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Jan 8, 2011 11:28 AM

Orange County Recommendations: San Clemente/Newport?CDM/Costa Mesa or Laguna

Originally posted a question in the California Board, but looks like OC belongs in LA after doing a bit of research.

My sister and I will be in OC this weekend for my Dad's birthday. We need a spot for dinner Thursday night- doesn't need to be too fancy or high end. Just good food. My sister is flying into John Wayne airport -- so anything from there to Ladera Ranch would be great.

Friday we wanted to take my dad to lunch in Dana Point. Any suggestions here? Especially near the water/marina? For dinner Friday we were thinking San Clemente might be fun. Any places in San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano worth it? If not we are welcome to suggestions. Nothing too ethnic-- except Chinese and Italian.

We were thinking of trying to do dinner in Newport for his birthday, but it seems a lot of reviews I am reading say there are far more good restaurants in Laguna (his favorites are Kyi, Romeo's on Broadway). Which may be why that is where he goes out to eat most often. My sister and I wanted to take him somewhere new though. Is the Cannery, Canaletto, Alessa or Gulf Stream worthy of a birthday dinner?

If not what about CDM: Bandera, Tommy Bahamas, Crow Bar or Five Crowns for a nice dinner?

And finally if we were to go to Laguna for dinner- what is your #1 choice for food (a good view too would be nice but not necessary).

And finally - he LOVES breakfast. I have seen good reviews for the following: pacific whey, beachcomber, cream pan, plums, costa mesa omelet bar. Any particular favorites?


Five Crowns
3801 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Bandera Restaurant
3201 E Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

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  1. If you're still seeing this—it's Saturday now—the two South County favourites for breakfast are Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano and Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills.

    Skip Pacific Whey. It's so overpriced it's unbelievable. The Omelette Parlor in Costa Mesa is closed; Cream Pan is in Tustin and kind of a hike from Ladera Ranch. If he wants a greasy-spoon kind of breakfast there's Harbor House Cafe in Dana Point.

    Ramos House Cafe
    31752 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

    Harbor House Cafe
    34157 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, CA 92629

    Break of Dawn
    24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

    Cream Pan
    602 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780

    2 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      And of course now I see that you were talking about the following weekend... duh. Where's that coffee...

      Alessa is worthy of a birthday dinner; while I haven't been to the Laguna location (it JUST opened), the ones in NPB and HB are warm, friendly, not too formal and great food (homemade pasta is great, but they also do great things with seafood).

      My new love in SJC is Sol del Sur. Despite its name, it's not a Mexican restaurant; it's sort of the labour of love of a guy who knows how to cook creatively and has been all over the world. (The menu reads like a friggin' Rand McNally sometimes.) If you go, know that it will be a little, um, leisurely; order a bottle of wine and go to spend the evening, not for a quick-dinner-gotta-run-for-the-movies or whatever. It's just 10 minutes away from Ladera Ranch.

      Not for a birthday dinner but for another dinner, I'd suggest not Five Crowns, but the related Side Door in Corona del Mar, especially if there are people who love beer.

      I haven't been to Tommy Bahama, but elmomonster (who is the food critic at OC Weekly) just reviewed it and was just so-so on it. In Laguna Beach I'd head for 230 Forest.

      Skip Chinese unless you want to go up to Irvine; what's down there is neither particularly good nor particularly nice for a dinner out. If you want Italian, besides Alessa there's also Pizza e Vino in Rancho Santa Margarita which is quite good.

      Five Crowns
      3801 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

      1. re: Das Ubergeek


        230 Forest Avenue Restaurant
        230 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

        Pizza E Vino
        31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

        Sol Del Sur Bistro
        31115 Rancho Viejo Rd, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

    2. Thanks for all the great recommendations. Just looked at the reviews for Ramos House. Looks great. I think that will definitely be our breakfast choice.

      Still debating dinner choices -- need to look at some more reviews and menus.

      Ramos House Cafe
      31752 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

      1. For lunch in Dana Point, we love Stella's. It's located in Monarch Bay Plaza by the Gelson's. Excellent pizza (wood-burning brick oven) and pastas and you can sit outside on the covered patio with fireplace and enjoy the view.

        I was just at Five Crowns for post-Christmas with my family. Lawry's restaurant and an older crowd, but the prime rib (what they are known for) and rack of lamb were both stand-outs. Great service here.

        SideDoor is a great rec; Five Crowns converted their bar and one of the dining rooms into a pub. Only drag is no reservations- but the food is knock-out good. Menu changes daily, but I love their prime rib sandwiches, beef fat french fries, charcuterie and cheese selections, salads-everything I've ordered in many visits has been top-notch.

        Five Crowns
        3801 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

        3 Replies
        1. re: BubblyOne

          Can't find a link for SideDoor:(

          Stella's Serious Italian Restaurant & Lounge
          17 Monarch Bay Plaza, Dana Point, CA 92629

          1. re: BubblyOne

            Have you tried Mezzaluna? Just saw a post recommending it.

            1. re: alexa52

              All the time, since it's dog-friendly:) Service is a little on the slow side, but it's perfect on a sunny day. Inside sucks.