Who knows Monterey County best? Locals do! That’s why we asked restaurant owners, wine makers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and community members that call this place home what they love most about Monterey County!
Whether you’re a resident looking for new spots or a visitor looking for some hidden gems in Monterey, meet our locals and hear their recommendations of the best things to see and do in the destination.
Every month we’ll share favorite local spots to eat, shop, drink and explore outdoors in our new series, Inside Monterey. Now is the moment to explore an unknown side of Monterey County. Get the inside scoop from the people that live here and start adding these local favorites to your next itinerary.
MEET CHAD SILACCI
Chad Silacci, Owner and Wine Maker of Rustiqué Wines, has lived here in Monterey County his whole life, with the exception of the 2.5 years he was away finishing his undergraduate degree in Viticulture and Enology, from Washington State University.
He grew up being surrounded by the wine industry at his family’s estate, but it wasn’t until 2015, when he had his first harvest internship with Denis Hoey at Odonata Wines, that he saw winemaking as a craft for the first time and fell in love with it.
Thanks to his parents, Chad and his sister Sara (who is a co-owner of Rustiqué Wines) we’re given an incredible opportunity to grow their business, explore farming opportunities and make meaningful wine, all in their hometown of Salinas.
TELL US ABOUT RUSTIQUÉ WINES & YOUR FAVORITE WINE
Rustiqué is a family-owned and operated winery and event venue run by myself and my sister, Sara. Our name, Rustiqué, stems from our mother’s first name, Rusti, and expresses the rustic authenticity of our ranch.
Rustiqué is essentially two businesses in one. On one side, Sara is promoting our event space, which offers unique and exciting experiences, while maintaining an intimate and relaxed environment. On the other hand, I’m trying to build upon what my parents started as a small family vineyard in the late 90s and turn it into a recognized vineyard, as well as grow the family label of Rustiqué. We aspire to create expressive, serious wines that encapsulate the pride, passion, and essence of our family and our property, and have a great time while doing so!
I would recommend keeping an eye out for some of our upcoming events! We host a handful of different events ranging from open mics, concerts, comedy shows, etc… You can be kept most up to date by becoming part of our email list to get the first glimpse of what’s next to come, or by checking out our Instagram and Facebook page.
My favorite wine honestly changes frequently, but the wine I have been enjoying the most lately is our 2017 Pinot Noir, for its earth and spice characteristics. My sister would say her favorite wine is the Rosé of Pinot Noir, for its bright expressive nature and my father is sitting happy with his 2019 Pinot Noir!
Monterey County has some fantastic food options! Specifically in Salinas, I frequent Villa Azteca, Amapola Kitchen and Wine Merchant, Salinas City BBQ, and El Charrito. Another place I would highly recommend is Zio Brand Meats & Sausages, a small, family-run, specialty butcher shop off Highway 68 as you enter Salinas. Venturing closer to the coast, my top recommendations would be Pangaea, Stokes Adobe, Passionfish, Toro Sushi, Cella, Maligne, Cultura, and Alvarado Street Brewery. Also, you can’t beat Pearl Hour for great pre or post-dinner cocktails and appetizers. The Carmel Cheese Shop is another go-to for some amazing cheeses and an awesome selection of wine! All of these spots have incredible food and offer refreshing atmospheres.
And I can’t not mention all of the amazing farmer’s markets in the area! Check out a local farmers market during the week: Monday head to Pacific Grove, Tuesday stop by the Old Monterey marketplace, Thursday visit Carmel by the Sea, Friday is Monterey Certified, and Saturday stop by Old Town Salinas.
Typically, my free time consists of surfing and getting out in the hills of the Ventana Wilderness and the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Some other fun excursions are Monterey Touring Vehicles, whale watching, or checking out upcoming events at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.
FAVORITE PLACE FOR LIVE MUSIC
If you’re into music, there are often live shows happening around the County! Fox Theater in Salinas, Golden State Theater in Monterey, and Sunset Center in Carmel are all great options. A fun, smaller venue that provides open mic nights is The Beerded Bean in Salinas.
A few places I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at locally are the Carmel Valley Ranch and the Monterey Plaza Hotel.
INSIDER TIP FROM MONTEREY LOCALS
Come check out the River Road Wine Trail in Salinas, either on your own or with one of the wine tour companies that are offered around the area. You are sure to find a wine that resonates with you at one of the 9 different tasting rooms located on river road, amid one of California's largest viticulture and leafy green growing destinations. The history, knowledge, authenticity, generosity, good views, and amazing wine that reside here are something special. I find all of these aspects very inspirational and guarantee you won’t regret taking the time to explore this part of Monterey County.
If there is one more tip I could give anyone traveling to Monterey, it would be to talk to the local staff you encounter at any establishment you visit during your stay. This is a tight-knit community where word of mouth goes a long way and there is a good chance you will be guided in the direction of what you are looking for!