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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Al Fresco Fabulous

The only thing better than better than a lunch of excellent onion rings and a spicy grilled albacore tuna steak sandwich ($10.95)—with spinach, tomato, chipotle mayo and powerhouse pepper jack—is enjoying it on a sun-soaked patio overlooking wide swaths of manicured green with Jacks Peak bristling beautifully in the background.

Therein lies the crucial beauty of the Del Monte Grill (642-4684) at the Del Monte Golf Course—the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi, adjacent to the Hyatt in Monterey —which inspires a steady tribe of knowing locals to frequent it, but not many beyond the core in-the-knowers.

The menu presents above-average grill fare including a Nicoise salad ($7.95), a prawn cocktail (pictured above, $9.25) and sandwiches like a half-pound Angus burger ($8.75) or the Del Monte Melt with chicken, Swiss, guac and grilled mushrooms ($10), though the tuna steak sandwich is tough to top. But it's the welcoming patio that make it a regular spot for me.

As underappreciated patios go, DMG’s is not alone.

The newest revelation in my palate's wanderings: Chamisal (484-1135), where Chef David Frappeia is executing an impressive lineup of benedicts, sandwiches, salads and even French-inspired dinners. For more on a spot particularly appealing for the destination-depraved residents of Los Laureles Grade, check out my recent column here.

Perhaps the most foolishly neglected belongs to Jacks in the Portola Hotel (649-2698), with its fire ring and views of the brick plaza and the boats beyond, which was already worth savoring before the menu was recently reimagined, as I reported about a week back. Sibling spot Peter B’s (649-2699) around the corner benefits from surrounding gardens, good beers and a great happy hour 4-7pm.

London Bridge's (372-0581) outdoor area has one of the better views going, and a recent redesign of its patio cut out the wind from the harbor-adjacent watering hole. Not far from there Esteban (375-0176) enjoys a nice sandstone expanse, especially for being next to a parking lot. Meanwhile Kula Ranch (883-9479) rules in Marina (yes, ugly-weather central - that’s how welcoming the huge decks and multiple oversized firepits are) and Carmel is coated with superb patios, many designed to seduce dog owners, including the leafy escape furnished by Forge in the Forest (649-8600). And arguably the best place to have a drink when the weather's right: the fire-pitted patio at the Inn at Spanish Bay (647-7500), complete with west-facing sunset sights and the bag piper who seems to materialize from the mist pre-dusk.
My top sleeper, though, might be Trailside Café (649-8600) on the Rec Trail just north of Cannery Row. Sean Taylor's kitchen dishes superlative salmon benedicts, beignets and fish tacos, his taps spit out grade-A microbrews and the Pacific provides idyllic views for those lounging on the vine- and brick-blessed patio.

There's a reason they call the outdoors great.