How we Californians love the outdoors! Especially eating outside. There's something about the open air that makes food, drinks and company extra delicious. Take the meal pictured above, at Esteban in Monterey, CA. When we found out that restaurants in Monterey County would need to close, again, for on-site dining unless they had outdoor seating, Esteban was the first place we wanted to try out.
We knew, from previous visits, that Esteban had a great patio with a large fire pit and many portable heaters. Heat is handy in Monterey's climate. One has to be prepared for the chilly ocean breezes and the fog that rolls in on most days, like clockwork around 5pm. We donned our masks and headed out for the Tapas Hour(s) served daily from 4:30 - 6:00 pm.
We'd made reservations, just to be safe, and I was impressed by the restaurant's attentiveness. Within a day, the restaurant contacted me by phone to inform me of their set up: that the indoor dining room was closed and all dining was on the patio, masks would need to be worn unless we were seated at the table and if we were only having drinks they would not be able to serve us. This last part was a reflection of the order from the governor for all bars to close. I found this direct communication very helpful. I appreciated the time that it took for the restaurant to make the call.
We decided to go with tapas for the entire meal in order to enjoy as much from the menu as we could. We were there on a Tuesday evening, when the chef's paella experience is also available. This is essentially a three course meal that includes soup or salad, your choice of one of four paellas and desert, all for $35.00 per person. We'd had the paella dinner before, really enjoyed it and have always wanted to just dig into the tapas.
The evening was cool and breezy. We were seated right next to the fire pit and under one of those tall heat lamps that you often see at outdoor establishments. It was cozy and afforded us a nice view of the entire patio space. The patio ambience was delightful, open and decorated with plants and stone. Tables were placed safely apart, even more than the six feet required by CA state and CDC guidelines. All staff were masked up. Despite this, everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
Pictured above is a mix of dishes from the happy hour(s) tapas menu (each $10.00) which included the cheese and meat board, pork empanadas, and the short rib slider. We also ordered the traditional patatas bravas (pan fried potatoes) and the Medjool dates wrapped in bacon from the regular tapas menu (ranging from $5.00 - $26.00).
Each item was presented artfully and with care; and everything was delicious! Nothing disappointed us and we love good food! The stand outs were the empanadas; crispy and flaky on the outside with tender shredded pork on the inside. The tomatillo sauce served on the side was mild and tasty by itself but frankly, unnecessary. The empanadas were the stars of the dish and sensational on their own. Our other favorites, as simple as it sounds, were the Medjool dates! Wrapped in bacon and stuffed with blue cheese, we could have eaten these little gems by the bucket full. The sweetness from the dates accompanied by the tartness of the blue cheese was a burst of decadence that filled our entire mouths. And bacon. We are unapologetic meat eaters and can't agree more that everything goes better with bacon!
The price range for Esteban is a little steep. It is attached to a hotel, after all, and we remind ourselves that hotel dining isn't cheap. However, Esteban is a hotel restaurant of such high quality that it's worth the price. We want to support our peninsula businesses and don't mind paying for what we consider to be fine dining quality food in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Esteban is the perfect venue for experiencing outdoor dining on the Monterey Coast!