At Famous Dave’s BBQ, hand-rubbed St. Louis-style spareribs smoke over a hickory fire for 3-4 hours. A generous helping of sweet and sassy sauce—made from Famous Dave’s secret recipe—seals in the ribs’ piquant flavor and also makes appearances on other barbeque specialties including country-roasted chicken and regular or boneless wings. Joining Famous Dave’s menu of barbecue staples are burgers and citrus shrimp fresh from the grill as well as sandwiches, southern sides, and desserts.
Superior Court Judge John M. Phillips spent his career witnessing the cycle of offending and incarceration in which local youth often became trapped. He founded Rancho Cielo Youth Campus to help prevent first-time offenders from getting stuck in this negative spiral by giving them educational and vocational alternatives to crime. After acquiring the Natividad Boys' Ranch, a long-dormant juvenile-incarceration facility, he transformed it into a comprehensive educational environment with classrooms, a wood shop, a ceramics room, and a natural setting.
Today, Rancho Cielo Youth Campus helps underserved youth in Monterey County find their place in society with educational programs and social services that range from healthful eating to drug diversion. The ranch also provides vocational training and job placement in the culinary-arts and construction fields. The sprawling 100-acre grounds contain two lakes, stables, and a cultivated garden, all of which host outdoor activities and recreational programs including fishing, dance classes, and sports leagues.
At Cantinetta Luca, Chef Jason Balestrieri rolls out handmade pastas, wood-oven-baked pizza, and roasted whole fish. Enhanced by seasonal, local ingredients, his family-style Italian cooking earned Cantinetta Luca a 2012 readers’ award for Best Restaurant in Carmel from Monterey County Weekly. Balestrieri also cures salumi in-house to fill his signature antipasti plates, and has a salumeria next door.
Cantinetta Luca’s interior decor mirrors the Old World-style eats. Exposed brick covers a barrel-vaulted ceiling in one room, and dark-wood rafters crisscross overhead in another. Elsewhere, modern light fixtures cast their glow across contemporary furnishings, chiseled wood, and pillars of string cheese.
Although Jessica James officially created Fluff Cupcakery in 2010, that wasn’t when she started baking. Having grown up with a mother who was a cake decorator, Jessica took to baking like a duck to water, and she’s been practicing the are since before she knew how to cook. This passion naturally grew into Fluff Cupcakery. There, she offers five unique flavors of cupcakes every day. She also keeps her menu extra fresh by rotating in two to three different cupcakes varieties every day. Fluff Cupcakery stays open until 5 p.m. during the week, and 3 p.m. on Saturdays, but has been known to close up shop early if their cupcakes have sold out or they’ve used all the flour in California to make one Rose Bowl-sized cupcake.
Mission Café’s impression of a retro diner is spot on; it has red-and-chrome bar stools, a red-and-white checkered floor, and an array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner food from the griddle and grill. The cooks crack eggs for omelets, toss house-made corned beef for the reuben sandwich, and flip an array of burgers, including the chili burger, the double burger, and the vegetarian Garden City burger. Frothy milkshakes and steamy coffee complement the all-American food, just as George Washington once dictated.
In high school, Tammy Hunziker was asked to describe the perfect man for a class assignment. Her answer—a gingerbread man—had little impact on her future personal life, but everything to do with her future career. Nowadays, Hunziker still bakes batches of gingerbread cookies, alongside oatmeal cookies, snickerdoodles, and meringues at her specialty bakery, Room for Dessert. Some cookies are frosted to resemble smiling faces, and others depict tasseled mortarboards, wedding dresses, and jack-o’-lanterns wondering if they’ll ever grow up to be a pie. An array of frosted cakes and cupcakes complement the cookies in flavors such as brown sugar, lemon, and dark chocolate.