One of Southern California’s best-loved beach towns, charming, quintessential Laguna Beach is magical. And the Laguna Beach restaurants are just as special!
Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway. And especially so if you are looking for some great places to eat in Laguna Beach.
With 42 miles of stunning sandy beaches, secluded coves, seaside cliffs, tide pools teeming with sea life, and vibrant art culture, there’s nothing about Laguna that isn’t impressive.
And that includes its fantastic, fresh, and innovative cuisine. Blessed with magnificent weather, sunshine, local produce, and a trove of treasures from the sea, Laguna Beach restaurants are a food-lovers nirvana.
No matter where we’ve dined, it’s been a memorable experience. But Laguna Beach definitely has several top restaurants we’d recommend in a heartbeat. Here are our top favorite Laguna Beach restaurants that impress time and again.
Visiting other destinations in California? Check out our foodie guides to the following cities:
- Where to eat in Tustin, CA
- The 8 Best Restaurants in Ft. Bragg
- Must-Try Restaurants in Oceanside, CA
- The 21 Best Restaurants in Costa Mesa
- 7 Must-Try Restaurants in Cambria, CA
- Where to Eat in Dana Point, CA
- 11 Must-Try Vallejo Restaurants
The 10 Best Laguna Beach Restaurants
440 South Coast Highway // +1 (949) 376-8595
It’s no wonder this local standout has received so many #1 rankings. Featuring classic American comfort food and snazzy cocktails with amazingly creative twists, we found dining here to be an outstanding experience.
The atmosphere is casual, with impeccable standards of hospitality from check-in to check. A must-do appetizer is their renowned Bacon Deviled Eggs. This delightful starter is lightly fried and topped with applewood bacon. It’s a Nick’s original, and it’s awesome.
I ordered the Tuna Tartare from the appetizer menu and it was quite a hearty portion. Sashimi-grade with spicy soy, micro wasabi, and avocado with crispy wontons, this was a perfect light lunch choice.
Another highly recommended house specialty is the tantalizingly popular Original Ribeye Melt featuring sliced ribeye, Swiss cheese, red wine onions, and mustard bacon sauce, all sandwiched between grilled parmesan sourdough.
Skip the fries and order the Kale and Quinoa Salad with red grapes, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, red peppers, parmesan, and champagne vinaigrette. It’s healthy…and divine.
For exceptional seafood, Nick’s is a perfect choice among the Laguna Beach restaurants.
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane // +1 (949) 715-7700
You gotta love a Laguna Beach restaurant with a motto “Any closer and you would have to swim.”
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this premier waterfront venue provides an ocean-to-table dining experience utilizing the finest and freshest seafood and steaks, along with breathtaking Pacific Ocean vistas.
We decided on a shared salad and small plates, beginning with Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad with avocado, grilled sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, and feta cheese, topped with lime vinaigrette.
Next, a selection of east and west-coast oysters with a classic mignonette was superb.
The DWK Crab Cake is also spectacular, served with an endive and Asian pear salad and dill elbni. Coupled with a few glasses of Pinot Grigio, and we couldn’t have felt more satisfied.
If you’re looking for a Laguna Beach restaurant on the water, Driftwood, on the water, really does stand out from all the Laguna Beach restaurants.
234 Forest Avenue // + 1 (949) 497-8222
We love this bustling pizzeria located just steps from the beach. First of all, because Chef Alessandro Pirozzi, born in Naples, Italy, brings with him traditional recipes from his own family’s Italian kitchen.
Though pasta and pizza are the mainstays here, pizza, in the classic Neapolitan tradition, is only served at dinner. That was fine by us, as we once lived in Naples and were well-versed in this custom.
So, pizza at dinner it was, in a lovely outdoor candlelit setting. Accompanied by a bottle of Chianti, the flavorful pizza we shared was a Crispy Prosciutto pie topped with San Marzano sauce, tomato, goat cheese, house-made spicy oil, mozzarella, and crispy prosciutto. Yep, it tasted just like Napoli!
With such an extensive menu and artfully crafted Italian food, we both agreed a return visit is in order. If you want authentic Neapolitan pizza in Laguna Beach, visit Alessa.
1200 S. Coast Highway // + 1 (949) 715-9888
Located in the historic Old Pottery Barn building on Laguna Beach’s main drag, this fun, delightful eatery serves daily brunch, lunch, and dinner. Dishes here are so fresh, creative, and refined, and we’re always tempted to dine here twice on one of our weekend getaways.
With exceptional service, quality, and value, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular places to dine in this coastal beach town.
Some of our favorites include the savory Steamed Manilla Clams, Mexican White Prawns, and P.E.I. Mussels. Served over a saffron pearl couscous, with Spanish chorizo, melted garlic, and charred tomato broth, you’ll need extra bread to sop up the heavenly sauce.
The American Wagyu Beef Burger is another winner, topped with Spanish cheddar cheese, shaved onion, and a “secret” sauce on a challah bun. If you’re not sharing, you’ll be asking for “to go” boxes.
Factor in the craft cocktails and beers, and you’ve found one of the perfect places to eat when choosing from all the Laguna Beach restaurants.
1555 South Coast Highway // +1 (877) 741-5908
Located at the iconic Surf and Sand Resort, Splashes Restaurant offers magnificent oceanfront views. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant’s name comes from the booming Pacific surf surging below the dining deck.
For an early lunch, we chose a selection of appetizers that fit the bill to a T. Brussels Sprouts are served with honey goat cheese, roasted quince, and puffed sorghum with a yuzu balsamic reduction—a combination we’d never tasted before but it was marvelous.
The Crispy Octopus with daikon pepper, sunchoke cream, rhubarb, cured olives, poblano, and crisp sea beans was so good, we should have ordered two.
Instead, we opted for a shared dessert, the Lavender and Earl Grey Crème Brûlée—light and tasty with elderflower and fruit topping. The ideal way to end a perfect lunch. This is beach-front dining at its best in Laguna Beach.
361 Cliff Drive // +1 (949) 497-5434
Voted the best waterfront dining in Orange County, Las Brisas is a Southern California landmark with its magnificent setting overlooking a Pacific Ocean promenade bluff.
This romantic restaurant, once the charming, historic Victor Hugo Inn, specializes in Coastal California cuisine infused with the flavors of Baja, Mexico.
Though breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served here, our favorite is to time dinner with the sunset, as views here are simply spectacular.
Of no surprise, seafood reigns supreme, though landlubbers have their choice of alternative selections.
Our favorites hands down are the Seared Sea Scallops with a cauliflower purée, tomatillo, green olives, and sparkling wine beurre blanc. The combination works magic on the palate.
Whole Fish Branzino is seared on the plancha (iron grill) and served with mixed vegetables and roasted potatoes. Simply divine, and so Baja-inspired.
For a Mexican flair with great seafood in Laguna, check Las Brisas.
1740 South Coast Highway // +1 (949) 715-1550
For a totally exotic twist and an unforgettable dining experience, Mozambique is one fun and adventuresome place to visit. Its atmosphere and immensely flavorful cuisine are decidedly unique, both inspired by the South African coastline.
The restaurant is divided into separate themed dining areas, one of which is an open-air rooftop lounge with a panoramic ocean vista. The Durban Room, Mozambique’s latest renovation, is a piano lounge resembling a historic 1920s speakeasy with live music.
The Sampler Plate with prawns, chicken pops, farmer’s sausage and beef samoosas served with Mozambique’s own homemade robust Peri-Peri sauce is a perfect introduction to the best South African dishes.
Durban Curry with tender braised lamb is another winner.
Save room for dessert as we highly recommend the Portuguese Hot Butter Pudding, a baked spongy cake, caramelized with butter, brown sugar, and brandy, served with whipped cream.
If you fancy a visit to the African continent without leaving town, try this Laguna Beach restaurant.
627 Sleepy Hollow Lane // +1 (949) 494-6700
This casual eatery located at Pacific Edge Hotel offers the quintessential on-the-beach dining experience. It’s a relaxed, laid-back, breezy place for light bites and cocktails, or more hearty seafood selections.
Ocean views are spectacular, and we love their deck and drink menus featuring oysters, shellfish, a seafood tower, smaller share plates, soups, salads, sandwiches, all in addition to the main entrees.
If you’re a seafood Louie lover, the Dungeoness Crab Louis Salad is really fresh, with plenty of crabs, and probably one of the best I’ve had in years.
The Grilled Mahi-Mahi Sandwich is also a winner, especially with a Cajun remoulade on rustic ciabatta bread.
Accompanied by fresh ocean breezes, this place exudes Southern California cool! The place to go for outdoor dining is Laguna Beach.
230 Forest Avenue // +1 (949) 494-2545
“Casual, upbeat, sexy, and a must-try.” That’s how a friend described this eatery in the heart of the village.
Serving innovative California cuisine, this highly-recommended restaurant was voted “Best Seafood, Best Happy Hour” and “Best Desserts” by Laguna Beach Magazine. These accolades are well-deserved.
Once an in-town open-air market, this impressive eatery still has the original wooden accordion doors at its entrance.
Award-winning chef Marc Cohen has created an array of delectable entrees, served both in and outdoors at this classy California-modern dining establishment.
Open daily for lunch and dinner (the menu is the same), besties here include Toasted Garlic Salmon with black Thai rice, jardinière vegetables, with red curry coconut butter.
The Maple Brined Porkchop is served over soft polenta with apple, raisins, pine nuts, and a calvados demi-glacé.
These entrees explode with flavor. Presentation is likewise impressive, and service impeccable.
The Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with seasonal berries, vanilla bean ice cream, and anglaise is devilishly divine. So much so, if it was proper, you’d want to lick the plate!
This is a perfect place earning its spot on this list of best Laguna beach restaurants.
610 North Coast Highway, STE 102 // +1 (949) 226-8393
Locals are totally into urban chic Reunion Kitchen and Drink, and we understand why.
Happy Hours are immensely popular due to their sensational small plates featuring items like Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos,
Crispy Asparagus Spears, Avocado Wontons, and Short Rib Sliders.
Instead of a selection of appetizers like many restaurants choose for happy hour, Reunion’s are all included at a discounted price, along with cocktails and other libations.
Old surfing photos and classic early to mid-century pics of Laguna Beach line the eatery walls, paying homage to its storied beach town history. It’s a delightful place to dine with a definite West Coast feel. Exactly the image to portray for Laguna Beach restaurants.
Which of these Laguna Beach restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Noreen Kompanik is a Registered Nurse and San Diego-based travel writer and photographer. Over 400 of her published articles have appeared in 38 different digital and print publications. She especially loves writing about family travel, luxury travel, food, wine, coffee, history and travel writing and shares these articles on her travel website What’s In Your Suitcase.