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california dreamin' on the monterey bay

by Sally Bernstein

After checking into the lovely Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa on Cannery Row in Monterey we were ready to see the sights.  Monterey is a small town (population 28,000) with drop-dead views of the Pacific Ocean.  There is much history here with the legendary sardine industry and former resident writer John Steinbeck, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and a Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 1962.  Being a coastal town the weather can be cool, especially at night so dress accordingly.

One of the not-to-be-missed sites is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which opened over 30 years ago but continues to renovate and add new exhibits every few years.  The kids (and adults) will love the sea otters that roll around in the water, sun their bellies.  The multi-level aquarium has much to see so save plenty of time for the many sites. There are also restaurants in the aquarium.  There is a Coffee Bar, a self-service Cafe, and the more upscale Cindy’s Waterfront.  This is the creation of well know California restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn of Fog City Diner, Mustards Grill, and Backstreet Kitchen fame, to name a few. Relax with a glass of wine and seasonal dishes such a Pacific Rockfish Tacos and Cindy’s Curried Chicken Salad.

Another well-known aspect of the aquarium is their Seafood Watch program, designed to help diners and shoppers choose quality, sustainable fish.  You can access their ever-changing list of Best Choices, Good Alternatives and which seafood to Avoid on the Internet.  There is also a Seafood Watch card that can be downloaded on the Internet and is available for individual states.

Monterey has an active Fisherman’s Wharf.  Take a stroll up and down the wharf and enjoy shops, restaurants, and a theater.  Until the 1940s this wharf was the center of the Monterey sardine fishing industry.

When it’s time to eat and if you like Latin American Cuisine and Mexican food, head to Peppers Mexicali Cafe in Pacific Grove, called PG by the locals.  PG is one of several small towns that adjoin Monterey so this is a very short drive.  This popular restaurant is known for its house-made tamales, enchiladas, seafood tacos, snapper Yucatan and chilis rellenos.  And don’t miss their Super Premium Lappert’s ice cream from Hawaii.  My favorite is the coconut macadamia nut fudge. Closed Tuesdays.

Speaking of seafood, there is a combination seafood market and restaurant very close to Cannery Row called Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant. They offer fresh, locally caught and imported seafood including BBQ oysters, clam chowder, fish and chips, and squid at both lunch and dinner.

Back to the Monterey Plaza Hotel.  Try Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, offering American cuisine and sustainable seafood. Dine in either the bar or restaurant at this upscale quality seafood spot.

The hotel has spacious and well-appointed rooms and is a popular venue for weddings with couples choosing to be married on the patio overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

I came to Monterey for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Foods Institute.  It is held annually to promote education about sustainable food.  This year’s topics touched upon protecting the human rights of seafood workers in the developing world; reducing the health and environmental impacts of plastic pollution on the food we eat; and exploring the ways to mitigate the effects of climate change on global food security, to name just a few of the topics.  Speakers from across the United States shared their ideas and sparked conversations about these important issues.


Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
400 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 920-6710

Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 648-4800

Dining at the Aquarium
Cafe: 10 a.m.—4:30 p.m.
Cindy’s Waterfront: 11 a.m.--3 p.m.

Seafood Watch

Fisherman’s Wharf
1 Old Fishermans Wharf
Monterey, CA 93940
Open 24 hours

Peppers Mexicali Caf
170 Forest Ave
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 373-6892

Sea Harvest Fish Market and Restaurant
598 Foam Street
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 646-0547


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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