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PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS! (Laguna Beach) Early dinner suggestions?

Hello 'hounds

At the insistence of a dear friend, we bought tickets to the Pageant of the Masters. Our friend says we should consider getting a light inner at 5pm so that we can wander around the festival, where we can drink some wine and graze on various sundry comestibles before the pageant begins at 8:30. What do you think of this suggestion?

We're traveling with a small group of family & friends and so anything within walking distance of the festival would be preferred. I'm also not looking to break the bank. My only prior experience with Laguna were two extremely unfortunate plates of sub-par tacos at Taco Loco. We will not be returning.

Thanks!

Mr Taster

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  1. Nick's is a great choice. Affordable, great service, and withing walking distance of the Pageant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Honeyman

      Looks good, but I'm worried the meals here will be too much. How are the apps and drink specials?

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        Entrees are $15 to $30, add $4 for a salad. Specialty cocktails are $10 to $15.

        Menus are on line:
        http://www.thenickco.com/laguna.php

    2. Howzabout happy hour at the Sundried Tomato?

      http://www.sundriedtomatocafe.com/Hap...

      For some reason the site insists on listing the San Juan Capistrano location, but there is a Laguna Beach location on Forest, and the link is to their happy hour menu. :

      )

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      Sundried Tomato Cafe
      31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

      7 Replies
      1. re: inaplasticcup

        Happy hour apps! That's shooting to the top of the list. Thanks inaplasticcup!

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Gladly!

          And here's some info on the free trolley to help you get around:

          http://thingstodoorangecounty.net/201...

          1. re: inaplasticcup

            Just keep in mind that Laguna during the Pageant is a zoo, people from all over the world are wandering around trying to find parking and eating places etc. The trolley is a great convenience but for your sake, allow plenty of time. Laguna is a great town to people watch and just walk around..

            1. re: jsl

              This is so very true. Good reminder, jsl. :)

        2. re: inaplasticcup

          There is a link to the one in Laguna. I like Sundried Tomato. While it is not gourmet, the food is generally good, they have drink specials on various nights (1/2 priced martinis are my favorite) and it is walkable to the Pageant.

          Though I have not been, the Lumberyard has been mentioned a few times and it is right there as well. Nick's generally is well received, but it is a longer walk. Though nothing in downtown Laguna is that far, Nick's would not be my choice for a close in place.

          If you wanted a little more high end than Sundried Tomato, I would recommend 230 Forest.

          EDIT: I don't know why the Lumberyard maps to where it does in the canyon. It is located on the Corner of Forest and 3rd St.

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

          Nick's Laguna Beach
          440 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

          Sundried Tomato Cafe - Laguna Beach
          361 Forest Avenue Ste 103, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

          Lumberyard
          384 Forest Ave #10, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

          1. re: ocshooter

            It is mapping to an actual lumberyard, Ganahl Lumber, in Laguna Canyon.

            230 Forest is great, but pricey.

            The Lumberyard is the best/closest at 384 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach. It is the old location of the Cedar Creek Inn and before that I think it was the Village something... Lumberyard has pretty solid food. They also have a Happy Hour, but I think it is M-F only.

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            Cedar Creek Inn
            384 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

            1. re: scottca075

              I think there are much better choices than The Lumberyard. To me, The Lumberyard is an unsuccessful knockoff of Houston's where pretty much everything is better, especially the ribs.

              Within easy walking distance of the festival I like Sun Dried Tomato, Watermarc (same ownership as 230 Forest which is also good, but we prefer Watermarc), Cucina Alessa, The House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer (the furthest, about 6 blocks away), and for an inexpensive, but good & super casual vegetarian meal (but check on the hours) Cafe Zinc is very close.

        3. Alessa, also on Forest would be a nice choice. Great Italian and very reasonable-

          http://www.cucinaalessa.com/

          BTW, I noticed last year there were people picnicking, which would be a fun option.

          1. Consider Zinc Cafe. Very reasonably priced and well prepared vegetarian fare, nice garden setting just a few Bo K's from the festival. See: http://www.zinccafe.com/

            2 Replies
            1. re: josephnl

              I thought that Zinc Cafe was open for breakfast and lunch only?

              And, if we're talking about Laguna Beach, has anybody tried the Orange Inn? I first heard about it from the original chowhounds, the Sterns. Did that place really invent the smoothie?

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              Orange Inn
              703 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

              1. re: hobbess

                I'm pretty sure that Zinc stays open until at least 8pm, especially on weekends.

            2. Go to Nick's. A great option. A bit more of a walk than the rest , 10 min - max but well worth it. Get a reservation and tell them you need to be by the Pageant by 8?? Best in town and not overpriced. try this link http://nickslaguna.com

              18 Replies
              1. re: OCdine4fun

                IMHO, Nick's is hardly the best in town or even in the top 10. Food is OK and it's in a fairly convenient spot for OP's needs.

                1. re: BubblyOne

                  Agree completely. Nick's is not the best option.

                  1. re: josephnl

                    What does everybody else think of Taco Loco in Laguna Beach? Would you agree with the OP that their tacos are sub-par? I'd never been there, and I was thinking of giving that place a try before going to see Pageant of the Masters.

                    1. re: hobbess

                      I've always enjoyed Taco Loco, especially their blackened tofu tacos- but if I didn't live in the area, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. It's basically just a taco stand (well, actually 2 next to each other) and can get pricey. If you do decide to eat there, be sure to take the free trolley.
                      During the summer there are obviously lots of tourists and it's kind of like the taco version of Pink's, if that makes sense.
                      La Sirena Grill on Mermaid has better food, I think.

                      http://www.lasirenagrill.com/

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                      La Sirena Grill
                      347 Mermaid St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                      1. re: BubblyOne

                        La Sirena underwhlemed me when I was there.

                        1. re: ocshooter

                          I have eaten well in Laguna, or at least eaten well enough for the cost of the meal. My last foray was to 242 Cafe Fusion sushi, which was excellent, if you are in the mood for fusion sushi. It is not cheap, and the place is tiny, but it was no more expensive than Bluefin and just as good. Sundried Tomato has good food at reasonable prices. The Cottage provides a solid breakfast. I always eat well at 230 Forest. Cafe Zinc is good and reasonable. Coyote has my second favorite breakfast in OC. Tabu is my top restaurant in the area.

                          -----
                          Cafe Zinc
                          350 Ocean Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                          242 Cafe Fusion Sushi
                          242 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                          1. re: ocshooter

                            Coyote Cafe and Tabu are definitely not walking distance from the Pageant...but they are both very good...Coyote for bf and Tabu for din.

                            1. re: josephnl

                              My reply got put above hobbess, but I was replying to his comment about good, not great, and generally pricey food. I have had great food in Laguna, and I have had good value meals. I have also felt like I have been overcharged and underwhelmed, but that can happen anywhere.

                              As far as the OP goes, I am sticking with Sundried Tomato for good food at a reasonable cost close to the LPH, and 230 Forrest for better food (and more $) that is still an easy walk.

                              -----
                              Sundried Tomato Cafe
                              31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

                              1. re: ocshooter

                                Agree completely with your recommendation of Sundried for something close, good and reasonably priced.

                                1. re: ocshooter

                                  Gotta disagree a tad (not to offend oc, since we both enjoy many of the same spots, including what Javier's can offer-a CH minority:).

                                  True, overpriced/mediocre can be found everywhere, but Laguna had been historically known for subpar food. I think it takes much more effort to find great spots here, and I'm talking as a 35+ year local. So many places operate on the assumption that the ocean will fix anything.

                                  It's only been in the last 10 years or so that things have improved radically, but there is still room for major improvement.

                                  1. re: BubblyOne

                                    Maybe I have just been lucky with my choices. Watermarc was really my one bad value dinner in Laguna, mainly because it was so expensive and so ordinary. I did make the terrible mistake of having dinner at the Cottage once, but it was not expensive. I tend to avoid places that I don't have solid recommendations behind them.

                                    I miss 5', though it has been ages since I was there. Ditto with Woody's, I wish I could find another place with a decent 3 course prix fixe. I was not spectacular, but it wasn't $60-100 pp either.

                                    -----
                                    Watermarc
                                    448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                                    1. re: ocshooter

                                      Try the bar at Watermarc for happy hour some day. The small plates are very good, and certainly not overly expensive.

                                      -----
                                      Watermarc
                                      448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                                      1. re: ocshooter

                                        I'd rather have Javier's back to where Watermarc is, Javier's was much better than, I thought 5' was the epitome of over priced and overrated and while I am at it, I even miss Victor Hugo's.....

                                        -----
                                        Watermarc
                                        448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                                        1. re: scottca075

                                          Unfortunately, Javier's is dreadful in it's current Crystal Cove iteration. Nothing more than a depressing pickup joint with bad overpriced food.

                                          Ah...Victor Hugo's...you bring back fond memories of a time when Laguna Beach was a sleepy little artist's village, with a lot of older folk who had lived there forever, breakfast at the Cottage was the thing to do on Sunday morning, the town crier (can't think of what he was actually called) held court at Forest & PCH, the gay bars lent a bit of character to the community and the town was owned by the middle class rather than the wealthy. Indeed, going to Victor Hugo's was truly a big deal for most of us. Sadly, times have changed...and mostly not for the better.

                                          1. re: scottca075

                                            Asada Laguna- upscale Mexican, opened in the old Javier's spot a couple weeks ago and so far (been twice), I'm a fan. The remodel includes no more standing in line for the bathrooms...that alone is a plus.
                                            Victor Hugo's was a special place for me, too. A couple scenes from "Now, Voyager" were filmed there and at the pergola. At least the spectacular view is still there with Las Brisas.
                                            BTW, Eiler Larsen was the greeter. I'm sure today he would be run out of town.

                                            1. re: BubblyOne

                                              Thanks! Couldn't think of Eiler's correct title...d/t a senior moment. Indeed he was the town greeter! I'm afraid you're right. In today's world he would likely be locked up. It was certainly a gentler, more forgiving, and at least in my memory a happier time then.

                                              Will have to try Asada Laguna...but it will have to wait until the Pageant is over and the summer crowds have thinned out.

                              2. re: BubblyOne

                                That sounds like most of the chowhound approved places in Laguna Beach- good, not necessairly great, and kind of pricey for the food you're getting when you look at the menu prices. Then, again, this is Laguna Beach and their rent prices are going to be much steeper than other cities.

                                1. re: hobbess

                                  Agree, at least in the lower/mid price ranges. Although, since I like to eat locally, unless a place is truly wretched I'll eventually figure out what is worth eating.

                                  There are plenty of great spots- you just have to be willing to spend more.

                      2. We're looking at Sundried Tomato for happy hour on Sunday. Thanks again for all the recs.

                        Just a logistical thing... Mission Hospital (4 miles south of the pageant) has free parking, and a free shuttle. Does anyone know at what point along PCH the traffic and congestion becomes an issue during the pageant? Approximately how long would it take to ride that shuttle to Sundried Tomato? We're trying to coordinate so that we can all meet at the restaurant at a coordinated time, around 5:00 or 5:30.

                        Thanks 'hounds
                        Mr Taster

                        -----
                        Sundried Tomato Cafe
                        31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Trolley runs every 20 minutes (although it seems like they are running more often on the weekends), so assuming you just missed it and add 15 minutes from MH, allowing 35-45 minutes would give you plenty of time.
                          When you ask about traffic, do you mean coming from north or south?

                          1. re: BubblyOne

                            I will be coming from LA, so taking the 5 down to Crown Valley Parkway to PCH. Free parking at Mission Hospital on PCH, and taking the shuttle which drops us off only a block away from Sundried Tomato. The restaurant is then walking distance from the pageant. (We will be avoiding driving on Laguna Canyon Rd. and PCH north of Laguna Canyon at all costs.)

                            I'm just wondering if the madness & crowds at the pageant extends down that far south on PCH, and if so, at what point along PCH will the delays really begin to slow us down?

                            Mr Taster

                            -----
                            Sundried Tomato Cafe
                            31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              No way....traffic is not that bad so far south on PCH. The 5 can back up a bit though before the El Toro offramp, but that's all the time.
                              Just as an FYI, the shuttle ends at Crown Valley/PCH at Monarch Bay Plaza (Gelson's) and the pick-up is right at the corner of the center in front of the Chevron. You can park in the main parking lot. It says customer parking only, but no time limit. Buy a pack of gum at CVS and park at the center:) It's easier. Or stick with your original plan if that makes you nervous.

                              1. re: BubblyOne

                                I gotta give Rachel Ray credit.

                                I knew some of these names were familiar and not just from chowhound, and it turns out that on her $40 A Day TV series for Food Network, her recommendations for Laguna Beach were Coyote Grill for breakfast, Zinc Cafe for a sandwich, and dinner at Sundried Cafe.

                                Maybe, she's a chowhound too?

                                -----
                                Coyote Grill
                                31621 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                                1. re: hobbess

                                  I knew about Coyote and Zuni, but did not realize that dinner was at Sundried. I am scared that my picks mirror her's. The horror...

                                  1. re: ocshooter

                                    Don't try to find Zuni in Laguna...it's in SFO! You're looking for the Zinc Cafe!

                          2. OP here. Here's how it went.

                            Traffic was actually not too bad. We arrived in Laguna around 5:40 and opted to park for $10 in the private lot just south of the Pageant grounds.

                            We arrived at Sundried Tomato around 6:00. Our friends had already staked out the place. Happy hour was in full effect, but here's the catch. The specially priced apps are only served at the bar, and the bar only has about 10 seats. All were taken. At our table (literally 4 feet behind the barstools), apps were full price at nearly 70% over the happy hour price. Reservations are not accepted for the bar.

                            We ordered the signature Crispy Blackened Chicken Spring Rolls w/ honey-cilantro pesto and the Filet of Beef Tacos (blueberry-radish salsa, goat cheese, cilantro). Both were about $10. The chicken filling in the spring rolls was rather dry and bland, and required the pesto to bring any kind of significant flavor. The skins of the spring rolls were too chewy and not flaky enough. As for the tacos, the funk of goat cheese overpowered the otherwise mildly flavored toppings (and I like goat cheese). Both were overpriced misses in my book. I would have felt significantly less taken had we paid the happy hour prices, which are far more reasonable for food of this quality. But either way, we were not terribly impressed with what we tried. Our friends tried the "not your kids mini turkey corndogs" which they quite liked.

                            But the pageant was phenomenal. We'll be going back for sure.

                            Mr Taster

                            -----
                            Sundried Tomato Cafe
                            31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Aww. That's crap about the happy hour policy, MT. Sorry I steered you wrong. :(

                              Glad you enjoyed the pageant tho.

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                I've never tried the happy hour there, or the appetizers, only the regular meals.. The specials I have had (especially the 1/2 priced martinis) were always good at the tables. Sorry you have a poor meal.

                                1. re: ocshooter

                                  Finally saw the Pageant of the Masters for the first time this weekend.

                                  I ended up not getting anything to eat in LB because none of the dinner options really seemed to be worth the money and I wouldn't have to pay parking if I got there later.

                                  The Pageant of the Masters in one of those things that you should see once before you die. And, once will be more than enough for me...

                                  My seats weren't bad and I came prepared with binoculars, but geez, the staging of it really ruined the potential for magic of the show.