We will be spending 6 days in Laguna Beach. We are staying at Montage and we already have reservations at Studio for one dinner. I'd like to have at least one other upscale dinner, but I'm open to more casual places as well (including local hangouts). As long as the food is great, we are willing to travel. We'd also love some suggestions on places to have some nice wines (both by the bottle and the glass).
Thank you in advance for your suggestions.
I also add:
La Sirena Grill- Casual, local, good quality mexican.
BJ's Pizza - OK it's a chain but it's good. I'm from Chicago and I know good pizza and I know what's available in OC and BJ's is as good as you're going to get. I know everyone has their local favorite but I'm not sending them to Placentia or Lake Forest for pizza.
Second Zinc Cafe' - Sit there and have the vultures hover over you waiting for your table or get it to go and have a picnic at any beach.
Only been to Javier's once, was underwhelmed. From the canned tomatillo sauce to the basic supermarket tortillas. Refried beans were good as was the salsa. But all-in-all a marginal experience. Maybe I should have gotten the mole. Plus, the atmosphere is just OK. It's good they're moving because the restaurant is rough, bordering on dirty.
230 Forest I found nice, a little pricey for lunch but great people watching, quality food, and a nice wine list. Touristy? Probably, but I don't know anywhere in LB that isn't.
Tabu Grill - Never been but hear good buzz. Would be a choice for a nice meal.
Good for a drink with a view before dinner is the roof top bar in the Hotel La Casa del Camino. 1287 South Coast Hwy.
Opens at 5:30.
Another place for a drink is the bar at the Laguna Village Shops. Open for lunch and dinner. maybe breakfast? Haven't eaten there so I have no opinion of the food but if you do feel compelled to eat at Javier's it's right across the street. Beautiful view, really beautiful, really, really beautiful. Did I say how beautiful the view is?
Speaking of beautiful views...
Las Brisa's. Foodies scoff at Las Brisa's but it's a great place for drinks and breakfast (breakfast buffet, $11.95 M-F 8AM-11AM?). Great deal for breakfast. Nothing fancy, basic breakfast buffet items but buffets are hard to find and impossible to find with that view.
If you want live music drive south on PCH to Dana Point 5-7 miles and go to Renaissance Cafe. Outdoor patio with fireplace and band stage. Indoor seating with band stage and bar. Good food, lively scene.
If you are taking the ferry out of Dana Point Harbor to Catalina Island you can have breakfast before hand or dinner afterward at any number of places in the Harbor. I like:
Harbor Deli - Great pastrami sandwiches and french fries. Never had breakfast there but I'm sure it's delicious and plentiful. Huge portions, indoor or outdoor seating.
Also in DP Harbor: Harbor Grill - Good mesquite grilled seafood. Grow herbs right there in their planter boxes. Emphasis on freshness. An under-heralded local. Eat lunch outside and feel very continental.
Harbor Grill is good, if you want low key, nice fish and a pretty nice wine list in a cute setting. They succeed best with simple preparations - the marinated then grilled swordfish and the plain grilled wild salmon were great, but more adventurous preparations (cajun and thai inspired) missed the mark.
As already mentioned, don't go to Las Brisas for the food but drinks at sunset is great.
I have been to Te Amo on PCH twice. The first time was fabulous--everything I had from salad to dessert was great. However, I recently went there with some friends and although the food was very good, we were squeezed in a tiny booth, it was uncomfortably hot and the lighting was so bad we could hardly see our food. If you go, save room for the banana Fosters--it's the best I've ever had!
We were in Laguna Niguel for a week last month, and here is what worked:
Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis (10-15 minutes sout of the Montage, depending on traffic) was excellent for both food and wine. The sommelier is a nice guy and does well if you give him your taste preferences and price range. The food was excellent. I'd make that your other high end meal.
For more casual dining, Ocean Ave. Brewing Co. was good for fairly well executed thinner crust pizzas, salads and pastas. They have a decent wine list in addition, obviously, to a number of tasty beers (not all homemade, btw, which was nice). Decent olives, salumi and cheese are available to nosh on as appetizers too. If weather permits the patio tables are nice.
For Mexican, Javiers was very solid. The mole was good, but my carnitas were even better. Ginormous amounts of food, however, so factor that in. And ask for the Mexican margarita - old school and delicious, just silver tequila, sweetened fresh lemon and lime juice, ice and salt.
Count me in for 230 Forest. Lovely and consistent.
Las Brisas is better for view and drinks than food.
For something different, I liked Brussels Bistro.
I also like Zinc Cafe & Market. You can get something lite to snack on for a walk along the beach, or bring some snacks back to your room for later....
and if you want one more upscale dinner, I compared St. Regis' and Ritz-Carlton's shining stars, and Stonehill Tavern (St. Regis) came out on top. Michael Mina is the man. It is just below the border of Laguna Beach in Dana Point.
OK - here is the itenerary for one day.
Breakfast at Bon Jour Cafe in Dana Point. Order anything, sit on the patio and you get a bit of Paris.
Lunch/happy hour - Fishermans on the pier in San Clemente - Sit outside and watch surfers while having Boat Drinks and have steamers.
Dinner - Either Gemmell's in Dana Point or 230 Forest in Laguna Beach. Both excellent winners.
Desert - Purple Feet in Dana Point. Get the Choclate Lava Cake and a great cab or port.
Music - if still ready to go - Rennaisance Cafe in Dana Point. You can call and see who's playing but a great end to the night.
Go home to that great hotel and sleep like a baby.
And Enjoy South County!
Since nobody has chimed in with breakfast/brunch, might I suggest the Greeter's Corner on PCH in downtown Laguna Beach? Excellent, hearty, and inexpensive breakfast plates. I recommend their Eggs Benedict.
Greeter's Corner Restaurant
329 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
For a more continental style breakfast, the Scandia Bakery offers an excellent selection of baked goods and passable coffee and tea.
Scandia Bakery & Coffee Shop
248 Forest Ave
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If you're in the mood for a sushi lunch, I recommend Hapi Sushi, a great sushi bar serving more traditional flavors.
250 Beach St
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
For dinner, Cat and I like the Beach House attached to Vacation Village Inn. The lobster bisque alone is worth the trip.
The Beach House
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA
Have fun in Laguna!
I recommend Eva's Carribean and Mozambique. Both were very good and very different.
Eva's is lively, festive and has great pineapple martinis.
Mozambique is clubby, dark, with lots of meat dishes and plenty of African overtones.
Eva's is more casual than Mozambique, but it is Laguna Beach so there is a good mix of casual and upscale at both places.
You will probably get a better wine list at Mozambique.