According to Big Sur  locals, the best breakfast in the area can be had at Deetjens (48865 Hwy. 1, 831/667-2377, www.deetjens.com , breakfast and dinner daily, $10–28). The funky dining room with its mismatched tables, dark wooden chairs, and cluttered wall decor belies the high quality of the cuisine served here. Enjoy delectable dishes created from the freshest local ingredients for breakfast and then again at dinnertime.
Serving three meals each day to lodge guests and passersby, the Big Sur Lodge Café and Restaurant (47225 Hwy. 1, 800/242-4787, www.bigsurlodge.com , daily 7 a.m.–9 p.m., $23) has a dining room as well as a cute espresso and ice cream bar out front. The dining room dishes up a full menu of American classic for every meal, while you can grab a quick sandwich to go from the espresso bar.
The Redwood Grill (Hwy. 1, 831/667-2129, www.fernwoodbigsur.com , daily 11:30 a.m.– 9 p.m., $20) at Fernwood Resort looks and feels like a grill in the woods ought to. Even in the middle of the afternoon, the aging, wood-paneled interior is dimly lit and strewn with slightly saggy couches and casual tables and chairs. Walk up to the counter to order somewhat overpriced burgers and sandwiches, then on to the bar to grab a soda or a beer.
The northernmost restaurant on the Big Sur  coast, Rocky Point Restaurant (36700 Hwy. 1, 831/624-2933, www.rocky-point.com , daily 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–close, $35) offers decent food and great views to Highway 1 travelers. Enjoy the smell of mesquite from the grill as you wait for your steak or fish to bring that scent right to your nose. Though meat-eaters will find all the good solid dishes they want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, vegetarian options are limited.
The Big Sur Bakery (47540 Hwy. 1, 831/667-0520, www.bigsurbakery.com , Tues.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–close, Sat.–Sun. 10:30 a.m.–2:45 p.m.) might sound like a casual, walk-up eating establishment, and the bakery part of it is. You can stop in from 8 a.m. every day to grab a fresh-baked scone, a homemade jelly donut, or a flaky croissant sandwich for lunch later on. But on the dining room side, an elegant surprise awaits diners who’ve spent the day hiking the redwoods and strolling the beaches.
Be sure to make reservations or you’re unlikely to get a table, and you’d miss out on the amazing clam chowder (with whole clams in their shells) and other unique California takes on classic American cuisine.