It’s easy to want to stay awhile at Estéban Restaurant, where you’re treated like family, served executive chef Mario Garcia’s delicious farm fresh Spanish cuisine and can now dine indoors or on the cozy patio.
Located in the heritage district of Monterey, Estéban Restaurant at the Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa, was once the splendid home of Don Esteban Munras, a Spanish Diplomat, businessman and consummate host. The original Casa Munras, built in 1824, was one of the first residences built outside the walls of the old Monterey Presidio. At the time, this was the center of the city, and it continued to be the bustling focal point of Monterey well into the 1950s. Today, you’ll revel in that big-hearted spirit of hospitality, where locals and visitors enjoy being at the center of it all.
Sit in Estéban’s colorful and clubby dining room or on the fabulous outdoor patio, which includes a pet-friendly space for your four-legged pals and a crackling fire pit for those nights when the Pacific sends a chilly breeze. Signature cocktails, extensive wine and beer choices provide inner warmth. Estéban’s Sip, Savor & Share concept features chef Garcia’s crave-worthy cuisine served from 4:30pm to 8:30pm, Sunday – Thursday and 4:30pm to 9:30pm, Friday – Saturday, and includes seasonal delights from farm, air and sea.
The menu features a selection of long-time Estéban favorites, as well as fresh, new dishes created by recently appointed executive chef Mario Garcia, who brings over 14 years of culinary experience. Garcia is showcasing his prowess in the kitchen, spinning out wonderful dishes like Crispy Pulpo, served with remoulade, Yukon potato, chorizo, rosemary chili oil and grilled radicchio.
Before taking the helm at Estéban Restaurant, Garcia was executive chef of the Sardine Factory where his culinary achievements flourished under the tutelage of renowned chef Bert Cutino. Prior to that, he worked at Sanderlings with chef Karl Staub and Roy’s Restaurant at Pebble Beach Resort, where he was mentored by chef Roy Yamaguchi and chef Pablo Mellin.
When asked what lessons he learned from these celebrated chefs, Garcia explains that “to be a culinarian, it’s essential to keep challenging yourself and adapt to the changing ways of this multi-faceted industry. I strive to stay up to date on trends, adapt to new things that come our way, but I never lose sight of the importance of sourcing good food, providing exemplary service and adhering to solid business fundamentals.”
Chef Garcia, a native Californian of Mexican descent who grew up in Watsonville, credits his grandmother with his favorite food memory: “We were cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen and she was teaching me to make mole using traditional Mexican techniques. I remember being mesmerized by her strong hands while she used a metate that combined so many ingredients! Roasted negro and pasilla chilies, chili seeds, toasted breadcrumbs, fried tortilla, garlic, black pepper, cloves, toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds, toasted almonds, toasted peanuts, tomatillo and chicken stock. She made it seem like a magical process, taking two days to prepare. To this day, this wonderful staple of Mexican cooking makes me think of my Grandma.”
Asked what inspired him to pursue a culinary path, Garcia says, “Having the abundance of farms and ranches surrounding me truly inspired my cooking. But my culinary passion really started in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was just a boy. She had such respect for quality ingredients and love of traditional methods. Her cooking made so many people happy. I knew I wanted to do the same for others. When you serve someone that you don’t know a meal and are able to evoke a special memory, that’s when you know you’ve been successful. That is what inspires me to be the best chef I can possibly be.”
In keeping with his grandmother’s philosophy to use the finest and freshest ingredients, chef Garcia works with many local growers. “As a chef, I provide one part of our guests dining experience,” says Garcia. “Really it all starts with the farmers, ranchers and fisherman who provide us with the best ingredients. We all work together for our common goal: to create an unforgettable dining experience.” Among the local vendors from whom Garcia sources are Savor the Local, Watanabe Farms, Lake Family Forest Farms and Ad Astra Bread Company.
Estéban’s Tapas Hour is from 4:30pm—6:00pm nightly, where you can enjoy a variety of wines, specialty cocktails and their famous house-made Sangria’s that come in two popular flavors: red and rose. Feast on tasty tapas like Crispy Polenta with Romesco sauce; House Fries with Spanish pimento and garlic aioli; Empanadas and Devilled Duck Eggs.
Work your way through chef Garcia’s new dinner menu, served from 4:30pm to 8:30pm (9:30 Friday and Saturday), savoring dishes like Wagyu Bone Marrow served with foraged wild mushrooms, shallots, thyme and Ad Astra grilled bread; Grilled Lamb Chop with Mario’s spiced marinade, escabeche and citrus yogurt; Vegetable Tagine with couscous, tzatziki, lemon vinaigrette and grilled flatbread and Pollo a la Parrilla, a grilled chili-rubbed chicken served with Mojo Verde.
If fresh vegetables are what you’re craving, chef Garcia especially loves creating the Grilled Vegetable Plate as it allows him to work with the freshest produce of the day from Savor the Local. If you’re in the mood for farm fresh greens, Chef Mario’s Harvest Salad will fit the bill.
You can look forward to brightly colored and boldly flavored dishes like shaved Spring Asparagus Salad served with Lake Family Farm soft steamed duck egg and Serrano ham Or Grilled Local Stone Fruit Plate with burrata cheese, sugar snap peas, arugula with a mint and basil pea stew vinaigrette. Bring on the veggies of spring!
When your schedule doesn’t permit the relaxed pace of onsite patio dining, take your favorite items home with Curbside Pick-up/To-Go and Home Delivery, nightly.
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Estéban Restaurant is located at 700 Munras Avenue, adjacent to Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa in Monterey. Parking is free for Estéban’s guests. To make a reservation or order, call (831) 375-0176.