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Need recommendations for a special restaurant - Southern OC

I need to find a very special restaurant for my mom's 80th bday dinner next month. We'll be in southern OC, Laguna Woods. We'd prefer to stay in that general area - Laguna, Mission Viejo, Capistrano, etc. The only preference is that the restaurant be extraordinary...in food, ambience, view...whatever. Price is not really an issue. Only the best for Mom!

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  1. I find Onotria in Costa Mesa (a little out of your range, but not much) to be one of the best Italian places I've ever eaten at. Very nice place.

    1. Here are a couple of off the wall suggestions:
      Naturaj, the best Indian food around with excellent service and wonderful decor.
      The Japanese restaurant at Lake Mission Viejo, with a view of the lake and excellent Japanese food.
      I still like The Ritz for drinks and Salt Creek Inn afterwards.
      Some people like Nirvana, small but elegant, in Mission Viejo along Marguerite.
      The Crow Bar in Corona del Mar is startlingly moderne with very high quality food.
      We've had great luck with Bahar's restaurant, above the market in the center at Crown Valley and Marguerite for the best Persian food.
      And if you're willing to go to Napa Rose in Anaheim, it is of the nicest, best-food, excellent-wine, eye-catching Frank Lloyd Wright Craftsman knock offs with sterling service.
      Good luck.

      1. Sapphire's on PCH in Laguna. Sit on the patio and people watch as well as a view of the ocean from the north side of PCH. Very relaxing, enjoyable and great food.
        Truffle fries, yum!

        1. Studio Restaurant at the Montage Resort.

          Great food, great atmosphere. I've taken my mom there and she loved it.


          1. Cedar Creek on La Paz in Laguna Niguel. I've had good food there on the three occasions I've been.

            Cedar Creek
            27321 La Paz Rd, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

            1. I recommend Picante in Ladera Ranch.

              1. I can't believe nobody has mentioned Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis. Totally incredible place.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MaxCaviar

                  Another vote for Stonehill Tavern. Mom will love the surroundings and the attentive service.

                2. Having luckily seen my both parents celebrate their 80th (as well as 90th) birthdays, I know a bit about what most older folks find special. I know that some enjoy ethnic food, but I for one would rule that out for such a special occasion. Certainly although Onotria and Crowbar are nice places, I would not consider them appropriate for such a special occasion. Having lived in OC for more years than I would like to admit, I would nominate the following as my picks for a very special 80th birthday celebration:

                  The Hobbit in Orange is an incredible special occasion restaurant. A beautiful old house, a single seating beginning with champagne and hors d'oeurvres in the cellar, then a beautifully served formal dinner in the house above. Check out their website. There is nothing else like it in southern California...a truly special occasion event which must be planned well in advance.

                  That said, there are several other very nice special occasion restaurants in southern OC. Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis and the Studio at the Montage, are probably the most special of the remaining picks. Both are very nice (although honestly, these two are probably the most variable of the bunch....they can be outstanding, or just very good).

                  Three others that immediately come to mind for this type of celebration would be Mr. Stox in Anaheim (they always make a point of celebrating an occasion nicely, especially if you talk with Curtis Springer in advance), Traditions by Pascal in Newport Beach is very nice, and also Bistango in Irvine is a very pretty restaurant which always does it's best to make special occasions special (talk with Ray or Bill and you can't miss).

                  I think that if you stick to these, you will have a really nice celebration dinner.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: josephnl

                    i was just about to make reservations at Stonehill Tavern when i thought i better check the post one more time. i'm so glad i did because i never thought about the Hobbit! that reminds me so much of my childhood in n. oc. i think that's the one. Thanks!

                    1. re: Sugar Jones

                      I'm sure you'll be pleased with the Hobbit. It has been under the same ownership for ages, and it never changes. We go there with friends every early December to celebrate the holidays, and it's always a treat!

                      1. re: josephnl

                        After going on the Hobbit website, I realized that they have nothing for a vegetarian, (me). So we're back to Stonehill I think. Or maybe Bistango..which also sounds good.

                        1. re: Sugar Jones

                          I am almost certain that the Hobbit will serve you a vegetarian meal. About two years ago, I took a vegetarian friend there for his birthday and not only was it no problem whatsoever, he loved it! Do call them and I'm betting that it will be fine. Let us know.

                          1. re: josephnl

                            i made reservations at the Hobbit and they couldn't have been nicer about the special order. i will report back next month after the big day. thanks for your help!

                            1. re: Sugar Jones

                              Enjoy! It will be great...and do report back!

                  2. Given all that I've heard, the Hobbit is probably really good but you might look at both that and Napa Rose. Napa Rose gets overlooked often, and wrongly so. We had a thirty-fifth wedding anniversary party for a couple for about ten friends there, and everyone, even those critical world travelers and eaters in our group, agreed it was damned good and fun as we all sat atround, well served, eating healthy food and drinking great wines. So think about checking it out, you might like how it looks, unlike any other restaurant I've seen, drive up and park and walk in and you just might find it exceptional.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: EclecticEater

                      Napa Rose is a good restaurant, but in my opinion, for a truly special occasion, nothing compares to The Hobbit. Can you believe, just today I called The Hobbit for dinner on any Friday or Saturday in December (before Christmas) and they are sold out...and have been for months? Just an indication of how special this place is. I don't think there is another special occasion restaurant in all of southern CA that is as special as The Hobbit. It's unique, consistent and very special.

                    2. Love the suggestions thus far. I'd like to chain off this and see how your recommendations would change (if at all) for celebrating my wife's 40th birthday? Price not an object. While I care about ambiance, I'm looking for the premier food experience.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pwbrundage

                        Would not change a bit from my recommendations of Sept. 12th. Although there are many very good restaurants in Orange County, I don't think that extraordinary food is available anywhere in the southland. Therefore for my bucks I would select the best combination of food, service and ambiance, and to my way of thinking, the best choice in OC for any truly special occasion is likely the Hobbit.

                        1. re: pwbrundage

                          Well, maybe not "premier food" experience, but they offer tried-and-trues with a twist.
                          I suggest Port restaurant in Corona del Mar.
                          Port Restaurant & Bar
                          440 Heliotrope Ave.
                          Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

                          It's just a few doors from Coast Highway, towards the beach in a residential area. Streets in CdM are in alphabetical order.