Raúl Nava, Off the Menu 831: New restaurants springing up

Peninsula Premier Admin

Spring is still a month away, but there’s already new life sprouting in our local dining scene. We’ve welcomed a number of new eateries these past couple of months, though we had to say goodbye to some longtime establishments too. As always, send any news tips, questions, curiosities or just friendly notes to offthemenu831@gmail.com.

  • Parsley+Fig Grazia garden salad. (Raúl Nava — Monterey Herald correspondent)

  • Aquino’s Birrieria quesabirrias. (Raúl Nava — Monterey Herald correspondent)

  • Parsley+Fig farmers market booth. (Raúl Nava — Monterey Herald correspondent)

  • Aquino’s Birrieria quesabirrias with consome. (Raúl Nava — Monterey Herald correspondent)

  • Plaza Diaz pork chile verde. (Raúl Nava — Monterey Herald correspondent)

New year, new you

If you started 2021 with a goal to improve your health this year, three new spots stand ready to lend a hand.

Terra Superfoods spotlights superfoods with build-your-own bowls. Antioxidant-rich açaí is the centerpiece, alongside Blue Majik (spirulina extract), pitaya (dragon fruit), chia, granola and more. On the savory side, there’s an assortment of grain bowls with quinoa and organic greens. An added bonus? The menu is entirely vegan (minus honey as an optional add-on). Look for Terra’s shop around the corner from Trader Joe’s in downtown Monterey.

* Terra Superfoods, 570 Munras Ave., Suite 50, Monterey. 831-324-4178, terrasuperfoods.com. Open 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.

Local juicery Perfectly Pressed has a new outlet in downtown Monterey, taking over the location vacated by Myo Frozen Yogurt last year. Look for the signature cold-pressed juices — including favorites like Green Dream (cucumber and spinach), Summer Love (watermelon) and Recoverade (young Thai coconut water and pineapple) from the original Salinas outpost — plus almond mylks, wellness shots and juice cleanses. Hearty superfood smoothies and bowls are also on offer.

* Perfectly Pressed, 491 Alvarado St., Monterey. 831-747-1127, perfectlypressed.com. Open 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday – Sunday.

And welcome Parsley+Fig to the Carmel farmers market. The salad dressing company debuted during the pandemic with a lineup of five dressings — Grazia (balsamic), Pisto (pesto), Salud (Champagne), Sole (honey mustard) and Terra (Italian herb) — carefully crafted with all-natural, local ingredients. The new farmers market booth showcases the versatility of dressings with a menu of grab-and-go salads, sandwiches and wraps.

*Parsley+Fig Mobile. 402-1503, parsleyandfig.com. 


The pandemic has forced restaurants to find creative ways to serve diners and has inspired a pair of Mexican restaurants in Pacific Grove with novel service models — both have ditched the dining room and operate exclusively for pickup and delivery out of a catering kitchen on Central Avenue.

Aquino’s Birrieria celebrates savory, slow-cooked beef birria. Choose from carne asada tacos, birria tacos and crispy quesabirrias — tender beef birria and gooey cheese cradled in a crispy corn tortilla. Birria burritos, tortas, quesadillas and ramen — yes, ramen — round out the menu. The quesabirrias are a must-order. However many you’re planning to order, add a couple of extra — they’re that good. And remember to give these cheesy creations a generous dunk into the cup of consomé (beef broth laced with chile and cilantro).

* Aquino’s Birrieria 529 Central Ave., Pacific Grove. 224-6760, aquinosbirrieria.com. Open 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (or until sold out) Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Pre-order via Instagram (@aquinosbirrieriallc).

Plaza Diaz opened just three weeks ago, but the Diaz family are old pros — they were the original owners of Plaza Linda, operating the famed Carmel Valley eatery for more than 40 years before selling to new owners in 2007. Many of the favorites from “The PL” make an encore here, like sangria-marinated roasted chicken, baked chile rellenos, enchiladas suizas (with stewed chicken and cheese) and more. My pick? Chile verde with tender pork and charred peppers. Also, look for meal subscription — six meals delivered to your door each week to reheat at your leisure.

*Plaza Diaz 529 Central Ave., Pacific Grove. 831-275-7887, plazadiaz.com. Open 3:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Wednesday–Friday, closed Saturday–Tuesday.

End of an era

Monterey County’s restaurant scene ebbs and flows. While we’ve welcomed some new arrivals, we’ve also had to bid adieu to others.

Monterey’s Stone Creek Kitchen has closed. In December, owners Linda Hanger and Kristina Scrivani announced they wouldn’t be renewing the shop’s lease when it expired this month. The retail cookware shop and deli was a hub for local gourmands, who’d gather here for cooking classes and interactive community suppers.

Sad to hear Michi Japanese Restaurant in Marina closed earlier this month. After 37 years, owners Kyoji and Kiyoko Michioka are retiring. The restaurant had a long history in Monterey County, opening in Salinas in 1984 before moving to Marina in 2006. I’ll confess I was only recently introduced to Michi, but I still mourn the loss of a local independent restaurant with such ties to the community.

The winter holidays may have distracted from the news that another iconic Marina institution has closed. Mecca Delicatessen showcased German favorites and shuttered in early December. The eatery has changed hands a couple of times since its original debut more than 50 years ago, and another chapter is unfolding now. This time new owners Jim and Mystere Sapia have kept some of Mecca’s staples but shifted the deli’s focus squarely on sandwiches, remodeling and rebranding the space as Grinderz Deli & Market. Now schnitzel, brats and Reubens sit alongside bánh mì, chicken parm and Philly cheesesteaks.

*Grinderz Deli & Market 215 Reservation Road, Suite N, Marina. 831-324-4291, grinderzdeli.com. Open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday, closed Sundays.

Restaurant revival

It looks like a new day may be dawning at Epsilon. The coronavirus pandemic shuttered the beloved Greek spot in November, but owner Christos Hix has launched a GoFundMe to help fund the restaurant’s reopening. Visit epsilonrestaurant.com for more information.

And new sushi spot KUMA has made a quiet debut in downtown Monterey in the space vacated by Aabha Indian Grill last summer. The menu for soft opening focuses on Japanese fare — sushi and sashimi, teriyaki and tonkatsu — but eventually look for specialties drawn from across Asia, like Korean bibimbap and Indonesian mi goreng noodles.

*KUMA 414 Alvarado Street, Monterey. 831-920-1584. Open 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays.

Easy like Saturday night

Pacific Grove’s Poppy Hall takes the guesswork out of dinner with Saturday night specials. The featured dinner plate changes each week, drawing from classic comfort food favorites. Past selections have included meatloaf and fried chicken, and this month will see prime rib and prosciutto-wrapped trout on the menu. The Saturday specials often sell out, so order ahead at poppyhall.com so you don’t miss out.

PS — Don’t sleep on Poppy Hall’s lineup of cozy soups and stews. Sold by the quart, they’re lifesavers for a cold winter night. Choose from beef stew, turkey soup, seafood chowder, Tuscan white bean and vegan mushroom, and watch for specials too like pork pozole. Pro tip: Add an order of steak fries.

Raúl Nava is a freelance writer covering dining and restaurants around the Monterey Peninsula. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @offthemenu831.

Contributed by local news sources

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