A favorite location for lunch and dinner on beautifully landscaped grounds.
I, like so many others on the Monterey Peninsula, was thrilled when I heard about the return of outdoor dining in California. Oh, how I have missed dining at my favorite restaurants, and trying others that are new to me! I revel in professionals waiting on me, bringing me good things to eat and drink, and paying them for their services. I have a great deal of respect and awe for anyone engaged in the restaurant business. It's not easy to maintain any kind of business. Restaurants are especially difficult to keep afloat in the best of times. I've worked in the service industry myself and I know how hard it can be to please your customers. It's a thankless yet super important job, providing a nurturing taste of normalcy during this pandemic.
So, for Valentine's Day, my valentine and I opted to go out for the first time in months to one of our favorites: Tarpy's Roadhouse, located on Highway 68 between Monterey and Salinas. My hubby and I have been going to Tarpy's since the early 1990's. Tarpy's was where we would celebrate those special occasions: birthdays, our anniversary, when we left Monterey the first time and when we came back to visit yearly. We even celebrated our first anniversary back in California when we returned to Monterey in 2017. We have yet to be disappointed.
Sunday's visit was no different. We were pleasantly surprised to see the restaurant bustling with activity - yet anyone waiting for a table and all restaurant staff were smartly wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Tarpy's has always had perfectly pleasant outdoor spaces: a courtyard right in front of the main entrance to the restaurant as well as a porch area just off the main dining room. All of it was being utilized on Sunday, with plenty of space left between tables. A new addition was a tent that now takes up part of the courtyard space. I also noticed a few tables with built-in firepits that I didn’t recall seeing when we'd visited before the last restaurant shutdown. Heating lamps were included at every other table to keep customers toasty in the cool weather we were having that day.
Tarpy's was serving Sunday brunch when we arrived for our 1:00 pm reservation. Reservations are recommended since the restaurant is a popular dining destination for locals and tourists alike. Our server immediately rattled off a long list of specials, which all sounded delightful. The paper menu at the table included many options for appetizers, sandwiches, salads, entrees and wines by the glass or bottles. I was particularly impressed by the number of salads available during their regular lunch service. The web based menu, easily accessed by scanning the QR code at the table and free wi-fi, offered a creative list of cocktails not listed on the paper menu.
We started with two tried and true appetizers, the deviled eggs and the giant Bavarian pretzel. I love the fried capers sprinkled atop each egg and on the plate itself, adding a salty crunch to the otherwise smooth, creamy deviled-egg filling. The pretzel was huge, as advertised, and beautifully plated with a smear of mustard and a small pot of creamy ale cheese for dipping. The pretzel was delightfully soft on the inside with a thin crust on the outside.
Next came clam chowder and a pear and mixed beet salad. You can’t go wrong with clam chowder on the Monterey Peninsula and the beet salad was refreshing. I especially loved that our server was perfectly fine with splitting the salad for me so that I could eat half at the restaurant and take the other half home with me.
The real winners were the waffle and chicken special and the chopped smoked brisket sandwich that followed.
I can’t resist chicken and waffles whenever I see them together on a menu. Tarpy's take on the waffle was pleasantly herby, and soft. I prefer a bit of crunch on the outside of my waffle, with a soft interior but this waffle did have a nice, herby flavor that complimented the chicken and gravy well. Yes, gravy on the chicken, but just enough to compliment the flavors not drown the chicken. The best part of this dish was definitely the chicken itself. We could not tell if it was a special coating on the chicken or if the chicken skin was simply so delicately fried to flaky and crispy perfection. Either way, it was the most delicious and light fry that I've ever experienced and I loved it. The meat was so succulent and tender we think it had to have been brined or sous-vided. It was, by far, the tastiest and most well prepared chicken I've ever eaten.
The brisket sandwich was delicious - and I'm not a big fan of meat sandwiches! The brisket was served chopped and swimming in BBQ sauce that was deliciously vinegary and sweet. The meat was super tender. The potato salad that accompanied the sandwich was also very tasty. I liked the addition of sliced, black olives, the large chunks of potato and the creamy texture of everything together.
We were super full by the time we were finished. We took about half of our meal home. Portion sizes were large and the prices were super reasonable for the amount and quality of the food. Go for the lunch service if you're on a budget.
Tarpy's. They haven't disappointed us in over thirty years. Wonderful location, relaxed atmosphere, great food and great value!