Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Jun 1, 2008 06:39 PM

Fine-dining Recs. for Dana Point/Aviara

We’re going to be attending a series of meetings at the Four Seasons Aviara, Dana Point, next month. It appears that we’ll have 2-3 nights on our own, with the rest being events. We’re looking for fine-dining experiences. As we always enjoy wine with our meals, we’re not looking to drive all that much.

From a search on this board, I’ve picked up on Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, and not that much more nearby. Most posts were on inexpensive food for families, cheap-eats, etc.. I did see that Aviara has the Argyle Steakhouse, however I did not find it on CH. Maybe the name has been changed, as is often the way with resorts. Also, we’ve had pretty good results with Four Seasons properties fine-dining, though it has not been 100%. Also, we are less steakhouse patrons, than serious, chef-driven restaurants offering other culinary motifs. It’s not that we do not love beef, but “steakhouses,” have sprung up, like mushrooms after a rain, and I’ve found little to differentiate one, from the other.

Questions: is Stonehill Tavern still doing good things? Has anyone dined at the Argyle Steakhouse? Is it worth the evening? In case we need another/additional choice, is there anything near, that we should look into?

Price is not an object, though I do not enjoy throwing $’s away, if the restaurant is not worth it. Just got back from London with Joël Robuchon and Gordon Ramsey, so I think I have been immunized against sticker shock (had my booster shots while in Las Vegas last week) Also, for recs, really good wine lists are a major plus, as are chef’s tasting menus.

Thanks for your thoughts,


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Note: I did find a CH article on the Argyle Steakhouse (Mar 07), but only through Google. The OP also had a link to his/her foodblog, with an article on Argyle. I had previously found that foodblog, also through Google.

    Though a "steakhouse," it sounds like a winner to me. Any new comments on it? To me, it sounds worth a shot, especially if they have a good half-bottle, or killer b-t-g wine list, or offer a "sommelier's pairing," with the dinner. Unfortunately, as there isn't a "chef's tasting menu," the liklihood of a sommelier's pairing seems bleak.

    NOTE: wish that more restaurants posted their wine lists, via PDF, on their Web sites. I greatly appreciate menus (inclusion of prices is totally voluntary, as I know that they change, and it costs $ to update a site), but I also appreciate some idea of what the cellar is like. I know that vintages change out, and that prices fluctuate, but please give the prospective diner some idea of what you have to offer. I want to know if I need to negotiate a BYOW (corkage) arrangement, or if you'll (restauranteur) have some good choices for me and for my wife. [Mini-rant over]

    Again, thanks for any recs, or thoughts on this. Also, I listed this as Dana Point, but all references that I see for Aviara list Carlsbad. Though I've driven up from SD and played their course, I may have had my geography a bit confused. Please do not hold this against me.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill - I think you were thinking about the St. Regis (where Stonehill is) and the Ritz-Carlton as in Dana Point. I mess up on those 3, too. Anyway, Since the Four Seasons is indeed in Carlsbad, if you were willing to drive up to Dana Point for food, maybe you want to also check out any restaurant recommendations for La Jolla. I think you'd be 50/50 on travel time for them or Dana Point.

      1. re: scabbardgirl

        I was going on my wife's assistant's description of Aviara. She kept insisting that it was in Dana Point, so I was getting excited, as we have loved Michael Mina's (eponymous restaurant in SF). I've driven up from SD, and really did not pay attention to the various "burgs," as I had tee-times there. Just did a MapQuest look-see and saw that it was ~40 miles away - bummer. Not likely to happen, as wine is always a big part of our meals.

        However, the info on the dining at Aviara (Carlsbad, CA) is looking good. Still do not know how many nights we'll actually have.

        We've done some nice dining in La Jolla, and I'd gladly return to most of those spots, but am looking to stay closer to "home." The last thing that California needs is a couple of AZ ("Zonies") on the hwy at night after some lovely wine.

        As Juji reports below, it looks like Vivace is doing some good things, as well. I've found several recs for it, so we might just stay on "campus," and kick back a bit.

        Still, if there is something that is a real "must-do" in Carlsbad (now that I know the exact location - sorry about my geographic confusion), please add it to the list.



    2. The Four Seasons Aviara in Carlsbad is a lovely hotel. I've only eaten recently at Vivace, the Italian restaurant and it is wonderful. I've read good reviews about Argyle, they acquired a new chef within the last year. If you want to drive a little ways south, I recommend Market in Del Mar. You should be able to find many reviews on the California board about it as well as other North County San Diego restaurants. Have not had a chance yet to dine at Stonehill, it is on my list, but I have been to Studio at the Montage resort in South Laguna and had a very enjoyable meal. Good place if money is no object.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Juji


        Thanks for the recs. As we do a ton of meetings all along the coast, from SD to LA, I can use these at some time. Appreciate the mention of Vivace, as it has gotten good marks on other boards. These maybe the two, and if we do get to do a third, we'll see if the hotel offers any kind of shuttle, or see what the cab situation is.



        1. re: Bill Hunt


          LOL glad you got your geography straight. I was reading the first few posts scratching my head. I know you asked about fine dining. However, if you enjoy sushi, there is a fabulous sushi restaurant here in Encinitas (just south of where you are staying by a couple of miles). Kaito is the sushi restaurant and the general agreement of the board here is that there is no better sushi to be found in the north san diego area.

          There is also Yumeya, which is a traditional Japanese izakaya (tapas style) with an awesome sake menu.

          Neither are fine dining per se, but they are some of the finest dining experiences we have had on the north coast of san diego.

          Kaito Sushi
          130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

          1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

          1. re: Enorah

            Yeah, the geography had me going, but I wasn't going to argue with wife's assistant...

            Thanks for the sushi rec. Wife is a big sushi fan, and I always do my share.

            Seems that we are now booked for two more trips this Summer, back to the same general area. I'll definitely keep all of the recs., even the ones "up/down the road," for those.

            I'm thinking that I may have to apply for a CA driver's license, if this keeps up. But, hey, spending time on the Pacific, when the Summer heat has settled in the Valley of the Sun, is not all bad, especially if I get to choose most of the restaurants.

            Thanks everyone,


            1. re: Enorah


              I'll second Enorah's vote for Yumeya and Kaito Sushi. They're both very unique restaurants in their own special way.

              Here's a brief summary of Yumeya from an earlier post of mine:

              And much has been said about Kaito sushi, as can be found in these threads on the CH boards:

              As far as sushi is concerned I can confidently say that Kaito has the best sushi in all of San Diego County. They are simply in another league. To get the best experience do as almost all of their customers do, which is to ask the chef for omakase (chef's choice). If you can find a seat in front of their head itamae, Morita-san. More than likely you'll come across items that you've never even seen before, and for those that you have, they'll have a clarity and quality of taste that has spoiled many a customer away from their favorite sushi bar into becoming a regular at Kaito.

              And if you'd like to first "visually dine" at Kaito, go to: for their "sushi slideshow"... (To see names and descriptions of what you're looking at, hover your mouse over the images and click once on the "i".)

        2. If you dont mind a short drive you should look into Addison at the Grand Del Mar. Their wine list is AMAZING and the food warrants a drive off property from Aviara. Price not being an option Addison is the best bet for your money/experience quota.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Willmerson

            One of our upcoming trips is to Del Mar (do not have info on which hotel yet), so I will definitely include Addison in that visit.



          2. The steakhouse at the 4 seasons is very good, but it is just a steakhouse done the 4 seasons way. It is down the hill from the main resort, at the golf clubhouse. They have breakfast and lunch on the patio overlooking the course. No dinner on the patio though (boo). I would recommend it, if that is what you are looking for. I stayed up one weekend at the St. Regis and the space for stonehill looked modern cool and really did not fit in with the rest of the hotel. It was really, really, really crowded. We choose to eat down at their beach club instead, which is only open to staying guests. It is about a 45 minute drive to the St. Regis from the 4 seasons. If you want fine dining you might want to check out Addison at the Grand Del Mar or Market or Blanca. All of which are a bit closer than the St. Regis.

            3 Replies
            1. re: littlestevie

              Yes, the golf shop IS a ways from the hotel-proper. We'll be playing a few rounds there, so I'll check it out.

              I'm not much of a "steakhouse guy," but fine-dining on property is a big plus for me. I'll also see if there is a shuttle from the lobby to the restaurant.

              Thanks for the tip, as I did not recall seeing the steakhouse when playing the course.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Yes they have a shuttle down to the course (they are the 4 seasons after all, heh). The pro shop is on the bottom floor, the restaurant is on the top floor.

                1. re: littlestevie

                  Wow, I just missed it. However on first trip, it took about 30 mins. to find my way from the hotel to the pro-shop. I kept calling them and telling them where I was. No one knew any of the streets, even when I was just across from the "beach access," that you have to go through to the golf course!

                  Thanks for the shuttle tip. We'll likely use that, even with the short distance, just because we love wine.


            2. Just a chance you want to try a good place that is not expensive, consider Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad. It is not far from the Aviara. Open from 6 am to 8 pm. I guess one would classify it as a European Deli with German overtones. SO, if you have time for lunch offsite . . . . .
              Tip Top Meats
              6118 Paseo Del Norte
              Carlsbad, CA 92008
              (760) 438-2620
              They've been doing things right since I first remember them in Glendale, CA in the 70's. Owner taught my mom how to make Rouladin. They are not a chain. They moved to Carlsbad.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kc girl

                Kc girl,

                Do they do lunch? From the name, I'm not quite sure what they might offer, that is not for construction and consumption elsewhere. We might need a boxed lunch for one of the golf days, and I do not mind a gourmet selection. Did similar, when we were at Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN), and people were falling out of their golf carts, while we munched on a four course lunch.