Just like a compass points toward the North Star, our stomach inevitably finds Katy’s Place when we’re craving breakfast in Carmel. However, we fought the overwhelming urge and came across a charming California inflected cafe in an unlikely locale called Carmel Belle.
Jay Dolata, a Carmel native, and wife Chloe, have operated Carmel Belle for three years in The Doud Craft Studios, a hidden indoor courtyard lit by skylights. Clothing and jewelry stores and a faux Spanish tile roof surround tables at a cafe that comes with a side of mythology. The Dolatas named Carmel Belle for a mythical chicken that graces their logo, and the charming coastal town where it hatched.
The Dolatas met in San Francisco, spent eight years in Detroit – her hometown – and worked in advertising before returning West. Carmel Belle was a clear case of culinary Manifest Destiny.
Choose from blackboard menus, sit at flower topped wood tables, and order plenty of pastries.
Order a superior almond croissant with toasty tiles, custardy marzipan, crisp edges, and light powdered sugar dusting from Monterey’s world class Parker-Lusseau Pastries.
Blackboards touted plenty of tantalizing options, way too many for two people, or one meal. We started with a steaming Hot Polenta Bowl ($6). We started with a premium base of smooth Anson Mills polenta and added a sweet, concentrated roasted tomato, tangy goat cheese, a poached egg and (unpictured) truffled mushrooms for $4.
Salads can often be a bland afterthought, but Carmel Belle combined balanced flavors with inviting presentation. For this particular salad ($11), a fan of creamy avocado slices joined hearts of palm, sharp shavings of San Joaquin farmstead cheese, arugula and light lemon vinaigrette ($11). We added skinless white meat rotisserie chicken ($4), which we probably could have done without, since it wasn’t especially juicy.
A heartier option that was even more directly in my wheelhouse was their Slow-Cooked Berkshire Pork ($10). Caramelized shoulder meat, joined sweet red onion-currant chutney and aioli on grilled ciabatta. Arugula and cornichons contributed acidity and roughage.
Could it be that Carmel Belle through off our culinary compass? Possibly. Actually, it’s more likely that the restaurant serves a completely different function than Katy’s Place, which is much heartier, and there’s room for both spots in the tiny, touristy town.