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Need help choosing amongst Laguna Beach options

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Vacationing in Laguna Beach in a few weeks and need help chosing between a few options. 9 of us including 3 kids (2.5, 3 and 6.5), so we are looking for a couple of nights that are more casual and child friendly. Other things being equal, a patio or outdoor seating gets the nod.

For Mexican, should we go to Las Brisas or Javier's Cantina & Grill?

For pizza, pasta, burgers, salads etc., should we go to BJ's Chicago Style Pizza, Grill and Brewery or Laguna Beach Brewing Co.?

For fish and other options, should we try Woody's at the Beach or would we better off heading down to Dana Point and going to either Salt Creek Grille or The Harbor Grill?

Thanks in advance for your help, 'hounds.

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  1. Javiers over Las Brisas, unless you are just going for the view. The food at Las Brisas isnt BAD (though others may disagree), it just isnt good. The best thing about it is the fabulous view of the water. Javiers on the other hand has some really tastey food, but no view.

    1. Agreed about the food at las brisas. View is killer but the eats are just OK. Javier's on the other hand is a very trendy place with a more modern menu. Be advised however that Javier's is usually crowded and noisy with lots of hipsters at the bar and waiting to be seated. If you are looking for a quiet ambiance with a view to die for, then las brisas may be the better option.

      I'd go with BJ's over Laguna Beach Brewery. Better beer and way better food, IMHO.

      Unfortunately, I cannot make a rec about woody's vs. harbour vs. salt creek.

      1. Agreed with Javier's and with BJ's( though expect a wait at BJ's) -

        As far as the last option - Woody's really isn't an option as it caters to a gay clientele. Salt Creek people seem to like or not I fall in the latter catergory. It's OK at best. Harbor Grill is great though. Plus the family can walk around the Harbor before or after.

        2 Replies
        1. re: 1000steps

          Thanks for the input.

          Why would the gay clientele of Woody's make a difference? I've had alot of good meals in SF, NY and West Hollywood at places with significant numbers of gay diners. Unless you're saying that the restaurant staff if not child friendly or tolerant, but then why not say that?

          1. re: DonnyMac

            DonnyMac, while I agree with you about the comment, I'd say Woody's is perhaps not as kid-friendly as say a Javier's. I do like Woody's a lot though !

        2. I'm not saying Woody's does not have good food, which it does. I'm saying it's not exactly a family restaurant to bring a family of five to. This was not meant to be anti-gay establishment, it was meant to advise the chowhound about the restaurants. Geesh!

          1. IMHO: Javier's over Las Brisas. Both are zoos at this time of year.

            Woody's indeed has a gay following but they are extremely hetero-friendly. The setting itself is not a family one, but neither are other Laguna top-spots for food like 280 Forest, Five Feet, Sorrento Grille, Cafe Zoolu, Tabu Grill, Dizz's, etc.

            BJ's is a better bet for the whole fam damily. As is Ruby's on PCH and Harbour Grill in DPoint.

            News Flash: Ruby's is now operating the cafe at the Crystal Cove cottages (don't know if it has another name). Talk about a view-- it's right on the sand in a state park, so it has to be family-friendly. The menu is more upscale than burgers typical of Ruby's, but they will soon offer a walk-up window for beach grub. Plus, later a cocktail bar...

            1 Reply
            1. re: OCBites

              "News Flash: Ruby's is now operating the cafe at the Crystal Cove cottages"

              I think you mean the shake shack on the bluffs overlooking the water. While I haven't been in years, I did notice the new signage the last time I drove past it.

            2. Sun Dried Tomato Cafe is great to sit outside at. Kids have fun at Mosun - especially on the 1/2 price roll night, which I think is Thurs., Cedar Creek Inn is ok & comfortable for kids, Zinc Cafe or Madison Garden for breakfast, Coyote Grill is good, Royal Thai is ok, Taco Loco is fun, La Sirena excellent take-out, Ruby's in S Laguna & Crystal Cove. I like Orange Inn for sandwiches & date banana shakes, there's a new wafle shop on the street that veers off PCH & Forest on your right (can't think of the name, but it's the one that leads to the library).

              For the Best view, hands down, the Cliff Restaurant - formerly Laguna Village Cafe will provide. Good for kids, they serve Have a Chips for their tortilla chips, so I'm happy. Food is ok to good, view is spectacular.

              I agree, most of the upscale in Laguna are fairly 'Adult." (Not that I'm complaining...)

              1. Here's my two cents on more outdoor family dining in Laguna and environs....
                for burgers etc, Rubys is easy in and out parking, and VERY kid friendly, this time of year the upstairs roof patio is open.

                If you go to Dana Harbor, there is a fish market called Johns that also has grilled fish, chips, etc, they have out door tables , and you can watch the boats going in and out the channel....

                And in Laguna, do take the kids to Bluebird park for a run around, take a picnic....great new playground design.

                as for Woodys, I have always thought of it as more of a bar, singles scene, and not the first place I would take kids, same for the Whitehouse, and the Laguna Brew pub. Laguna is a family friendly place,but after dark there are some areas that are more nightlife than family,

                1 Reply
                1. re: ciaolette

                  If you go to Dana Point Harbor, definitely stop at Chocolate Soldier for hand made chockies. The honeycomb and English toffee are awesome. The turtles are excellent, too.

                2. I'm a pizza freak, so I'll weigh in on that part. BJ's makes a thick crust, faux-Chicago deep dish pie. It's a mediocre version IMO, but it is kid friendly. Their pizookie dessert is pretty good, albeit really sugared up. BJ's is not really a favorite of mine as a hound. As a parent, I'll give in sometimes.

                  The LB Brewing Co makes a wood fired pizza in the vein of California Pizza Kitchen. If you like the California blonde crust that comes out of CPK's too-cool ovens, you'll like LB Brewing's version. The Thai chicken pizza is decent. They have a rooftop patio, BJ's does not.

                  Personally, I prefer a thin crust lightly charred in a blazing oven. In Laguna Beach, I go to the Ocean Avenue Brewing for their thin crust pizza and great pastas. This time of year, they make a killer pesto. I noticed you like arrabiata - I had theirs as a special once, and it rocked. Hope its on the menu when you're there.

                  I'd describe the menu at Ocean Ave as sophisticated and well executed pub food. They book live bands and it's a loungey feel at night, not really a kid friendly venue for dinner unless you go really early. Check it out for lunch, though. They have an outdoor patio that your group of 9 will probably take over completely.