Shipnuck’s guide to Pebble Beach: Where to play, eat, and visit on the Monterey Peninsula

June 5, 2019

I grew up in Steinbeck country, spent my college summers as a cart boy at Pebble Beach Golf Links and now live in Carmel. So in the run-up to this U.S. Open, quite a few folks have been tweeting and texting me for advice about visiting the area. It seemed prudent to put all of my counsel in one document, so here is one man’s highly idiosyncratic guide to the Monterey Peninsula (and slightly beyond).

Where To Play

Spyglass HillA course which needs no introduction. During U.S. Open week, there will be shotguns at 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Plenty of spots are still available and reservations can be made now. (Generally, tee times are reservable only 24 hours in advance without booking a pricey room at the Lodge.) A shotgun is sub-optimal but comes with a big bonus: you can shuttle (or even walk) to the tournament before or after the round.

Pasatiempo: Cypress Point, Augusta National and Royal Melbourne are all obnoxiously private, but another Alister MacKenzie masterwork is blessedly public and less than an hour’s drive from Pebble Beach. If you’re coming to the area, a sojourn to Pasa is mandatory.

Pacific Grove Golf Links: Or, as it’s still known to locals, P.G. Muni. Ridiculously fun and of tremendous value, this course has a bunch of memorable holes and the back nine winds through gorgeous dunes. Just don’t be put off by the quirky start: back-to-back par-3s followed by a par-4 that doesn’t really have a fairway.

-Poppy Hills: An elegant course and a very good value. It will also get you inside the gates of 17 Mile Drive, which is quite handy during Open week.

-Bayonet: Easily the toughest course on the Peninsula, which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.

Spyglass, $395: Pebble may get the plaudits, but those who step foot on Spyglass swear by it. Maybe the most naturally beautiful course in the country, Spyglass is a bucket-lister for golf fans throughout the country. But, like Pebble, it’ll leave a dent in that piggy bank.

Where To Drink

-Brophy’s (Carmel): During past Opens, this cramped pub was the unofficial caddie headquarters. Since 2010, when a sodden Graeme McDowell celebrated his win on Sunday night by hosing down patrons with the soda gun behind the bar, Brophy’s has been remodeled and lost a little of its scruffy charm. But the joint will still be jumping. Good menu, too.

-Spanish Bay Firepits (Pebble Beach): On the deck behind the lobby of the Inn, this is an exceedingly pleasant place to watch a sunset with an ocean view, roaring fire, hot toddy and perhaps a bagpiper playing in the distance. Note: The Tap Room is not open to the public during Open week.

-Starlight (Carmel): This atmospheric rooftop bar (above Vesuvio restaurant) is always a fun scene.

-Crown and Anchor (Monterey): A quintessential British pub (with a nice patio) in the heart of downtown, from which you can stumble to various other bars.

-Alfredo’s Cantina (Monterey): A glorious dive bar.

-Barmel (Carmel): Loud, lively and often featuring live music.

-Caraccioli Cellar & De Tierra Vineyards (Carmel): Carmel is lousy with sleek wine tasting rooms, and these two are my favorite.

You might get to see the U.S. Open champion throwing a party at Brophy's like Graeme McDowell did in 2010.
Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Where To Dine

-Casanova (Carmel): Probably the most popular restaurant on the Peninsula for locals and visitors alike because of its romantic feel, sophisticated food and deep wine list.

-Cultura (Carmel): Not your everyday Mexican joint: this is inventive Oaxacan food, along with the sexiest vibe in Carmel.

-Il Vecchio (Pacific Grove): A charming rustic atmosphere and delicious Italian food at very good prices.

-Peppers (Pacific Grove): Bustling, casual place specializing in Latin American cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. So good.

-Julia’s (Pacific Grove): A cozy vegetarian spot with an emphasis on local provisions, including mushrooms foraged by the intrepid chef. The chef recently had to be rescued from the Lone Cypress Tree, which he had summited and then fallen from in search of tasty ‘shrooms.

-Flaherty’s (Carmel): My favorite seafood place in an area known for excellent seafood.

-Abalonetti’s (Monterey): My favorite among the many good restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf. I try to eat the Marty’s Special, fried calamari atop grilled egglant and bathed in marinara, at least once a month.

-Little Chicken House (Pacific Grove): The BBQ place is a favorite among Tour caddies, featuring much more than just chicken. It even has a drive-thru!

-Crystal Fish (Monterey): The best sushi on the Peninsula.

-Red House Cafe (Pacific Grove): Charming spot with a strong menu.

-Alta Bakery (Monterey): Brand new joint in a historic building with some tasty new takes on traditional dishes. There’s a lovely patio in back.

-Lafayette Bakery (Carmel): The most mouth-watering croissants (and other goodies) this side of the Left Bank.

-LouLou’s Griddle In the Middle (Monterey): Fun, funky place on Wharf 2, which is adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf. One hubcap-sized pancake can feed an entire family.

-Katy’s Place (Carmel): Crowded, touristy, overpriced…but the menu is creative and the food is fantastic.

Casanova is one of the most popular restaurants in Carmel.
Courtesy of Tales from Carmel

What Else To Do

-Big Sur: If you’re coming to this area, you absolutely must set aside a day to visit one of the most wondrous places on the planet. The drive down Highway 1 is famously beautiful, but there is so much more to see and do: jaw-dropping hikes (Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Partington Cove, Garrapata); hidden beaches to explore (google how to find Pfeiffer Beach); delicious meals to eat (Deetjan’s for breakfast, Nepenthe for lunch, Ventana for dinner, Big Sur Bakery for a snack); eclectic shopping and art (The Phoenix, Coast Gallery, Hawthorne Gallery); and various other cool experiences (have a drink whilst sitting in the middle of the creek at the River Inn, or take in an artsy event at the Henry Miller Memorial Library).

-A stroll on Carmel Beach: The best things in life are free, including getting a glimpse of the 8th, 9th and 10th holes of Pebble Beach Golf Links.

-Point Lobos: This state park, just a few minutes south of Carmel, has a glorious trail system through the forest and along the coast. The terrain is flat and easy, even for indoor-types. One of my favorite places.

-Monterey Bay Aquarium: It’s an absolute must-do for kids but definitely worthwhile for adults, too.

-Wine tasting in Carmel Valley: There are tons of top-notch wineries in a compact area and the drive through the Valley is a pastoral treat. Twelve miles deep is the Village, which has a bunch of good restaurants and cute shops. And even if it’s cold and foggy at Pebble Beach, it will be 78 degrees and perfect in the Valley.

-National Steinbeck Center (Salinas): The life and work of the man who put Cannery Row on the map is memorialized at this museum in my hometown. Definitely worth a side trip, especially if you’re heading to the 101 Freeway. If you want to glimpse the roots of the second-best writer to come out of Salinas, drive past my boyhood home at 812 Fairfax Dr.

Big Sur doesn't fail to amaze.
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