Where to Eat in Salinas: The Best Restaurants and Bars

April 14, 2018 Madelene Haan

Salinas /səˈliːnəs/ is the county seat and largest municipality of Monterey County, California. Salinas is an urban area located just outside the southern portion of the Greater Bay Area and 10 miles (16 km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River. The population was 157,218 as of 2016. The city is located at the mouth of the Salinas Valley roughly eight miles from the Pacific Ocean and has a climate more influenced by the ocean than the hot-summer interior. The majority of residents live in single-unit detached homes, built between 1950 and 2000, while one third of the housing stock has three or more units per structure. Salinas serves as the main business, governmental and industrial center of the region. The marine climate is ideal for the floral industry, grape vineyards, and vegetable growers. Salinas is known for its vibrant and large agriculture industry and being "The Salad Bowl of the World" as the hometown of writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck, who based several of his novels there.
Things to do in Salinas

1. First Awakenings

171 Main St, Salinas, CA 93901-3403 Takeout, Seating, Waitstaff, Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible American, Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch +1 831-784-1125
Excellent
63%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 306 reviews

First Awakenings

Reviewed By magicraider - Sunnyvale, CA

We were seated but friendly smiling staff right away. The menu is vast including crepes! The service was friendly but a little spotty. It took our server a while to come back and get our order. When we asked for water, they said they would bring a pitcher. We had to ask again. The food was very good and decent servings. Overall it was good. I think we caught them at the end of the brunch rush and the serving staff was slowing down.

2. Gino's Fine Italian Food

1410 S Main St, Salinas, CA 93908-8830 Takeout, Reservations, Outdoor Seating, Seating, Waitstaff, Parking Available, Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Full Bar, Private Dining Italian, Pizza, Vegetarian Friendly, Gluten Free Options Lunch, Dinner SGD 26 +1 831-422-1814
Excellent
61%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 264 reviews

Gino's Fine Italian Food

Reviewed By Richard T - Sacramento, California

Wonderful Italian ambience and menu. we enjoyed seafood fettuccin perfectly prepared. Service was excellent. The owner stopped by to greet us and the young employees were polite and courteous. I had not been there for many years and was pleased to see they have maintained their high standards.

3. Salinas City BBQ

700 W Market St, Salinas, CA 93901-1460 Takeout, Seating, Waitstaff, Serves Alcohol American, Barbecue Lunch, Dinner +1 831-758-2227
Excellent
65%
Good
24%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 179 reviews

Salinas City BBQ

Reviewed By LauranTony - El Cerrito, California

We had driven many hours through Sunday traffic and checked Trip Advisor for restaurant suggestions and got this one. Their ribs and brisket were outstanding, as well as their homemade sides (coleslaw and potato salad) and their homemade berry cobbler. The service was great and their beers were good. A must stop if you are in the area.

4. Patria

228 Main Street, Salinas, CA 93901-2704 Reservations, Private Dining, Seating, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Full Bar Italian, European, Gluten Free Options, Vegetarian Friendly Dinner +1 831-424-5555
Excellent
61%
Good
26%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 206 reviews

Patria

Reviewed By Cheryl4488

Lovely restaurant. Right when you walk in you feel at home. It’s rustic French country with a beautiful bar. Great menu, wine, and craft cocktails. Loved my beet and goat cheese salad. My friend had the roasted 1/2 chicken which was great and the scalloped potatoes which she wanted to order more of. The service was gracious and perfect.

5. In and Out Burger

151 Kern St, Salinas, CA 93905-2016 Takeout, Outdoor Seating, Seating, Parking Available, Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible, Accepts American Express, Accepts Mastercard, Accepts Visa, Accepts Discover American, Fast Food Lunch, Dinner, Late Night SGD 7 - SGD 13 +1 800-786-1000
Excellent
57%
Good
27%
Satisfactory
13%
Poor
1%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 254 reviews

In and Out Burger

At In-N-Out Burger, quality is everything. Stop by to enjoy our menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries and shakes. In-N-Out makes fast food the old fashioned way.

Reviewed By Cavydad - Camarillo, California

Quality hamburger at a bargain price! Be it secret menu animal style or simply a single hamburger they are great. French fries and milk shakes finish an ideal meal.

6. Rancho Cielo

710 Old Stage Rd, Salinas, CA 93908-9757 Reservations, Seating, Waitstaff, Parking Available, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Outdoor Seating American Dinner +1 831-444-3521
Excellent
92%
Good
8%
Satisfactory
0%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 124 reviews

Rancho Cielo

Reviewed By echneomd - Campbell, California

It's always nice to enjoy a great meal and also feel that you are contributing to the community. The Friday night dinners allows the culinary students to show off their skills and learn how to provide service, while the guests enjoy wonderful local food and a nice view. My server (Gabriella) told me a little bit about her difficulties in life and how much she was gaining from the cooking school. The fixed price menus is a bargain at $36, but you can also enjoy $6 appetizers on the patio without a reservation. Instead of a tip, you are asked to leave a donation so that they can continue to help disadvantaged youth. So far, I have had the pasta and the seafood entrees, and plan to return to try the short ribs and the chicken fricassee in the future. Amazing chocolate mousse, very imaginative salads.

7. Steinbeck House

132 Central Ave, Salinas, CA 93901-2651 Reservations, Seating, Waitstaff, Serves Alcohol, Highchairs Available American Lunch +1 831-424-2735
Excellent
74%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 62 reviews

Steinbeck House

Reviewed By Kim K

We visited Steinbeck House because I love John Steinbeck's writing. Even if you don't like Steinbeck's work, if you are in the Monterey Peninsula, you must visit if you enjoy traditional early 20th century American food!! It is run by a non-profit group, and serves lunch. The week we were there, the hot item on the menu was beef stroganoff. As I'm a vegetarian, We ate potato and leek soup (large bowl and delicious) and a large salad (consisting of locally grown vegetables) for $13.00. The meal came with homemade rolls. The salad dressing was made from scratch by the chef, as was the brownie pie we shared for dessert. Plus the ambience and service were great. I expected to learn about the author when I went, but it was so much better and way more than I imagined. If you have the opportunity, go.

8. Elli's Great American Restaurant

1250 S Main St, Salinas, CA 93901-2206 Takeout, Seating, Waitstaff, Parking Available, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Full Bar American Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast, Brunch +1 831-759-8455
Excellent
39%
Good
46%
Satisfactory
11%
Poor
1%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 123 reviews

Elli's Great American Restaurant

Reviewed By mikegrattan - Salinas

Elli's serves a variety of food and recently simplified their menu. They used to have just way too many choices so I'm glad that they redesigned the menu; it makes things simpler for the customers and for the kitchen as well, which explains why their quality has become very consistent. Always a solid choice for pizzas, pasta, and burgers and their desserts are great too.

9. Monterey Coast Brewing Company

165 Main St, Salinas, CA 93901-3403 Seating, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible, Serves Alcohol, Takeout, Reservations, Television American, Bar Lunch, Dinner +1 831-758-2337
Excellent
35%
Good
44%
Satisfactory
17%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 139 reviews

Monterey Coast Brewing Company

Reviewed By P6870UQandrewl

This restaurant/brewery is nestled in a nice, clean part of Salinas and right next to a movie theater. Of note is the tourist attraction right down the street with the National Steinbeck Center.

Service...When my family and I showed up, they honored our reservation and were prepared. Prompt service...we had our drinks within 5 minutes of being seated, which was nice. The staff were polite, engaging and very gracious with our young children. You could tell they really try to balance out the family-friendly aspect with the brewery crowd, and they did it nicely.

Menu...we've been to this restaurant before, and again I was disappointed that the seafood choices are limited considering their relatively close proximity to the Monterey Bay area. They redeemed themselves with a good selection of kids' menu items.

Food...I ordered their grilled artichoke appetizer, and it is to die for! They cooked it so perfectly...even my picky little kids were into it! My steak had a great flavor and temperature. I was disappointed with the lack of flavor in the mashed potatoes. I am aware that the steak is supposed to be star of the dish, but the mashed potatoes needed help. They were too overpowered by the steak. The veggies also lacked anything magical. All our portions were big, which was a good value for our family.

Overall: I gave this restaurant a grade of "A-". The booths are a really nice, somewhat private option to the tables. I give the food a thumbs up; they honor the local harvests and also give a little shout out to the regional seafood fare as well. Although my dish did lack some flavor in regards to the sides, there was plenty of it to fill my belly.

If you're passing through Salinas and/or end up staying here, give this brewery a try. Sure, it doesn't have the stunning views that restaurants closer to the touristy areas have, but it is a good meal for a good value!

10. Black Bear Diner

805 W Laurel Dr, Salinas, CA 93906-2730 Takeout, Seating, Waitstaff, Parking Available, Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible American, Diner Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Dinner, Late Night SGD 10 - SGD 20 +1 831-449-1545
Excellent
42%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
15%
Poor
5%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 190 reviews

Black Bear Diner

Reviewed By WeTravelAtDawn - Cheltenham, United Kingdom

I usually try to only post positive reviews as I think every place can have an off day, but this place was really bad value.

Overcooked fish, seasonal veg was inedible because it was undercooked. My husband's full size dinner portion of slow cooked meat was actually small - he's not a big eater but he was left hungry.

Service was lukewarm at best, waiter never asked if the food was good (I guess he knows...) And was more interested in flirting with a table of girls.

None of the food was fresh or had any quality - I could go on but I'll just say if you enjoy fresh, properly cooked meals then this isn't the place for you.

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