Best Lunch in Carmel and Carmel Valley

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Clean Plate Club

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Whether you’re driving from vineyard to vineyard in the verdant Carmel Valley or lounging on the sandy beach of Carmel-by-the-Sea with an umbrella, Carmel has no shortage of sights that make for a memorable weekend vacation. Between your time at the beach and doing a spot of sightseeing, you’re going to need an excellent lunch to keep your energy up. Plan in advance, or swing by one of these restaurants for the pick-me-up you need.

Here are our top picks for  lunch in Carmel and Carmel Valley, selected by our editors.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of Corkscrew Cafe 


Photo: Courtesy of La Bicyclette Restaurant

La Bicyclette Restaurant

The menu here is updated weekly, but guests can always expect a fresh assortment of Belgian-tinged creations — including the constant Duvel beer — from the Georis family. A wood-fired oven is at the heart of this operation and you can’t go wrong with any of the pizza offerings, especially the Champignons which boasts both portobello and oyster mushrooms. Ask the server about the charcuterie selection that’s cut to order with the on-site hand cranked slicer.

Photo: Courtesy of Pescadero Carmel

Pescadero Carmel

San Carlos Street & 7th Ave, Carmel

The modern menu dives deeply and devoutly into Baja California, with mescals and tequilas to match. Covid helped Pescadero up its outdoor patio game, and the mood is about as social as it gets, lifted at later hours by sister spot Barmel next door. The guacamole, yellowfish tiradito, sake-steamed salmon and handmade tortillas are all superb, but the real clincher is the abalone tacos with fried artichoke.

TreehouseCafe_lunch_Carmel-by-the-sea_1200x900_TreehouseCafe Facebook_Fadialnimri@aol_com
Photo: Courtesy of Treehouse Cafe/Fadialnimri@aol_com

Treehouse Cafe

San Carlos Street (at 7th and 8th), Carmel

If you’re taking a break from your day at Carmel Beach and are looking for a lunch that’s a step above the typical burgers and fries, swing by Treehouse Café for a taste of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. The café has a casual elegance with its warm wood accents and flower-filled veranda, and its menu is full of favorites like baba ghanouj and dolmas. You’ll also find a section of treats for puppies, so feel free to bring your canine companion to lunch with you.

Carmel Valley

Photo: Courtesy of Corkscrew Cafe

Corkscrew Cafe

The whole “taken straight from the European countryside” refrain is well-worn, but it definitely applies here given the pebbled garden and rustic fare — and, after all, the owner is Belgian. Specialties, as with sibling spots La Bicyclette and Casanova in Carmel — the former a superb lunch play itself — include breads and pizzas, but don’t sleep on the smash burger, pear salad or tiramisu.

Photo: Courtesy of Lucia Restaurant & Bar

Lucia Restaurant & Bar

415 W Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley

Bernardus Lodge plops a destination restaurant in a scenic cradle of Carmel Valley vineyards, mountains and lavender fields. Either patio — out front by the organic kitchen gardens or in back by the expansive bocce ball courts — furnish dreamy backdrops for modern farm-to-fork fare that emphasizes local producers and wine country cuisine like braised short ribs, prosciutto pizzas, grilled swordfish and Dungeness crab cakes.

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For more suggestions on the best restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula, the best things to do on the Monterey Peninsula and the best places to stay on the Monterey Peninsula, click here.

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