At the end of their recent extended visit, my parents requested a trip to Carmel, where they've been spending the occasional weekend since the late 1960s. Not much has changed since then, which is what they love about it.
Carmel is charming. Its beach is one of the prettiest in the state, and the faux English country cottages that line the side streets give it a cozy village air. But even the most most modest cottages now sell for north of $1 million, so behind its quaint veneer this former art colony is really an exclusive magnet for wealthy retired golfers.
Perhaps this explains why so many of Carmel's restaurants seem cast from earlier decades. Like a septuagenarian who decides that she's tired of redecorating the living room every decade, Carmel has settled into a contented peace with its familiar, if slightly out-of-date, offerings. There are exceptions: Bouchée and its sister restaurant Luca will both look familiar to fans of contemporary California cuisine. But many favorite spots seem anachronistic.
That's not a criticism. We were all pretty well charmed by it. At Flying Fish Grill, we had excellent seafood prepared California-Japanese fusion style. With its wood-paneled room and slightly retro preparations (almond-crusted bass, fried wonton chips), Flying Fish had an early-90s feel. But it worked.
The Little Swiss Cafe goes even further back. This small, family-run breakfast and lunch spot serves homemade blintzes, apple strudel, liver and onions, "low calorie ground steak," and stuffed tomatoes. Scott said that the blintzes were the best he'd ever had. And we were all taken with the panoramic fresco (that's a panel in the photo above) of the Dutch countryside in the back dining room. Go check it out. It's a work in progress, and the artist, André Balyon, has recently started adding trompe l'oeil effects, such as a painted nail on one wall and a piece of duck tape on another.