Orange County and Catalina Island Restaurants

Much like L.A., restaurants in Orange County are generally casual, and you’ll rarely see men in jackets and ties. However, at top resort hotel dining rooms, many guests choose to dress up.

Of course, there’s also a swath of casual places along the beachfronts—seafood takeout, taquerias, burger joints—that won’t mind if you wear flip-flops. Reservations are recommended for the nicest restaurants.

Many places don’t serve past 11 pm, and locals tend to eat early. Remember that according to California law, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed areas.

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  • 1. Bear Flag Fish Co.

    $ | Seafood

    Expect long lines in summer at this indoor/outdoor dining spot serving up the freshest local fish (swordfish, sea bass, halibut, and tuna) and...Read More

  • 2. Eric's on the Pier

    $ | American

    This little snack bar has been an Avalon family–run institution since the 1920s. It's a good place to people-watch while drinking a draft beer...Read More

  • 3. Las Brisas

    $$ | Mexican

    Located in what used to be the Victor Hugo Inn, Las Brisas is now a Laguna Beach landmark restaurant. Sit on the expansive patio to take in...Read More

  • 4. Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

    $$ | American

    Cordelia Knott's fried chicken and boysenberry pies drew crowds so big that Knott's Berry Farm was built to keep the hungry customers occupied...Read More

  • 5. 3-Thirty-3

    $$ | American

    This stylish eatery attracts a convivial crowd—both young and old—for midday, sunset, and late-night dining. A long list of small, shareable...Read More

  • 6. Bluewater Grill

    $$$ | Seafood

    On the site of an old sportfishing dock, this popular spot offers a variety of seafood, from Idaho trout amandine and lemon pepper mahimahi...Read More

  • 7. Bluewater Grill

    $$ | Seafood

    Overlooking the ferry landing and the entire harbor, the open-to-the-salt-air Bluewater Grill offers freshly caught fish, savory chowders, and...Read More

  • 8. Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar and Cafe

    $$ | Mediterranean

    This relaxed bi-level Mediterranean spot offers more than 30 wines by the glass, craft beers, and craft cocktails that pair well with the Spanish...Read More

  • 9. Cedar Creek Inn

    $$ | American

    Just across the street from Mission San Juan Capistrano, this restaurant has a patio that's perfect for a late lunch or a romantic dinner. The...Read More

  • 10. Descanso Beach Club

    $ | American

    Set on an expansive deck overlooking the water, Descanso Beach Club serves a wide range of favorites: grilled burgers, street tacos, clam chowder...Read More

  • 11. Duke's

    $$$$ | Seafood

    Freshly caught seafood reigns supreme at this homage to surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku; it's also a prime people-watching spot right at the...Read More

  • 12. Gulfstream

    $$$ | Seafood

    Established in 1999, this on-trend restaurant has an open kitchen, comfortable booths, and outdoor seating. The patio is a fantastic place to...Read More

  • 13. L'Hirondelle

    $$$ | French

    Locals have romanced at cozy tables for decades at this delightful restaurant directly across from the San Juan Capistrano Mission. Such classic...Read More

  • 14. Ocean at Main

    $$$ | American

    Set in a handsomely renovated former bank from the 1940s, Ocean at Main’s dishes are artfully presented and feature the best of California produce...Read More

  • 15. Sapphire

    $$ | International

    This Laguna Beach establishment set in a historic Craftsman-style building is part gourmet pantry (a must-stop for your every picnic need) and...Read More

  • 16. Shake Shack at Crystal Cove

    $ | Diner

    This Southern California landmark sitting on a bluff off the PCH is the perfect spot to get a quick breakfast or to sample a tasty Cove burger...Read More

  • 17. Taco Loco

    $ | Mexican

    This may look like a fast-food taco stand, and the hemp blackened burgers and brownies on the menu may make you think the kitchen's really...Read More

  • 18. The Beachcomber Cafe at Crystal Cove

    $$ | Seafood

    Beach culture flourishes in this Crystal Cove Historic District's restaurant, thanks to its umbrella-laden deck just a few steps above the white...Read More

  • 19. The Cliff

    $$$ | Seafood

    Walk through the quaint Laguna Beach artist village to get to the Cliff and its 180-degree views of Main Beach and the Pacific coastline. The...Read More

  • 20. The Lobster Trap

    $$ | Seafood

    Seafood rules at the Lobster Trap—the restaurant's owner has his own boat and fishes for the catch of the day and, in season, spiny lobster...Read More

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