008-2009 school year as the assistant principal at Carmel Middle School. “Those leadership roles pushed me to become a better educator.” The classroom experience provided him with insights of the qualities that a teacher should have. “We are teaching students how to problem-solve and think and helping to foster their creativity, and we are teaching them how to be people of character.” And on winning and going to work every day, “It’s a privilege and an honor to be principal at such an amazing school with such fantastic staff, parents and students.”

My Favorite Nonprofit

Dance Kids of Monterey County — Sunset Center, Cottage #17, San Carlos Street at 10th Ave., Carmel-By-The-Sea – Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.- (831) 622-9008 -

Dance Kids of Monterey County was started in 1993 to provide ongoing performance opportunities in dance and theater arts to the youth of Monterey County. The troupe is well-known for its performance of the Nutcracker, playing for its 25th consecutive year this December. Part of their mission is with the Community Partnership for Youth, which is a prevention program providing positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, and violence while reinforcing individual strengths. Founder Carol Richmond says, “It is an honor to be chosen for this award considering the many worthy non-profits on the Monterey Peninsula.”

For previous years' winners click here: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008