Nepenthe Restaurant & Cafe, Big Sur

, April 8, 2015

A long time ago when I lived in Big Sur down the road from Lionel Olay I had a friend who liked to go to Reno for the crap-shooting. He owned a sporting-goods store in Carmel. And one month he drove his Mercedes highway-cruiser to Reno on three consecutive weekends – winning heavily each time. After three trips he was something like $15,000 ahead, so he decided to skip the fourth weekend and take some friends to dinner at Nepenthe. “Always quit winners,” he explained. “And besides, it’s a long drive.”

Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas pays tribute to one of Big Sur’s finest restaurants, perched on a headland that dives down into the Pacific Ocean. From its dramatic outpost on the fringe of Julia Pfeffier Burns State Park, Nepenthe serves up delicious food throughout the day, 365 days a year.

Even if you’re adamant that you’re packed fares and snacks will get your through a rugged Big Sur adventure, Nepenthe’s lunch menu is worth taking a look at for daytime fuelling along Route 1. Their famous ground steak, “Ambrosiaburger”, served in a french roll with in-house Ambrosia sauce lands at the top spot on the menu, and deservedly so. A Shrimp B.L.T. with Mexican shrimp and hickory smoked bacon competes with the Ambrosiaburger, while chilli marinated Chicken breast and sirloin also find themselves in baguettes and the hands of many. If you’re looking for something greener, their soups and salads are hearty enough to compare with their meaty dishes.

As you would expect, the wine menu is loaded with Californian wines, many with Gary Pisoni’s famous Pinot Noir Grapes. Vineyards from the nearby Santa Lucia Highlands are well represented, met by other offerings from Sonoma, Oregon and Arroyo Grande Valley.

If you’re arriving in time for dinner and are looking for accommodation in the area, Post Ranch Inn is your luxury option, with Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground being your modest offering.

Nepenthe is at 48510 Highway One, Big Sur, within range of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Phone: 831 667 2345.