Carmel’s Hofsas House Boasts Unforgettable Bavarian Charm
By Greg Archer
There is always something to relish about Carmel, California—the pristine beaches, the art galleries, the enchanting European vibe. Anywhere you turn, there is eye candy for the heart, mind, and soul. The town also happens to be one of the most unique, idyllic hamlets in California, mostly because the gods have placed it in the most pristine area along the Central Coast, and Pebble Beach, breathtaking as it is, happens to be its neighbor.
But for locals such as Carrie Theis, Carmel is simply home. It makes sense then that Theis, the general manager and owner of Carmel’s Hofsas House, has infused the idea of “home” into a property that has been owned and operated by her family for more than 60 years.
Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House delivers in ways few other portals in the area can. It boasts one of the most comfortable, charismatic stays along the Central Coast, a unique blend of Old World charm, top-notch customer service (oh, remember that?), and some of the best views one would never expect to find in a Carmel hotel or lodge.
I discovered all of this, of course, during a recent two-night stay at Hofsas House. There are 38 spacious rooms to choose from, and each one sports a different motif. Many of the rooms come with ocean views and overlook the pine trees that decorate the town. My spacious room came with a king size bed, a small kitchenette, a fireplace, and a roomy bathroom. On the deck is a view of the pool and, of course, the glorious Pacific. Yes, Hofsas’ German fairy-tale-like vibe is just downright magical.
After checking in, I, being the writer that I am, took to my journal. The deck here is one of a kind, and I wrote until sunset. It was one of those divine Central Coast days with hardly a cloud in the sky, and the sunset was something to behold. Afterward, I spruced up and ventured forth, taking a casual stroll down the street.
Hofsas is perfectly situated in the heart of Downtown Carmel, so there’s easy access to everything. I perused a number of art galleries and popped into Pilgrim’s Way Bookstore (a must-see) and Cottage of Sweets; if you do not stop at Cottage for some sweets, it will be considered a sin so please do. From there, a walk up and down Ocean Avenue is always inviting. Beyond the art galleries, there are several coffee shops and wine tasting rooms, consider Constance Wine Room, Vini Napoli, or Tudor Wines Tasting Room. Over the past few years, the number of wine bars in Carmel has increased, but these three stand out for their selection, unique social atmosphere, and excellent customer service.
Speaking of … dinner at Mundaka Restaurant, one of the hippest culinary portals to hit Carmel in years, proved to be memorable. Mundaka specializes in Spanish-style tapas, and all of it is brought to life by chef Brandon Miller’s incredible creativity, verve, and culinary prowess. Where to begin? Everything on the menu is tempting, but try these memorable items: bravas (fried potatoes), marinated Spanish olives, duck and chestnut pâté, and pizzetta with shallot confit, lamb, cherry tomato, and olive. Mouthwatering. All of it. The restaurant often has a DJ on hand during the later hours, which livens this already festive place up even more.
Afterward, I walked off dinner with a stroll through Carmel again. My advice: venture down some of the side streets. With nary a street lamp around, it’s delightful to gaze up at the stars, which appear so bright and plump you feel as though you could pluck them from the sky. Also consider a walk down to Ocean Beach or, better yet, take the car down 8th Avenue; it will take you right to the ocean and the ocean drive, too. Park and stroll along the street overlooking Carmel Beach. There’s nothing like it.
When I returned to my room, I lit a fire and pondered whether to open a bottle of Pinot and graze on some cheese. In the end, I thought it best I leave the latter for Day Two. In the meantime, the fire waited. Occasionally, I would walk out on the deck, listen to crashing waves in the distance, and gaze at the stars above. It was a good first night.
The following day I decided to visit some of the neighboring areas. The great thing about Carmel is that it is only four miles from Monterey (and the lovely Monterey Bay Aquarium) and Pacific Grove, often dubbed “The Last Hometown in America.” It was in Pacific Grove where brunch awaited at Fandango, one of the finest culinary treasures along the Central Coast. (No lie.)
You’ll find some wonderfully crafted European dining at Fandango, with a nice mix of Mediterranean cuisine. An excellent wine list, special rooms for special occasions, and rare, refined recipes round it all out. It was an unforgettable experience. Owner Pierre and Marietta Bain have been at the helm since 1986, proving, much like Hofsas House, that family-owned enterprises have that extra something that seems unmatchable. For brunch, my pal and I noshed on a plate of heirloom tomatoes mozzarella before I ordered a Caesar salad and devoured the salmon fettuccine. Meanwhile, my dining partner appreciated the flavors in her fettuccine primavera. Another menu item to consider is the osso buco Fandango, which I have had on another occasion and is one of the best dishes the restaurant serves. The fillet of sanddabs also stands out.
Should you choose to dine here, I suggest leaving the car in the parking lot and walking through Pacific Grove—and perhaps down to the iconic Lover’s Point, which overlooks the Monterey Bay. Adventurous souls might want to walk the nearly mile-long stretch that will take them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Enjoy.
When I returned to Carmel later that afternoon, I cozied up in my room, read a book, and wrote in my journal, all the while enjoying another festive fire in the Old World stove (other rooms have a large fireplace). One of the things I appreciated was the spaciousness of the room. I didn’t feel as if I were “vacationing” but rather, living in my own mini-apartment. There, you feel at home.
In the early evening hours, I marveled another view of the sunset from the deck, then made my way down the street and back into downtown. Dinner with dear friends who were also visiting Carmel that weekend awaited me at Grasing’s, which serves coastal cuisine. You will find one of the finest, award-winning wine lists here and meals from chef Kurt Grasing’s kitchen that are truly one of a kind. Consider sharing the lobster Mac ’n’ cheese; I could feast on this alone! For the main meal, the herb-crusted sea bass, grilled California lamb chops, and the Portobello and tofu tower (which was truly unique) stood out. I was impressed with exquisite service here and attention to detail.
Beyond that everything from the ingredients used in each dish to the emphasis on “fine dining,” made the evening truly special. And for dessert? Oy. The chocolate espresso walnut cake and apple caramel bread pudding were, well to milk today’s slang, to. Die. For.
Afterward, I enjoyed another nightly stroll through Carmel, stopping in the Cypress Inn, where there was live music—and plenty of guests with their dogs. Carmel is über dog friendly. When I returned to Hofsas House, I sat on the deck for a while and admired the stars. I could hear the waves crashing along the shore in the distance. Once I was back inside my room, another log for a fire.
The following day, there were so many things to consider: A trek to Big Sur (only 25 miles away and certainly worth it) or perhaps a hike through town and toward Mission Ranch. I opted on the latter. It’s a wonderful stroll and gives you a nice sense of how special and magical Carmel is by day.
There is plenty more to consider, too, when you stay in Carmel. For spa day enthusiasts, you might want to consider Kush Day Spa in Downtown Carmel. It is divine. Carmel Valley is not that far away either, and Pebble Beach is just down the road. Of course, there is the Carmel Mission, but I suggest something just as unique: Just down the road, going south on Hwy 1, is Carmel Monastery/Carmelite Sisters By The Sea. This wonderful church is worthy of your time. I encourage you to check it out.
Bottom line: It’s hard to be bored here. The real star of the visit, though, was Hofsas House. It’s one of those rare entities that can not only make you feel at home but, thanks to its exquisite location and breathtaking views, can help you become wonderfully lost in its unforgettable allure.
It is a fine thing indeed.
Hofsas House is located at 4th and San Carlos in Carmel, California. Call (831) 624-2745 for more information. Amenities include pet-friendly rooms, a heated swimming pool, European dry saunas, off-street parking, continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, cable TV, voicemail, a mobile business center, and a meeting room/dining room/kitchen, which is ideal for family reunions, small wedding receptions, business retreats, and the like.