Thanks to unavoidable Southern California stereotypes (perpetuated in part by Laguna Beach’s very own reality show), it would be easy for an outsider to dismiss Laguna Beach as a soulless place full of botched plastic surgery and PF Chang’s. But that simply isn’t the case - there’s a whole lot more going on here than MTV would have had you left you believe.
From vegan food out of a barn to greasy old-school diners, Laguna Beach has many great places to eat. The next time you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this beautiful town, use this restaurant guide for guaranteed eating success.
Nick’s is the crown jewel of the Laguna Beach restaurant scene. But not because of Michelin stars, or a chef from Top Chef, or a seven-course tasting menu featuring baby quail eggs and celery foam. Quite the opposite. This casual restaurant is the ultimate Laguna go-to because it’s truly one of the most crowd pleasing restaurants you’ll ever encounter. You will also encounter ridiculous wait times, zero reservation availability (unless you book many weeks in advance - seriously), and the greatest prime rib sandwich of all time. Go for a post-beach lunch, go for drinks and snacks at the bar, go for a dinner date. Just go.
Alessa is the best Italian food in Laguna Beach, and unfortunately everyone and their second cousin knows about it. It’s a night out spot for locals and tourists alike - but if rich, satisfying Italian food is your kind of meal, then Alessa is worth the wait. You’re probably going to be hungry once you sit down, but try to resist the urge to get a fourth helping of the addictive bread and pesto - you’ve got pasta, pizza, and meatballs coming your way.
Find yourself in Laguna with the need to impress someone, or the need to get your mouth around a ribeye? Selanne Steak Tavern is your best option for both scenarios. Owned by a famous hockey player, Selanne is where you ball out in Laguna Beach. Save it for a special occasion (or when someone else is paying).
The Stand is proof that before The O.C. was “The O.C.,” Laguna Beach was just a sleepy, low-key, hippie-filled beach town. Located in a very out-of-place red barn right off PCH, The Stand has been making vegan & vegetarian food since a time in which that was basically considered alien practice (the '70s). It’s always our first choice for a healthy and satisfying lunch you can eat outside or take away for the perfect beach picnic.
We’ve never understood why you would willingly choose to undersell your own restaurant with its name. We guess they do always say to under-promise and over-deliver. And while O Fine might not quite over-deliver, it’s definitely just fine. This is your best bet for affordable sushi in Laguna Beach (or anywhere nearby).
One of Laguna Beach’s great charms is that it is somehow home to both a Tommy Bahama restaurant and old-school beach town holdouts like Penguin Cafe. (Let’s be clear: you’re not allowed to go to the Tommy Bahama restaurant. It doesn’t matter how good those ahi tuna tacos are.) This place has been open for over forty years, and while it’s nothing more than a diner counter and a few booths, it’s awesome. Only open until 2:30pm (1:30pm on weekends), come here to get a classic American breakfast or mid-beach day burger.
Laguna’s favorite spot for breakfast and brunch outside, Cafe Heidelberg is where you go for your standard benedicts, omlettes, and salads. Nothing revolutionary here, but it’s a pleasant spot for a low-key daytime meal. For those keeping tabs: yes, it was featured extensively on Laguna Beach.
The food at Las Brisas is Mexican seafood. But that’s not why you’re coming here. You’re coming to Las Brisas to sit on the deck, have a margarita, take in the ocean views, and maybe eat some ceviche. Las Brisas has been around forever, but it continues to be one of the best spots in town for a sunset cocktail.
Husky Boy Burger does not belong in Laguna Beach. And that’s exactly why we love it. It’s an old-school roadside shack just north of downtown serving greasy burgers, fries, and shakes. Is this the best fast food you’ve ever eaten? Absolutely not. But nothing quite beats a cheeseburger outside after a day at the beach.
There aren’t too many full-on going out spots in Laguna Beach, but The Saloon is about as good as you’ll find in terms of drinking destinations. And it has just about everything you need - sports on TV, wide variety of liquor, and a lively crowd of locals and not-locals.
You probably already know that the Montage is one of the nicest hotels in Southern California. But what you might not know is that the food here is excellent. And what you definitely don’t know is that you don’t have to pay half your mortgage to enjoy it. Years of experience in Laguna Beach have led us to our biggest piece of intel: if you book a service at the Montage spa (even for a manicure), you gain access to the glorious, ocean-facing (adults-only) pool and all spa facilities for the entire day. Even better? The menu served at the pool is excellent - like spa food on steroids (think salads stuffed with lobster). It’s not cheap, but for the fact that you’re eating on a lounge chair with unobstructed views of the ocean and a pool at your feet, it’s so worth it.
Shocker: Laguna Beach has its very own acai bowl mecca. And it's name is Banzai Bowls. These things are huge and refreshing (and might just be fruity yogurt, but who cares?) and designed to be Instagrammed in front of the ocean. Just know that getting one can be a real time commitment: the lines are always long, and everyone working there appears to have been set in slow motion. But hey, the perfect Instagram takes time.
Dealing with a big group after a day at the beach, and just need somewhere easy to eat? That’s what La Sirena is here for. To be clear - it’s a small Southern California chain - and doesn’t hide that fact well. But the Mexican food is always fresh, and it’s also easy to eat relatively healthy if you’d rather avoid a giant burrito.
Yes, Laguna Beach now has its very own Urth. It was only a matter of time. You know the drill.
Casa del Camino is a boutique, Spanish-style hotel that’s been around the '20s - but what you really need to know about is its rooftop situation. With its ocean and coastal views, this is the perfect place for a surprisingly low-key sunset cocktail in Laguna.
Active Culture is another excellent Laguna stop for healthy food that doesn’t suck. They serve a wide range of salads, wraps, and bowls of all kinds - but our favorite reason to hit this place is for a mid-day frozen yogurt treat. Because desserts that don’t make you feel terrible about yourself can be pretty great, too.
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