High & low: Carmel for every budget
Either way, Carmel can make it happen. After all, this beautiful little town on the Monterey Peninsula was settled by impoverished artists seeking inspiration to write and paint. Then it was invaded by Fortune 500 types seeking inspiration to play golf and build multimillion-dollar homes and plot hostile takeovers on their smart phones.
In short, Carmel can handle the rich in spirit and the rich in material goods. The village is hopping—well, sedately, tastefully hopping—with new restaurants and shops. It’s an easy place to get your vacation money’s worth, whether that’s a lot of money or a little.
Lunch: Head out to Carmel Valley and picnic on the sublime panini ($8.95) at Earthbound Farm (7250 Carmel Valley; 831/625-6219).
Dinner: Tasty tapas—like grilled Monterey sardines—rule the menu at Mundaka (San Carlos at Seventh; 831/624-7400). Dinner for two: $50.
Lunch: Try Cantinetta Luca (Dolores near Seventh; 831/625-6500) for pastas and pizza from the wood-burning oven. Lunch for two: about $60 with wine.
Dinner: Critics adore the intimate—just 12 tables—Aubergine (shown; Monte Verde at Seventh; 831/624-8578). Entrées look Frank Gehry–designed, and there’s a 4,500-bottle wine cellar. Dinner for two: $138, plus $110 for wine pairing.