For many central coast residents, Big Sur is the River Inn - with food, lodging, and entertainment, it's a popular way-station for travelers, locals, and day-trippers from the Monterey Peninsula. This writer has visited many times and enjoyed taking photos of the kids sitting on chairs in the river, an unusual accommodation, let's say, that has reached iconic status in Big Sur.
Chairs in the river was not the River Inn's idea. Inn employees noticed people hauling their handmade redwood chairs into the Big Sur river to cool their feet and, like all paradigm shifts, they thought... "Why not?"
The River Inn has 20 rooms on both sides of the highway, some in the woods and others riverside. The rooms are warm and tastefully decorated without phone or TV. That's a theme in Big Sur, a place without formal boundaries or government - it's a place where people get away.
The restaurant, bar and outdoor deck are alone worth a trip. Sunshine and BBQ, a gurgling river, live music and beers, the deck is popular with anyone from bikers to bankers - and, we know... some bikers are bankers.
Popular with everyone from families to bikers, the River Inn is an unpretentious, rustic, down-home restaurant that has something for all tastes. Trying to seat a small army? No problem. Want to watch sports on TV at a local bar? Pull up a stool. Looking to snag a few rays from a deck right beside the Big Sur River? Break out the suntan lotion. In winter, the wooden dining room is the prime spot; on summer days, some folks grab their patio chairs and cocktails and hang out literally midstream.
Along with the local color, attractions include a full bar and good ol' American breakfasts (steak and eggs, omelets, pancakes, and so on, plus espresso, with most dishes for around $6), lunches (an array of salads, sandwiches, and baby back ribs, or fish and chips), and dinners (fresh catch, pastas, burgers, or ribs). I usually order the Black Angus Burger with a side of beer-battered onion rings, or a big platter of the Roadhouse Ribs served with cowboy beans.