Without a doubt, the most iconic restaurant in Big Sur is Nepenthe. Family owned and operated since 1949, it was one of the first restaurant and bar, on this rugged coastline. The word ‘Nepenthe’ itself means “no sorrow” in ancient Greek and the restaurant definitely fulfills this promise. When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are greeted by a massive wooden sculpture of the legendary Phoenix bird. Beyond that, is the most breathtaking view of the southern coastline of Big Sur, where the mountains dissolve into the sea.
Being the most iconic restaurant also means being the busiest, so practice patience if you plan on dining here on a summer day. A one to two-hour wait is pretty standard for lunch, but you can enjoy a cocktail and appetizer on the bleachers, while you wait. A ping pong table and giant chessboard also make for a fun way to pass the time, if you get tired of staring at the gorgeous view. Service is fast and friendly and the Americana-style food is quite satisfying, whether you’re just passing through or have been camping for a few days.
Nepenthe started as a steakhouse and stays true to its roots, offering a mouthwatering burger dubbed the ‘Ambrosia Burger’ (ambrosia means: food of the gods). Soups, sandwiches, and salads make up the lunch menu, while Filet Mignon, Duck, and Albacore can be found on the dinner menu, for a more upscale affair. When you look at the prices, remember that Big Sur is like an island (basically one road in and out, making food and drinks more expensive). The view, ambiance, and history make the price well worth it, so enjoy that bottle of wine with your meal, while you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from your table.