The Best Restaurants in Laguna Beach and Dana Point
Together, Laguna and Dana Point are home to an exciting food scene, with restaurants offering everything from Mexican and Asian favorites to vegan, Belgian, and California coastal cuisine. Make a reservation at a beachfront spot overlooking the ocean, or try your luck and just walk in somewhere. The worst that can happen is you’ll have to wait at the bar with a creative cocktail or glass of California wine.
440 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Nick’s is a Southern California institution, with coastal locations in Long Beach, San Clemente, Manhattan Beach, and Pasadena. The Laguna outpost has the others beat, however, thanks to its perch just across the street from Main Beach. Diners can head here after a long day in the sun for delicious takes on classic American dishes, from buttermilk fried chicken and San Francisco cioppino to rib eye melts and cheeseburgers with Thousand Island dressing. Whatever you choose, pair it with a house cocktail (you can’t go wrong with the jalapeño-watermelon margarita) as you watch the sun set over the Pacific.
238 Thalia St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
In a haven for healthy eating like Laguna, The Stand stands out for its vegan menu full of plant-based, cruelty-free dishes. Established in 1975, the Thalia Street mainstay has switched hands from one local to another over the years, but has always maintained its focus on good-for-you fare. Come here for everything from freshly squeezed juices and nut-milk shakes to sandwiches, salads, and burritos made with steamed whole-wheat tortillas. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the special tamale and guacamole plate, which features a homemade vegetable tamale with organic pinto beans, guacamole, salsa, cabbage salad, and The Stand’s original sweet-and-sour dressing. Just be sure to save room for the fresh fruit soft serve, which you can top with vegan chocolate chips, raw almonds, big flakes of coconut, and more.
1200 S Coast Hwy #105B, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Just steps from the beach, Sapphire offers outdoor dining year-round on its cozy patio. Run by executive chef Azmin Gahreman for more than a decade, the restaurant is certainly a Laguna institution, but one that’s constantly evolving to stay fresh. Though Sapphire is worth a visit for every meal, it really shines at brunch, when such indulgent dishes as buttermilk pancakes, fried chicken and cheddar biscuits, and eggs Benedict with roasted jalapeño hollandaise are on the menu. Pair your breakfast with bottomless mimosas in flavors like orange, mango, and grapefruit and you’ll have the makings of a perfect morning.
448 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Located right on the Pacific Coast Highway, Watermarc is a people-watcher’s dream, with an oversize front patio and large windows overlooking Peppertree Lane. Grab a window seat if you can, then dive deep into the extensive wine list, which features 239 varietals perfect for pairing with the wide range of “grazing plates” on offer at dinner. Order dishes like sizzling shrimp, cod-and-potato croquettes, ahi watermelon skewers, and charred octopus to share with the table, then pick an entrée like day-boat scallops with lobster risotto for yourself. The menu here goes well beyond seafood, but while you’re staring at the ocean, you might as well try her delicious offerings.
328 Glenneyre St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Inspired by the food and feel of New York City, Broadway by Amar Santana offers a taste of the big city just a block from the ocean. Here, the eponymous chef Santana, who competed on Bravo’s Top Chef, serves American cuisine made with seasonal ingredients, like squid ink cavatelli with blue prawns, and grilled skirt steak with chimichurri. Elevate your meal with creative cocktails or a bottle from the well-regarded wine list, or better yet, book the six-seat chef’s table, where Santana will serve a multi-course menu designed just for you and your guests.
30832 CA-1, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
For something different from Laguna’s typical California fare, head to Starfish, where you can get dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, and India. The menu ranges from sushi and satays to dumplings, noodle dishes, whole fish, and more—all perfect for pairing with signature cocktails like the Whiskey Blossom, with bourbon, orange bitters, clover honey, and egg whites. Beyond the delicious food, Starfish is known for its upbeat atmosphere. DJs spin well into the night, while guests linger on the outdoor patio, sipping drinks amid tropical foliage.
222 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
At Brussels Bistro, best friends Thomas and Nicolas bring a taste of Belgium to Laguna with everything from Belgian beers on tap to large pots of mussels and fries double-cooked in beef fat. Also on the menu is a hearty beef stew served in a traditional Le Creuset pot, and a divine roasted salmon with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and Belgian stoemp (a type of mashed potato). Stop by on a Tuesday night and you can get all-you-can-eat mussels and fries for just $29, meaning you’ll have money left over to sample Belgian brews like Bavik, Houblon Chouffe, and Hoegaarden.
1540 S Coast Hwy # 201, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
For a fancy night out, head to Studio in the Montage Laguna Beach. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the restaurant offers a stylish setting in which to enjoy California coastal cuisine, much of it made with the freshest possible produce from the resort’s own raised-bed garden. The menu here is constantly changing to incorporate seasonal ingredients, but often includes such delicious options as braised Mediterranean octopus carpaccio, artichoke barigoule caramelle pasta, and 40-day dry-aged prime beef strip loin. Also on offer is an award-winning wine list with more than 2,000 bottles from all over the world. Inspired by an elegant yet charming beach cottage, the Craftsman-style space features expansive doors and windows, which let in the ocean breeze as you dine on dish after delicious dish.
222 Ocean Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Opened in late 2018, Ocean at Main is new to the Laguna restaurant scene, but already a favorite for California coastal cuisine. Here, chef Craig Strong, who earned a Michelin star during his time at The Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena, offers a taste of Southern California with dishes like chilled oysters, heirloom tomato and compressed watermelon salad, and pressed organic chicken with farro, broccolini, and carrot puree. Stop by for weekend brunch and, in addition to classic egg dishes, you can try Strong’s hand-tossed pizzas, which come topped with everything from burrata and roasted vegetables to chipotle chicken and house-made turkey Bolognese sausage.
217 Broadway St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
For the most authentic Mexican food in Laguna Beach, head to Carmelita’s, where the kitchen works tirelessly to prepare each dish from scratch using as much local produce as possible. On the menu, diners will find favorites like made-to-order guacamole and fire-roasted street corn alongside traditional options like veggie-stuffed poblanos, carnitas tacos, and tampiqueña (skirt steak served atop enchiladas with guacamole). Pair it all with handcrafted margaritas in flavors like pomegranate, cilantro-cucumber, and pineapple-jalapeño and you might just find yourself planning a trip 85 miles south to the border.
619 Sleepy Hollow Ln, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
This casual, open-air restaurant sits above an untouched stretch of Laguna Beach—and capitalizes on that beautifully. Floor-to-ceiling windows encircle the dining room so it appears to be floating above the ocean, all the better to watch the sunset while eating hand-shucked oysters and sipping Rum for Your Life cocktails. Chef Rainer Schwarz’s menu centers around seafood, prepared with a range of international influences—Spanish octopus is grilled with chickpea puree and zahtar, and lobster stars in a spaghetti carbonara. The spot draws a stylish crowd not just for dinner but also weekend brunch, with a must-try version of eggs Benedict (made with Berkshire ham and blood-orange hollandaise, plus steak or crab). While waiting for a table, sidle up to the Stateroom Bar, the former home library of Old Hollywood actor Slim Summerville, for artisan libations heavy on fine bourbon and whiskey. Pro tip: Locals know best, and they can’t get enough of the whole fried branzino, served with roasted shishitos and ponzu sauce.
25250 La Paz Rd, Laguna Hills, CA 92653, USA
When this wine country–style restaurant opened in the Laguna Hills in 2016, it was instantly embraced by locals. Maybe it’s the hillside location—no bikinis in sight—that allows diners to breathe easy and indulge. Maybe it’s the warm wood-clad dining room with its lively open kitchen. Or maybe it’s the craft cocktails and 25-plus international wines poured by the glass. Regardless, Ironwood is not the place to come while on a diet. The biggest reason: the house-made giant meatball, served with fresh, made-from-scratch herb pappardelle, spicy pomodoro sauce, and ricotta salata. Limited numbers are made each night, so it’s worth going early (the dinner-only restaurant opens each evening at 5 p.m.). The menu also features American Wagyu burgers, mac and cheese skillets, and pork shanks with fried green tomatoes and fresh burrata—plus colorful, palate-cleansing salads incorporating handpicked local ingredients. When the weather’s good, a retractable roof is pulled back from the heated patio to reveal views of the picturesque Saddleback Mountains. Must-order: the warm fromage blanc brownie with Nutella ice cream.