Surf City, USA.
There’s no more fitting name for Huntington Beach, Southern California’s magnificent coastal surf town. Located in Orange County, only thirty-some minutes from Los Angeles and ninety minutes from San Diego, this quintessential beach community is a perfect blend of laid-back luxury and a no-worries vibe.
Huntington Beach is home to endless summer, with its iconic pier, picture-perfect weather, miles of uninterrupted beaches, and a fun, authentic surfing culture that dates back to 1914. But this postcard-perfect beach town, with world-renowned crashing surf, breathtaking views, and stunning sunsets has even more going for it–it’s delectable cuisine.
Blessed with an abundance of seafood, local farms, and creative chefs, Huntington Beach boasts an eclectic collection of casual eateries throughout its easily walkable and bikeable town and areas nearby. From snack shacks and food halls to bistros and more upscale places, there are plenty to choose from.
Here are some favorites selected for their location, views, atmosphere, history, and just downright good food and fun. All in all, they are some of the best restaurants in Huntington Beach.
Visiting other cities in Orange County? Check out this post detailing my recent visit to Costa Mesa or this post where I share with you my favorite Costa Mesa restaurants!
6 Must-Try Huntington Beach Restaurants
16812 Pacific Coast Highway // 562-592-2514
Celebrating fifty-five years as a Huntington Beach restaurant mainstay, Captain Jack’s is a laid-back, casual, kitschy favorite of the community.
Jack and Jeanette Haley opened the restaurant on Sunset Beach in June 1965. Jack was a local surfer and hometown hero who garnished several surfing championships and was inducted into both the Surfing Walk of Fame and Surfers’ Hall of Fame.
Though the Haley’s had no background in the restaurant industry, their friends were opening other restaurants along the Southern California coast. The Haley’s bought an empty building, some used equipment, and opened their nautical-themed surf’n’turf restaurant. The rest is history.
Open for dinner only, the waterfront eatery specializes in crab legs, seafood, prime rib, and steaks.
The appetizer menu alone is quite impressive, with classics like Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms, Escargot, Steamed Clams and Mussels, Jumbo-Prawn Shrimp Cocktail, and other luscious delights.
Entrees include unlimited house salad, rice, and bread, and feature numerous seafood dishes as well as prime rib and steaks that can be coupled in mouthwatering combos with Alaskan King Crab or Australian Lobster.
I fully admit that I could make crab legs go extinct on this planet, so I had to go with the Alaskan King Crab entree. With the accompanying butter sauce, it was melt-in-your-mouth magnificent.
My hubby went straight for the Prime Rib, bone-in, center cut, Eastern corn-fed Angus beef. With au jus and a side of horseradish, it was heavenly. And yes, we both finished every bite.
Of note is that every Thursday, Captain Jack’s offers a “Bring your bottle of wine” with complimentary corkage fees. For fine seafood or steaks, or even both, Captain Jack’s is one of the finest restaurants in Huntington Beach.
317 Pacific Coast Highway // 714-374-6446
Landing an ocean-view table at Duke’s on picturesque Huntington Pier is a must-do.
Located right on the beach with panoramic views of the Pacific and the pier, Duke’s is a throwback to a 1940s-style Hawaiian beach bungalow. The interior features rich Koa paneling with lush tropical plants, and Hawaiian artifacts, photos, and décor throughout.
The first Duke’s opened on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach, and all their restaurants pay homage to legendary Hawaiian surfer and swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku, who introduced surfing to the world in 1925.
It’s the ideal California setting, given Huntington Beach’s iconic surf culture, where diners can watch modern-day surfers take on epic waves along this picturesque stretch of the Southern California coast.
Their menu features Hawaiian-inspired entrees from starters, field and farm salads, to swimmers (seafood) and mainlanders (beef, pork, and chicken dishes).
My favorite hands-down favorite is one of Duke’s mainstay entrees, the Sauteed Macnut and Herb Crusted Fresh Fish (my fresh catch was ono.) Coated with parmesan and a light panko-dusting along with a lemon caper butter served over herbed jasmine farro rice, fish just doesn’t get any better than this!
We have to give huge kudos to Duke’s Classic Burger, a half-pound chuck, brisket, and hanger blend, topped with white cheddar, a Maui island dressing, and all the fixings. This knife and fork-tender dish is cooked to perfection, but you’ll need to ask for extra napkins to eat this juicy jewel.
Save room for one of Southern California’s favorite desserts, Duke’s famous Hula Pie. This delectable delight is made with macadamia nut ice cream stacked high on a scrumptious chocolate cookie crust. A layer of cool chocolate fudge covers the huge slice of ice cream and drizzles down the sides. Lastly, it’s topped with fresh whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts. There’s plenty to share, and the servers always bring extra spoons, (though you may not want them to; it’s that good).
And here’s the best part. If you’re celebrating a special occasion like a birthday, anniversary, or another special event, let your server know, and the Hula Pie is complimentary. So whether a special event or you just don’t feel like cooking, Duke’s is where to eat in Huntington Beach.
21100 Pacific Coast Highway // 714-845-8000
Located at Hilton’s stunning Waterfront Beach Resort, Henry’s Ocean View Dining is the resort’s flagship restaurant, serving breakfast and dinner. Paying homage to Huntington Beach’s founder, Henry Huntington, the elegant yet casual dining experience is like embarking on a tantalizing voyage of seasonal culinary adventure.
Surrounded by soft flickering candlelight, sparkling fire pits, and fountains, the romantic ambiance provides for a memorable experience. It’s one of those places that, years down the road, you may not remember exactly what you ordered, but you’ll fondly recall the atmosphere.
Though the menu here isn’t extensive, it’s stratospheric on quality and sustainable ingredients.
Our server suggested the Pork Belly and Apple starter, a 14-day cured pork belly served with a wild mushroom apple jager sauce, compressed apples, and apple chips. Honestly, this is the best and most unique pork belly we’ve ever had.
Our main entrees consisted of Big Glory Bay Salmon (flown in from New Zealand), served with pickled ginger and preserved orange Maldon salt. I love a fish entrée that lets the quality of the fish speak for itself, and this one certainly did.
My steak-loving partner selected a sixty-day dry-aged Gracie Farms Rib Eye, served bone-in with fresh wasabi root, preserved lemon, and black sea salt. The steak was so tender, it didn’t even require a steak knife. A side of Lyonnaise Potatoes and Roasted Brussels sprouts with a cranberry raisin gastrique was the perfect shared accompaniments.
Diners can also choose from a six-course Henry’s signature dining experience or, in the case of a group, the Henry’s Gourmet Gathering, a three-course feast designed for four or more people.
For the pinnacle of Huntington Beach food try this epic restaurant.
21040 Pacific Coast Highway F200 // 714-969-7300
For a change in pace in this seafood-loving surf town, we love Ola Mexican Kitchen (Spanish for wave), located in the bustling Pacific City district of Huntington Beach.
This upscale Mexican food eatery provides unique south of the border twists to its spectacular entrees. Tacos here, served in handmade tortillas, are renowned to be the best in Orange County. After our dinner here, Óla, we are true believers.
Another Huntington Beach restaurant with spectacular views of the California coast from practically every seat in the house, Ola’s menu is so tantalizing, it’s almost impossible to choose.
First off, their Ola Bebidas (drinks) are amazing.
Though the eatery serves a myriad of tequilas, beer, and wines, you must try one of the signature cocktails. The El Dragon is unbelievable! A mixture of Casamigos Blanco tequila blends perfectly with the watermelon puree, sweet ‘n sour, and fresh jalapeño. It’s an absolute explosion of flavors on the palate. House-made sangria is also available, and it too is divine.
We began our Ola foodie experience with Chef Amado’s Guacamole, a twist on the traditional. Made with the classic fresh avocado, onion, lime, and cilantro, the addition of pomegranate and orange zest elevates their guacamole to a whole new level.
With an extensive offering of tacos alone (twelve different choices on the menu), how does one decide? That’s where the dos/tres option comes in. Diners can choose multiple types of taco, and our selections included the tres option.
The Pork Belly is topped with sriracha aioli, pickled red Fresno peppers, and fried leeks. I love Carne Asada tacos and this one was another winner with grilled skirt steak, queso fresco, chile de Arbol, and a creamy avocado sauce.
Last but not least, we enjoyed a classic Baja fish taco with cotija cheese, chile-lime aioli and tequila citrus slaw. And yes, they were all magnifico!
So, if you’re looking for great Mexican food in Huntington Beach, don’t “wave” good-bye to Ola.
21214 Beach Blvd. // 714-374-7715
It’s weekend beach brunch at its best at SOCIAL Kitchen + Craft Bar where food and drink are a huge part of the conversation. Mixologists concoct one-of-a-kind craft cocktails with house-made syrups, cordials, and bitters, and chefs create tasty and thoughtfully curated entrees.
Even with an 11:30 am reservation, we had a tad bit of a wait for our table. Later we understood why. The atmosphere is wonderful, and the food and drinks are amazing at this special Huntington Beach restaurant.
Our favorite brunch choices included the Gents Scramble with eggs, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, and turkey sausage—a completely different take on a morning scramble.
A brand-spanking-new menu item, the Pierogi & Eggs, was a tantalizing California twist on a popular Eastern European delight. Served with caramelized bacon, onion, and aged cheddar, it was a big winner.
One of our friends selected the Grain Bowl, a healthy delight with quinoa, brown rice, avocado, and mixed veggies. Protein can be added for a small charge, and her Ora King Salmon was the ideal addition to her entrée.
A few accompanying Mimosas and Bloody Mary toasts made for the perfect brunch experience.
16600 Pacific Coast Highway // 562-592-2267
Dining on the deck at Fish Camp is another Sunset Beach favorite, especially popular with the locals. This hidden gem specializes in off-the-charts fresh seafood that is ordered from a menu board at a walk-up bar, and the food is then delivered to the table.
Open for lunch and dinner, the casual eatery features soups, salads, small plates, and a “Choose Your Favorite” option. Patrons select their fish from daily fresh-catch options that may include salmon, Mahi Mahi, ono, shrimp, catfish, tilapia, swordfish, halibut, trout, yellowtail, and more.
Next, comes the choice of how it’s cooked—grilled, lightly butter crusted, or blackened. Lastly, you select how the fish is served, on a sandwich, salad, taco, or plate. You have to admit, it’s an awesome concept.
My choice was a lightly blackened shrimp served with a remoulade sauce, and it was fantastic.
My friend selected a grilled swordfish sandwich, cooked to perfection and served on a soft French baguette with red leaf lettuce, red onion, tomato, remoulade, and a side of fries. Everything was fresh, served up rather quickly, and was the ideal lunch portion size.
Another wonderful side benefit of eating at Fish Camp is that on any day, diners can bring their own wine to the restaurant with no corkage fee.
If you are looking for ultra-fresh seafood in Huntington Beach, “camp” right here. Definitely, one of the best restaurants in Huntington Beach to have things “your way”.
Which one of these restaurants in Huntington Beach 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 500 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.