Best Restaurants around by the sea (OC)?
I have to say I had one of the best experiences at Splashes, at the Surf and Sand Hotel in Laguna Beach. It's scenic, romantic, and gives the perfect vacation feel in sophistication and professionalism of the restaurant. The cuisine is fresh and innovative, and the seafood! it's extraordinary. You can read about my experience with photos too at
I was quite impressed with the place all around. Atmosphere, service, food and presentation. It really is representative of the coastal Orange County.
I think it's a pretty fair statement to say that as a general proposition the coastal dining options in Orange County get better the further South you go (although once PCH turns at Doheny beach in Dana Point, your options get pretty slim). If you want to find the best food orange county has to offer, you really need to get away from the coast to explore the various ethnic neighborhoods. In about a 5 mile radius of Garden Grove/Westminster/Santa Ana, you can get authentic Korean, Vietnamese, and Mexican cuisine. Since you haven't said where in OC your looking to go and you want to stay by the coast, I'll just give you a very general and brief tour of the coastal cities. If you want more details, you can always search this site or ask more questions.
Starting at the Northernmost point of the OC coast:
Seal Beach Dining options: Walt's Wharf (about 2 blocks from the ocean) for classic seafood; Beachwood BBQ (you can guess what they have there);
Seal Beach "Play" options: Hennessey's Tavern and a couple of other Irish pubs
Sunset Beach Dining options: Captain Jacks or Harpoon Harry's for Crab legs and prime rib and other so-so seafood, neither are on the ocean
Sunset Beach "Play" options: King Neptune's has live bands play often
Huntington Beach Dining: only options w/ a view of the ocean are Chimayo's, Duke's, and Sparks. Personally I like the food at Sparks, but at Chimayo's and Duke's you really are just paying for the view. There's also Izakaya Zero, which is not your traditional Izakaya style japanese pub, more sushi-fushion style dishes here.
Huntington Beach Play: Countless bars on Main Street at the pier in Huntington, you can go up and down a 3 block radius and visit at least 10 different bars. Popular spots are Sharkeez, Hurricanes (which you should avoid like the plague cause who charges a cover on Main Street in Huntington?), and Fred's. I like Beachfront as there is never a line and there's some nice couches to lounge on and watch tv.
Newport Beach Dining: Lots of choices depending on what type of food you want. Just do a search and you'll get tons of options. Not too many dining options right on the coast though, lots of choices facing the Newport Harbor. I often go to the Cannery for seafood, and Francoli's at Fashion Island for Italian.
Newport Beach Play: Lots of choices depending on what type of place you are looking for. My daytime drinking favorite spot is Mutt Lynch's, and my favorite dive bar is Blackie's. You can find many clubs, bars, and lounges w/ dancing and lots of makeup (Sutra, Fury, etc.) throughout newport if that's the scene you are looking for
Newport Coast Dining: Bluefin Sushi, the best non-traditional sushi spot in the county, same owner as Izakaya Zero. Beachcomber Cafe, this is the ONLY dining spot literally on the sand in Orange County. Mastro's Oceanclub Fish House
Laguna Beach Dining and Play: Too many options to list in one post, and I've got to get back to being productive now. There's several people on this board that know Laguna better than I do. Just do a Laguna Beach search and you'll get tons of reviews and recommendations. One place that is often recommended is Sapphire
Dana Point: Stonehill Tavern for some serious fine dining. Olamendi's for Mexican
San Clemente: Fisherman's Restaurant on the San Clemente Pier, I always order a bucket of steamers and a bloody mary when I make my way down here
If you really need to dine literally over the Pacific Ocean, there are Ruby's Diners on 3 different Piers (Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and Balboa Pier).
Good luck w/ your search and enjoy your time here
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If you are a serious foodie, do not eat in Huntington Beach on Main St. or the pier.
You can always travel 15 minutes north to the Belmont Shores area of Long Beach. Second St. has a great little strip of shops and restaurants. I recommend Open Sesame for Mediterranean, Vint's for interesting American with good beer and wine, and Fora for a more upscale and intimate dinner (Although not fancy because it's California and it's a beach city).
Nearby on Pacific Coast Highway, which will take you all the way down to Laguna and beyond, is Tantalum. It is a wonderful Asian inspired place. Go in the late afternoon and have drinks in the bar overlooking the water before dinner. The bar faces the water and the section where the bartenders are is lowered, so you have a great view. Their Thai pozole soup is excellent.