near the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point [Moved from California board]
There's a WONDERFUL place called Dizz's As Is right down the street from there. My sister always gets the rack of lamb there but I think everything I've ordered there is good. It is an eclectic decor and if you blink, you may miss it when you drive by but the locals all know about it...just ask the concierge.
I had the filet mignon and it just melted in my mouth - it was wonderful! I don't think they take reservations unless you have a large party - so go there knowing you may wait a little while. I may be wrong though...
Oops, just noticed you said not too expensive. I would have to rate this an expensive restaurant but hey, if you're staying at the Ritz...you can afford this place.
I'd recommend driving up to Laguna Beach if you get a chance - it's a little nicer area for walking around, etc. than Dana Point. I like Cafe Zinc and the Zinc Market, and for a real meal 230 Forest is especially good.
In Dana Point, I used to like the Harbor House Cafe for breakfast when I lived up there, but I have no idea what it's like now - it was sort of a funky coffee shop. There's not much within walking distance of the Ritz - I think there are a couple of smallish strip malls near the highway there, but all I recall seeing there is a Starbucks. The St. Regis resort is just down the street, might be fun to check out. '
Here is a link that talks about some other options in Dana Point - http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant...
Continuing with the Laguna theme, Eva's Caribbean, 230 Forest, Sun Dried Tomato Cafe, for the sheer spectacular view, the Cliffside Restaurant. The Orange Inn, Penguin Cafe, Mosun on special nights, Shaleen upstairs at Mozambique, Sapphire!!! Tons of stuff in Laguna - just get a ride there & you'll be just fine and not bored for a moment!
Dana Point Harbor has many offers for restaurants. There is a really good deli, sorry, can't recall the name, and a fish place that looked good when I was last down there (in Nov.). Then you could walk around and shop a bit. BTW...there is also an aquarium and tall ships on the west end of the harbor area.
I'm surprised that no one thus far has mentioned the Tabu Grill, in South Laguna, about a block south of Dizz's, on the mountain side of Pacific Coast Highway. It's our favorite place by far, and one of the highest-rated of all restaurants in Orange County. Very small, outstanding food (their maple brined pork is to die for!). Enjoy!
Dana Point has a great Sushi place called Gen-Kai, long wait but very good. I second Harbor House for comfort food. Down in the harbor you can try RJ's cafe, nice americana breakfast and lunch stuff, and I think he's open for dinner some nights now. A little further down PCH and you can try Olamendi's. Dave's Mexican Food (Sounds weird, but trust me) is really good in San Clemente. Also try Bonjour Café in Dana Point, on Del Prado. Tasty breakfast there.