The 10 Best Cultural Restaurants In Monterey, California

Shay Lee

Whether it’s shopping, catching waves, or hanging out at the local bars, Monterey is always buzzing with activity. Locals and tourists can visit various places that celebrate the diverse cultures present in Monterey County. The best thing about the beautiful town is that the restaurants reflect the culinary talents of the different cultures. Check out some of the best ethnic restaurants in town.

Pad Prikkhing and angel wings

1. Krua Thai Cafe

Cafe, Thai, American, Vegetarian, Vegan

Krua Thai Café serves authentic Thai cuisine. The recipes are homemade and the ingredients are always fresh. Chef Heidi Licata has worked for the cafe for over ten years. She believes each dish should be handled with care, and dedicates special attention to each meal served. Her homemade Thai sauce is the special ingredient in most of the entrees. The sauce can be enjoyed in various signature meals such as the labb kai (grilled chicken), spicy barbecue duck, chu chee trout, and barbecue chicken. Chef Licata invites Monterey’s locals and tourists to enjoy their seasoned meals.

2. Ambrosia India Bistro

Bistro, Restaurant, Indian, American, Vegetarian, Cocktails, Wine, Beer

Plate setting at Ambrosia India Bistro
Courtesy of Jerri Anne Rinker Carroll, Ambrosia India Bistro
Located in the heart of Monterey, Ambrosia India Bistro serves fresh, authentic Indian food. Ambrosia’s interior houses two statues of Ganesh and an antique clock, adding an air of authenticity to the establishment. They also have a courtyard garden. Visitors can choose to enjoy meals inside or by the outdoor fireplace. Soup, salad, chicken, lamb, and seafood are the menu’s highlights. For visitors who aren’t fond of meat, the restaurant serves vegetarian and vegan meals.

3. Zab Zab

Restaurant, Thai, Vegan, Vegetarian, American

In Thailand, Zab means ‘delicious, spicy, and hot’, which is the theme of this restaurant. Chef Prapaporn Sujun spent 10 years conquering Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines. Alongside her aunt, Ratana Voranoot, she works hard to ensure the wonderful flavors of Thai cuisine are present in every dish. The menu includes salmon, roasted duck, pot stickers, and spring rolls. Zab Zab does more than just offer traditional Thai dishes, it also provides a comfortable ambiance to dine in.

4. Old Fisherman's Grotto

Restaurant, Seafood, Steakhouse, Soup

Sabu Shake founded this restaurant in the 1950s to promote his love for food, culture, and family meals. He negotiated with fishermen, purchased fresh produce from farmers, and obtained beef from cattlemen to cultivate his restaurant. As the years progressed, Old Fisherman’s Grotto became a place for family and friends to bond over good times and delectable fare. The establishment can be found near the Pacific Ocean and Salinas Valley, allowing customers to enjoy a nice view while dining. The menu showcases American and Italian favorites, such as fettuccini alfredo, chicken salad, linguini and clams, and crab cakes.

5. Koko's Cafe

Cafe, Restaurant, American, Mediterranean, Coffee, Tea , Vegetarian

Located near the Golden State Theatre, Koko’s Café is home to the best Mediterranean culinary talents in the area. The restaurant has served the Monterey Peninsula and its surrounding areas for ten years. Here guests can enjoy traditional Mediterranean cuisine with a modern twist. The food is made from fresh, local ingredients, which enhances the delicious taste of spices and herbs. The Tri-tip and chicken shawarma are the best items on the menu. There is a special sauce hand-made by the chefs at Koko’s Café which leaves customers amazed. For visitors who enjoy non-meat entrees, the restaurant’s menu offers falafel, hummus, dolmas, and salad.

6. El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant

Restaurant, Mexican, Vegetarian

Courtesy of El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant
Husband and wife Hector and Luvia dreamed of owning a restaurant that provided healthy, authentic Mexican food – and this resulted in El Cantaro. Both vegans, the duo believes that the path to healthy eating comes with many challenges, and wanted to find away to help their customers overcome these struggles. El Cantaro’s mission is to help others understand the importance of a vegan diet.

7. Hula's Island Grill

Bar, Restaurant, American, Seafood

The Delaney brothers opened Hula’s Island Grill in 1998 in order to recreate the popular tiki bars of the 1950s and 60s. As guests enter the restaurant, they will notice a blend of Hawaiian and Californian cultures. Customers can enjoy fruity cocktails, island tikis, and Caribbean cuisine. Menu highlights include Duke’s luau pork plate, the Jawaiian jerk chicken plate, and the blackened ahi Caesar salad. Hula’s welcomes the people of Monterey to enjoy a Californian twist on island classics. Hula’s Island Grill’s pupu platter | © Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

8. Bistro Moulin

Bistro, Restaurant, European, French, American, Vegetarian, Vegan

Chef and owner Didier Dutertre and his wife set out to find a way to showcase his culinary expertise. When they landed in Monterey, they found a perfect spot for a restaurant a block away from Monterey Bay Aquarium. Chef Dutertre’s goal was simple; he wanted to create a small bistro featuring a simple menu of classic European treats – and this is how Bistro Moulin was born. Each night, he prepares meals such as coq au vin, moules frites, confit de canard, and escargot. While sampling European meals, customers can enjoy vintage wine and the attentive hospitality.

9. Crystal Fish

Restaurant, American, Japanese, Sushi, Cocktails, Wine, Beer

Crystal Fish
© Jim G/Flickr
Crystal Fish is the best Japanese sushi shop on the Monterey Peninsula. In 2005, chef-owner Tamotsu Suzuki, who trained in Japan, opened the restaurant in order to showcase his unique culinary style. The restaurant offers a wide variety of Japanese entrees such as udon, teriyaki, and tempura, as well as the usual fresh sushi and sashimi.

10. Epsilon Fine Greek Restaurant

Restaurant, Greek, American, Vegan, Vegetarian

Lamb shanks
Courtesy of Epsilon Fine Greek Restaurant
Epsilon offers amazing Greek-styled entrees and desserts. Petros Mungridis, the owner and chef, uses his mother’s recipes to draw customers to the establishment. Some of the menu highlights include the lamb chops, mousaka, dolmades, and spanakopita. When guests visit Epsilon, they will be able to learn about Greek culture whilst enjoying great food in a homely atmosphere.

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