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your recommendations for Laguna Beach?

Going to Laguna in September, staying at Montage.

We are looking for a place outside the hotel for dinner-- fun, casual and delicious. Any ethnicity or style. We'd love to go early, possibly sit at the bar ordering course by course while enjoying the food, atmosphere, setting and the crowd.

Any Chowhound recs?

Thanks very much.

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  1. Have stayed at the Montage many times and at first didn't go off property. What a mistake! With the exception of the poolside bistro mosaic, the other 2 restaurants are only ok. Mosaic is great!!! Service across the resort is fantastic and the expresso martinis in the lobby lounge are delish!

    Sushi-across pch is a shopping center...go to O Fine sushi. Small and not scene but great quality. Bluefin in Newport Beach/Crystal Cove area is good but not great. The had good toro though.

    Italian-hands down Alessa. The best 3 meatballs (big enough for an entree) and chicken parmesan. The restaurant even packed the food to take on the plane. Have the concierge make the reservation and take the house car service. Parking can be annoying. It's located down near the main beach. We went there twice!

    Mexican-Asada. Fantastic, food great energy! Las Brisas is a landmark but the food was only ok.

    Apps-The Rooftop bar. Ocean views and ok bar food.

    Milkshakes and fries-if you have a car, take it down to Crystal Cove. Ruby's is a roadside burger shack on pch with the best milkshakes. Beautiful at sunset. Only outdoor picnic seating.

    General rule of thumb, if it has an ocean view, the food is mediocre at best.

    2 Replies
    1. re: 4seasonsgirl

      <General rule of thumb, if it has an ocean view, the food is mediocre at best.?

      I agree, except for the bar in the Ritz Carlton...stellar view with outstanding food and drinks.
      Question for you...is "O Fine Sushi" upstairs in a small shopping center with a view of the PCH? I remember going to one of the best sushi bars in S Calm years ago. The chef was known for his impeccable attention to quality. I went with a friend, Japanese who went crazy for the place, and I don't remember where it was.

      1. re: latindancer

        You are 100% right about the Ritz. Great property, views, and lunch outdoors on the patio! O

        Fine Sushi is in the shopping center right across the street from The Montage. Head towards Albertdons and it is in the corner of the plaza by Z Pizza.

        The Deck was ok. Great views but my fish tacos were not edible. They were like freezer fried fish sticks.

        Passed by Taco Loco and looked really good.

        Had one of the best blackened shrimp wrap at Mosaics though.

    2. Surf and Sand hotel and resort is one of my faves oceanfront..
      Las Brisas for margs and apps..
      The Deck/Beach House
      Ritz Laguna Niguel for brunch or Raya for drinks
      Friends love 230 Forest..
      You can take the Catalina Express for the day over to Avalon from Dana..takes an hour and half...go to Descanso beach on the beach for buffalo milks and lunch, snorkel next to the Casino..water temp is perfect in September.

      1. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Alessa cucina :) their mini ravioli is awesome. I don't like how loud it is. There's also a place called Zuni or Zovs or something just south near Nyes, but I forget the exact name.

        Up the PCH north about 15-20 minutes, you have:
        - Javier's, Ho Sum Bistro, Pizerria Mozza, Mama D's, crow burger, crow bar, bear flag fish, santa monica seafood...
        - you can go south about 10 minutes to crown valley and PCH for Tutta Bella or Salt Creek Grill.
        - in downtown LB, I personally love Taco Mesa.

        There's a place in LB that you can walk into and eat dinner with the ocean view, I forget what it's called - the view is spectacular, the food is pretty bad and way overpriced; avoid it if you want good food, but if all you care about is enjoying the view, this is good.

        1. Head North to Newport for Italian, Mama D's on the Newport Peninsula, Hit Alta Coffee for music and coffee with the locals after dinner-just down the street off the main drag.

          Bear Flag is another strong option they have great fish cooked to order, but it's casual, order at the counter kind of place. You can share a table and meet new people. It's a fish market with a grill and long tables.

          After coffee, check out Balboa Island for their famous balboa bars and a walk around the Island!

          1. YOU NEED TO DO ONE THING: Walk across the street to La Sirena Grill.


            You will not be disappointed. The best, freshest food in a very chill environment. No need to look further, no need to drive. You don't have to break the bank but you get DELICIOUS food with a flavour profile and complexity you will surely enjoy. We have tried most item menus and have never been disappointed. Our favorites are the blackened salmon tacos/burritos. They top it with a delicious aioli sauce and I like to eat with their green (very unique) salsa. About 20+ draught beers and margs with their homemade marg mix :) Kid friendly, dine inside or out, concrete floors, reggae or other cool music, fresh air and sunshine...what could be better?

            1. If you want to sit at a bar and suck down cocktails for hours, then you need to go to Broadway.

              1. LOVE the lamb parparadelle at Alessa. Trust me on this!

                I also do like La Sirena Grill that is just across the street from Montage in the parking lot above it.

                I also love the Rooftop for happy hour drinks and tuna tartare. It's delicious and the view can't be beat!

                And if you want to drive you could head to Newport and try all the ones people mentioned. :)

                1. I just got back from Laguna Beach and thought I'd share my restaurant experiences.

                  Sundried Tomato Cafe: I caught an early dinner here before the Pageant of the Masters and they were pretty quick on getting dinner out, but I didn't feel rushed. The prices are pretty good. I sat outside, though the views aren't great. The menu had a variety of light to larger selections including fish, meat and vegetarian options.

                  House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer: I tried to get reservations for dinner earlier in the day, but they were already booked up, so I went for a late lunch. I loved this place for the food and views. It's not right on the beach, but they are upstairs so you get a view of the ocean. If you like reasonably priced seafood, this is the place to go. I had a small dish called Hobo Fish Plate, which was rich with a mixture of fish. This was amazingly delicious and was enough to fill me up. They also have like 50 different beers.

                  Starfish: This restaurant is in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center across from the Montage Resort. I didn't know anything about this place and just stopped there because they have parking. It's an Asian fusion seafood place that has small plates to share. Their flavors were divine and their prices are pretty good too. It did seem a bit loud and the tables are fairly close, but worth a try.

                  1. 370 Common fits your description perfectly. I had diner there on Friday and it was outstanding.