trip recommendations (primarily SF Bay Area)

I grew up near Carmel! My family is still out there. @Lethe2020 already posted some great ideas- parker lusseau is a must, and definitely the Munras st location.
Both the super casual restaurant at Sea Harvest Market in new monterey (super close to cannery row) and the Monterey Fish House are longtime favorites of my parents, not as upscale as Passionfish (make a reservation for passionfish asap if you want to go, they get really busy!)

If you’re planning to drive along the coast to/through Big Sur - and you should! It’s stunning- Ventana hotel has a great restaurant and patio, I make a point of going when I’m home every august to have lunch or brunch on their patio. Great views, excellent service, always a great meal.

There’s a farmers market in downtown monterey on tuesday nights- don’t plan to eat from any of the food vendors there, kind of tragic county fair style food options- but definitely walk through and pick up some fresh fruit for snacks and there’s a few local vendors with honeys and jams that are excellent


One thing to keep in mind though is the school year ends right about now. - sck>>

Good point - sadly, tourists are year-round LOL. But we’re all tourists when we go there, I guess!

I didn’t remember you saying if you have a car or not. If you really like food, I would imagine you could eat a lot of food by getting one car for one day. North Marin / West Sonoma has some really excellent stops if you like cheese, for example, and doing your research of favorite food types and hitting the high spots would be a great day. Asking people “if you had unlimited miles and 10 hours, where would you send us?” is a pretty good HO question. Looks like car rental like that might be $100, but … what a day, right?

If you’ve never eaten at chettinad you’re in for a treat. Getting there is probably best done by train + rideshare? Or do you have a bicycle? You can cover a lot of ground quickly with train/bart and a bike, if you staying at an AirBNB they might have one to borrow. Or can be put into a car day. There are several other chettinad places but that’s my favorite ( the one in milpitas is good too, but it is an international chain and much harder to get to ).

If you’re really doing the whole thing carless, it’s a minor hassle just to get to oakland, thus would be only worth planning out an afternoon and making the most of it. Train to Bart, I would probably send you down to Fruitvale for a taco crawl, then work your way up, but as noted most places aren’t near public transit. Getting all the way down to Fremont without a car would be a hassle, agreed.

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The only day I go to the aquarium is super bowl sunday.


:joy: good call!!
I went every single year all through elementary and high school, have literally been once since. My nephew’s school class actually just did a program there and they stay overnight and sleep in one of the rooms with all the fish tanks around them! That sounded pretty cool to me.

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Whoa, that does sound fun!

If you’re in the area frequently, membership pays for itself in two visits, and gets you in an hour earlier than the masses and you can skip the queue!

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My family lives in the area, my parents actually are members but only go with out of town visitors

Hey, does that mean you can get ahold of a car and do a food day?

I can when I’m in CA, i live in nyc so unfortunately I only seem to get out there about twice a year

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Thanks for the transit notes; I’ll take a look at where things are relative to the BART lines.

The baking class I’m taking runs something like 7 am - 3 pm every day, so unfortunately that doesn’t give us a chance to do many activities other than eat!

@Ttrockwood, we tend to prefer more casual places, so thanks very much for those tips! And yes, Big Sur is really the goal of the Carmel / Monterey part of our trip. I went years ago and the scenery was so lovely; I’m really excited to go back.

@bbulkow, we’ll have a car but not enough time this trip because of the baking class! About 10 years ago, we did a trip to the Bay Area that was just food-focused – went up through Petaluma to Napa, ate around the East Bay, visited a ton of farmers’ markets – it was delightful!

I notice Aachi Aapakadi has 3 locations; is there one you particularly recommend?

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Big sur doesn’t have much down there, so if you’re thinking to do a day hike and picnic definitely stop in monterey at the whole foods or at the mouth of carmel valley there’s a safeway with a sandwich counter. I swear the dumb gas station in big sur sells a bottle of water for like $5.

I would definitely do lunch at Ventana is possible, it’s spectacular

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And summer camps begin.

The Pleasanton one is new and I can’t say one way or the other. I go to Sunnyvale because it’s closer to me and larger and spacious, I went to the Santa Clara one a few times before Sunnyvale opened, and the food is just as good.

Depends on where in the East Bay. I think downtown Oakland/ Berkeley would be the max I’d go from South SF via Bart. Going to Pleasanton from SSF on Bart doesn’t really make too much sense since it just takes too long. Probably easier to just rent a car and pass by Sunnyvale on your way to Carmel.

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Thank you all for the advice! I’ll report back after our trip next month.

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I’m reporting back after a great trip to the Bay Area.

We started with a couple of days in Carmel, where we ended up eating at Basil and La Balena, mostly because they were pretty close to where we were staying. We enjoyed Basil much more than La Balena; the food at Basil was simply prepared but executed very well, whereas the food at La Balena missed the mark – the grilled peach in the peach salad was very under-ripe, the fried cauliflower had no texture other than being very soft, and so on. Basil also cost much less than La Balena (although we still found it fairly pricy for what it was; I guess that’s what happens in a town like Carmel).

On our way back to SF, we had lunch at AappaKadai, which was one of my favorite places of the trip. As I mentioned when @bbulkow recommended it, we’ve never been to a specifically Chettinad restaurant, and we really enjoyed trying the appams and a Chettinad curry. The curry was not as spicy hot as I thought it might be, but the flavors were wonderful. Now we’re excited to try more Chettinad food when we have a chance.

Dim sum at Dragon Beaux was excellent; I think this is the first dim sum restaurant I’ve been where there’s an actual tea menu. We really like Taiwanese high mountain tea, so it was great to have some with the meal; my one criticism is that they kept the leaves in the teapot, so the tea became stronger as it sat - a pity for such good tea. Everything we ordered was well-prepared, and we particularly enjoyed the baked BBQ pork bao, abalone and chicken sticky rice in lotus leaf, and abalone tart. The menu had so many interesting-looking dishes that I wish we’d had an opportunity to go back and try more!

We ate at a couple of Sichuan places, Royal Feast and Chef Zhao Bistro in San Mateo. We enjoyed both, with the food at Royal Feast seeming a little more complex to us. (But it’s hard to make a direct comparison since we ordered completely different things.) One of my favorite dishes at Royal Feast was their cold eggplant salad; it was quite an odd color (more blue than purple) but really refreshing.

And we had a couple of modern South Indian meals at Rasa and Dosa; had we realized how similar they were, we probably wouldn’t have gone to both, but we don’t have restaurants like this in Boston, so we still enjoyed them.

While I was in my baking class, DH checked out a bunch of other places and especially praised Arsicault’s croissant, Noosh, and Oren’s Hummus. And we were both very appreciative (and envious) of the abundance of strawberries and peaches in the farmers’ markets!

Thanks again to everyone for helping us have a great trip!


Great report! That eggplant is great. If you remember, What was your favorite thing at Chef Zhao?

Two stand out: Rolled Bean Curd with Cucumber, a very simple cold appetizer (which I saw recommended in your very helpful Chronicle project - thanks!) and water-boiled fish (I can’t find their name for this dish on the online menu, but there were two variations, one heavy on chilis and one heavy on Sichuan peppercorns; we had the one with peppercorns).