After ten days spent camping in the back beyond, the Down-Low Diner was ready for a little luxury, as well as some deep-fried, artery-clogging goodness. Immediately one restaurant sprang to mind: Sticks at the Inn at Spanish Bay, located in Pebble Beach.
Sticks is a sports bar as only Pebble Beach could do it. The food is heavy on the comfort factor, but the service is as impeccable as if one were at a white-tablecloth restaurant. Large flat-screen TVs posted throughout the restaurant show any sport you could wish for. Unfortunately for me, that day's sports focus was the collapse of my favorite sports team at the end of the baseball season, so I turned my back to the TV screens in favor of the panoramic vistas through the window. The views, overlooking the Links at Spanish Bay as well as the crashing surf on the coast, were breathtaking, and the ebb and flow of fog throughout our meal only added to the mystery.
The views out the window may have been amazing, but there was one view we were especially interested in: the menu. Our bubbly server answered our most complicated questions with a smile, and didn't even raise an eyebrow at our binge-worthy lunch order.
We started our afternoon of indulgence by splitting "The Wedge." This wasn't just any iceberg wedge salad; it was the definition of what a wedge should be. Some restaurants skimp on the bleu cheese, but not Sticks! This salad was absolutely dripping with thick, rich bleu cheese dressing with large chunks of the finest cheese, which melted in our mouths in an orgy of pungent deliciousness. Topping all of this were crispy bacon bits, perfectly cooked and adding a crunchy, salty counterpoint to the creamy dressing and the crisp lettuce.
After this delicious appetizer, we decided we needed more vegetables...of the deep-fried kind. We ordered the "Pile High Shoestring 'O' Rings." The O, we learned, is short for "Oh my goodness!," and the "Pile High" was in no way false advertising. We could barely see each other over the heap of deep-fried onion shoestring goodness that stood between us. In order to clear our sightline, we dove right in. These were onion shoestring perfection! The batter was insanely crispy and flaky, providing a perfect counterpoint to the sweet delicious onions inside.
Our server perfectly timed every course, waiting until we'd slowed our assault on the onion strings to bring out the main event, our entrees. My dining buddy opted for a classy spin on the classic bacon cheeseburger, the TC Burger. This burger featured applewood smoked bacon, avocados, jack cheese and thousand island dressing, and was just as delicious as it sounds, with a juicy meat base supporting a harmony of delicious flavors.
Its sidekick on the plate was a swanky version of every third grader's cafeteria comfort food, tater tots. They were listed on the menu as "world famous," and with one taste we understood why. These are the kind of tater tots you fantasize about when you're dreaming of the delicious little starchy grenades. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with just enough potato chunk to let you know that it came from a real vegetable, they were delicious on their own and even better when dipped in the chipotle ketchup.
My meal was the ne plus ultra of comfort food: grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup. Once again, Sticks did not disappoint. This grilled cheese sandwich oozed with cheese, topped with slices of perfectly ripe tomatoes that punched through the rich flavor with a sweet acidity. The bread was done to a perfect crunch and sliced thick enough to make its presence known but thin enough that it didn't overwhelm the cheese. The tomato bisque was equally luscious: thick and rich with a pure creamy tomato flavor.
The side of fries may have been overkill...delicious, delicious overkill. Perfectly crispy, perfectly salted, these were exactly what fries are supposed to be.
With such a rich repast, there was no way we could be members of the Clean Plate Club. Our fridge was honored, however, to be graced with leftovers of such deliciousness — although they magically disappeared by the next morning.
Sticks is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure to reserve that corner table for sunset dining; not only will you have a gorgeous view of a coastal sunset, but you'll also receive a serenade by the bagpiper as he walks by during his daily performance.
The Inn at Spanish Bay
2700 17-Mile Drive
Pebble Beach, CA 93953