Monterey is best known for its fabulous Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world-class facility well worth the $35 entry fee for its giant tanks of in-your-face sea creatures of all kinds. But it’s also a surprisingly good place to eat… something that’s not sea food.
What happens when west-coast California meets something distinctly French? You get *Crepes of Brittany, a terrific hole-in-the-wall shop amongst the carnival that is Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf. When I visit, co-owner Thierry Croquet is manning three circular grills, pumping out sweet crepes with house-made caramel sauce and piles of fresh fruit. But where these guys really shine is their authentic Brittany savoury crepes, or galettes. They’re made from organic buckwheat flour and left to cook till the crepe is a little crispy and the inner ingredients—like my caramelized onion, spinach and cheese—are hot. “It takes time to make them, and the lines can get pretty long in summer,” says French-born but longtime Monterey resident Thierry. “But everybody leaves happy.” Me, too, especially after he hands me a wonderfully chewy but not too sweet sugar crepe, squeezing half a lemon over it as a finishing touch.
6C Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey
Monday, Thursday, Friday 8 am-3 pm, Saturday-Sunday 8 am-4 pm
Eight dollars is a little stiff for half a sandwich, I’m thinking, as I line up at the counter of *Compagno’s Delicatessen, a little corner store up a steep residential street in Monterey. Then owner Bennett Compagno cuts a soft, fresh ciabatta loaf in half and starts loading it up… with multiple slices of mortadella (with pistachio), slabs of provolone, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and peppers. By the time he’s done, it must weigh nearly three pounds—maybe the thickest sandwich I’ve ever wrestled my jaw around. A big guy in front of me has ordered a whole chicken breast sandwich ($11), and he’s staggering under the load. Compagno’s supports its troops, with military t-shirts pinned to the ceiling and special subs with names like air force, navy seal and the like. After all, any of their fantastic sandwiches could feed a small army. Note: Compagno’s grocery section includes something I’ve never seen before—imported beer from Russia, Romania and Montenegro.