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Big Sur River Inn

80 reviews
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$30 and under
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Top Tags:
  • Great for Outdoor Dining (116)
  • Scenic View (87)
  • Great for Lunch (64)

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The restaurant at Big Sur River Inn offers a great meal and cold drinks to top off a great day out in the woods. With beautiful Big Sur, California serving as the backdrop, diners are greeted with a menu that includes such breakfast items as organic eggs, buttermilk pancakes, house omelets and many others. Each is served with juice or coffee as you order.

For lunch or dinner, Big Sur River Inn is filling as well. It cooks up a variety of burgers to order, each served on a fresh baked bun and topped with a mountain of ingredients of your favorite condiments and vegetables. Big Sur River Inn also has a full bar, making it a fitting place to gather with friends and family for a few evening cocktails.

Dining Style
Casual Dining
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Californian, American, Barbecue
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Hours of operation

Breakfast: Daily 8:00am-11:00am

Lunch: Daily 11:30am-4:30pm

Dinner: Daily 5:00pm-9:00pm
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Phone number
(831) 667-2700
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Payment options
AMEX, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Parking details
Free parking is available right in front of the restaurant, and in additional locations on both sides of Highway One.
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Public transit
During the summer months, MST Transit offers bus service to Big Sur. The bus stops right at the Big Sur River Inn! For schedules and more information, visit
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Sunday afternoons at the Big Sur River Inn are a long standing tradition in Big Sur… Live music on the Riverside Deck featuring the best in all kinds of jazz, with some of our favorite folk, zydeco and world music mixed in.
Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Corkage Fee, Entertainment, Fireplace, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Takeout, View, Wheelchair Access, Wine
What 80 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
3.8  based on all time ratings
Noise · Moderate
84% of people would recommend it to a friend
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Pretzie (Los Angeles)
5.0  Dined on June 20, 2016

Very enjoyable evening. Cool weather, Very courteous servers. Good food. sit by the river.

richardp (San Francisco)
1.0  Dined on June 19, 2016

excellent jazz music on Sunday afternoon on outdoor deck

vipDMJ13 (San Francisco)
5.0  Dined on May 15, 2016

The food was good and plentiful , the staff friendly and attentive. For us it hit the mark!

gkay (Miami)
4.0  Dined on May 9, 2016

Fun trip to unique setting. Nice ride down coastal road from Monterey. Decent food and service, worth the trip

OpenTable Diner (Central Coast)
3.0  Dined on May 8, 2016

I wouldn't go back for the food but definitely go back for the atmosphere.

vipDani (San Francisco)
4.0  Dined on May 1, 2016

Extremley slow service with cocktails. We could have spent more money on drinks, but first cocktail was delivered right before our meal.

vipWineau (Western NC)
4.0  Dined on March 10, 2016

It's hard to beat the location, right on the Big Sur River. Very laid back & casual; reminds us of the 60s & 70s. Food is good with lots of salad choices. Sitting in the Adirondack chairs in the river is hard to beat!

vipTomC (Richmond)
4.0  Dined on March 8, 2016

Food was plentiful and delicious. My son loved the lamb shank, my vegetarian wife loved her salad. I enjoyed my salad with grilled chicken. Food was fresh and well presented. Service was a little uneven but not bad by any stretch. Server felt hurried. But it hit the spot after driving all day up from Santa Barbara

OpenTable Diner (Central Coast)
5.0  Dined on February 14, 2016

Every staff was so friendly and welcoming. The food was amazing especially the desert. I'm looking forward to dining again at River Inn soon!

vipOpenTable Diner (San Francisco)
2.0  Dined on February 13, 2016

While the view is nice and food decent, the service and wait time needs to be improved. It took way too long for our food to come, and the wait staff wasn't very attentive.

vipstonybroke (San Francisco)
3.0  Dined on October 23, 2015

River Inn's food is good and generous -- there is a distinctive Big Sur edge to the imaginative, quality salads and burgers. River Inn's servers are efficient and friendly, ambience outstanding, table arrangement spacious, gorgeous fireplace and picture-windows setting in the redwoods, and the small sports bar well-stocked but never so noisy as to disturb the serenity of diners. I believe River Inn continues to accompany afternoon and early evening dining with live jazz. A good, solid, easy and modest-cost Big Sur dining option.

OpenTable Diner (Greensboro)
3.0  Dined on October 13, 2015

For the quality of the food/location/service the prices are expensive. No wi fi in area.

vipmgp1 (Chicago)
4.0  Dined on September 5, 2015

Had the portabello sandwich which was amazing. Our appetizer came after our apology from the server who was not very friendly, nor was the greeter. But location can't be beat.

LocalGals (Central Coast)
3.0  Dined on August 23, 2015

The manager/owner? (male) was very nice and seemed fine to know we had our service dog. However, when we came back to go to our outdoor seating, the female hostess was obviously not happy that we had our service dog and tried to seat us way to one corner, near walkway, or lead us to a bar stool kind of seating, not a table. My partner and I just asked about another spot and she didn't want the dog near anyone, but we sat down anyway. No one around us even said anything about our service dog.
Our server was very nice, and i would only recommend this restaurant because of him. Sorry I can't remember his name.
The salmon was dry. I had the ribs and they were very good. So i would say have bbq if your going there. The fries were really good. The coleslaw was so, so.... I personally wouldn't rush to return though.

vipTomG (Kansas City)
5.0  Dined on August 21, 2015

Had a great brunch: eggs benedict were superb. Also shared a flank steak that was delicious. Great spicy bloody mary, too. Location is a lot of fun. Be sure to walk the grounds and notice all the fun things you can do.

Madi (San Diego)
3.0  Dined on August 20, 2015

The location of this place is amazing.. the back porch sets you up in the middle of the trees and is absolutely beautiful! Had we known this, we probably would have visited earlier in the day, rather than going for dinner after dark. After a long day of driving and hiking, decided on dinner here because it was just down the road from where we were staying. I have various dietary restrictions, and the waitress didn't seem to be very understanding or accommodating, but besides that it was a pleasant experience. Service was a little slow at times, even though the restaurant was nearly empty, but the food was good and it sure beat cooking after a long day!

We ordered the salad with walnuts and apples and added the grilled shrimp... good flavor overall but a little disappointed that it only came with 4 shrimp, especially for the significant extra charge. For dinner we had the steak and had them steam the vegetables ( we try to avoid oils and butter) -- steak was cooked beautifully but was served with polenta even though the menu said mashed potatoes. When we asked the waitress if we had received polenta she looked at us like "ummm DUH" ... and then finally brought the potatoes which happened to be SO good, wish she would have brought us those in the first place!

Good food when we finally got what we ordered, but the high prices must be paying for the spectacular view and location, rather than the service!

OpenTable Diner (Central Coast)
1.0  Dined on August 13, 2015

I picked this restaurant for my son's 15th birthday. It cost $127.00 after they removed my youngest son's inedible kids meal. I was so disappointed. Every single meal was overcooked or just plain bad. My son got a lamb chop that was 70% bone, 20% fat and 10% meat. The double cut porkchop was like jerky and it didn't come as advertised in the menu, my son couldn't eat his burger and the ribs for the kids meal we couldn't get off of the bone. The manager refused to take anything off of the meal except for the kids meal so we were left with an extremely high bill. I will never recommend this restaurant to anyone.

EverGreen407 (Los Angeles)
4.0  Dined on August 9, 2015

My boyfriend and I had a reservation and we were seated promptly. Our waitress was nice but a tad bit slow and seemed to be attending to other tables more than ours but she was still very sweet and helpful. The pulled pork sandwich I ordered was very delicious but there were a few hard pieces of burnt meat or something in them that I couldn't eat. It was so good though, I would still order it again anyway. There was live music which was nice and it was very busy. Thankfully we got seated in a shady area and had a lovely time. This is my 3rd time at this restaurant but my first time actually ordering food instead of just alcohol. I will definitely be back for that pulled pork the next time I'm in Big Sur.

Shopalot0412 (Los Angeles)
3.0  Dined on August 9, 2015

We have eaten here every year as part of our annual trek to Big Sur. We just love the location and always make time to sit in the chairs in the river or wander through the adjacent store after breakfast.
The food is always great. Interesting menu with something for everyone. I had the eggs with polenta - YUM YUM!

I'm afraid the service just wasn't up to par this time, which made us very sad. It appeared that they had one waiter working both inside and outside and he may have been a little spacey even on a good day - and this wasn't a good day for him. There seemed to be lots of staff milling about but this one guy was the only one who could take orders. We watched the table next to us be seated, sit and wait, and then get up and leave because not a single person came over after about 10 - 15 minutes. We stayed because we knew it was worth it but it just wasn't up to par.

As we drove through Big Sur, we noticed several other little cafes with packed parking lots along Route 1. We sure do love it here but service is one of those necessary pieces of the puzzle

John55 (Washington DC)
4.0  Dined on August 4, 2015

If you don't mind the inevitable begging birds it's a great spot for an outdoor meal. the vegan entree with a pesto sauce over a grilled portabella mushroom and brown rice was outstanding as was the calamari.

JJandM (Central Coast)
5.0  Dined on July 21, 2015

I've lived in Carmel for over 15 years and have stopped innumerable times with my family for burritos, ice cream, snacks and dipping our toes in the river but we just never had time for dinner. With musician friends playing in the area I suggested we meet here for dinner. This time, no burritos or ice cream but we did have drinks while surrounded by softly flowing water, a great dinner and conversation that we could actually hear. I still live here and will definitely plan on returning as will they when they're back up here from LA.

Joao (New York Area)
4.0  Dined on July 21, 2015

We had a very good lunch at this place. The food was delicious and the price fair. It is also conveniently located for those who are driving South from Monterey/Carmel (we left 10am and stopped for lunch ~1pm). Only disappointment was the service, which was not that great.

OpenTable Diner (Central Coast)
4.0  Dined on July 11, 2015

The atmosphere is what I really enjoyed the most having time with my two girls. They really enjoyed their food not to mention that they took it to go

TAB12 (San Francisco)
4.0  Dined on June 13, 2015

Great spot to put your feet in the river and soak up the beauty

vipMisterFood (Los Angeles)
2.0  Dined on June 12, 2015

Given the wealth of good restaurants in the area it's hard to recommend this place. If you don't want to spend too much and are used to average food then this place is for you.

vip1traveller (New York Area)
2.0  Dined on May 12, 2015

If you have no place else to go, are really hungry - go. Otherwise - forget it. This restaurant desperately needs new management, and most of all a new chef. The table next to us - sent their dinner back twice. TWICE! They finally gave up and ordered some pasta... My dinner (chicken) - must have been baked the day before - dry as a bone. While the management was apologetic and pleasant - really that is simply not enough.
This could be a charming and lovely place - get cracking!!!

UncleDale (Central Coast)
4.0  Dined on May 5, 2015

We had a little of everything....Calamari Appetizer, Tomato Basil soup with Garlic Bread, Surf & Turf, Grilled Hanger Steak, and finished it all off with the Brownie Sundae. Everything was DELICIOUS!

reviewer (Las Vegas)
4.0  Dined on March 22, 2015

This place has a much trendier menu than you expect from first glance. We ate one dinner and two breakfasts here. Breakfast menu particularly hearty. Food and service were top-notch. I was a bit surprised by the prices, but this is a remote destination in an area with a high cost-of-living, so I did not feel it unreasonable.

OpenTable Diner (Hawaii)
5.0  Dined on March 7, 2015

Had an awesome 40th birthday party here! Love, love this place for special occasions, will be back for my baby shower... Great place for kids too. Great Bar!

vipSheila0824 (Columbus)
5.0  Dined on February 11, 2015

Everything we tasted was Awesome!!! The Brisket was so tender and delicious! The salad
was so fresh and the portions are large. We tried a grilled shrimp which was also perfectly
prepared. The staff was friendly and the food came very quickly. All in a very comfortable
casual atmosphere. I would eat there once a week if i lived nearby! Oh, my husband reminded
me the chocolate brownie sundae was not to be missed! Enjoy!