Off the beaten path

In case you missed it, here’s my review of popular foodie finds tucked away in Seaside that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

There’s nothing wrong with a perfect plate of pasta or a deliciously decadent duck, but every now and then, my palate yearns for something spicier, something with a little more flair. And when I get the urge, Seaside is the place to go.

With its mix of hole-in-the-wall shops serving up a diverse assortment of cuisines, you’re sure to find a mix of culinary delights in Seaside — if you know where to look.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Orient

When it comes to Chinese food, The Orient is now my go-to stop in town.

The mu shu chicken is definitely my favorite at The Orient.

The mu shu chicken ($8.50) is my favorite on the menu — and it might just be the best in town. It’s packed with lots of veggies, fried egg and generous strips of chicken.

What's better than fried chicken with garlic and chilies?

The dry Mandarin chicken ($8.95) is also quite tasty. It’s crispy and spicy — basically fried chicken wings tossed with some garlic and dried chile flakes. (And if you’re not a fan of chicken on the bone, you can order it boneless.)

Order the Mandarin dry chicken boneless if you prefer.

If you’re not in the mood for Chinese food, The Orient also has a selection of Vietnamese fare, including pho noodle soups ($6.50) or dry noodle bowls ($6.25 to $8.95).

The Orient is at 1760, C2, Fremont Blvd. More information at 394-2223 or www.seasideorient.com.

Baan Thai

Many local foodies swear that the best Thai food on the Peninsula is hidden away at Baan Thai.

I popped in the other night to celebrate the arrival of fall with a bowl of pumpkin curry. (There’s nothing like a bowl of curry on these brisk fall evenings, no?)

Pumpkin curry might be available year-round, but there's something extra special about ordering it in the fall.

Baan Thai’s pumpkin curry ($9.95) is flavorful — sweet, savory and spicy all at once — with plenty of veggies, including large slivers of pumpkin, carrots and red peppers, accented with some Thai basil.

The Pad Thai is a little sweet for my tastes. But nothing some extra chilies won't fix.

A lot of local foodies swear by Baan Thai’s Pad Thai ($8.95). It’s a little sweet for my tastes, so I recommend ordering it spicy, to balance out the sweet flavors.

Baan Thai is at 1760, No. F1, Fremont Blvd. More information at 394-2996 or www.baanthaiseaside.com.

Mariscos Puerto Nuevo

I’ve many a heated conversation with one of my friends about the best Mexican food in town. I’m firmly in the camp of Rosa’s La Villa restaurant (also in Seaside); he’s firmly for Mariscos Puerto Nuevo.

I’ll give him this much — Mariscos Puerto Nuevo certainly makes some mighty tasty Mexican food.

Don’t let the colorful marine life painted on the windows fool you. Mariscos Puerto Nuevo isn’t just seafood. Seafood is their specialty, but they also have a number of traditional Mexican foods — from the land and sea.

A lunchtime combo plate at Mariscos Puerto Nuevo is a great way to sample more of the food without spending too many extra pennies.

The enchiladas verdes (three for $10.25) are one of my favorites. Order them with a side of crema — Mexican sour cream — for makeshift enchiladas suizas.

Mariscos Puerto Nuevo is a little pricier than the numerous little taquerias that dot Seaside’s culinary landscape, but you get a quality meal.

Plus, here’s a tip to save some pennies — you can order from the “lunch” menu all day. Lunch combos are $7.75, and include favorites like enchiladas verdes, tamales and chile relleno.

Mariscos Puerto Nuevo is at 580 Broadway Ave. More information at 241-5048 or mariscopuertonuevo.com.

Ferdi’s Creole Restaurant

This little shop totally flies under the radar, but foodies in the know swear by Ferdi’s sandwiches.

The blackened chicken sandwich at Ferdi's is a signature dish and a must-order for any Ferdi's newbie.

The favorite at Ferdi’s? The infamous blackened chicken sandwich ($7.50). The bread is warm and toasted to crisp perfection, cradling a generous slice of chicken breast, crusted in black pepper and spices, then topped with lettuce, onions and tomato.

Try all of Ferdi's Creole specialties with the sampler trio.

Order a sampler — a trio of jambalaya, gumbo and rice and beans ($9.75) — to try all of Ferdi’s Creole specialties in one go. The jambalaya — made with shrimp, calamari, chicken and hot links — is spicy and very flavorful. The gumbo is something not often encountered on local menus.

Ferdi’s is only open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And it’s cash only — they don’t take credit cards, but there’s an ATM inside if you need it.

Ferdi’s Creole Restaurant is at 740 Broadway Ave. More information at 394-2244 or www.yelp.com/biz/ferdis-creole-restaurant-seaside.

Phat Burger

With its retro, raceway feel, Phat Burger is a good, old-fashioned, greasy-spoon burger joint. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but that just adds to its charm.

Phat Burger has gotten rave reviews for their burgers. But it’s their turkey burger that caught my attention.

The toppings might not be gourmet, but this greasy spoon is the best spot for burgers in town.

The turkey burger (a la carte for $5.50 or as a combo with fries and a drink for $8.50) is juicy and remarkably flavorful, not dry and bland like turkey burgers sometimes are in other local burger shops.

And the condiment bar’s stocked with an endless array of fresh toppings to dress up your burger.

But remember to stop by the ATM before getting your burger fix — Phat Burger is cash only.

Phat Burger is at 1520 Del Monte Blvd. More information at 394-7428 or www.phat-burger.com.

Acme Coffee

Sure, you can find Acme’s bold coffee at a number of local coffee shops and restaurants, but there’s nothing quite like swinging by the original shop, tucked away in Seaside, for your caffeine fix.

The shop is essentially a converted garage, so it’s not much of a spot for lingering with a cup of coffee, but it’s got a lot of character.

My recent discovery — and this week’s best bite, well, best sip, I guess — is the Aztec mocha. It’s a mocha seasoned with a hint of chilies.

The little touch of chilies didn’t make it spicy. Really, the chilies just cut the sweetness of the chocolate and added a slightly savory touch to the coffee — sort of like a sophisticated hot chocolate.

It was the perfect pick-me-up before hitting the road north to the Bay Area.

Acme Coffee is at 485-B Palm Ave., Seaside. More information at 393-9113 or acmecoffeeroasting.com.

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