Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Penny Sadler's picture

I don’t think there are many people who will disagree with this statement: Food is an important part of every culture. It follows then that one of the great pleasures of travel is the opportunity to taste the local cuisine. There's something about sharing a favorite dish with a friend or stranger that makes it taste even better. We truly do bond over a meal.

Though we live in a world where most anything can be shipped thousands of miles, food still tastes better right where it’s harvested. But it's not only that -- we are literally taking in and digesting the local culture by eating regional dishes.

On California's Monterey peninsula, fishing and eating fresh fish has been a way of life since the first inhabitants settled there. 

Where to eat in Monterey, California

Sustainability is critical to maintaining that way of life and Passionfish, a local seafood restaurant located in Pacific Grove, honors this commitment to sustainability. 

Opened in 1997 by husband and wife team Ted and Cindy Walter, Passionfish is a favorite in the Monterey Bay area. Mention Passionfish to anyone who’s been there and the reply is always,  "I love Passionfish."

Ted Walter, of Passionfish. From Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Chef Ted Walter

The philosophy of Passionfish is simple: take only what you need. If you take care of the ocean, the ocean will take care of you. It’s a philosophy Cindy Walter learned from her Native American grandmother. “When it comes to purchasing fish for the restaurant, I refused to buy from trawlers, gill net fishermen and long liners. We focused primarily on pole fishermen.” 

Sea Scallops/tomato-truffle butter/savory rice pudding. From Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Sea Scallops/tomato-truffle butter/savory rice pudding

Both Ted and Cindy are very hands on. Cindy runs the front of the house. Ted, a classically trained French chef, likes to mix it up and does the shopping once or twice a week at local markets, researching where and how the food is farmed. In 2006, Passionfish was recognized by Bon Appetit as a leader in sustainable seafood.

Dungeness crab salad with avocado/spicy ginger vinaigrette. From Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Dungeness crab salad with avocado/spicy ginger vinaigrette

Pacific Grove is a haven for foodies. A charming seaside community just a five minute drive from Carmel and Monterey's famous Cannery Row, its gentle hillsides are lined with colorful Victorian homes. It's almost idyllic and yet feels less touristy than Carmel or Monterey. I'm sure if I lived there, I'd be a regular at Passionfish.

It’s not only for the fresh seafood that those in the know return. Passionfish maintains a wine list that many restaurants only dream of. And they don’t seem to need to mark it up the usual 200%. That alone will make a regular out of you. Cindy says she believes good food deserves good wine, and good wine should be affordable. Amen to that.

The menu is seasonal and changes daily. Chef Ted thoughtfully includes selections for the carnivore as well as the seafood lover. 

My dining experience there started with a butternut squash soup (it was January), garnished with green onion cream and spiced pumpkin seeds. The second course was a Shrimp Mousseline ravioli with pancetta braised shitake mushrooms. 

Shrimp Mousseline ravioli with pancetta braised shitake mushrooms. From Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Shrimp Mousseline ravioli with pancetta braised shitake mushrooms. Photo Penny Sadler

My dinner partner had an albacore tuna steak served with a cauliflower puree and bacon wilted bitter greens.

Foodie tip: If you do happen to be in Monterey in January, Dungeness Crab is in season. 


For the meat lover, the Grass-Fed Beef Tenderloin with red wine bacon reduction and potato puree sounded divine. There was also duck and and lamb on the menu that night.

I love anything lemon, so dessert, which I foolishly shared, was the Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta. I won’t make that mistake any time soon. If I’m honest, it was my favorite part of the meal.

 Where to Eat in Monterey, California

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta. Photo Penny Sadler

Open daily, dinner service begins at 5:00 pm

Passionfish is located at 701 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove. 
Phone: 831-655-3311




Monterey, California Travel Tips

Why go?

5 Reasons To Love Monterey, California

Where to stay: 

Lodging Options: Cambria to Carmel, California

Driving Highway 1:

Top Tips For Driving Highway 1: Ultimate California Road Trip



Penny Sadler is the Style/Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. For more information on traveling in style, please see www.pennysadler.com and http://adventuresofacarryon.com/



All photos courtesy and copyright Passionfish, except where noted