One of Our Favorite Places in the World

May 13, 2009


The jaunty exterior of La Bicyclette, a modest but inspired restaurant in Carmel, California.

We’ve been remiss in writing much about our four-day stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea last Christmas. So when a good friend and colleague from British Columbia spilled the beans by telling us he’d scheduled his wife’s 50th birthday celebration there, and asked for restaurant recommendations, we couldn’t help but jump in. Following are the highlights from a very long e-mail we shot back to him with places to be sure to go (and some to skip).

Cypress Inn (where we stayed in December) is Doris Day’s hotel that is dog-friendly. Really fun for a drink or lunch to watch the dogs and their owners. 

L’Auberge Carmel (where we stayed two years ago) is a Relais et Chateau property and very upscale. David Finkel is the proprietor/owner and also runs Bouchée and an Italian resto, both located in the heart of Carmel. There’s also a high-end resto at L’Auberge–multi-course and very expensive. Worth it if you are in the mood for that sort of an evening.

One of our fave places is much more modest and pictured above. . .La Bicyclette (LB), sister resto of Casanova (that isn’t really worth going to because it is larger and just seems kinda canned and staged). LB is worth visiting, however. with food served in well-worn crockery and iron pots, and authentic.

The entrées at La Bicyclette are served in generous portions and family-style.

The wine list feeds off Casanova’s (which is vast) so if you want a bottle not at LB, the server gets on the bicycle stationed outside and rides to Casanova to retrieve it. And don’t miss the chocolate mousse, which is big enough for four and delish.

La Bicyclette Chocolate Mousse is one soul-satisfying dessert.

There’s an excellent cheese shop in the Plaza (where lots of the chain shops, such as J. Jill and Anthropologie) are concentrated.

Skip Grazing’s–it’s been good in the past but seemed rushed and distracted this time (maybe because it was Xmas Eve!).

Flying Fish has a good rep although we haven’t eaten there in several years.

 Skip Flanigan’s Seafood but the oyster bar on the main drag (Ocean Drive) is good for lunch. Il Fornaio is in the venerable Pine Inn but we’ve never eaten there. 

Christopher’s is chef-owned and good, although we ran out of nights this year (good two years ago). 

Of course you must drive to Big Sur and check out Ventana Inn and drive the 17-Mile Drive, although The Lodge at Pebble Beach for lunch is disappointing (beautiful views, though).

It’s fun to go for a drink at Roy’s on Pebble Beach as well, especially if you can time it with the bag-piper’s performance.

Skip Monterey (very touristy and the outlet stores there are pitiful) except for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is truly magnificent. 

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