Set on the coast of California, Carmel has a plethora of great dining. These 20 best restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea range from elevated cuisine to casual cafes perfect for a weekend afternoon. Carmel, California has quickly become one of my favorite weekend escapes.
There are a few things I love about dining in Carmel. It has a unique location near where most of California’s food is grown. So the restaurants that source locally, have amazing ingredients and can serve incredibly fresh cuisine. This combined with access to fresh seafood, it’s really hard to go wrong here.
Whether you’re in for the day or a long weekend, you can’t go wrong with these restaurants in Carmel. My number one tip for restaurants in the Carmel and Monterey area is to book ahead if you can. The restaurants do get very busy on the weekends, so securing a reservation in advance is helpful.
Some helpful travel tips:
When it comes to exploring, there are many wonderful things to do in Carmel. My favorites are coastal hikes in Point Lobos and exploring the wineries in Carmel Valley. This Carmel travel guide can help you plan your visit. Be sure to check out my favorite Carmel Hotels here.
20 Best Restaurants in Carmel, California
1. La Bicyclette
Whether you come in for the pizzas or French-inspired cuisine, there’s something about the atmosphere and great food that wins me over each time. This is one of the few restaurants in town that does not accept reservations and only walk-ins.
You can also grab their food-to-go, their pizzas do travel really well. It’s the perfect slice of Europe, right in Carmel.
Address: Dolores St &, 7th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
2. Cultura Comida y Bebida
Elevated Oaxacan cuisine, their use of sourced ingredients and homemade sauces brings out the incredible flavors that are true to Mexico. It’s one of my favorite spots in Carmel for cocktails as well. Their Mezcal and Tequila selections are diverse.
I’d recommend getting their street tacos and their mole is amazing.
Address: Dolores Street, between 5th and, 6th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
3. Restaurant at Folktale Winery
Located out in Carmel Valley on a vineyard, Folktale Winery is also home to a delicious restaurant. With their large outdoor patio, there is plenty of spaced seating here. I really love what the chef does here, plus you can add a wine tasting. The winery is around ten minutes from downtown Carmel.
Their fresh charcuterie and cheese boards with seasonal entrees are delicious. If they have the ceviche on the menu, I recommend trying that as well.
Address: 8940 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
4. La Balena
A simple space but incredible food, their crispy fried chicken is one to remember. This is an artisanal rustic Italian food restaurant. It’s a bit hidden but once you find it, you’ll be happy you did.
They do offer takeout food here as well and even offer a “pantry” with things to go.
Address: Junipero St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
5. Seventh & Dolores
A modern steakhouse with a bright room, their staples like West Coast Oysters and porterhouse steak is done incredibly well. Seventh & Dolores is a sister restaurant to Folktale Winery, so you know you’re in good hands.
You can make a reservation here, I’d recommend doing so for the weekend nights. They are open for lunch, dinner, and brunch.
Address: 7th Avenue &, Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
6. Cantinetta Lucca
This is one of our tried and trues for pizza and pasta. I have personally been coming here for over 10 years. Whenever we pass through Carmel, we grab a pizza. I love sitting by the pizza oven and watching everything come out fresh. Their deli is also a hit.
It is a very rustic and authentic take on Italian food. You won’t be disappointed.
Address: Ocean Ave &, Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
7. Brophy’s Tavern
Imagine a hipster take on an English pub and you have the wonderful Brophy’s that uses fresh ingredients for tasty plates. It’s located right at Hotel Carmel, so if you’re staying at the hotel, it’s a convenient choice for lunch or dinner.
They do not have outdoor seating, so you can get takeaway food. Some of my personal favorites are the braised short rib fries, cobb salad, and fish & chips.
Address: San Carlos St &, 4th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
8. Mission Ranch Restaurant
Whether it’s the setting or the incredible food, this famous restaurant owned by Clint Eastwood is the perfect spot to catch the sunset. They have a wonderful outdoor patio for distanced dining, so you can easily sit outdoors.
One of the more popular plates is their chicken sandwich that is made with buttermilk fried Jidori chicken breast and topped with tomato aioli and coleslaw. You can’t beat that.
Address: 26270 Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
One of the newest joints in Carmel, is this hip place, Stationaery. They opened in a quaint courtyard and they have a few options for outdoor dining. Their breakfast and coffee are my personal favorites here.
We stop by and grab takeaway coffee when we are in town.
Address: San Carlos Street, 3 NE of 6th Avenue, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
When it comes to elevated cuisine, Aubergine located at L’Auberge Carmel is it. It’s fine dining taken to the next level, with their 8-course meal. They are open for outdoor dining so you can enjoy dinner in their beautiful interior courtyard.
It is ingredient-driven food, with a tasting menu that focuses on seasonal cuisine. This is a meal to remember.
Address: 7th avenue Monte Verde St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
A cheerful French and Italian restaurant with all of the classics. Van Gogh frequently visited this restaurant in his time. You can even eat at Van Gogh’s table. For those looking for French classics, you will love this spot.
Address: 5th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
A fun and bright space, Pescadero serves great Mexican cuisine. It’s tucked back in a courtyard, where they serve Baja-style cuisine. They do have a great patio as well and since the weather is always mild in Carmel, you can enjoy it year-round.
Address: San Carlos St &, 7th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
13. Il Tegamino
Often noted as off the beaten path, this romantic restaurant has a great patio for Italian cuisine. It is the comfort food everyone wants for dinner. The menu is inspired by the owner and Chef Giuseppe Panzuto’s hometown of Napoli, Italy.
You know you’re in good hands here and it’s a favorite for the locals.
Address: South side of Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Monte Verde We are tucked in the Courtyard behind Cottage of Sweets, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
For fresh sushi and complimentary tea service, head here for some Japanese cuisine. It’s my go-to for sushi in the Carmel and Monterey area. There are not a ton of sushi restaurants around.
They were even listed on the 2019 MICHELIN Guide for California.
Address: 6th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Technically located in Monterey, I wanted to include Passionfish on this list for good reason. It’s a family-owned restaurant that has been serving sustainable seafood for twenty years. It is incredible and reservations are advised to snag a table on their outdoor patio and balcony.
Address: 701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950
16. Village Corner
With a patio and classic American hits like burgers and a Cobb Salada, Village Corner is a lovely place for an afternoon bite. It has been around since 1948 and its outdoor patio is lovely any time of the year.
I would pop in here for a more casual California bistro-style meal.
Address: Sixth Ave. &, Dolores St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Located in Carmel Valley, Roux has a seasonal menu and most famed for their beignets and coffee in the morning as well as their dinner menu.
We ate here this last year and were so impressed by everything on the menu. You really feel transported to France or Spain with their dishes. I loved the duck confit especially.
It is around a twenty-minute drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Address: 6 Pilot Rd, Carmel Valley, CA 93924
Though it may be a wine bar, they also serve yummy bites if you’re looking for a lighter meal. It is fairly new to Carmel and they prepare their food fresh every single day.
Address: 6th Ave & San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
19. Carmel Belle
Tucked away, I love coming here for farm to table style cuisine with fresh juices and sandwiches. This is the spot where you’ll bump into locals as it is hidden away.
They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Address: San Carlos St, Ocean Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
20. Anton & Michel Restaurant
A classic in Carmel where table-side cooking serves up the continental fare. This is a fine dining restaurant, and I’d recommend grabbing a reservation if possible.
Address: Mission Street &, 7th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
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